An Interview with Constance (Corcoran) Wilson: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats | Education News

Nov 14, 2013 by

_Christmas_Cats_C_Cover_for_KindleAn Interview with Constance (Corcoran) Wilson: The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats | Education News

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Constance, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I have been writing for pay for 58 years. I taught writing at all 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities in the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois. I also taught at the junior high school level in Silvis, Illinois and founded the second Sylvan Learning Center in the state of Iowa (1986) and a Prometric Testing Center (1995).

I am a graduate of the University of Iowa, with additional study at Berkeley, NIU, WIU and the University of Chicago (degrees in English, Journalism and Education, M.S. +30). I’m also a Featured Contributor to Yahoo.

I’ve written many adult or young adult works (under the name Connie Corcoran Wilson) but the children’s series about the Christmas Cats is written for–and eventually with— my twin four-year-old granddaughters, Ava and Elise using my true, legal first name, Constance. The first book was published in 2011. There will be a third book next year.

I have been married 46 years and I have a son (Scott) and a daughter (Stacey) born 19 years apart. I have homes in both East Moline (IL) and Chicago. I was voted Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year in 2010 and won the Silver Feather Award from the Chicago chapter of the Illinois Women’s Press Association in 2012. Yahoo named me its Content Producer of the Year in 2009 for my coverage of the presidential race in 2008. I have over one million hits for close to 1,000 articles on Yahoo.

After I sold my 2 businesses in 2003, I decided to try to write “one of everything,” (with the exception of romance and erotica.) My first book was published in 1989 by Performance Learning Systems and was a scholarly work about teaching (Training the Teacher As A Champion).

Since 2003, I’ve written a science fiction novel, 3 volumes of ghost stories collected along Route 66, 2 volumes of short stories organized around Dante’s Inferno that illustrate the crimes punished at each of those levels, 3 novels in a YA thriller series, 2 books of humor, a book about the movies of the 70’s and the 2 Christmas Cats books. I do have an agent in Chicago and have published with 6 small publishers, but I’m branching out into self-publishing, because you have so much more control over the end product, and I want it to be “right.”

2) What prompted you to write this Christmas book?

This is actually the 2nd book in what will be a continuing Christmas series. (The first book was The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.) The books began when my daughter was dating a talented young illustrator (Andrew Weinert) who was only about 16 then. I asked to see some of his drawings when I learned that his mother, Rita, was my former student and one of the best students I ever taught. Andy’s drawings back in 2004 showed great promise.

I asked him if he would draw some cats in silly hats for me, promising him that they would see the light of day in book form. Andy did the drawings and added some wonderful creative touches of his own. (Andy now has a PhD in graphic arts from Northern Illinois University, but this was 9 years ago.)

I scanned each drawing into my computer and Fed-Exed them to the publisher. The publisher lost all of Andy’s original drawings. I was so upset that I actually flew to a conference in Cincinnati, Ohio where the president of this company was going to speak, seeking an explanation. The book was in limbo. It would not come to life again until computers improved dramatically, allowing the layout artist to improve the pixels to make them good enough for a book.

By then I had decided on a Christmas theme and needed a few additional drawings. I asked Andy to help turn the book into a Christmas book, but he was involved in the final semester of graduate school. Enter the girls’ Venezuelan nanny, Emily Marquez, also an amateur artist. Emily agreed to try to complete the Christmas theme by providing a few drawings.

This new second book, however, The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats has a professional illustrator, Gary McCluskey, who has added such charming drawings that the layout artist actually said, “This guy ought to be working for Disney.” I enjoyed Gary’s execution of the project and we worked together cooperatively to figure out what drawings the book should contain.

3) What are some of the attitudes and values that you want to promote?

In Book One, The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, the message for young people was that we should all learn to try to get along with each other. (It was inspired by one 2-year-old twin biting the other 2-year-old twin on the nose). In Book #2, The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats, young people are urged to be helpful, to keep an open mind and to refrain from prejudice.

4) Why does Christmas always seem to bring out the best in people?

A good question. I wish I knew the answer so we could have good will towards others all year round in every country on the planet, [regardless of whether the people in that country celebrate the Christian concept of Christmas.]

5) There is a theme of sorts running thru the book- Can you tell us about it?

The Christmas Cats, (attired in a variety of hats), urge children not to jump to conclusions that aren’t justified. When you hear the word “rats,” for instance, you do not normally have a positive reaction. But opinions should never be formed based on half-truths, lies, or inadequate information. Keep an open mind. Don’t be judgmental. Be kind and helpful.

