Cat Women Know How to Have Fun!

Friday, November 08, 2013

This past Halloween I escaped to Dallas, TX to meet some real life characters of the talented kind. I have just returned from my very first Cat Writer's Association Conference. (And no I actually did not wear or bring my cat costume. Had to pack light! Almost impossible when I normally bring six pairs of shoes).

Deb Barnes and Angie Bailey at the ice breaker/costume party
(Photo by Glogirly)

CWA represents the best writers in the cat communications field. To join requires skill and experience and proof that your work has been published in print or online.

For two days I was in the presence of nationally recognized cat writers. Many of them have authored several books, magazine articles and received numerous awards.  As the founder of the blog and nonprofit Riverfront Cats, I'm just a kitten compared to these pros. But alas I had something to offer established offline writers--advice on how to transition to the world of blogging and social media. The spirit of CWA is one of support and mentoring.

Janiss Garza and Deb Barnes hug to keep warm
on a chilly November afternoon in Dallas

Year round we work hard, pen to paper, fingers to keyboard; thinking caps keeping the lid on brain smoke, adorned with reading glasses or a cat;  "crazy cat lady" or writer's mugs filled to the brim or coffee stains splattered across our desk thanks to some "dippers".  However at the conference, we know how to let loose and have fun.

JaneA Kelley shows her red petticoat used to perk up her dress.
Love that old-fashioned style!


On Friday night, we were entertained with a homemade musical production entitled "Strays the Musical" which explored furry foibles from a pet's point of view. The actors gave voice to a variety of cat and dog characters in this hilarious and often moving "drama-dy". Who knew they possessed such talent!

A six member cast dressed in pedestrian clothes with a dog or cat identifier (pig tails and furry leg warmers worn by Theresa Littlefield representing a dog) sashayed from behind the room to the front stage.

I recognized the vivacious Amy Shojai, one of the co-founders of CWA.  Little did I know what was to come--a hidden talent. Her operatic voice sent chills and nostalgic waves.  I love musicals! A favorite tradition my mother and I share to this day. The only thing missing was a limber cat to jump on the tables... As a former ballerina performing until the ripe age of 23, I always wanted to be in the cast of CATS... hmmm I wonder, as I lift my leg behind my head--who am I kidding. Those days are gone. But I could listen to Amy for hours. That voice that transports you to another world.

 I love these small, intimate conferences where we can scratch beneath the writing surface and learn more about our colleagues--their families, other interests, and hidden talents.

On the last evening, the night of the awards, attendees are prim and proper at the cocktail reception, still decompressing from the day's seminars.

(Before the award's ceremony)
Deb Barnes, Peter Keys, Christine Michaels, Janiss Garza

As soon as the last award was announced, the wine glasses empty, attendees stood and the genie came out of the bottle. Our rigid physiques from sitting all day turned into tween gymnasts as we twisted and contorted for memorable poses and photos.  Hand gestures signified the claw, magic fingers and the Midas touch.   It's amazing what a little recognition, adrenaline and wine can do to rejuvenate the body.  No Miley Cyrus acts needed to have fun.

(After the awards ceremony)

As the revelry subsided, we returned to our hotel rooms and my roommate gingerly tucked away her award in the suitcase. I was reminded of a prior celebration two weeks ago.

On a typical work day, I received an official looking envelope in the mail from CWA. A program or newsletter perhaps? My key slit across the top fold and inside I peered at an ominous document.  With caution and surgical  precision, I extracted the 9 x 12 linen sheet. "Certificate of Excellence" it read for my blog post "Lion King and the Circle of Love".  A simple gesture that heralded my efforts sent a surge through my core.  I gazed around the elevator lobby of my condo with dark gray slate, dim lights, a no nonsense cavernous space. Fireworks glared that only I could see. Trumpets blared that only I could hear. Sure it's not a major award, but someone, somewhere said good job. For that I am grateful. It keeps me going.

 I begged the elevator Gods for an express ride to the my floor. I wanted to show the cats that hard work pays off. The road may be filled with obstacles, but we felines know patience is golden.

 Rushing through my front door, I squealed "Babies!" and the cats predictably tumbled out of cat beds, my bed, my office chair.  Their reaction? "If it's not  Greenies or piece of chicken, we're returning to our nap!" It's my own fault. My beautiful fur angels turned gluttons from a certain stray swag bag full of cat treats.  Click here for proof of pilfering!

Warning: If you don't unpack immediately, the cats will do it for you!

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If you are a cat writer and if your work was published in print or online,  below are the requirements for consideration to join the exclusive Cat Writer's Association.  For any questions, please email CWA Secretary, Wendy Christensen at

CWA Membership Requirements (as of November, 2013)

To be considered for membership in the CWA, you must include, along with your application and $40.00 fee (including $10.00 non-refundable application processing fee), CAT-RELATED samples of your work published or publicly produced during the preceding 12 months (24 months for books). All work samples must be dated, include the publication's name, and must contain significant "cat content," not just mention cats in passing or use them as props or scenery. Works that portray cats in a negative, inhumane or irresponsible manner do not qualify as work samples for CWA membership.

