Christmas and Holiday Season Fun With Cats

A holiday season guest post from Barbara Florio Graham features a few festive photos of her cat Penny. More than ever, cat lovers are celebrating the holidays with their cats. Our beloved felines are receiving gifts in record numbers, special treats and even gussied up in festive costumes. Many of our CWA members have written blog posts and articles about the relevance of cats in our culture during the holidays. I invite you to visit the CWA Facebook page where members often post and read their latest coverage of our favorite topic:cats.

May the joy of the season bring purrfect peace in your heart and homes.

Layla Morgan Wilde

~CWA blog editor

Bobbi loves lights, and we have strings of mini-lights on our “weed
tree” in the living room, and lights above the windows outside. I enjoy
watching these turn on, even when she’s out, because they’re on a timer,
but I usually don’t see them turn off, because we’re already in bed by
the time that happens.

But I’ve noticed that other houses on our street have lights as well. In
fact, the lights across the street are many different colors! Bobbi says
this is for Christmas, but I don’t know what that means, because last
year at this time I had just been taken in by a family who took pity on
me and my sister Belle, when they saw us in their back yard.

We were only there a short time before being taken to the Aylmer SPCA
and put in separate cages. I was happy to be warm, dry, and fed, but
felt really lonesome until Bobbi came along, the day after my first
birthday, to take me home with her.

Here’s the Christmas coat Bobbi wants me to put on. I’m trying to figure
out if it will fit. And here is my teddy (bearing significant battle scars from Tiki and
Terzo), wearing his Santa hat.

As I get ready for Christmas, I’m celebrating the fact that our Fan Club
has reached an amazing total of 59 species from 31 countries on six
continents! Check it out at the fan page

Visit Barbara Florio Graham at

Copyright Cautions for Bloggers

Copyright Cautions for Bloggers by Barbara Florio Graham

Terzo cat
Photo credit: Barbara Florio Graham


Blogging is growing as a way for authors to communicate. But there are concerns you should consider before you start or contribute to a blog.

The first think you need to ask yourself is where your blog is located. If it’s not on your own website, you may be making a huge mistake.

I heard a scary story recently from a friend who works full time as a school librarian. She’s also a published writer who used to write for magazines and newspapers.

However, with the decline in print markets, she started a travel blog. It’s very popular, especially since she always includes photos. She recently met the travel editor of the Montreal Gazette and asked about submitting travel articles. As a sample of her writing, she sent the editor a link to her blog. The editor told her nothing she had already written on her blog could become a travel piece for the Gazette because it had already been published online.

So many writers never think about this when they give their best writing away on a blog, in Facebook posts, or on other online media. Once it has been published – in any form – first rights are no longer available. So if you’ve written something a magazine, newspaper, or other publication might be willing to pay for, you’ve lost that possibility the minute you post it anywhere online.

The issue of ownership of your work is crucial.

That means you should never post anything on a blog that could be stolen, unless that blog is attached to your own website. That offers the protection of your unique URL.

Close to 75 million blogs live on WordPress, with over 100,000 new blogs added every day. That’s great for them, but not so good for their bloggers. How likely is it that your blog post will be read by more than 5 or 6 people? Also, the nature of blogs is that older posts move down, so whatever great ideas or fine writing you posted a week or two ago are never going to be read by anyone ever again.

And you no longer own that material, because it’s been put online by a service you don’t control.

If your blog is on your own website, you have many options. You can repeat or refer to older posts. You can delete something you feel is no longer relevant. You can sell or trade articles with other bloggers, or sell these to paying magazines! The problem of first being published on your blog can be eliminated by removing the blog post in question if you decide to market the article.

There are many advantage to creating your own website, in addition to a safe place to host your blog. You can link to other CWA members, or other organizations you want to support. You can feature your books, providing a link to wherever they are for sale (unless you want to handle sales yourself via your site).

When you create your own bio on your website, you can change the photo whenever you wish, add additional photos, either to the blog or other pages, and update information about recent accomplishments, such as winning a contest.

Remember that you don’t own your work unless you own the media where it appears. Anything you write in a blog hosted by someone else, on Facebook, or in any social media can be taken away from you. We tend to forget that Facebook is a business. They can change how we access the site at any time, and have done that repeatedly over the past year or two.

