Cat Writers & BlogPaws Rock the Pet World!

Amy Shojai Blogpaws Cup

I love coffee cups…and coffee! So this is perfect for me. The gift bag from WIPIN also included cat toys (yay!) and a fold-able lawn chair with a small pet shelter area beneath the seat. Very cool!

Cat Writers’ Association and BlogPaws joined furry forces for an historic combined conference benefiting writers and bloggers of all purr-suasions–and to enthusiastic applause by one and all! In the coming days and weeks, many of us will continue to shout out praises for the resulting brand and professional connections we’ve made and friendships found as a result of these two stellar organizations.

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It’s taken me all week to write thank yous to all of the CWA sponsors, speakers and other movers-and-shakers and I still have a few left to contact. Yes, it takes that many individuals and entities to create something this paw-some. For those unable to attend, I wanted to offer my own experience, which may be a bit different than some attendees, since I was tasked with leading the CWA portion of the conference (with a LOT of help!).

WEDNESDAY PREP TIME

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon June 22, and connected with CWA Prez Marci Kladnik and banquet gift bag coordinator Susan Willett. We spent the afternoon tracking down the “swag” donated by our incredible CWA sponsors and putting everything together with the help of more members as they arrived. This was a great time to reconnect and get a ‘sneak peek’ at the goodies.

Later that afternoon, I met with a room full of expert bloggers at a “tea” sponsored by AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association). They shared some great information that I’ll pass on very soon. Later that evening, Petsmart hosted a welcome reception for all the early bird attendees.

THURSDAY KICK OFF

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Amy introduces CWA speakers. Copr Silver Paw Studio

The CWA’s publishing and promotion tracked ran on Thursday afternoon. Since this year I was CWA Conference Chair, it was my honor to introduce all our speakers.

Mark Coker of SMASHWORDS.com kicked everything off. His talk about best practices of best selling indie authors proved to be very popular. NYT bestselling cat book author, Gwen Cooper, followed with her story and tips for publishing with mainstream publishers–even if they “think” that cat books won’t sell. (Don’t tell that to Karma!). Gwen’s book about her blind cat Homer (along with many others) provide them wrong. Lea-Ann Germinder presented her final session of the day on PR and marketing for bloggers, writers and others to a standing-room only crowd. Mee-wow!

See more about speakers and recap here.

CWA Booth Cat Writers (2)

After the seminars, the exhibition hall opened. Several of our CWA members manned the booth during exhibit hours, as well as autographing their books. Many folks stopped by to learn more about our 24-year-old professional organization, and I expect we’ll gain some prestigious new members as a result.

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Relieved after the press conference! Image copr. Arden Moore

YAPPY HOUR & PRESS CONFERENCE

Late that afternoon, I spoke on behalf of CWA at the BlogPaws press conference that officially kicked off the event. Can you tell I’m nervous?! It helps to have lots of dogs, cats, ferrets and even a rattie or two in the crowd…*s*

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A “yappy hour” reception sponsored by Purina made all virtual tails wag, and was followed by opening events. Steve Dale presented the Winn Feline Foundation Award for journalistic excellence reporting on feline medical issues to Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a feline specialist, and three of the BlogPaws founders (Tom Collins, Chloe and Yvonne Divita) welcomed attendees numbering probably 400-500 (not counting their furry charges).

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FELINE FRIDAY EVENTS

CWA sessions continued with a stellar lineup of panels. Dr. Marty Becker (moderator), Dr. Elizabeth Colleran and Denise Fleck provided lots of content for bloggers and writers in their wide ranging discussion Fear Free Hot Topics for Pet-Centric Writers. Dr. Becker covered the “fear free” program he promotes to help pets visit vets without being scared; Dr. Colleran discussed the Cat Friendly Practice initiative and cat behavior issues; and Denise Fleck, a first and and pet disaster prep expert, offered great recommendations for keeping pets safe.

The final CWA session featured award winning blogger/writer Susan Willett moderating a panel of authors and editors, aimed at helping attendees get PAID for their work. Panelists included Lisa Beg-Kruysman, Lonnie Hull Dupont, Patricia Fry and Lynn Thompson.

Then I was invited to a brunch sponsored by Virbac, to learn more about fleas and intestinal worms and how Sentinel Spectrum works. Hey, we’re pet people, that’s what we do!

