CWA Speakers


CWA is pleased to announce the PAW-some speakers for the CWA Annual Conference, held in partnership with BlogPaws Conference. You can find the tentative CWA schedule on this page and the speaker bios on this page.

You’ll also want to check out the entire CWA and BlogPaws speaker listing just posted by the BlogPaws folks at this link.
The live LINK will be posted soon, with the confirmed times for each session, as well as the other events.
Also–be aware that the CWA CONTEST DEADLINE is this Tuesday (get your entries postmarked no later than January 19 to qualify!).  Also, the Awards Banquet registration fee goes up the next day on Wednesday, so for those entering the contest and attending the conference, be sure to get your discounted ticket at this link asap.

I want to send a thank you to all the CWA members and others who either applied to speak, or encouraged colleagues to apply. We wish we could have invited everyone, there were so many terrific proposals.


PLEASE SHARE the pages with all your writing friends. See you there!

Secrets to Blogging Success: CWA Experts Answer Your Questions

Did you miss the February 26, 2015 Google Hangout hosted by BlogPaws? Wanna learn about Bridging the Gap Between Blogging & Journalistic Excellence? Here’s how to blog successfully with your questions answered in this playback recording with BlogPaws peeps Yvonne DiVita and Tom Collins, and CWA members Layla Morgan Wilde, Janiss Garza, Deb Barnes and Alana Greylak in a preview of their upcoming BlogPaws CWA panel in May 2015….it’s FREE! Enjoy!

CWA Writing Panels at BlogPaws Conference

cat writers conference

The CWA is excited to announce our two writing panels at Blogpaws 2015, the premier pet blogging and social media conference.


Publish Or Perish?

This publishing panel features pet book authors and publishers Amy Shojai of CWA; Pam Johnson-Bennett, a best selling cat behaviorist and author; Lisa Erspamer, a best selling publisher of cat and dog books; and Bob Mayer, a best selling author and publisher. The panel will discuss the current state of publishing from the “traditional” to “indie” paths, how publishing has changed, why bloggers should write a book (or become a publisher), how to choose your publishing path, pitfalls to avoid, and how to leverage social media and blogging to build your author platform.

Lisa Erspamer HeadshotPam Johnson-Bennett, CCBCBob MayerAmyShoja

Panelists (from left) Lisa Erspamer, Pam Johnson-Bennett, Bob Mayer and Amy Shojai.


Bridging The Blogger/Writer Gap

There are writers who blog and bloggers who write but all bloggers can benefit from honing their journalistic skills. In an interactive roundtable discussion, award-winning CWA members Layla Morgan Wilde with Janiss Garza, Alana Grelyak and Deb Barnes share their knowledge in a lively debate. Key points include: Attribution, citing sources, deep research, stylistic consistency, editing, editorial calendars, ethics and transparency.

Deb BarnesJaniss GarzaAlana GrelyakLayla  Morgan Wilde

Panelist (from left) Deb Barnes, Janiss Garza, Alana Grelyak and Layla Morgan Wilde.

The full BlogPaws speaker schedule is here,and we hope to see you in Nashville! CWA members are eligible for a discount code of 10%.


Photography 101 – Top Ten Tips for Taking Great Pictures of Your Cat!

With technology allowing us to capture moments in time as they happen, writers have come to rely more and more on using photos to complement their storytelling. This is especially true for those of us that write about cats – many of us have blogs or websites that demand a visual presence alongside the written word and with books being published online as well, the need for good photos is even more important. But how to take a stunning photo? Not all writers are gifted photographers and while cats make a glorious subject, taking a good picture of them can be easier said than done. It’s nearly impossible to tell a cat what to do, which typically results in a blurry picture of a cat with demonic red eyes if you don’t know what you’re doing with your camera and your cat.

I happen to be very blessed – the man I am engaged to is a brilliant photographer and he has a particularly sensitive eye when it comes to taking pictures of our cats. As a result, I have a fantastic gallery of photos to choose from when I blog and I have even taken a handful of good photos of my cats myself, learning from his tried and true photography techniques. But, not everyone at the Cat Writers’ Association has a live-in photographer like I do and since I know we all love beautiful cat photos, he has graciously agreed to share his Top Ten Tips for taking purr-fect cat photos with all of us!

1. Develop Rapport
Your cat, unlike humans, does not understand what you are trying to do and won’t just pose for pictures. After a bit of petting and some mild play-time, your cat will be more relaxed and ready for his cameo.

2. Be Patient
Photographing felines requires a lot of patience. If you’re rushed, your cat will detect your anxiety. After a while, the novelty of the camera will wear off and your cat will be more relaxed and reveal his true self.

3. Getting Down to Their Level
Keeping your cat comfortable and at ease is very important, so rather than forcing him to come to you, go to him. Get down to his level and shoot from the floor or at your cat’s eye level or just below.

4. Use Natural Light
If indoors, avoid shooting with flash as the burst of light will not only cause red-eye, but may also frighten your cat.Always try to use natural light when taking your cat’s photograph as the light is more natural and flattering. Light coming in through a window can produce a soft and pleasing appearance.

