Gratitude for BlogPaws and the Cat Writers’ Association

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa Gratitude. That’s the only way I can adequately describe what I felt during my days at the BlogPaws/Cat Writers’ Association conference held at the gorgeous and tranquil Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass Spa and Resort in Phoenix last weekend. It was an odd dichotomy—both calming and spiritually nurturing, based on the Native American roots of the hotel—and typically hectic as a result of the whirlwind of events jammed into a 3-day time frame. Being an ambassador for BlogPaws also elevated the interactive notch to extremes my normally introverted self wouldn’t pursue. I’m the kind of cat that has to hide under the bed a bit before she warms up to company, but that’s okay. Pushing the personal envelope isn’t always a bad thing.

Every minute of every day was rush, rush, rush. Busy, busy, busy. Meeting with brands and sponsors. Attending seminars and specially hosted breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Staff meetings, photo ops, and the social sharing. My goodness—if I wasn’t a social media expert before, I surely was now as I snapped pictures of every conceivable people/pet moment there was. Let’s just say that at BlogPaws, the love for a pet is shown loud and clear—at nearly every turn there’s a photo opportunity to prove it.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Only at BlogPaws – Jasper the Rat from Healing Whiskers. I’d never held a rat before and he was absolutely as sweet as can be! He also loved my hair!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Sharing a fun moment at the Weruva booth with Jimmy Carney, sales associate. Weruva sponsored the coffee bar (which I frequented constantly) and Jimmy is a great guy with a large fan base, as I found out after I shared this picture of us!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

I always love spending a few minutes hanging out with Lucy Foundation mascot, Surfin’ Jack!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Dr. Julie Buzby of Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips was all smiles when I had her pose with some of my cat lady props! She’s brilliant and adorable!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

BlogPaws wouldn’t be BlogPaws without Coco the Couture Cat. This was her with me late Saturday night – the festivities were winding down and she was purring up a storm, giving me lots of love and head butts!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

This darling is Sampson – he came with his guardian, animal communicator Ann Marie Hoff, and I nearly tucked him in my suitcase to bring him home!! He reminded me so much of my Jazmine and it was wonderful being able to bond with him during the conference.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

One of the highlights of BlogPaws is hanging out at the super-pawsome Cat Lounge sponsored by my dear friend, Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

This is just one of many sweet dogs I fell in love with at BlogPaws. This darling is dressed up in a blue dress for the Nose-to-Nose Awards ceremony!

In-between all that was the Cat Writers’ Association booth and annual awards banquet. Sharing the venue with BlogPaws made it all the more exhilarating, but also all the more hectic. But through it all, I felt extremely grateful to be a part of it. It’s a process that represents almost 6 years of blood, sweat, and tears for me, following a dream I never thought possible—becoming a respected and viable author about a subject that is so near and dear to my heart—cats.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

A magical moment for me – having a group photo taken at the Cat Writers’ booth with so many of my friends and peers! Photo credit: Janet Blue of The Cat on My Head.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

How cool is this!! My setup for book signings at the Cat Writers’ booth! Two books with a third one in the making!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

A very proud moment – holding up a copy of Purr Prints of the Heart – the book was up for a Muse Award – it didn’t win, but it was an honor just to be nominated. Photo credit: BlogPaws.

But it’s not a dream any longer. As I shared a hug with Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the “Fear-Free” veterinary initiative and author of the best-selling book,  Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul; and a conversation with Gwen Cooper, author of the best-selling book, Homer’s Odyssey; and got caught up with dear friend Steve Dale, certified animal behavior consultant, author, and syndicated radio personality, I think it truly dawned on me for the first time—I wasn’t just shy and insecure Deb Barnes any more. I was a confident and successful woman that had earned respect among her peers. So yes, gratitude. Very much so.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Here’s a moment I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. Dr. Marty Becker giving me a hug while holding my book and wearing a pair of my cat ears. #onlyatblogpaws

The apex was Friday night—the CWA awards banquet. I was up for several muse awards and had also submitted some pieces for the special awards category. Unlike the muse awards where the nominees are previously announced, the special awards category winners are not revealed until awards night, so you have no idea if you are in contention or not.

The night began with the special awards category and when past president, Dusty Rainbolt called my name as the winner of the Adopt a Shelter Cat Award sponsored by AdoptASheter.com for my piece “Any Cat Can be a Feral Cat—Even Yours,” I nearly fainted. I really liked that article—it took a unique perspective on feral cats and the recognition was heartwarming. I didn’t win any other awards, but I was given something equally as priceless—the article inspired judge Peggy Atkerson, Executive Director of BarnCats.org so much that they will be sponsoring a new awards category beginning next year. Gratitude. Gratitude that through my words, I could inspire others to write about cat welfare.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

An exciting and humbling moment – being presented a Special Award by Dusty Rainbolt at the Cat Writers’ banquet for my article on feral cats. Photo credit: Jerry Thorton.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Hanging out with some of my favorite cat ladies after the CWA banquet – Dusty Rainbolt, Amy Shojai, and Christine Michaels.