As a publishing consultant, I see many books that have been published by print-on-demand companies. In many cases, contact information in the book is only for the publisher. So if the publisher goes out of business, your book contains no viable contact info.

When you own your own website, your email can be attached to that, so it will never change if your current ISP changes. It’s also a good idea to use your own name in your email communications and on social media. I don’t always remember who people are on LinkedIn when they post under the name of their company or their nickname.

And just because something is free now doesn’t mean that it will always be free. You have no control over a site that begins to charge users. Notice how LinkedIn is continually asking you to upgrade to their premium service. Other social media are doing the same. But both LinkedIn and Facebook are a very good way to promote your books or your blog. Just make sure you don’t “give away” your best ideas on social media but rather point to your own website URL.

You may wonder why I’m contributing to this blog. It’s because this article was adapted from one already published in a newsletter where I’ve been a columnist for more than a decade. I also used it in a paid presentation for Ottawa Independent Writers, and it will also appear on a website I contribute to regularly. I can do that because I own it. Holding onto rights so I can recycle my work is one of the ways I make sure I’m paid for my work. So don’t copy this; it’s mine.

Bobbi Florio Graham
Barbara Florio Graham

Barbara Florio Graham was a charter member of CWA, an author, publishing consultant and   marketing strategist. Her website is:

Editor’s note: There are instances of blogs and their content scoring book deals in the business and humor/parody category (e.g.,Stuff White People Like) and memoirs such as Julie & Julia and Waiter Rant. And yes, we’d love more blog content from our talented pool of members. Email your submission queries to Layla Morgan Wilde, CWA blog editor

10 Tips For Happy Volunteers

Bobbi Florio Graham

Bobbi Florio Graham

A note from the editor: Welcome to CWA Muse blog which is separate from the Muse newsletter. The CWA blog is an opportunity for members to post content as guest contributors. If you are interested in submitting content, kindly scroll down for the submission details. The CWA relies solely on volunteers and it’s fitting our first guest post is all about volunteering.

The Care and Feeding of Volunteers

by Barbara Florio Graham

Bobbi Florio Graham

Volunteers are vital to many organizations, including those with paid staff. With cutbacks so widespread, schools increasing rely on parents to help out in the library, lunch room, and classrooms, as well as on field trips.

Traditionally, Scouts and Girl Guide leaders have been volunteer positions, as have many key roles in churches, even the job of treasurer in large churches where a great deal of money is involved.

Finding reliable and trustworthy volunteers can be a challenge, with so many demands on everyone’s time. For this reason, it’s important to treat volunteers well. It’s time-consuming and difficult to continually train new people, so retaining good volunteers is key.

Individuals volunteer for different reasons. It’s wise to understand each volunteer and what motivates him or her. Does he want to take over an organization, perhaps yours? Does she want to learn a particular skill that will be useful in finding a job? Does he just like to be around people who enjoy his interests, or to interact with cats and dogs? Does she just want to get out of the house for a few hours every so often?

You might want to ask each volunteer their specific goals, and discuss how you might help fulfill those. Can you help someone develop leadership skills? Might you be able to pair the person who wants to learn how to maintain a database with whoever does that for your organization?

Those volunteers who want to enjoy being with animals or just to get out and mingle with like-minded people aren’t going to be happy doing a single task, alone in a cubicle. Provide some opportunities for interaction, and suggest that these volunteers organize informal get-togethers. You might even pair the teen who comes to play with animals at the shelter with the young mother to plan a picnic, a small fund-raiser, or to help out with a larger event.

Some volunteers work best on their own, and don’t like someone looking over their shoulders. It’s helpful to offer those individuals brief, clear, written instructions, then walk away and let them figure it out.

Others are insecure and need continual feedback and encouragement. Don’t accept someone as a volunteer who is going to be more needy than you have time to deal with. Instead of saving you time by helping with routine tasks, you’ll find yourself spending more time than the task warrants.

Consider providing some perks to your volunteers, depending on your budget and circumstances.

