June Member Spotlight – Lisa Richman

I’m happy to announce that this month’s Member Spotlight choice is Lisa Richman. You may be wondering why there was no Spotlight for May. It’s because the chosen member never responded. Oh, well. This month, we have Lisa, and I’ll let her take it from here…

Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s such an honor!

So, where to begin?

By profession, I’m a director of film and video. I like to say this entails weeks of tedium interspersed with days of omigod-we’re-filming-NOW chaos. I’ve had the honor of working with some amazing celebrities, from Betty White to Jewel to Maya Angelou. I count it as a personal achievement that I graduated to “call me Mrs. Angelou” status throughout the years we worked together. (Why yes, there’s a story there, thanks for asking!)

(Talking through a scene with singer Jewel and David Tutera, star of My Fair Wedding)
(Talking through a scene with singer Jewel and David Tutera, star of My Fair Wedding)

Someone once asked how many awards I’ve won in my filmmaking career, and I don’t honestly know. Many of them are packed in boxes, stacked on shelves in a back room. I suppose I should count them someday….

But those of us associated with the CWA are more interested in the written word than the spoken one. And I must admit, my writing career has been far more sedate. My first publication was in an anthology by Purple Sage Press in 2006. My next publication is due to be released this fall: another anthology by Fitcat Publishing, entitled Rescue Me: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes.

(Me with the Tonkinese Terror, aka Faraday)
(Me with the Tonkinese Terror, aka Faraday)

However, I believe people are most familiar with what I have written for my cat blog, A Tonk’s Tail (err, Tale….). I have authored A Tonk’s Tale since October of 2010. In addition, I maintain a daily presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. I’d say my writing style is casual and conversational, with a hefty bit of dry wit. And I’m not ashamed to admit, an occasional tendency toward slapstick!

(Faraday, the Intrepid Reporter)
(Faraday, the Intrepid Reporter)

I call the blog “fun and informative” – and it is. You’ll find whimsical and humorous series such as Fashion Faux Paws, written from the perspective of our feline fashionista, Allie. Yet you’ll also find series that are incisive and illuminating, such as my Monday Medical series or Trivia: Word Origins.

(Our Glam Girl, the “author” of Fashion Faux Paws)
(Our Glam Girl, the “author” of Fashion Faux Paws)

A Tonk’s Tale is also how I share my pet photography. Working in such a visual medium as film has provided ample opportunity over the years to work on this skill, though I still have much to learn. I particularly love candid photography, especially with cats. They can be gloriously expressive, in subtle ways!

(Maxwell: “Not until you give me the Secret Password!”)
(Maxwell: “Not until you give me the Secret Password!”)

It’s my hope that you’ll find something for everyone on A Tonk’s Tale, including exposure for two of the midwest’s largest no-kill shelters and rescue resources. I believe strongly in the mission of these organizations. Both have done amazing work in a part of the country where both hoarding and puppy mills are epidemic.

Thank you again for this opportunity to share a bit of my writing, my goals and myself with you. I look forward to seeing everyone in Atlanta in November!

April Member Spotlight: Christine Michaels

Christine Michaels at one of her feeding stations
Christine Michaels at one of her feeding stations

Thank you for this honor to introduce myself and share my work in the CWA spotlight. I’m in awe to join this talented and exclusive membership and learn from your experience and insights.

So what makes me purr, tick and thump (or jump) for joy? Well I’m a tortie of four passions—dance, marketing, Art Deco and blogging about cats!

My love for the arts and performing ballet started very young but I knew at age 23 a “starving artist” would not sustain a lifestyle of travel and modern comforts. Dance remains a cherished hobby so I chose marketing as my career path. It came as natural as ballet and marketing remains my secret weapon in helping the cat community.