There is also gratitude for the esoteric. Once again, I spent the conference sharing a room with Christine Michaels of Riverfront Cats. She and I have developed a strong bond over the years and her love of life, positive attitude, and graceful ways inspire me whenever I’m around her. I’ve long since forgotten my lighter, care-free days and Christine brings that joy back to my world like no one else can. I’m also grateful for those that comprise my blogging and writing community—some friends I see every year, and some I am meeting for the first time. It’s always a highlight of any conference—connecting with people that are so beloved in your heart.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

I arrived a day early for the conference with the intent to spend some quality time with my friend, Christine Michaels. This was us on our way to a day of pampering – a massage, pedicure, lunch, and drinks. Life is good!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

A spa selfie… I could get used to this life…

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

A relaxing moment before my massage. Did I mention I could get used to this life?

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Massage done. Toe-nails painted. Heading off to the pool for drinks and lunch. We met this sweet dog on our way to the pool! Photo courtesy of Christine Michaels.

I remember how I felt attending my first BlogPaws conference—being completely in awe of all the talent and passion around me. As someone who’s now been around the block several times, it’s wonderful to see that expression mirrored in the face of others. It’s a feeling that has to be experienced to truly understand. It’s honestly overwhelming at times—the love and commitment the BlogPaws community has for its pets can bring you to tears and the feeling of being around so many like-minded people is euphoric. There is no doubt you go home a changed person.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

I love the personal aspect of BlogPaws – here I’m hanging out with old friend, Debbie Glovatsky of Glogirly, and new friend, Laura Zaccardi of Squeedunk.

I am also grateful for my willingness to grow and expand outside of my comfort level. It was announced at the CWA breakfast on Saturday morning that I had accepted the position of VP for the organization. BJ Bangs stepped down from the role to pursue a writing project and I can only hope I do the organization that has changed my life, proud. The organization has inspired me to grow and I hope I can inspire others as well.

Lastly, I am grateful for the love and support of a man who carries the brunt of my efforts—when Dan and I first became a couple, I don’t think this was the road he thought we’d be traveling down. My commitment to cat writing is time consuming to say the least and he has had to take a back seat to my efforts on many an occasion. I can’t change who I am—cats are my true calling and passion—and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for respecting that and cheering me on.

I realize this is not your typical recap post, but this was not your typical conference for me. Thank you all for your support on this journey of mine. I’m grateful to each and every one of you as well.

Have a safe holiday weekend – keep your kitties indoors, away from dangerous fireworks and here’s a few more miscellaneous pictures from the conference!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

A super silly moment with some of the BlogPaws team and friends! My cat ears were making the rounds this year!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Christine never fails to make me smile. Even at 3:00 am (EST), after stuffing swag bags for the CWA banquet for hours, she’s in a good mood!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Classic Deb:  Cat ears and leopard print!

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Loved walking the red carpet the night of the Nose-to-Nose awards with CWA co-founder, Amy Shojai. Amy has inspired me so much throughout the years and I’m so grateful for her friendship and support. Photo credit: Silver Paw Studio for BlogPaws.

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

Relaxing for a few minutes and enjoying a glass of wine with Christine at the Merrick booth. Love the chair, but I’d love it even more in leopard print!

 

Highlights from the 2016 BlogPaws / Cat Writers' Association Conference in Phoenix, AZ at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

This was the last day of the conference – a few hours before the Nose-to-Nose award ceremony. I was 100% exhausted by this point and decided on an impromptu visit to the pool with Christine. It was just what I needed and Christine’s compelling personality convinced me to jump in the pool with my skirt and tank top on! I told you she brings out the joy in my life!

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  1. im so happy to here that im not the only crazy cat lady in the world. i love cats and i love hearing from u guys

  2. meowmeowmans says:

    Congratulations on your win, Deb! SO happy for you, and proud of you. 🙂

    We are glad you had a great time at BlogPaws … hopefully we’ll get back there soon, so we can hang with you in person!

  3. Congratulations on the win.

    Happy Belated purrday to Kizmet .

  4. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    Deb;

    Thanx for sharing your blogpaws expereince; I enjoyed reading this post and being
    able to “be there in spirit” through your photos. I also want to congratulate you on your win
    for your piece on feral cats; very happy for you and as da tabbies say 984 paws UP !!!
    total lee awesum =^..^= ♥♥♥

  5. Anne says:

    What an awesome recap. I really hope I can make it there next year. It would certainly be taking me out of my comfort zone, but hey, that’s where life begins, right?
    Thanks for sharing your insights!

  6. Congratulations on your win.
    I wish that I could been there. What a lovely cat picture. Thankfully that there are many lovely ladys cat out there.

  7. It was a truly wonderful conference! I love that you jumped in the pool in your skirt and tank top. I went swimming after the Nose to Nose awards and it was so much fun.