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

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!

valuablescover

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.

treasurecover

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.