EXHIBIT HALL & CAT STYLE LOUNGE

More than 50 exhibitors offered information and samples (TREATS! TOYS! FOOD!). I finally had to politely decline any more samples, as I feared the plane wouldn’t be able to take off. Part of the exhibit area features cat-specific products in the “Cat Style Lounge” hosted by Kate Benjamin of Hausepanther. Many folks took advantage of entering drawings for some of these wonderful products and…look what I won!

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Hausepanther also hosted the “Happy Meow-ur” that evening. Later, many folks had fun glamming their pets up for the Pawject Runway hosted by Red Roof Inn, but I and many of the cat folks instead prepped for the BIGGEST NIGHT OF THE CWA YEAR–

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Kim Thornton presents Muse to to Amy for CAT FACTS. Copr. Jerry Thornton

CWA AWARDS BANQUET

The awards banquet honors published work in dozens of categories. This year I was honored to be nominated in 7 categories, and even more delighted to actually win a coveted Muse Medallion for my book CAT FACTS. The book also won a special award sponsored by the Cornell Feline Health Center. I’ve already blogged about this here, but wanted to share the pictures, too. It was a special night.

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Contest chair Arden Moore presents Cornell Award to Amy for CAT FACTS. Copr. Jerry Thornton

The CWA Banquet and seminar events were made possible by our incredible sponsors, led by Purina, GoodNewsForPets.com and PetSafe. I know that Prez Marci is already planning for 2017 so please message her through the CWA website for further info.

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Amy presents Shojai Mentor Award to Carole Nelson Douglas–Dusty Rainbolt accepts, with President Marci Kladnik. Copr. Jerry Thornton

As one of the founders of CWA, I also sponsor a special award that honors the member who has helped another through mentoring to achieve his or her professional goals. This year, I was excited to learn that my good friend Dusty Rainbolt (a former recipient of the award) had nominated a mutual friend, Carole Nelson Douglas (author of the Midnight Louie books and many others).

See more about the various award winners and contest sponsors here.

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President Marci Kladnik presents Amy with retirement bracelet. Copr. Jerry Thornton

AMY’S SURPRISE RETIREMENT GIFT

After serving the CWA as president for 24 years in several capacities, I announced my retirement from the Council. So after all the awards were given, President Marci Kladnik presented me with the most spectacular custom made charm bracelet, designed by CWA artist/writer member Wendy Christensen. Yes, I was floored!

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It has charms representing milestones in my CWA and writing life, from my cats and dogs, to book covers, a tiny type writer and open book, roses, cello, comedy/tragedy mask, the Muse Medallion and CWA logo and more. I will treasure and wear this with deep joy for the rest of my life.

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Throughout the weekend, BlogPaws also held fantastic sessions and Saturday I had time to finally spend time with all the wonderful offerings. These included keynote addresses, one-on-one discussions, and a book signing event.

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I also spent a lovely lunch time with the Hill’s Pet Food folks, learning more about the benefits of specific nutrition for our cats and dogs. And yes, I shared my table with a very friendly rattie!

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Deb Barnes & Amy Shojai on the red carpet. Copr. Silver Paw Studio

Deb Barnes & Amy Shojai on the red carpet. Copr. Silver Paw Studio

The finale that evening highlighted the BlogPaws “Nose-to-Nose” nominees and announced the winners in a variety of blogging categories. The red carpet and photo op is great fun, because the PETS get to strut their stuff. You ain’t lived until you’ve seen a glam cat tricked out in formal wear, or a ferret rocking a gemstone leash. The banquet was yummy and the entire evening was sponsored by Natural Balance and Nature’s Recipe. Pet people and pet companies really know how to throw a paw-ty!

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SWAG-SWAG-WAGGITY-PURTASTIC-SWAG!!!

Between the CWA Banquet gift bags, the BlogPaws swag bags, the speaker tote with gifts (from Women In the Pet Industry), and all the samples from the exhibitors, I could not carry everything home. So without opening the bags (really, I had no time at all while there!) I stuffed everything into a big box, and shipped the 30-pound package home.

You heard right…30 POUNDS!

Today (Sunday July 3) I finally opened the box. And here’s what happened.

I will try to personally thank as many sponsors and donors as possible but honestly, it will take several weeks. My pets and I are incredibly grateful. The pet industry truly cares about cats and dogs (and ferrets, hamsters, birds, all-critters). And I am very pleased to be a part of it.

So for all you folks who attended the CWA and BlogPaws events–what was your favorite part? Please share! For me (even though I love the swag) the best part was meeting new folks and reconnecting with friends and colleagues. Can you hear my purrrrrrr?


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