The "Bruce Finds A Home' Kickstarter is now live - you can check out the page and the video here.
This evening we launched the Kickstarter at Startup Space Dunedin. My speech is below - it gives a bit of an overview of the journey getting to this point. The Kickstarter will be live until 22 June, so this is the first of four installments as I go on my Kickstarter journey. Thanks for following along!
Hi, I’m Kathryn van Beek, also known as Bruce the Cat’s “mum”. Over the years I’ve been in bands, produced plays and written fiction. So I’ve been involved with lots of projects that I would have liked to have gone viral. But in the end, what went viral was my cat.
I found Bruce on a footpath in the rain when he was just one day old. My boss let me work from home a couple of days a week so I could look after him. On the other days I packed a ‘mom bag’ and he was looked after by my friend Kalee, or by Carol, an Otago Polytechnic Vet Nursing student. I made a Facebook page for Bruce so my friends could follow his progress. The next thing I knew, I was in a meeting when one of my colleagues burst in. “Bruce is on the front page of The Herald!” she cried. Soon after he was on The Dodo, then he was on Love Meow… and now he’s got 31,000 fans all over the world. Most of his followers are in New Zealand, The USA, England and Germany, but he also has fans in Austria, Thailand, India, Peru, Japan, Pakistan… you name it.
So I had a curious problem – finally I had a huge audience, but I had no way of really maximising it. Creating a children’s book had never really been on my radar but I’ve always loved writing and drawing, so I decided to write and illustrate a children’s book that’s a fictionalised account of Bruce’s story.
In the book it’s a little girl called Kate who finds the kitten on her way home from school. She has to find out where he belongs before a rainstorm drenches both of them. Her neighbours Miss Conduct, Sir Real and Rev Olding are little help, but Kate and her mum are able to save the day.
Because Bruce has been such a hit on online I’m turning to the internet to get Bruce’s book published. I’m crowd funding through a platform called Kickstarter to raise the funds to print the book. Kickstarter enables Bruce fans to pre-order copies. There are all sorts of other rewards too – including the ability to donate copies to Dunedin’s Animal Rescue Network, a charitable trust dedicated to helping stray and abandoned cats and kittens. You’ll be glad to know that your raffle ticket has put you in the draw to win a candle, not a kitten. (But if you would like a kitten, speak to Sharon.)
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the organisations that have come on board as partners: Royal Canin, Black Cat Interiors, Humanimals, Quick Brown Fox coffee liqueur, Blackcat Educaton, Pet Doors R Us and to principal sponsor Otago Polytechnic. Thank you to the Startup Space for hosting this launch, and to Invercargill Brewery who donated the Pitch Black beer in honour of a certain pitch black cat.
Thanks to Megan Martin for working her magic with the media, to Hayden Parsons who created the amazing video that I’m about to show you, to the kids at Port Chalmers Primary School who helped me develop the story, and to my three expert children’s book consultants Lena, Atticus and Myla.
Thanks also to the Digital Content Coordinators who have helped me bring the Kickstarter to life: Shamintha Kumar, who has contacted pretty much every cat blog under the sun, and Laura Sutherland, who has been creating incredible GIFs and graphics. (Laura also happens to be the CEO of Black Cat Candles.) And of course thank you to my husband Tim who has been on this crazy journey with me for the past year and a half.
Publishing a book this way is an amazing opportunity but it’s also incredibly scary – because Kickstarters are all or nothing. If we don’t reach our target, no one gets charged and we won’t get any funding. If you’d like to pre-order a copy that would be great, but another way you can help is by sharing the link to the Kickstarter campaign, which will be available on Bruce’s Facebook page this evening.
Now I’ll show you our Kickstarter video, and after that we’ll draw the winners of the candles, you can pre-order a book if you’d like to, and I’ll be around to answer your questions over a glass of Pitch Black beer. Thank you.
Here's a little Bruce book teaser I posted on the Bruce The Cat Facebook page today...
It’s New Year’s resolution time and many of you will have resolved to make your cat famous this year. But how should you go about it? I happen to have a famous cat, and today I’m sharing all my insider secrets.
1. Make sure your cat has an angle. Does your cat look weird? Was it found under unusual circumstances? Is it disabled? If the answer to all these questions is no, dye it pink.
2. Ensure your cat is photogenic. If your pet’s reflection breaks mirrors, consider cosmetic surgery. Alternatively, being the world’s ugliest moggie could be your cat’s point of difference. Go for broke and shave it too (an electric razor works best).
3. Train your cat. Get it to do something that most other cats don’t. Take it surfing, take it horse-riding, take it bungee jumping. Whichever of these activities it hates least can become its ‘thing’.
4. Get your cat a pet. What is cuter than a cat? A cat that’s friends with a duckling. Get your cat a duckling.
5. Try alternative channels. Let’s face it – almost all cats are across almost all social media platforms these days. To stand out from the clowder you need to do something different. Try billboards, skywriting or making your cat wear a sandwich board.*
Now that you’ve made your cat famous you can sit back and watch the benefits of having a famous cat come rolling in. These include:
1. Career development. Under what other circumstances would you spend hours working out how to create print-on-demand merchandise, add an online store to Facebook, create animated gifs or source copyright-free music for your homemade videos? Add these skills to your LinkedIn profile. They will translate well to the workplace and you will become a sought-after employee.
2. A tidy home. You never know when the opportunity to take a cute photo may present itself. You won’t want to ruin any potential masterpieces with a messy background. Invest in a tool belt so you can carry a duster and a damp cloth on you at all times.
3. A healthy sex life. Who wouldn’t want to shack up with someone who spends their evenings tweeting their cat’s every move? (Top tip: date vets and pet food sales reps to reduce your cat-related outgoings.)
4. Untold riches. Thanks to your cat’s YouTube videos, you may receive a payment of up to two figures from Google. (You can use this to pay your Facebook advertising bill.)
5. Filling in the hours until death. What better way to while away the hours between now and your demise than by Instagramming, Tweeting and Facebooking photos of your cat?
*Please do not follow any of this advice.
My famous cat, Bruce, has never been dyed and is not friends with a duckling.
Images via Google, labelled for reuse.
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.