However, after four job layoffs in 20 years it was time to reinvent myself as “an educator with flair”. At the ripe age of 40 I launched a small business. The Art Deco Walking Tour and Cocktail tour showcase the history and architecture of Miami Beach and I became known as the South Beach Deco Lady before…

My affinity for cats materialized by accident. When I stumbled upon homeless cats in my new neighborhood along the Miami River, I could not ignore their plight and dove into action–learning hands on about capturing kittens, trapping, deworming, bottle feeding, recuperating after spay/neuter, socializing, etc. As a strategist I realized the number of homeless cats against a small army of volunteers was a constant losing battle. Community awareness was nonexistent. Education and communication were critical to reverse the trend. Thus the Riverfront Cats blog was born as I put my efforts into words in hopes to stir reaction and motivate action.

A proud moment was conceptualizing and chairing the inaugural Black Cat gala in Miami to overturn the misconception of black cats and increase adoptions. Le Chat Noir was conceived to showcase the elegance and intelligence of black cats. Against a backdrop theme of old Hollywood black and silver, fine wine and food, and trained black cats strutting down the cat walk adorned with diamond collars, the event elevated black cats and dazzled attendees. We also flew in Otto, the celebrity black cat that rides a motorcycle in Los Angeles. Otto confidently walked the red carpet in his black top hat and didn’t blink an eye in the face of flashing cameras. The 2010 event was featured in a luxury Miami magazine. Mission accomplished!

Now in its fifth year, the Riverfront Cats blog and nonprofit has received media attention for efforts related to community, feral and black cats. My hard work, sweat and tears is paying off. It’s not just a paw print in the beach sand. The blog is leaving tracks and forging ahead and I thank my new cat friends, neighbors and mother for their valuable contributions. I could not do this alone.

Now for my next goal, it’s ambitious. To combine cats, Art Deco, dance, writing all in one– To host the next CWA conference in Miami with an “Art Deco Alley Cat walking and dance tour in South Beach!” Livin’ la cat vida loca!

You can connect with Christine in any of her social media platforms:
Riverfront Cats on Facebook
Riverfront Cats on Twitter
Riverfront Cats on Pinterest
Riverfront Cats on Instagram

A Writer’s Words on The Love of Cats

Have you ever thought what your last diary entry might be? This photo quote was inspired by the last diary entry of William S. Burroughs, the iconic writer, philosopher, artist and cat lover.

antique cat art writing Quote



Basic Tips for Creating a Good Backup Plan for Your Computer

cats-and-computerWith spring officially here, many of us look at it as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation – the days are longer, dormant plants bloom again, and people begin a ritual of cleaning – windows are washed, closets get a once over for impending trips to Goodwill, and we flock to the stores for linen sales. As a writer, I like to look at this time as a reminder that our computers also need a good cleaning to be running smoothly – we need to be clearing our cookies and deleting files we don’t need any more, but more importantly, we need a reliable plan in place to back up our files, emails, pictures, videos, and the like that can tragically be lost in the blink of an eye, causing us nothing but heartache and problems.

I wish I could say that I am being overly dramatic, but I am speaking from experience when I say it is not a matter of if you will lose invaluable information from your computer, but when you will. Unlike the days of typing manuscripts by hand and keeping a copy stored in a filing cabinet or taking photographs and displaying them in a photo album, everything we do is based on putting information into a piece of machinery that is suspect to a myriad of problems. We take the technology of today for granted and assume everything will be fine, but if we don’t have a backup plan in place to save our irreplaceable data, the results can be disastrous.

For example, in a matter of 5 short years, I have had an external hard drive filled with thousands of invaluable business and personal photos accidentally knocked to the floor by one of my cats, causing it a near death experience, only to be revived two-weeks and $500.00 later by an IT person who I had to call in desperation to help me. The photos were retrieved, but they came back encrypted with no file names and it took weeks to catalog them all over again.

I have also had a computer that was working fine one day, turn a sickening blue color the next for no reason at all. It stopped working completely and I was forced again to call an IT person to retrieve my files – luckily he was able to save most of them but the computer itself had to be restored to factory settings and I lost all sorts of programs and other information I had stored over the years.

Then there have been the occasional USB sticks that I have used to store information. Thinking I was smart in backing up some of my files on a USB stick, I had no idea that they could just stop working, but they can. Not to mention all the other little things that can happen – you can spill coffee on your keyboard, causing your computer to go haywire. Or your cat can walk across your keyboard, inadvertently causing damage. Power outages can also cause computer problems, as can lightning, floods, fires, and more. My point to all of this, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take this post seriously and make sure that you have checks and balances in place to back up the data on your computer.

