We spoke to her prior to the upcoming CWA/BlogPaws Panel about the changes CWA has made to make the organization more relevant in today’s digital world, convey the knowledge of CWA journalists to bloggers, bring more value to members and sponsors, and attract new members.
Everyone has a story to tell regarding how they got involved writing about pets. What is yours?
Eight years ago I began volunteering for a local feral cat trap-neuter-return (TNR) organization. Three months later I found myself on the board and writing a bi-weekly cat column for three local newspapers and the Catalyst for Cats’ website. This opened a whole new, fun career for me after my retirement from boring medical technical writing.
How did you get involved with the Cat Writers’ Association?
Writing about ferals for Catalyst for Cats caught the attention of Nancy Peterson of the HSUS five years ago. As a member, Nancy told me about CWA and offered to sponsor me if I was interested in joining. I was! As with any new interest of mine, I jumped in with both feet, attending every conference and judging each annual Communication Contest since 2010.
What have been the benefits of being involved with Cat Writers’?
CWA in an incredibly nurturing organization of very talented and celebrated writers, artists, photographers, broadcasters and videographers, all willing to mentor new and existing members in their fields of expertise. Personally, CWA opened up a whole new world of writing for me and helped me become an award-winning writer and photographer.
How does someone become a member of the Cat Writers’ Association?
Anyone who writes or otherwise celebrates cats of all sizes can become a member. The application form can be found on our website along with the list of qualifications for the different levels of membership. We are an international organization, with members outside the United States from New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Europe, the UK, and Canada.
You are currently the President of The Cat Writers’ Association. What are your goals for the organization?
The main goal during my term is to bring CWA more into the digital arena. Our founders in 1992 were mostly traditional writers, publishing in print rather than online. Today that is more and more difficult to sustain, and so we must embrace the environment of blogging and e-books/magazines, areas that have opened up exciting new markets for our work. As professionals, we will always strive to teach and honor good writing, a subject near and dear to our hearts.
Recently Cat Writers’ announced an expanded MEOW member communications digital platform in combination with the upcoming CWA/BlogPaws panel; with all these changes are you offering something new to sponsors?
From Amy Shojai (Co-Founder/Lifetime Director and 2015-2016 Program Chair) – Yes! Since the next conference takes place in 2016, those sponsors who commit now will benefit from 12-18 months of CWA promotion (compared to the usual 6-8 months). In addition, the “early bird sponsors” who committed by this past April 15 will be hosted by CWA on a future Google Hangout promoted to members and the cat-loving public. They’ll be able to talk directly to cat enthusiasts about their brands, products and programs. CWA is all about supporting and spreading the news about the benefits provided to cats and their humans by these wonderful organizations and individuals.
The Cat Writers’ Association is offering two new panels at this year’s BlogPaws Conference; can you tell us about the collaboration with BlogPaws and the CWA offerings?
CWA and BlogPaws are very excited to team up in Nashville this year. For CWA it is a chance to experience the world of bloggers and blogging on a whole new scale. For BlogPaws, CWA brings professional writing and publishing knowledge to share. We anticipate it to be a great learning experience for all.
The prestigious Cat Writers’ annual contest offers opportunities for recognition in various fields of cat-centric content; can you tell us more about the contest?
The annual Communication Contest draws entries from all over the world and is open to members and non-members alike. The 2015 contest has 55 regular categories to choose from, with awards consisting of Certificates of Excellence and Muse Medallions. In addition, there are 16 special awards to vie for where thousands of dollars in prize money can be won. Rules and entry forms can be found on the CWA website.
As a Muse Medallion winner yourself, what has the award meant to you and you work?
Winning Muse Medallions has been very emotional for me. The first was for a photograph of an ill foster kitten taken the last day of his life. He was my “heart kitty” and having him immortalized in this manner meant the world to me. The first Muse I won for writing was a validation by my esteemed peers assuring me that I was indeed a good writer. Having been a judge the previous two years, I knew well the caliber of writers I was up against and how stiff the competition is each year. To date I have won five, and they hang proudly on what I call “My aMUSEment Wall.”
Do you have any upcoming projects outside of Cat Writers’?
At present I am working on articles for Catster.com and a children’s book based on my Scottish Terrier and her work as a feral kitten fosterer. I am also hoping to finish writing the murder mystery I began a decade ago, even though it doesn’t contain a single cat. And then there is my dog’s blog that I really need to reactivate… The challenge for me is how to juggle it all.