  • Food and drink: Assign someone to ensure that the coffee pot is kept clean and filled. Offer tea as well, and a selection of juices and soft drinks. A box of inexpensive cookies, or a roster of volunteers who offer to bring goodies on a regular basis keeps everyone happy. How about microwave popcorn, a jar of wrapped hard candies, or a mug of lollipops?
  • Transportation: Some volunteers hesitate to offer their services because they can’t afford transportation. Consider giving one volunteer some bus tickets, another a designated parking spot, and pair someone else with a driver whom you can compensate with some gas money.
  • A letter of recommendation: Some volunteers don’t think to ask for these, but they can be very useful later on. Make sure you offer a letter as soon as you hire a volunteer, as it becomes a reason to do a good job. And keep copies of these on file, as a volunteer might not think he needs a letter until several months after he’s gone back to school or moved away.
  • Some kind of tangible gift: This might be a lovely certificate of appreciate or a small item, even one you picked up at a second-hand store.
  • The occasional special invitation: Perhaps you can provide a ticket and/or offer a ride to a local pet show or other event. Or invite volunteers to a picnic, barbecue, or other informal party. Put photos of these gatherings in the newsletter.


If you’re dealing with volunteers not at a physical site but online, there are still perks you can offer.

  • Give your volunteers a link to their websites from yours.
  • Provide free ads for whatever they have to sell even a garage sale or similar classified if they don’t have a business or group they want to promote.
  • Create a page on your website featuring your volunteers. Post photos, either alone or with their pets and/or families, comments from them about how much fun it is to work with you, and comments from you as well.
  • If a volunteer doesn’t have his own website, offer to create a page for them on your site. This needn’t be in your sitemap, but rather a unique URL they can put on their resume, Facebook page, or send to friends and potential employers.
  • No matter where you interact with your volunteers, you need to set some clear ground rules. It’s wise to have these in place, in writing, before a situation arises. Then, the guilty party will not feel you’ve suddenly imposed a restriction just because of their actions.

Ground rules should include a way to deal with conflicts, noise, interruptions, those who consistently arrive late, and tasks that aren’t completed on time or as instructed.

Give your volunteers as much leeway as possible, but make it clear who reports to whom, and who has the final say on some specific issues.

If you use a volunteer to help with publications, make it clear that the Editor has the right to edit!

It should also be clear who has the final say over layout, and who decides what is filed and where. Some volunteers may be pack-rats, others might be afraid to throw anything away. But it’s also important to have a protocol for filing original photos, drawings, back issues, cassette tapes of interviews, and similar things you decide should be kept. To eliminate clutter, set a time limit on these, holding some things only for a few months and archiving others forever. If you ever tape an interview with someone whose views might be contentious, you’ll appreciate how little space labeled cassette tapes take up, and how much grief they can save you if someone screams, I never said that!”

Volunteers are precious. Give them clear guidelines, and treat them well!

Barbara Florio Graham is a professional freelance writer and a publishing consultant. The author of three books, Five Fast Steps to Better Writing (20th anniversary edition), Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and the award-winning Mewsings/Musings, she served as Managing Editor for Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List. Her website, Simon, contains a great deal of free information, including resources for writers and publishers, contract advice, and many pages of interesting facts about science, history, food, animals, culture and inventions. Simon Teakettle, the cat who owns the company, has his own blog, and offers many free pages related to cat ownership and training.

CWA Blog Submission Guidelines.

Send all submissions or inquiries to the editor: Layla Morgan Wilde

  • You must be a CWA member and a subscriber to the CWA blog.
  • All blog content must be relevant to the CWA audience and relate to cats.
  • The content must not include marketing-related links or be self-promotional.
  • Please include your name, email and optional bio/photo and one link i.e. to your website.
  • Send written original or previously published content in a Word document attachment. Blog posts are ideally (500 -750 words). 
  • Send images in .jpg or png files and ideally be watermarked. You must have permission to use the submitted image(s) and provide attribution. 
  • Send original video content via file size no larger than 1 GB. All video must be spam free.
  • We can not guarantee all submissions will be published. All submissions are subject to an editorial review, copy editing and possible headline changes. 
  • Accepted blog content contributors will not be notified prior to publishing. 
  • We reserve the right to decline publishing any content submitted or to remove any post after it has been published. 
  • Sharing CWA blog content on social media is appreciated.
  • Monitoring and responding to comments left on your blog post is appreciated.
  • We are unable to pay for submissions.
  •  We ask that if guest bloggers reprints the work that first appeared in our pages, CWA be given acknowledgment for the specific work.