Rescued, Cat Writers’ Association, and BlogPaws – the Connection and Benefits

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Me with Janiss at last year’s BlogPaws Conference. She was promoting her Rescued book and I was promoting Purr Prints of the Heart – who knew a year later there would be a connection?

Rescued. When it comes to my cats, regardless of how they came into my life, each of them has captured my heart and rescued my personal well-being at one time or another when I needed it most. So when Janiss Garza (Summer/Sparkle Cat) put out a query looking for stories for Volume 2 of her popular Rescued series, I decided to submit a proposal.

I felt I had a good idea, but honestly wasn’t sure if it was the direction she wanted, because although it was a rescue story, it wasn’t the traditional piece about a cat days away from deaths door, saved at the last minute. It was about Jazmine, my beloved ginger princess who saved my life as told through the voice of my dearly departed cat, Mr. Jazz.

Mr. Jazz must have done something right, because I am one of 11 other authors who was selected. But what I really want to discuss is what this means in the larger sense. You see, I recently found out I was chosen to be an ambassador to represent BlogPaws for the upcoming 2016 conference that will be held at the Wild Horse Pass Sheraton Resort in Phoenix, Arizona on June 23 – 25.

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I am a devoted BlogPaws loyalist – I have attended 4 conferences and this year there’s a twist – the Cat Writers’ Association Conference (CWA) will be held in conjunction with BlogPaws! I’m also a devoted Cat Writers’ enthusiast and council member, so this is incredible news and I am so honored to have been chosen as a result of my professionalism, social media standing and blog writing.

Clearly I’m on board, so why the preamble? Because a several weeks ago there was a conversation on Facebook from some confused/frustrated cat folk on whether or not there was enough benefit to joining the CWA (or renewing membership). To be perfectly honest, the organization has been experiencing growing pains and some of the objections raised were valid. There were also BlogPaws concerns –especially the expense of attending a conference – I live on an extremely tight budget, so I can understand that.

Is it worth it then, to join these organizations? If you’re not affiliated with cats, you obviously don’t need to be a CWA member, but if you’re in anyway associated with making the world better for animals, building an audience for your brand, and a cat person, the answer to joining both organizations is a resounding yes because they can provide both tangible and intangible value to last you a lifetime.

Back in 2008 when I was unemployed and subsequently decided to write my first book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary, I can now admit my approach was flawed and I made lots of mistakes. I joined both BlogPaws and the CWA after I published and printed the book, mountains of which still remain in my house, as a means to learn more ways to market and sell the book.

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After I wrote The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, next came the blog in 2010 to support the book. I’m seen here with a friend of mine who was helping with the design and after it went live, I was lucky if even my family was following me!

Had I gone to these conferences first, I would have learned to hire an editor. I would have printed less books and I would have built a solid networking platform with my peers, bloggers, and colleagues before I forged ahead so quickly, thinking I could do it all on my own and be an overnight success. Overnight success is certainly something to aspire toward, and it does happen to some, but for most of us, we need to take a more logical and practical approach.

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This was my first BlogPaws experience in 2011 and I was such a newbie! I was with fellow bloggers who were up for a Pettie Dogtime award and much has changed since then. Front – L to R – Kate Benjamin (Modern Cat – now Hauspanther), me, Ingrid King (Conscious Cat), and Robin Olson (Covered in Cat Hair). Back, L to R – Stephanie Harwin (Catsparella – inactive blog), Ann Dziemianowicz (Careers For Cats), and Margaret Gates (Feline Nutrition).

That’s what BlogPaws and CWA did for me. Putting faces to names, mentoring, and advice. My initial journey to personal success and achievement was based on those building blocks – becoming a contributing writer for Catster and Cat Fancy magazine; interviewing celebrities such as the original Cat Woman, Julie Newmar; spearheading a contest that raised over $10,000 worth of food, prizes, money, and litter for shelters nationwide; being nominated for BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose awards, winning Cat Writer of the Year in 2013 and a Petties Dogtime award in 2012; being a council member for CWA; and being chosen to be a BlogPaws ambassador – all of this was a result of rising up the ranks by believing in myself – pushing myself harder to be better, and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and perseverance.

