Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Experiencing the Cat Writers' Association Conference 2019

If you've followed us the last two weeks, you'll remember we've shared information about the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) 25th Anniversary Conference and Awards Banquet. We're going to turn the blog over to Mom Paula so she can share her experiences at the conference this year.
Paula (Vice President) and Deb Barnes (President) - CWA with Cuddle Clones® Brulee and Truffle before the conference

I became a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and attending my first conference in May 2015 in Nashville, TN. I was new to both BlogPaws and CWA and was a little overwhelmed and intimidated with all of the cat writers I'd admired over the years. I've come a long way in these short five years and now serve as the Vice President of the CWA.

What is CWA?

The Cat Writers' Association (CWA) is an international  writers' organization that was founded to encourage professionalism among cat writers, photographers, artists, and broadcasters. CWA supports existing professional writers and seeks to mentor those new to the profession. The organization promotes all writing and visual & media arts that pertain to cats. The goal is to improve the quality of cat information for the general public. In addition, CWA educates and celebrates cat education at its annual conference and awards ceremony. I'd like to encourage anyone who writes or is involved in visual and media arts to consider joining the CWA. I was elected as the Vice President of the CWA last year after serving on the Council the previous year. I've loved getting to know the various writers, photographers, and graphic artists who are members of CWA. My work on the council and alongside President Deb Barnes has been challenging and satisfying. I was honored to be elected as the Vice President again for 2019 and look forward to working with the officers and members of the Council as we look forward to the next conference in New Jersey in July 2020.

CWA 25th Anniversary Conference & Awards Banquet

The 25th Anniversary Conference & Awards Banquet was held at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch on May 16-18, 2019. Rather than flying this year, I drove to Lexington, Kentucky to pick up a fellow cat blogger/writer, Bonnie Koenig, from The Cat Post Intelligencer. Some of you may remember the Find Chey Friday posts. Bonnie and I drove to St. Louis from Lexington, Kentucky and used that time to catch up on our lives and brainstorm ideas for future writing projects and possible changes to the Blogging Cats Weekly Planner. We arrived at the hotel and were immediately met by several of our blogging friends. We took some time to eat lunch and then I went to help Deb Barnes, President CWA. We spent most of the afternoon stuffing the neck wallets with little surprises and putting together a special thank you treat bag for those who would help with the Swag Bag Stuffing party the next night. It was a tiring day, so I went to my room thinking I'd get to bed early, but my PowerPoint presentation for my session on Thursday was messed up. I spent a few hours getting it corrected.

Conference Sessions

Attendees in the session Improving the Well-Being of Cats in the Home, Shelters, and Post-Adoption 
featuring Conference Keynote, Dr. Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB

Even though the conference didn't officially kick off until Friday morning, we had some pre-conference sessions on Thursday to accommodate all of the wonderful speaker applications we received. We heard sessions about Creative Cause Marketing, How to Write Short Pieces for Publication, The Myth of Busyness, and Editing and Graphics with PicMonkey and Canva. I'm accustomed to presenting to groups from my years in education and government, but that was about mathematics and education. This was the first time I spoke to fellow writers who I've long admired and was a little intimidated in presenting to them. Of course, I ran out of time and never got to the Canva part of the presentation, but everyone appeared to enjoy the session on PicMonkey. 

Sample of speakers and sessions at the CWA Conference

There were many more sessions on Friday and Saturday at the conference. We heard from veterinarians from Purina, Tomlyn, and Veterinary Behavior Consultations. They shared information about nutrition, health, and the well-being of cats. Dr. Deb Horwitz was the keynote speaker and she shared ideas on how to work with cats to improve their well-being to help them feel better and be more adoptable. Additional sessions covered publishing, bundling, time management, and photography. It was very interesting to hear how involved and excited attendees were to be able to ask questions of the veterinarians. Even though many of us write nonfiction pieces about cats, we always want to know more. I was thrilled we had veterinarians who were willing to share their time and expertise with us. You can see a list and description of all of the speakers and sessions on the CWA website.


Spending time with cat blogging friends - clockwise from top left
Yassar Nakchbendi (Chirpy Cats); Bonnie Koenig (The Cat Post Intelligencer), Katherine Kern (Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat), Jenny Carlson (As the World Purrs), Julie McAlee (Cats Herd You), Jeanne Kudich )Random Felines: Paula Gregg (Sweet Purrfections), Sue Doutte (The Island Cats); Julie McAlee and Bonnie Koenig; Sue Doutte and Dawn White (Lola the Rescued Cat); Sue Doutte and Jeanne Kudich); Julie McAlee and Jenny Carlson.

Even though I was quite busy fulfilling my duties as the Vice President of CWA, I also made time to relax and catch up with many of the "people behind the blogs." Of course we talked about our cats, but we were also able to discuss ways to improve our blogs and writing. It's always amazing how much I learn by sitting and talking with others and how many ideas for future writing projects are formed. We did discuss how we can expand the audience for the Blogging Cats Calendar and there will be some changes for 2020. I encourage you to stay tuned for the new description and criteria. Several of the attendees went out in the evenings for "ax throwing" and social hour, but my asthma was giving me a fit, so I stayed indoors. I enjoy meeting people and thrive on social contact so attending these conferences and meetings are always a plus for me and help me survive.

