Q&A With CWA President Marci Kladnik

CWA President Marci Kladnik with Barney and Maggie

If you have not been fortunate enough to meet her, Marci Kladnik may just be a name at the top of the sidebar of the Meow Newsletter emails. Here is her short bio:

Marci Kladnik, her four rescue cats, and one rescue dog live in a small town with no stoplights or mail delivery. A retired graphic designer and technical writer, she turned her talents to championing feral cats in 2007. Involved in TNR and feral rescue, she sat on the Board of Directors of Catalyst for Cats from 2007-2013 and in her spare time, trapped and fostered local feral cats and kittens. Her award-winning bi-weekly cat column ran for seven years in three newspapers, she is an award-winning photographer, winner of the 2015 Kari Winters Rescue and Rehabilitation Award, and President of the Cat Writers’ Association. Past columns appear on www.catalystforcats.org.

Maybe you’ve wondered how Marci worked her way up to being CWA president. To give you an idea of who our president is, we’ve put together a Q&A. Even if you’ve met Marci at a conference or traded emails with her, you will learn a lot about her you didn’t know before… and you’ll learn a little about CWA too.

What came first for you – writing or cats?
Cats and books came at the same time. I was lucky enough to be born into a family who loved cats and reading. My mother read to me every night and when I learned to read, I’d bring armloads of books home from the library. I frequently read with a cat on my lap. Writing began in grade school. In sixth grade I was chosen to be the assistant editor of our school’s first newspaper. I was a shy child and found my voice on paper easier than speaking out loud.

What is your background as a professional writer, and how did you come to write about cats?
My professional experience came from technical writing for medical devices. In 2007 I was asked to sit on the board of Catalyst for Cats (a TNR group in Santa Barbara County) as their Outreach Coordinator. Wearing that hat I approached a local newspaper and asked if I could write a bi-weekly cat column and they went for it! Eventually two other local papers picked the column up and I became known locally as the Cat Lady.

How did you get started working with TNR and how did you first become involved with Catalyst for Cats?
Being off work due to injuries and having just filed for divorce, I fell into TNR’ing after I found myself with time on my hands in a tiny town. Catalyst for Cats had one TNR volunteer locally who was looking for a replacement as she had just moved out of town. I heard myself saying, “How about me? I love cats!” At the time I had no idea where that would lead me. It literally changed my life.

Which writing credits are you proudest of?
Winning several MUSEs and the Kari Winters Rescue and Rehabilitation Award for pieces associated with my work in TNR and feral kitten fostering have brought me the most joy. Although my newspaper column ran for over seven years (before I burned out giving it away for free), being recognized by CWA as being a good writer validated my efforts.

How did you find out about the Cat Writers Association?
In 2010 when my newspaper column was included on the Catalyst for Cats website, Nancy Peterson, CWA past President and (then) with the Humane Society of the United States, contacted me in regards to our barn cat program. In the course of our conversations she mentioned CWA and offered to sponsor me. Holy Catfish, and now I’m the President!

How else were you involved with CWA before becoming president?
From the very beginning I volunteered to judge the annual Communication Contest. Next I volunteered to design and produce the conference and awards banquet programs for two years, followed by two years as Contest Chair. Now I’m in my second term of being President. So basically I have been a volunteer the whole time I’ve been a member.

How were you chosen to take over as president when the previous president, Lorie Huston, passed away?
I don’t know the background of how my name came up or the discussions within the Council, but Dusty, the VP at the time, called me and asked if I would consider the position. I was stunned, honored, and hesitant, but took a step out of my comfort zone and agreed to give it a try. I am very glad I did because, even though it was a steep learning curve the first year, I feel that both CWA and I have grown.

What are some of the duties you have as CWA president?
There are lots of little things to do but the two main duties are these.

The first, of course, is to provide a steady and thoughtful form of leadership. This, at times, has been difficult due to the nature of how I became President at Lorie Huston’s sudden passing and because I’m new at it.

The second, and perhaps the most time-consuming duty, is garnering sponsors. Without the funds from our generous sponsors, CWA could not offer an affordable conference and we would not have those wonderful contest prizes.

How much work would you say it takes to get a sponsor to commit to CWA, on average?
Asking for money is never easy. As part of my ongoing strategy to bring new life into CWA and one reason I also took on the position of Conference Co-Chair this year, I revamped the presentation sent to potential and current sponsors this year in the attempt to be eye-catching. That part plus the template for the cover letters took many hours, but I’m happy to say that it was worth it.

Some sponsors replied to a single email from me, while others took several (4-5) follow-up reminders before I had a response. In regards to garnering new sponsors, that is a whole new dance in itself. One has to both tread lightly and also be able to woo a company by tailoring the cover letter or conversation to their specific mission in regards to cats. Sometimes it works and other times not. It is difficult to put an actual “average time spent” stamp on any sponsorship courtship as each is an individual situation. The whole sponsorship genre is an ongoing, year round effort for the President and the Conference Chair.

What are the hardest and most rewarding aspects of being CWA president?
The most difficult thing for me is dealing with internal discord. Different opinions are always welcome, but public bashings and criticisms based on misunderstandings or speculations are just not seemly and cause a lot of hurt. I look at CWA as a nurturing organization and am always very sad when a hairball bubbles to the top.

The private, “Thanks, you’re doing great!” emails that come in from members on occasion make all the hard work worth it. I am working hard at trying to organize the background aspects of CWA so that when a new volunteer steps into my shoes it won”t be quite as overwhelming as it was for me. There is still much to do, but much progress has been made.

What do you love most about CWA in general?
CWA has meant the world to me and has actually changed my life. The love and support of the members, and the encouragement that is offered freely makes this an incredible organization. I know from personal experience that the reason I have reaped so many benefits from being a member is that I got involved. I didn’t just sit back and wait to see if “it was worth it” but made the most of what was out there by stepping out of my comfort zone of anonymity and volunteering.

What are some ways that CWA members can get involved in the organization?
I cannot stress enough that volunteering for CWA reaps benefits, including opening doors.

  • Start small by offering to be a contest judge.
  • Attend the conference and volunteer to help stuff the swag bags or set up the banquet trappings.
  • Want a voice in the running of CWA? Let the nominating committee know you are interested in being on Council or running for an office.
  • The Contest Chair always needs help with sorting entries and packing them up for shipping, if you happen to live near her. She also needs lots of judges and suggestions for the Special Awards judges who cannot be CWA members.
  • The Conference Chair needs help breaking down, packing up and shipping stuff post conference.

Thank you, Marci! I hope you’ve inspired CWA members to take a bigger part in our organization.

One Reply to “Q&A With CWA President Marci Kladnik”

  1. Thank you for this informative interview!

    I was sponsored to attend Blog Paws in 2013 but, regrettably have not been able to attend since.

    It was an eye-opener, led to my being paid to do cat related writing for the first time and to a pep talk that led to my being sponsored for CWA membership

    The past 3 years have not been easy for me and I am ashamed to say I stayed away from the CWA, even as I kept up my membership and kept up my cat blogging.

    Recent CWA emails have made me begin to explore the website as a first step to getting more active and reading this great piece was a start.

    Marci’s story is encouraging.

    Thank you!

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