10 great things I got out of the BlogPaws/ CWA Conference in Myrtle Beach

Winn Feline Foundation panel at the CWA conference
Photo by Julie McAlee

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

  1. 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.”

  2. Dr. Ken Lambrecht's cat Bug
    Photo by Julie McAlee
  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. Hauspanther Cat Lounge, courtesy Carl Kerridge photography and BlogPaws
    Hauspanther Cat Lounge, courtesy Carl Kerridge photography and BlogPaws.com
  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    Cat Writers Association Awards booklet
    Photo by Julie McAlee

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Swag from the blogpaws CWA conference
    Photo by Julie McAlee
  13.  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.

    kitten Dior, now known as Cupcake
    Photo by Julie McAlee

    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.

Cat Writers Featured in Wall Street Journal

L-R: Deb Barnes, CWA President Marci Kladnik and Janiss Garza at the CWA Booth at the BlogPaws conference.
L-R: Deb Barnes, CWA President Marci Kladnik and Janiss Garza at the CWA Booth at the BlogPaws conference.

It’s not a cat fight, but purring praise for the Cat Writers Association’s ability to foster and attract the CREAM of the cat writing world. On March 1, 2016 a front page story of the Wall Street Journal examined the pro-and-con arguments for including cat characters in novels, and several award-winning CWA authors weighed in.


All of the quoted authors–Patricia Fry, Clea Simon, Shirley Rousseau Murphy, Amy Shojai, Carole Nelson Douglas–as well as other talented member writers have not only won the coveted CWA Muse Medallion for their work, but generously shared expertise with other writers during the annual Cat Writers’ Association Conferences.


CWA has also partnered with other organizations in the past, holding its annual conference with major cat shows, as well as other pet-centric organizations including hosting a “Writers Track” with the last BlogPaws conference.


This year, the CWA again rubs furry elbows with BlogPaws and will hold a collaborative CONFERENCE that offers educational seminars and workshops for aspiring-to-experienced writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers and authors.

Anyone with a “furry muse” whispering in their ear (virtual or literal) is encouraged to attend! Learn more about the Cat Writers Association Conference partnership with BlogPaws here. And find out who will win the coveted Muse Medallion awards at the annual CWA Banquet!

Read the WALL STREET JOURNAL article here: “In the World of Cat Fiction, Fur Flies Over Whether Stars Get Speaking Roles.”

The CWA Conference and Awards Programs are made possible by the generous support of our amazing sponsors. 

For inquiries about sponsorship and getting YOUR company name out to our pet-centric audience, please email the CWA President Marci Kladnik and/or the CWA Conference Chair Amy Shojai.


A Second Chance For Rhette The Cat

Rhette cat
A note from Layla Morgan Wilde, CWA Blog editor. Since returning from Blogpaws, a trifecta of illness, death and 24/7 critical cat care has taken all my time. In order for this blog to continue, I will either need help maintaining it or I'll have to step down. If you're a CWA member and would like to help or have a suggestion email me Layla@laylamorganwilde.com

While I was at Blogpaws a month ago, I sorely felt the absence of the late CWA president Lorie Huston. At Blogpaws last year we’d laughed and enjoyed a quiet lunch of burgers on the patio. I had no clue it would be the last time I’d see her alive. At Blogpaws this year I was keen to chat with Sandra Townsend who had adopted Rhette, one of Lorie’s cats. When Lorie died, she left six cats in need of new homes and second chances. Sandra kindly submitted on update on Rhette.

A Second Chance For Rhette

Rhette cat

When I returned from BlogPaws, after the dogs finally settled down, I went to look for Rhette. There he was, as usual, sound asleep at the foot of my side of the bed.  I petted him, he woke up realizing right away that I was home, and began to purr and bump me with his head, obviously glad to see me.

I didn’t know Lori Huston, I knew of her from Twitter and #blogpawschat, but never got to meet her.  It didn’t take long for me to learn of her illness, sudden passing and the cats she left behind. When her grieving friends stepped up to help rehome her “babies” I thought I could help.

Most of Rhette’s journey since is documented in my blog Dolly the Doxie (http://www.dollythedoxie.com). It’s been almost nine months since we picked him up at O’Hare Airport’s cargo terminal. So much has happened since then I honestly don’t think I would have adopted Rhette knowing that a month after he came to live with us that I would lose my mother. That’s because I was the only one to bring home her beloved Cocker Spaniel Taffy to live with my husband and I, Dolly and Rhette in a two-bedroom flat in the city. But I did, and it’s working, mostly.

Rhette had no problem with Dolly, other than her wanting to play. Rhette isn’t interested. A month later, when I brought Taffy home, Rhette was not amused at all. Taffy grew up with a cat and she loves Rhette, always sticking her nose right in his face and wiggling her butt. Rhette isn’t impressed. Once in awhile the dogs give him a chase through the house, which he enjoys, and that’s it. He also thinks its treat time for him too when they get one.

Rhette is a pretty smart cat, and learns things quickly. He’s a chronic counter-surfer, but he has his food and water there, to keep away from the dogs, so what are you going to do? I put my foot down about him getting on island where we eat, but I always end up eating my breakfast, looking at my iPad, with him laying a foot away. What are you going to do?

Rhette cat

At first Rhette spent most of his days in a bed by the computer. As soon I sit down he’s on top of the keyboard making it impossible to work. I always wonder if he did that to Lori too. He head butts everything knocking your mouse, keyboard, papers, which he licks, on the floor. Makes a real nuisance of himself. Ignoring him doesn’t work. Getting him to lie in your lap with the keyboard out of the way is about the only way to get anything done. For some reason now Dolly sleeps in that bed but Rhette has several favorite places to spend his time sleeping. He has a bed on the back porch he enjoys and its right by a window. If he’s not sleeping on my side of the bed during the day you’ll find him on a bench in my TV room.

Still recuperating from back surgery, I spent most of winter afternoons napping on the couch with two dogs and a cat. Rhette never lets the dogs stop him from sitting with us. He’s not technically a lap cat, but more of a lying on you cat. He’ll lie on your shoulder, arm, neck or your chest, kneading and purring away. I am also now a lady with a cat on my head. If he’s not lying on my head, across my neck or on my pillow in bed he’s perched right on my chest kneading my neck, purring loudly

I had a chance to meet Lori’s friends and colleagues Barkworld in Atlanta last year to thank them in person for finding homes for Lori’s cats. I also met Lori’s brother, telling him it was fate that I adopt one of Lori’s cats. She’s a Nebraska girl, and both my parents were born and raised there. He loved seeing pictures of one of Lori’s “babies” happy and settled in. And yes, I feel that Rhette is very happy and content with us.

The first night back from BlogPaws I fell asleep with Rhette lying next to me, kneading the inside of my arm, really, and I didn’t mind at all. Also, my husband finally stopped saying, “I don’t want a cat” to “He’s a really nice cat.” And he is.

sandra townsend

Bio: Sandra Townsend started her blog Dolly the Doxie two and a half years ago to keep herself busy as a result of long-term unemployment. She is an experienced business professional who has combined her love of animals and writing into an engaging and growing pet blog. Dolly is a Dachshund mix rescue whom she shares her adventures with to keep healthy and fit in Chicago.
Visit and follow Sandra Townsend at:
Blog: http://www.dollythedoxie.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dollythedoxie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DollytheDoxie
Instagram: https://instagram.com/dollythedoxie/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/dollythedoxie/
Layla Morgan Wilde blogs at CatWisdom101.com and can be reach via email info@catwisdom101.com


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!