Meeting Brands

Vice President Paula Gregg with Tabitha Cromer from Tomlyn©

Since I've recently rebranded the Sweet Purrfections' blog and am more of a pet influencer/writer, I value the connections I make with brands. We were honored to have several sponsors this year for the conference and awards banquet. Some sponsored provided financial assistance for hosting the conference (meals, speakers, meeting rooms, etc.) and others supported the conference by providing items for the swag bags. A few of the sponsors (Purina, Tomlyn, Germinder & Associates, and Sturdi Products) set up a table with their products and were available to talk with attendees. We wouldn't be able to have the CWA Conference if it wasn't for the generosity of our sponsors. Thanks to the generosity of the sponsors (products and monetary donations), we were able to raise $4000+ for the Humane Society of Missouri.

I am slowly recognizing and thanking the various sponsors for their monetary gifts and swag on social media. Truffle and Brulee are enjoying their swag bag gifts. I encourage you to visit the CWA webpage to see our sponsors and if you attended the conference to take a moment to thank each of them for their support.

Awards Banquet

CWA Founder and Past President Amy Shojai, Immediate Past President Marci Kladnik,
and Vice President Paula Gregg singing The Muse
Photo credit - Larry Johnson Photography

The CWA Awards Banquet is always the highlight of the conference. Everyone likes to dress up in their sparkly clothes complete with cat ears to help honor excellence in writing and media about cats. In honor of the 25th anniversary, the awards banquet opened with a special musical trio, “The Muse” from the musical “Strays,” performed by: CWA Co-Founder Amy Shojai, CWA Past President Marci Kladnik, and CWA Vice President Paula Gregg. You can listen to the song here - The Muse

Receiving Pet Sitters International Pet Care Award for the article I wrote on Choosing a Pet Sitter alongside Beth Stultz-Hairston, Vice President, Marketing & Operations (PSI) and Casey (the cat)Photo credit - Larry Johnson, Johnson Photography

The awards ceremony began with the humorous and renown Arden Moore and Pet Safety Cat Casey as MCs. The first awards were the Special Awards that are sponsored by organizations and brands. I was honored to receive the Pet Sitters' International Pet Care Award for the article I wrote on Choosing a Pet Sitter. Janiss Garza from featuring Summer received the Michael Brim Distinguished Service Award and Ramona Marek received The Shojai Mentor Award and Fran Pennock Shaw received the CWA President's Award. You can see all of the award winners and the program on the CWA website. It was exciting to see all of the new people winning MUSE awards, especially some of my longtime blogging friends.

CWA Officers and Members of the Council - Immediate Past President Marci Kladnik, President Deb Barnes, Councilmember Alana Greylak, Treasurer Dawn White, Councilmember Janiss Garza, and Vice President Paula Gregg
Photo Credit: Larry Johnson Photography

I thoroughly enjoyed the CWA 25th Anniversary and Awards Banquet in St. Louis this year. I've been on boards of organizations in the past but those were always related to education or mathematics. Writing and photographing my cats are a new passion of mine since I've retired and I love learning new things and networking with others. This second year of my Vice Presidency will be a challenging one as I prepare to take on the role of the President (if necessary) in the future. I look forward to working alongside the officers and members of the Council. Plans are already underway for the 26th conference in New Jersey in July 2020.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share a collage of some of the CWA activities.
Sights from the Book Signing and Awards Ceremony


  1. This was my 4th CWA Conference, second as a member, and this year's was the best yet! I'm so proud to be part of such an amazing organization - and among such creative and talented cat-lovers. Congratulations on your award too ... I was ecstatic when it was announced and it took all of my strength not to run up and give you a hug right away. You've transitioned your blog a lot in the last year and I love the direction you've taken it. Moment of truth ... I think my favorite photo you shared is the one of Summer and one of your Cuddle Clones. Summer is usually so self-assured, but it looks like you threw her for a loop.

  2. It was a fun conference! I'm glad I went...and got to catch up with you and the other bloggers. Congrats again on your award. So well deserved.

  3. Looks like a purrfect success - good job!

  4. Such fun and such a world class organization!!!

  5. Great photos. I am hoping to be a member and attend next year.

  6. had to laugh - you can spot the bloggers by our phones :)

  7. My human and I had such an awesome time at the conference! My human was a little bummed she didn't get to see more sessions... which was in good part because she was working on her own slide show for our session with Jessica Spawn! We can't wait till next year.

  8. What a pawsome event!

    The Florida Furkids

  9. It was a great conference and The Female Human came home a lot smarter and with a bunch of new furiends.
    Purrs & Head Bomks,
    The Tribe of Five

  10. What a great roundup! I had such a great time at the conference, and I'm so glad I was able to make it. I'm looking forward to seeing you in July.

  11. I sure do miss the BlogPaws conferences where we could all get together! It looks like a great time and it was in Houston last year! We had just moved to the area and I didn't know.

  12. Congrats on your award, being re-elcted as VP and your beautiful blog. Looks like a great conference- good round up. I would have liked to see your prsentation on PicMonkey- I am sure I am not using its full capabilities. I miss not having a BlogPaws conference this year, the sessions and networking were so good, but was glad to see you and some of the familiar faces from CWA at Global Pet Expo.

  13. What a magical and valuable time was had by everyone. What an epic conference and it looks so much fun too. Who said you can't learn and laugh at the same time!!

  14. CWA seems like such a great organization! It looks like everyone had a fun time. Congratulations on winning the Pet Sitters International Pet Care Award.

  15. Looks like a wonderful time! It's always so nice to meet at conferences and network! I always enjoyed my annual national school board conferences. And, of course, award banquets are always the cherry on top, especially when you receive one or more! Great pics! And congrats on your award!


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