Did you attend the BlogPaws/ CWA conference in Myrtle Beach this past spring? If you missed it, CWA member and newly-installed CWA council member Julie McAlee shares her experience with you. We hope this inspires you to register for a Cat Writers Association conference in the future!
10 great things I got out of the BlogPaws/ CWA Conference in Myrtle Beach
by Julie McAlee
- I got to meet lots of cats
Whenever I travel, I miss my cats. On many trips, I might go all day without seeing or petting a cat, but not at the BlogPaws/ Cat Writer’s Association (CWA) conference! A surprising number of people brought their cats to the conference with them. As a result, I got to spend plenty of time visiting with both cats and kittens.
In fact, my roommates were three little kittens who are seven weeks old, and as you can imagine they were the life of the party. I still missed my cats, but not nearly as much as I would have without having a “cat fix.”
- I met lots of people, too
For introverts like me, networking with strangers at a conference is exhausting. At an event like the BlogPaws/ CWA conference, it feels different, though. It’s exciting to meet the faces behind the cats, dogs, and ferrets we have already discussed over the internet. I don’t dread small talk because there isn’t any. We jump right into talking about our pets because it’s something we all have in common, like an extended family.
The networking didn’t end with people I already knew! I was also excited to meet some of the speakers, like Dr. Ken Lambrecht, who founded West Towne Veterinary Center, and who travels with his cat, Bug. I also met plenty of CWA members I had not known before. Now I have more books on my to-read list, thanks to finding out what some of them have written!
- I got to see the latest in cool cat gear
One of the features of the conference was the cat lounge, hosted by CWA member Kate Benjamin’s HausPanther. This amazing room allowed you to see, touch, and test out many of the coolest cat products I had only seen in advertisements or on the internet. Cats who attended the conference were welcome to try out the products, too.
I was excited by some of the great finds there, and I even won a Cat Dad t-shirt to take home to my husband for being on cat duty while I was at the conference.
- I had my first book signing
CWA had a table inside the cat lounge for book signings, and different authors were scheduled there throughout the conference.
This was especially exciting for me because it was my first ever book signing! I sold and signed copies of the anthology my story is in, Rescued Volume 2: The Healing Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. Being around people who were checking out all the cool stuff in the cat lounge was a really fun environment for a book signing. I was lucky to have a kitten sidekick along for my time slot, too.
- I learned lots of cat science news
There’s always more to learn about cats, and I learned some great things at this conference. The Winn Feline Foundation sponsored a panel where they told us about the latest clinical trial they funded for a new protease inhibitor that has saved eight cats from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). This is really exciting news, since FIP is considered a fatal disease. I also learned that SARS in humans is related to FIP!
The panel also discussed another study funded by the Winn Feline Foundation that is looking into the treatment of feline stomatitis with stem cells. The anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties of stem cells have given cats in the clinical trial real relief from this painful mouth disease.
As a science nerd, I couldn’t wait to learn more about both of these foundation-funded studies. They could make a real difference in the lives of cats in the years ahead.
- I learned about storytelling on different platforms, too
One of the great sessions I attended was about storytelling. Susan Willett, who publishes the Life with Dogs and Cats blog, said something in her storytelling presentation that was so obvious, I hadn’t ever really given it any thought: The same story can and should be told in entirely different ways on different social media platforms. The immediacy and brevity of Twitter lends itself to “my cat just did X outrageous thing with a catnip mouse” while the longer space of a blog post allows me to tell the story about “my cat’s complicated relationship with his catnip mouse.”
This shouldn’t have been a mini-epiphany for me, but seeing it explained in these terms really was. It helped me understand why my trying to tell the same story everywhere wasn’t working, and it was actionable information I could use immediately.
- I attended two award dinners
Both the BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Awards and the Cat Writers Conference Muse Medallions were announced during the conferences in Myrtle Beach. With so many friends nominated for awards that were presented on both nights, the evenings were extra-special.
There’s something really special about seeing your friends up on the stage, being presented with awards that recognize how amazing you already know they are, and that’s exactly what happened. I was so happy for them. If you haven’t seen the list of winners, you can find a list here on the CWA web site.
- I attended the annual Cat Writer’s Association meeting
I have been a CWA member since 2014, but this conference was the first time I had the chance to attend the CWA’s annual meeting. It was a great chance to thank some of the people in person for their hard work on things like organizing the writing contest and the conference itself.
I was also officially installed as a CWA council member at the meeting. I’m looking forward to being able to help bring new perspectives to the council.
- I brought home lots of great swag
The generous sponsors of both the BlogPaws and CWA conferences really outdid themselves with swag this year. A big thank you to them all!
I love being able to reuse the extra-large bags we got at the conference. Every time I have shopped with them since I got home, someone has asked me where I got such a big bag, which gave me a chance to explain that it was a souvenir from a cat writing conference.
- I added a new member to my cat family
Speaking of souvenirs from the conference, there’s one more thing I brought home from the BlogPaws/CWA conference. This one was really unexpected.
I fell in love with one of my kitten roommates and the feeling was mutual. About a month after the BlogPaws/ Cat Writer’s Association conference, we made it official, and I adopted the kitten named Dior. She is now renamed Cupcake, and she is a treasured member of our family.
Unapologetic geek, Oxford comma supporter, and cat herder, Julie McAlee is one of the authors in the anthology Rescued Volume 2: The Healing Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. Julie lives in Orlando with her husband and four rescued cats who are clearly the ones in charge. See Newton, Ashton, Cupcake, and Pierre’s feline adventures on her blog, Cats Herd You.
If you are a member of the Cat Writers Association and would like to be a contributor to the CWA website, contact editor Janiss Garza. Her email is listed in the “Our Members” tab.