Applicants: Please review additional work sample guidelines, below, before selecting work samples to accompany your application!

Editor, agent, and publisher applicants: See the special Guidelines below, before submitting your application.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP: For published cat writers, artists, broadcasters and other communications professionals who may or may not be paid for their work. Acceptable samples FOR ASSOCIATE STATUS include:
    1 published exhibit from newspaper, magazine, ezine/online publication, or internal publication; OR
    1 broadcast or file script or tape; OR
    1 public relations speech or technical materials exhibit.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP: For published cat writers, artists, broadcasters and other communications professionals who are regularly published and are paid for their work. Acceptable work samples for PROFESSIONAL STATUS include:
    2 published exhibits from newspaper, magazine, ezine/online publication, or internal publication; OR
    2 broadcast or file scripts or tapes; OR
    2 public relations speeches or technical material exhibits; OR
    1 book published within the preceding 24 months.

Need a CWA member sponsor? Applications naming CWA member(s) as sponsor(s) receive the highest consideration. The CWA encourages prospective members to contact a current CWA member to discuss possible sponsorship.) Don't specify a sponsor without their consent. Most CWA members will be happy to discuss your cat-related work and your CWA membership application with you.

  CWA guidelines for submitted work samples:
1) Vanity-published work, whether printed text or illustrations/photos, will not be accepted as work samples for CWA membership. The CWA defines "vanity publications" as works which the creator pays someone else to print, or which are self-published without meeting any of the criteria detailed in #5 below, or which are not professional quality. Applicants are responsible for affirming the type of publisher they work with. However, the CWA Membership Committee can be guided by other typical "vanity publisher" criteria, such as the fact that vanity publishers usually have numerous "published titles," in contrast to small, lesser-known presses which have only a handful of legitimate titles; or the fact that the publisher is a known vanity press.

2) Any work submitted for CWA membership consideration must be to a large extent about, or relevant to, cats. At least one-third of the content of non-fiction articles/books should cover cats. In fictional works, it's not essential that a cat be the main character, but felines must be integral to the plot and story, rather than incidental characters or walk-ons.

3) Electronically-published work (e.g., from online magazines or other "e-publications) are not considered qualifying work samples for professional or associate status if the works only appear on, or are printed from, an applicant's personal web site or a special-interest or discussion group web site. Applicants should affirm that they have been remunerated in some way for their electronically-published work. Materials published on commercial web sites or even on non-paying online sites can be acceptable if the applicant provides supporting documents (such as historical site information, evidence of a verifiable audience via subscription numbers or the number of site hits, a letter from the commercial site's "editor" or "employer"). Paid blogging counts as published work for purposes of CWA application.

4) Applicants submitting broadcast or film scripts, tapes that have been released to the public, or public relations speeches or technical material exhibits that have been presented to the public, must include substantiation of such distribution, presentation or publication, such as a signed letter from superior, clip of the publication, etc .

5) Books submitted by applicants as work samples will, ideally and preferably, be published/distributed by a commercial publisher. Authors of self-published books must submit supporting documentation that the book is being offered for sale by professional outlets such as book stores (whether physical buildings or online bookstores), commercial web sites, or other venues not owned by the author/creator. The CWA Membership Committee may additionally ask applicants for proof of book sale figures or other information.
6) Applicants submitting any other self-published work (articles, songs, photos, calendars,    artwork etc.) must additionally submit one of the following proofs. Either:
    a) Evidence that the published work has been vetted by a qualified professional; OR
    b) Up-to-date sales figures; OR
    c) Proof of payment/remuneration. AND
    d) Any other substantiating material requested by the CWA Membership Committee (e.g.,
    additional previously-published samples, writer's resume, etc.)
7) ) Any member of the CWA Membership Committee has the right to request additional writing or other work samples, or supporting documents, from any applicant. The Membership Committee also has the right to make exceptions to admit applicants under special considerations. 

In all cases, if the CWA membership Committee requests additional substantiation and/or information from an applicant, the amount of time given for consideration before final approval of the application may be extended by up to 30 days.

CWA Guidelines for editors, agents and publishers applying for membership

If you hold the title of Editor of a regularly-published cat newsletter, magazine or in a credentialed book publishing house, you may submit, as your work samples, two issues of the whole publication, with your name and title on the masthead, to be considered for Professional membership.

Editors of online magazines may provide two URLs for issues of their magazine. In the case of online magazines, the CWA Membership Committee may conduct careful monitoring of the magazine's site, and may request further credentials, such as your professional resume. If any member of the Membership Committee questions the legitimacy of the online publication, the burden of proof shall be on the applicant.

If you are an editor in a book publishing house, you'll need to submit your professional resume, along with a letter from your publisher (on official publishing house letterhead) detailing your qualifications for Professional membership in the CWA, including title(s) of cat book(s) you've edited.
If you're a publisher or literary agent who doesn't write yourself, but wants to be a CWA member, submit a professional resume  and a list of relevant books you've handled/published/agented. The Membership Committee will review the material you submit individually, and may request additional supporting documentation.

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  1. What fun!!!

    Question though - I read those requirements and I don't know how being a blogger about cats would qualify me? Could you let me know? (