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Crazy for cats: Local author Pamela Knudsen transforms her love for cats into her first children’s book


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

What do two cats, a mermaid and a disappearing moon have in common? They all appear (or disappear) in Pamela Knudsen’s recently launched children’s book, Two Cats, a Mermaid and the Disappearing Moon.

Lyrical illustrations transformed two of Knudsen’s previous felines, Topper and Lexington – who coincidentally lived in Laguna – into a tale of two brothers on a journey of adventure and discovery. As described, Topper and Lexington are curious cats, but they’ve always obeyed their mother’s one rule: never leave the yard, but when the full moon vanishes from the night sky, leaving behind something strange and red in its place, Topper and Lexington leave the safety of their yard to find the missing moon somewhere in the dark. While on their quest, readers will no doubt recognize familiar places in the city.

Crazy for holding book

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Pamela Knudsen recently launched her new book 

Knudsen’s love of cats started early and over the years, she has parented eight cats. Three-year-old Persian cat, Samantha Jo, who she adopted from the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, now shares Knudsen’s life and charming cottage near Boat Canyon.

As described on Knudsen’s website,, “The cats and I lived in Laguna Canyon – or to locals, simply, the “Canyon” from 2004 to the summer of 2018. Living in that rustic wonderland has gotten me more in touch with, and appreciative of our natural environment. Although I live closer to the ocean now, I’m still within walking distance to trailheads leading me back to the Canyon.”

Although this is Knudsen’s first book, she’s no newbie to writing. Her short stories and essays have been featured in several publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine and The Maine Review.

Crazy for Pam and Sam

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Knudsen adopted Samantha Jo from the LB Animal Shelter 

“The initial inspiration for Two Cats, a Mermaid and the Disappearing Moon came one night out of the blue in 2008 when I was outside on my deck holding my cat Lexington and gazing at a gorgeous full moon, which I love to do,” she said. “It was so stunning, and then a cloud covered it. I said to Lexington, ‘where did the moon go? It disappeared!’ I thought, oh my God, there’s a story there, and I needed to get it down. Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of writing a book.” 

Born in Fontana, Calif., Knudsen grew up in Glendora and Upland. “I graduated from Upland High School and went to Chaffey Community College,” she said. “I got a job as a legal secretary when I was 21 and took a break from college then after a couple of years got a job at a title insurance company. Then at 29, I finished my AA at Orange Coast College and at 45 went to the University of La Verne to earn a BA in organizational management – while working full time. At some point, I wanted to be a journalist, but I was working full time supporting myself and couldn’t take the college courses necessary to get a communications degree as they were only offered during the day.”

Crazy for in cottage with book

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Knudsen works at her desk 

What might surprise readers is that Knudsen loves ballet and was a ballet dancer. “I was a ballet dancer with a local dance company, not professional but I danced until my 30s. 

“I came to Orange County in the 1980s, and I used to come to Laguna in the ‘90s,” she said. “I went on a date to the (former) Beach House and was just enchanted by Laguna.” 

After moving here in 2004, one day while shopping at Areo, she was drawn to the Marine Room across the street to listen to the Missiles of October on Sunday afternoons. “It was such a nice group of people, and I started to make friends and became a Sunday regular.”

Back to the book

“I seriously started writing the book in 2010 and then put it down for years, but kept wondering what was going to happen next, to the two cats in the canyon on their search to find the moon,” Knudsen said. “I was working as a paralegal and one day while drafting a legal document, the idea of a lunar eclipse suddenly came to me. What a great teaching moment if it was a lunar eclipse. The book would be a fun way to engage with children and educate at the same time.”

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Crazy for Samantha

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Samantha Jo was ready for her close-up 

“Then in 2012, DimeStories jump-started my writing again. It was a monthly event in town where you could read a short story to a group. They were 500 word/three-minute stories read by the author and then participants, mostly other authors, voted on the best top three,” she said. “One holiday season, the Laguna Beach Indy selected several stories from DimeStories participants to feature in the newspaper. My personal memoir was chosen. It was about my boyfriend who broke up with me on New Year’s Eve 2000 on voicemail and how I handled it.”

For many years Knudsen wrote and published more short stories and essays, but for five years, she didn’t work on the book.

Laid off from her specialized paralegal job after 16 years, Knudsen started a freelance copywriting and consulting business and then began writing for Laguna Beach Life Magazine (a publication that was short lived). “I worked for them for nine months and it was the best experience. I interviewed, wrote and took photos. They said, ‘You can write about anything in Laguna.’ One day driving past a cottage in the canyon, I saw cats in windows, and knew I had to write about it. It was Blue Bell Cat Foundation. I loved it and asked if they needed a volunteer. So now I’ve been involved with them for 10 years with a focus on community outreach and public relations.” She organizes their popular yearly fundraiser, The Cat’s Meow. 

Crazy for close up

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Knudsen loves Laguna and her quaint cottage

The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats is a nonprofit organization that operates a cat sanctuary in Laguna Beach, which provides permanent housing in a vintage cottage for senior cats whose companions can no longer care for them, usually because of passing, illness or other life-altering event.

More challenges

Three years ago, a devastating challenge turned out to be Knudsen’s motivation for finishing the book.

In October 2020, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, she was diagnosed with stage IIIC uterine cancer. “I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I had three rounds of chemo, major surgery; three more rounds of chemo then 36 rounds of radiation. It kicked me in the butt, however, it was the impetus for getting the book done. Years ago, I submitted it to agents and the responses were, ‘It’s not right for us, but you have something here.’ After winning the cancer battle, I was motivated to get back to my book and make it great, so I went back to it, knowing it had to be done beautifully – and my way. I decided not to go the traditional publishing route as I was afraid if I did get picked up, a publisher could make it something that wasn’t all mine, so instead I went to a hybrid publishing company – FriesenPress. With them, I had access to all elements of the publishing process – illustrators, editorial support, book design, distribution and marketing. Along the way, I was learning about the publishing process and had control of how it turned out. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and just like a traditional publisher, my book will be available to thousands of other outlets.”

Crazy for signing book

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Knudsen is thrilled with the translation of her vision onto the page and can’t wait to share it with her young readers

Knudsen is delighted with the illustrations, which were created by sisters Patricia and Robin DeWitt (DeWitt Studios). “It’s amazing seeing my vision translated to paper. To help the illustrators carry out my vision, I was allowed to provide 10 photos for reference, so I submitted photos of my cats, the Canyon and coves in Heisler Park and cottages in my neighborhood. After a couple rounds of reviewing preliminary sketches and submitting revisions, the final versions took my breath away! The illustrators captured details in the landscape even down to the prickly pear cactus. To see the vision I’ve had for years come alive warms my heart.”

At first Knudsen was going to have a hawk as one of the main characters, but then realized hawks don’t come out at night, and after becoming enthralled with barn owls living in a palm tree in her yard, that character became a barn owl.

Children (and adults) will be captivated by this story and its high-spirited brothers as they try to solve the mystery of the misplaced moon.

Coincidentally, while visiting Knudsen and Samantha Jo, three boxes full of books arrived and watching her open them was like Christmas morning. Although it took a while from vision to reality, her book appears to be the perfect gift to her two cats Topper and Lexington.

Knudsen will be reading Two Cats, a Mermaid and the Disappearing Moon at the Boys & Girls Club on May 2, and at her first school visit (an event she is very excited about), where she’ll be reading to second and third graders at Lowell Elementary School in Santa Ana. 

Two Cats, A Mermaid and the Disappearing Moon can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at

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