There are several options available and I recommend that you do more than one of them at a time so that you always have as much current information saved as you can. That way if something does happen to your computer, restoring your files will be as painless as possible. One of the easiest recommendations is to purchase an external hard-drive that you connect to your computer with a USB cord to back up your files. They come in a wide range of prices – all you need to figure out is your storage needs and budget (see reviews here of options available from PC Magazine). The backup can be done manually – once a day, once a week, once a month – whatever you are most comfortable with, or you can even set up your computer through your control panel to automatically schedule a backup to the external drive.

Another option is to backup information onto portable USB sticks. I know I said that sometimes they stop working, so I suggest this be an adjunct to other methods you chose. I always save files that I work on frequently in both my computer as well as a USB stick. I then keep that stick with me in my purse in case anything was to ever happen to my computer.

There are also numerous ways to store information on the cloud now. The cloud is a backup system done thought the Internet and unlike buying an external drive, this option requires no extra hardware. Many storage sites offer the service for free and some charge a monthly fee – it all really depends on what features you are looking for, such as privacy encryption, and how much storage space you need. I have found a link that rates the Top 10 Storage Companies that is quite helpful if this is something you would like to look into.

If you have a blog or website through Word Press or other platforms, you should also get into the habit of backing up your site. This is typically done through the C-Panel and I know in my instance, even though I have a hosting company that backs up my blog, I like to manually back it up on my own every now and then just to be safe.

Regardless of what method or methods you chose, doing something is better than doing nothing. I can assure you there are very few people in the Cat Writers’ Association that haven’t experienced an issue with their computer and learned a lesson the hard way…

Why Cats Rule The Internet

It all began innocently in 1937. Perhaps cats conspired to rule every aspect of art, science and culture all along? Leave a comment telling us why you think cats rule the Internet. Have a purrrfect week!

cat quote internet

Writing Wisdom For Spring

It’s a new season and hopefully it brings fresh creative inspiration. Our Friday Photo Quote this week is from a cat. How do cats inspire your creative process?

cat  photo quote- writing wisdom for spring

March Member Spotlight – Betty Sleep

I’m very excited to present our very first “Member Spotlight”. Each month, we’ll be featuring one lucky CWA member here on our blog. Our “Member Spotlight” will give us all the chance to meet our fellow CWA members and hear how they got where they are today and what they’re up to now. This month, Betty Sleep was the winner of our random drawing. So, I’ll let Betty take it from here.

Betty Sleep – CWA’s Spotlighted Member for March, 2014

Betty channels her inner Barbara Cartland
Betty channels her inner Barbara Cartland

My writing career can be largely blamed on two teachers who were the first people to encourage me to dream. Mrs. Young pulled me out of the Grade Six lineup at a school assembly and introduced me to one of the District supervisors, and said “This is Betty. She’s going to be a writer someday.” And by gosh, she was right!


Cecil Porter was one of those long suffering and least appreciated individuals: the high school English teacher. But if you had a desire to achieve, or the least spark of initiative and creativity, he was there to challenge, encourage, and help you find a way to express yourself.

From freelancing articles, I moved on to copywriting at a tv station. And while there was little scope to exercise your talents in 30 and sometimes 10 second bites, it was a memorable time for the parodies of our commercials, which I wrote on the side. Because you see, I’d always had a sense of humour. I just hadn’t found a way to let it out. One day an editor from the newspaper across the street scowled at me and said “Why are you writing commercial crap when you can do so much better?” Lo and behold, he was right too.


One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, was from Dan Ross, the prolific Canadian novelist. He said “write what you know.” So I asked myself, what did I know? Really?

I knew about children and animals. No matter which one you’re working with, it’s good training for the other. I’m lucky enough to have done both. The unfettered joie de vivre of children and the character appeal of pets is what led me eventually to writing the Purrlock Holmes novels for middle grade students.

