I’m a bit of a technophobe. I tend to go frilly round the edges when confronted with one of those ‘error 101’ messages. When my lovely – well formerly lovely – host server recently sold themselves to someone else – the tarts – and my website disappeared off the planet I nearly had a breakdown. You’d think, then, that I’d steer away from social media. But no, I’m a big fan, although I do believe that these platforms can be overused. I also think that they are far more suitable for some purposes than for others. That being said, when they work they work wonderfully.
I’ve been blogging for some time but my Facebook page was dormant until fairly recently. I had a Twitter account but never used it. I tended to think that Twitter, in particular, was somewhat frivolous. I was wrong. Thanks to the links people have tweeted I’ve read fascinating articles I would never have found on my own. I’ve entered entirely new worlds and had a lot of fun along the way. Above all I’ve made some wonderful friends.
It all started with ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’. I’d met James Bowen and his beloved cat Bob several times when James was busking in Islington or Covent Garden. Bob draped round his shoulders or sitting quietly on James’ bag. One day last March I met them on the 38 bus. James handed me a flyer, an invitation to his book signing at Waterstones in Islington. I was delighted to hear about it – he’d mentioned the possibility of a book last time I’d seen him. When I got home I tweeted the information and others did the same. The day of the signing arrived. There were queues around the block. The book sold out. No one had expected quite that degree of interest.
Next day Twitter was alive with stories about Bob and James and the book. I wrote a blog post, others wrote blog posts, articles appeared in newspapers, followed by TV appearances, their own Facebook pages and Twitter account. The rest is history. James and Bob are legends. ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is a runaway best seller, has been translated into 18 different languages, has rave reviews on Amazon – including mine, written under the pseudonym Queenie. A children’s book and an American edition are coming out next year and now Hollywood beckons.
Social media has played a huge part in the success of this wonderful book. Nevertheless, it’s the quality of the book itself that has played the greatest part in that success. It’s a heart-warming story of redemption. James saved Bob and nursed him back to health. Bob saved James by giving him a reason to live and the motivation to get off methadone. Furthermore, James honest account of his life on the streets has done wonders to raise awareness of the miseries of homelessness.
This was the first time I’d watching something go viral. It was astonishing. And it had unforeseen consequences. Through Twitter I was connected not only with Bob and James, but also with Mary, their agent and friend, and with co-author and journalist Garry Jenkins. Through Twitter I got to know a host of others who are now friends, Julie and Penny, Magda and Eileen, Kerry and Kristie, Rhian, Celeste and Becka. All cat lovers, all connected initially through our support for James and Bob. And now also through common interests, among them a love of cats (naturally), cakes and crime fiction.
That’s the Bobs and now we come to the dogs. As all my friends know, because I ‘m so passionate about it, I volunteer and write a blog for a wonderful Spanish-Belgian-Dutch charity and dog refuge, ACE – Animal Care Espaňa. Some of the lovely Twitter friends, mentioned above, knit colourful and stylish scarves for Bob and also blankets and rugs for him to sit on when he’s out with James. ACE recently put out a call for people to knit coats for the dogs; it gets very, very cold at night in Spain in the winter. So, a bit tongue in cheek, I asked my friends if they would consider knitting for dogs as well as cats. They got knitting. And those that didn’t knit sent money. So kind, so generous and so much appreciated.
The blog I write for ACE has brought me new friends too, as have their Facebook pages. I recently spent four days in Holland, for Dog Day. An annual event where the Spanish team are reunited with the precious dogs they have saved and meet their new owners. Ineke, who writes the Dutch blog for ACE, picked me up at the airport. Until I met her I was unaware that the round trip took 3 hours. Rineke put me up at her house and she too drove me vast distances. They both offered friendship and great hospitality and generosity. I had never met them before.
Social media is now a fact of life. Of course it can be abused. It often is abused. It can be overused too. Some people think it’s stupid, a waste of time. For me it’s opened up a new dimension, introduced me to new ideas and new writing, new worlds. It’s given me the opportunity to introduce my own writing to a new readership. It’s brought me new friends, helped me do some good. For all those reasons, I’m a fan.
Kerry knitted the coat on the left, Penny the one on the right.