‘All the Mews Fit to Print’ in Kitty City Gazette

The stories are funny, silly and bizarre:

” A local cat today has admitted to his family and co-workers what they had secretly believed for years, he is addicted to string.”

“A NETFLIX envelope who was attacked by a U.S. Postal employee says he lived only because the postal worker dropped him after he punched it repeatedly in the mouth.”

It’s all in the online Kitty City Gazette, where you’ll find pug dogs arrested for playing with dolls, cats surviving three days without ketchup, even a shopping cart that meets its demise in ditch. Since many of the tales (or should we say “tails”?) are set in Edmonds, My Edmonds News set out to discover who writes these crazy stories — and why.

A quick email to Sharyn, listed as the site’s “Founder & Keeper,” elicited a series of online interviews and a story of heartbreak and hope. Kitty City Gazette creator Sharyn Thoma Guay found herself completely deaf in 2008, at the age of 36. The cause of her hearing loss was a mystery, although she admits to working in a noisy environment as office manager of a Seattle sheet metal shop and listening to loud music.

“The hearing loss was gradual at first, and no doctors expected it to just completely go away,”Thoma Guay said. They told her to wait it out, but within six months she was completely deaf. Her bosses suggested she go on disability leave, then fired her.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t hear, I had no job and no prospects, a mortgage to pay, and no health insurance to get treatment with,” she said. Writing stories for her newly created website, thekittycitygazette.com, became a creative refuge in her newly silent world.

“No matter what happened, I’d try to take a walk, and maybe I’d see something that would spark a story in my head,” she said. “When you are deaf, there’s no music to soothe you. It’s just you and your head 24/7, and if you are depressed that is a recipe for disaster.”

A cum laude graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a degree in classics and art history, Thoma Guay described herself as “a modern, kinda twisted Aesop” who practices anthropomorphism (assigning human-like qualities to animals and inanimate objects) at its silliest. Since many of her subjects are feline, it’s no surprise that Thoma Guay is the owner of four furry friends — Seamus F. O’Reilly, Yum Yum, Mary Jane and Ramona the Pest. But her stories aren’t limited to animals.

One afternoon, Thoma Guay wrote a story about a sad grocery cart who had committed suicide. “I’d taken a walk to Albertson’s and saw this poor grocery cart laying in the back, face down in a ditch,” she recalled. “I felt so bad for him! What had happened that would cause him to do this? Was he murdered?”

Because she owns a home on the Edmonds/Lynnwood border, Thoma Guay said she doesn’t qualify for Medicare but without a job she can’t afford health insurance. And since the hearing loss came on suddenly, she doesn’t know sign language or how to read lips, so communicating with people who hear is difficult, she added.

Since starting the Gazette more than a year ago, her site traffic — and fan base — continue to grow, and she is averaging more than 6,100 unique visitors a month. “I never expected anyone to read the Gazette, let alone love it. Once I got an email from a fan who was very depressed. She actually said that reading the Gazette made her laugh so hard and prevented her from taking her own life. I don’t think it gets any better than that. A good laugh is proof that life is worth living.”

Ironically, Thoma Guay said, those letters from fans also helped her fight her own battle with depression. “Some days last year if I could just crawl out of bed and get one story written it was a huge accomplishment for me. It gave me a reason to live, to look forward to the next story. It was rough. Those days are behind me now, but I will never forget them and they have humbled me and made me what I hope is a finer person.”

She also has been trying to find a job, but so far it has been difficult: “No one returned an email from the resumes I sent out after they found out I couldn’t hear.” For now, she lives on Social Security disability pay, but says she would much rather have a job. “I can do accounting clerk work, it is what I used to do. It requires no phones, just computer use, but no one would give me a second chance when they saw I was disabled.”

Thoma Guay said she would like to write a book filled with Kitty City stories, and perhaps she could earn enough money to pay for cochlear implants, a $130,000 cost that is out of reach.

Meanwhile, she is grateful for her fans, her cats — and her imagination.

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