As a retired breeder/exhibitor of Golden Retrievers, and a breeder/exhibitor of Birman cats for nearly 20 years, I had a paw on the pulse of family pets. And as a mother, I sometimes had a paw on the child. When I could catch him. Then there was the sense of humour, which even serial hairball chucking and middle of the night projectile vomiting by the child didn’t quite manage to squelch.

The "real" Purrlock Holmes relaxes in his Victorian parlor  cage set-up while greeting fans at a local cat show.
The “real” Purrlock Holmes relaxes in his Victorian parlor
cage set-up while greeting fans at a local cat show.

But no writer emerges from a chrysalis one day to spread their wings and soar into the wonderful world of publishing all by themselves. It takes nurturing, like I was fortunate enough to receive from my teachers. It takes knowledge that comes to you through experience and exploration. Inspiration and support are essential, and much of that can be found in a community like the Cat Writers Association. All of this is fuel when set to the wick of your creativity.

Betty Sleep’s first Purrlock Holmes novel “The Case of the Vanishing Valuables” won the CWA Muse Medallion for young adult fiction, and the second book “The Case of the Missing Treasure” won a Muse Medallion for artwork and cover design. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada with an assortment of Birman cats, and a blind Golden Retriever whose exploits fill her blog, The Grady Report.

CWA Mourns the Loss of Marion Lane

All of us here at CWA are in shock, trying to deal with the loss of one of our own. Marion Lane, long time CWA supporter and animal advocate, has left this world. Our condolences go out to her family and friends.

This is what Amy Shojai said in her blog earlier today about Marion:

“Marion Lane was a gifted writer, passionate pet advocate, brilliant editor and mentor to writers both new and established. I first met Marion when she worked at the ASPCA, and I was honored to write for her when she served as editor of the award-winning ASPCA magazine. She also authored two books, Heritage of Care: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Dog Care: Everything You Need to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

Amy shares more of her memories of Marion in her blog: Marion Lane, Retired Person – A New Star Is Born. For those of you who knew Marion, please feel free to share a memory either here or on Amy’s blog.

Marion’s close friend Andrey Pavio adds “If you would like to honor Marion’s memory, please consider making a donation to the ASPCA in her name. Marion was a former editor at the A, and was a strong believer in their work for animals.”

Cat In The Hat

In honor of Dr. Seuss Day, our weekly photo quote is from The Cat in The Hat. Dr. Seuss Day, on March 2, celebrates and encourages the love of reading. What’s your favorite Dr.Seuss book?

Dr. Seuss Day quote

CWA Member Spotlight Contest

CWA member spotlight contest

Get into the spotlight! To honor and celebrate our talented members we’re proud to announce the CWA Member Spotlight Contest. With so many diverse members in the arts from writers, journalists, bloggers, editors, photographers, designers, broadcasters and so on, the contest offers an opportunity to showcase their unique achievements. The monthly spotlight winner will be selected in a random drawing to spotlight here on our blog. 

  • The Spotlight Contest is open to Professional and Associate CWA members
  •  If chosen, we will contact you via email and invite you to share your cat-related interests and your professional achievements. This is your place to show off. Tell us, in 300-500 words (and up to to five images) what you would like us know about yourself, your career and any cat-related news.
  • Please feel free to include relevant links to your book, website, blog, or social media accounts. You are welcome to include (up to three links) to cat-related causes as well. 
  • The first Member Spotlight draw will be on March 1, 2014.
  • The winner will have 14 days to submit their word, images and links for publication mid-month.
  • If for any reason the winner is not available, another winner will be selected via a random draw.
 Good luck!
We hope our members enjoy this new feature that will give all of us a chance to get to know one another a little better. A new drawing will take place each month and each member will be featured only one time. Once all members have had the opportunity to be in the spotlight, we will restart the drawing with all members again eligible to be chosen. 
  • Don’t miss any of member spotlights and other news. If you’re not already a CWA blog subscriber, there is a handy sign up form below the comment box.
  • Do follow us on Facebook, and other social media. The follow buttons are at the top of the page.
  • Your comments are welcome.