5. The Golden Hour
If you are taking photographs of your cat outside, the ideal time is in the first or last hour of sunlight, otherwise the light may be too harsh. Hollywood film makers call this the ‘Golden Hour’ as the light is more horizontal in direction and golden in color. Overcast days will produce nice even lighting with very subtle shadows.

6. Capture Character
A successful image is one that conveys the character of its subject, so if you have a playful cat photograph him in action, or if you have a lazy cat, photograph him relaxing on a window sill but be sure to capture him with his eyes open. Remember, your cat is a beautiful and graceful animal and you want to capture images of your cat being a cat.

7. Keep the Eyes Sharp
Be sure to focus on your cat’s eyes and keep them sharp. As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul, so having ‘tac-sharp’ eyes (in focus and razor sharp) is important.

8. The Element of Surprise
It is very difficult to get your cat to hold still and look into the camera. Allow your cat to settle into its environment while you compose your shot. Then when you are ready, either whistle or use a squeaky toy held near the lens to get them to look in the direction of the lens. This will provide you with a few seconds to capture him in an alert posture.

9. Get in Close and Use Simple Backgrounds
Get in close and fill as much of the frame as possible with your cat. Also, by keeping your background simple and uncluttered, attention will naturally be drawn directly to your pet and produce a pleasing image.

10. Take Lots of Images, Study & Practice
In today’s digital age, there are not costs for film, so do what professionals photographers do – take lots of images. Most pro’s get two great images for every hundred or so that they shoot, so practice and experiment. Study cat photos that you like, look at the lighting and the positioning of the cat, and then try to replicate what the photographer has done.

Photo credit – Thank you to my fiance, Dan Power, for not only sharing his great photography tips, but for providing me with the stunning image of my cat, Zoey, for the post header. 

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…

10 Basic Tips to Generate Blog Traffic and Keep Your Readers Engaged


As the year winds down, as they say, out with the old and in with the new. This certainly applies to the Cat Writers’ Association as we move forward with a fresh and updated looking website that includes a blog. For many of us writers, a blog was nothing but a four letter word and not an entity to be taken seriously. Fast forward to today and nothing could be further from the truth. Blogs are a bona-fide mainstay method of communication that can be used in an engaging, informative, entertaining, or educational way to promote the health, happiness, and well-being of cats.

Blogs come in a range of writing styles – from cats writing as themselves in their own kitty language to serious blogs written by esteemed authors, veterinarians, and the like. The tendency towards loose structured content and the prevalent misuse of the English language in blogs is a topic in and of itself, but suffice it to say, if you do decide you want to join the minions of bloggers out there, it is serious business and requires time and dedication to make it work.

Much as we would like instant accolades for all the blood, sweat, and tears we put into a blog post, the reality is that unless you are willing to extend yourself, your primary readership will be a couple of family members, a few friends, and lots and lots of crickets. Frustrating and disillusioning to say the least. But all is not lost – with some basic guidelines and perseverance, you can write and maintain a popular and successful blog:

  1. The content needs to be compelling with a strong and grammatically correct headline. There are only so many ways to talk about spay/neuter, for example, so try to think of a new angle to entice people to read your article.
  2. Understand that it is not all about you. Don’t expect people to comment on your blog without taking the time to comment on theirs if they have one. Blogging is a social venue and proper etiquette deems it a two way street. Share posts that are relevant to your own readers on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Reciprocation goes a long way towards future success.
  3. Blogging is not a one-time writing assignment. It is a recurring commitment – depending on your schedule and type of blog, it could be anywhere from once a day to a couple times a week. Your readers will become accustomed to your schedule and to help keep them on track, it is a good idea to provide an email sign up for them so they can be notified of new posts.
  4. Use pictures. They can instantly can make a blog post more compelling and people are more inclined to share posts with pictures on Facebook and other social venues.
  5. Search Engine Optimization. It’s as simple as it sounds – when you write your post, make sure to include key words relevant to the topic in both the title and the content so that if someone is searching for information on how get rid of fleas, for example, your post will come up in their search and direct them to your blog if that’s what you wrote about.
  6. Blogs don’t just have to be about writing. Sharing videos in a post can often tell a story or offer solutions to a problem much more effectively than words and they are very popular with readers.
  7. Be creative and fun – we meet a lot of sponsors at the Cat Writers’ Conference and they love to have us blog about their products. As long as it does not interfere with any personal ethics you have on the product, see if you can offer a giveaway or host a contest – it is a great way to drive traffic and the sponsors appreciate the support.
  8. Take advantage of what you already do. If you are a published author or a contributing writer for a magazine or newspaper, don’t be shy about letting your readers know you have a blog. If they are already fans of yours, chances are high that they would happily follow you in a blog.
  9. Be yourself. There is nothing worse than a blog that doesn’t have a genuine voice and you will lose readers if they don’t believe in you. Good writing is a gift, skill, and talent. Use your blog to keep those skills sharp – your readers will keep coming back that way.
  10. Be the expert in your field – if your niche is cat behavior, then write the best posts you can about cat behavior. As members of the Cat Writers’ Association, blogging gives us an incredible opportunity to inform and educate large sectors of the population that we could have never reached years ago.

Bottom line – whatever type of blogger you are or decide to be, be proud of what you do and do it with the same integrity you would any writing assignment. We have the power to change the cat world as we know it with our blogs and if you build it, they will come…