6) I hear that you have done some recent book signings- How was that event?

On November 2nd I did a very successful book signing at Book World within Southpark Mall in Moline, Illinois, from 1 to 4 p.m., and I’ll return to BookWorld on Sunday, December 15th. Tomorrow, I will be signing books at WaterMark Corners in Moline, a gift shop having a wonderful Open House event, beginning at 5 p.m.. I did an October 26th book signing at the Book Rack in Davenport, Iowa. On November 24th, I will be at the Chicago Book Expo at St. Augustine College in Chicago, Illinois (It was voted the best new writing event in Chicago last year and drew 1,200 people.) I’ll be at Razzleberries in LeClaire, Iowa on December 6th from 5 to 8:30 p.m. The Cat in the Hat will be there, too, posing for pictures with young fans. During the Christmas Walks in Geneseo, Illinois and the Village of East Davenport, last time, I signed books at local businesses (The Four Seasons dress shop window, for Book #1 and a framing shop for the Village of East Davenport). I hope that the Festival of Trees gift shop will be carrying the book, although I have not yet arranged it, as I was in Chicago covering the 49th Annual Chicago Film Festival for Yahoo from Oct. 10-24. I very quickly ran through all of the original order of books, but I expect to receive 300 additional books before November 15th.

7) Where can parents, grandparents and friends get a copy of the book ?

The book is available from Amazon as a paperback for $14.95 (or $2.99 as a Kindle title). [Barnes & Noble should be carrying the book, but, so far, it is only showing up as a Kindle title.] (We’re working to fix that.) On Amazon, type in the title The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats or my author name Constance Corcoran Wilson. If you would like an autographed copy, you can write me at

For $16.87, I’ll put an autographed copy of the book in the mail and the buyer can pay through PayPal. For larger orders, contact me via e-mail or by phone at 309-737-2225. I also have a website ( with contact options, and I will be updating fans on my blog ( and on Connie Corcoran Wilson on Facebook) about new signings and appearances. If you prefer Twitter, I’m on Twitter as Connie Wilson Author.

8) The book is wonderfully illustrated- who did the illustrations?

The book IS wonderfully illustrated by Providence, Rhode Island native Gary McCluskey. I tried to get the original local artist (Andrew Weinert), but he had a commission to paint a mural at a local school and was unable to help me. I interviewed artists for 18 months to find Gary. That is why, after 2011, there was no book in 2012. Gary is already at work on next year’s book. Each drawing makes me smile. I see something new each time I read the second book. My granddaughters love the expressions on the little rats’ faces.

9 ) What have I neglected to ask ?

These are all wonderful questions. Thank you for your interest. I would like to add that I’m determined that my granddaughters learn to write well. They have already helped me with the plot of next year’s book, and they’re only four (AND they’re bilingual!). Soon, they will be helping me write the books in an even more meaningful fashion.

I started my writing career in sixth grade when the editor of the local newspaper in my small hometown (Independence, Iowa) gave me the opportunity to go out and interview people for feature stories. (I had won an Archdiocese of Dubuque poetry contest.)

It led to bigger and better things. I have never looked back, and I have been writing for nearly 6 decades, interviewing people like Kurt Vonnegut, David Morrell, John Irving, Frederik Pohl, Joe Hill, William F. Nolan, Anne Perry, r. Barry Flowers and a host of others.

As a former Language Arts instructor at levels from 7th grade up and the co-author of Training the Teacher As A Champion (150 teacher years in the immediate family, going back uninterruptedly to 1927), I recognized long ago that writing is not being taught as well as it once was. For every $10 spent on reading improvement only about 10 cents is spent on writing improvement—and students today cannot write as well as their parents or grandparents, as a result. I’ve seen this “up close and personal” in classes I taught that began in 1969 and didn’t end until 2003. This failure to teach writing well (or at all) is partially because of time constraints. It’s also partially because not every Language Arts teacher is a writer.

I opened my Sylvan Learning Center when my daughter was born, 19 years after my son, because I wanted to make sure that she would get the good education that her older brother had received. (He is an engineer who works for a British Steel Company as their only North American representative and his wife is a chemical engineer.) Writing the Christmas Cats books with and for my granddaughters is one small way I can get to know them better, take part in a fun activity with them, and do something that, I hope, will be meaningful and useful in their lives.

The pictures are of me, Elise (the blonde on the left) and Ava (on the right) and the cover of the book.

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