Here’s a bit of backstory that’s never really been told publicly. It’s the story of how in the world I came to translate such a book as “Crafting with Cat Hair”? I’ve been interviewed by people from Buzzfeed and The Wall Street Journal, and they’ve asked me the same question…
My best friend’s cousin Alicia Kachmar is an avid crafter who has had a few DIY craft books of her own published. She had an established relationship with a publisher, Quirk Books, who had just gotten the rights to release an English version of a really strange book from Japan, “猫毛フェルトの本” (“Neko-ke feruto no hon”), literally “Cat-Hair-Felt Book”. “Crafting with Cat Hair” sounded better. Alicia thought of me and asked me if I’d be up for translating this strange little book from Japanese into English. I like cats, I like crafts, I speak Japanese, so I thought “Why not?”
I got in touch with the editors and we got things rolling. It was pretty exciting because I’d never had anything but maybe a newspaper article published before. They sent me a copy of the original Japanese book for reference. They also sent me PDF files I could use to copy-paste just in case there were Kanji characters I didn’t know. (Rikai.com is an invaluable resource for learners of Japanese.) From September 2010 through to about April 2011 I buried myself in the world of cat hair crafting and Japanese language.
That was a pretty challenging time in my life because in December 2010 I had double jaw surgery. I’m actually really glad that I had this book to focus on while I was recovering in Santa Barbara. After a major surgery like that it’s hard to not focus on your physical discomfort. Working on the translation was both a great distraction and a learning experience. I learned all kinds of new words in Japanese (thanks to the help of my electronic dictionary) and also more facts about cats than I ever knew before. I never owned a cat myself, but I have plenty of friends who do. With every page I gained a little more insight into the point of view of a cat owner.
Not too long after I completed the translation of the first book, I was asked if I could translate the sequel as well– “MORE Crafting with Cat Hair”. If you’re looking for a sequel in English, you won’t find it because the final English release is a combination of the two books in one. My one regret is that I never got to meet or talk to the original author, Kaori Tsutaya. Ms. Tsutaya, if you’re reading this, I would love to meet you. Or in Japanese– つたやさん、いつか会いましょう！
One of the questions I was asked most frequently was, “What did you think of the idea of this book when you first heard of it? Did you think it was creepy and gross?” Mostly I told people that while I can see why people would think it’s creepy to make crafts out of your cat’s hair (like finger puppets and decorations for scarves), I thought it was more funny and quirky than anything else. It certainly grabbed the public’s attention and got them talking. To this day friends still send me articles they find about the book. It was kind of surreal seeing it on the shelves of places like Urban Outfitters and at Barnes & Noble.
I hope I can get another cool translation project like that some day. I’ll certainly be on the lookout. In the meantime, I could think about coming up with my own weird little book. Maybe it would sell in Japan.