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A mind blowing experience – seeing an article I wrote for Cat Fancy the first time in a public place!

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Really? I know Jackson Galaxy of My Cat From Hell well enough to hug him and call him a friend!

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All that cat swag you get at the conferences… Need I say more?

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A huge benefit of attending conferences are the AMAZING keynote speakers that inspire you. This was me with Peter Shankman, creator of the wildly popular HARO (Help a Reporter Out) organization. And yes, those are my cat ears… He liked them so much that I let him keep them!

I honestly don’t know where I would be today had I not made the decision to join both the CWA and BlogPaws. And you don’t actually have to attend a conference to benefit – both organizations are comprised of a talented and dedicated pool of individuals that allow for a wealth of information – from helpful articles, to Google chats, to Yahoo forums, to Twitter parties and Facebook challenges – it’s all there for the grabbing if you chose to take advantage of it.

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Something that I will always carry in my heart is the memory of Lorie Huston (left), past CWA president who we tragically lost on September 30, 2014. She was one of my first mentors – I met her in 2011 at my first CWA conference and she was also a passionate BlogPaws member. She was one of the kindest people I ever had the pleasure to know and she remains greatly missed. This was me with her and Janiss Garza as part of a CWA panel discussion in 2013 and it was the last time I saw her.

Regardless of what medium you use – books, blogs, public speaking, nonprofit work, rescue, photography and more – CWA and BlogPaws are there to celebrate your victories and sympathize in your hardships, to teach you, to mentor you, and to challenge you. In a nutshell, they are incredible resources to help make you more responsible, credible, and respected professionals in your field. All of that alone is worth the price of admission.

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One of the best parts of being a member of BlogPaws and CWA is sharing the experience with my dear friend, Christine Michaels of Riverfront Cats. She was integral to teaching me about my passion – feral cats and spay/neuter – something I knew little to nothing about prior to blogging. This was us at the 2015 BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Social Media awards ceremony. Christine won an award that night and I am so proud of her!

Not to mention the prestigious annual awards contests – both organizations hold contests with amazing prize packages and recognition in categories of every medium possible. Even if you don’t win or aren’t nominated, it doesn’t mean one day you won’t. These contests set the bar to always strive to be the best in what you do. You don’t even have to attend a conference to win an award, but if you can go, interacting with your peers can be a euphoric experience. Friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime can be made and for me, that is a key takeaway of membership.

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Winning the Cat Writer of the Year award as presented by Friskies Purina in 2013 is a moment I will never forget. Seen with me is Angie Bailey of Catladyland/Texts From Mittens, Dan Koehler of Purina, and JaneA Kelly of Paws and Effect

Are there flaws in the system? Yes, sometimes there are. But the beautiful thing, for those of us that take advantage of membership in these organizations, they are ours to nurture and grow. Speak up – if you have an idea or a suggestion to make things better, please do so. Volunteer. Participate. Be a part of the community.

Every voice counts and I mean that sincerely. Were it not for the people I met through CWA and BlogPaws there are so many things I would not have known that have made a significant difference in the life of my cats as well as cats worldwide. New products, health and nutrition, spay/neuter – every day I learn something and I am forever grateful for that. And for those of you that are a voice in one manner or another, by being a part of these organizations, it helps to make you better in how you use that voice. Whether it’s learning how to support content with research, or to have quotes from credible references and more – whatever we learn helps elevate the status of what we do, making us credible leaders in our field.

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Getting to meet your supporters in person at BlogPaws is a wonderful feeling! This is my dear friend, Ana Grupke of Meow.com who makes me smile each and every day.

It even applies to those that aren’t a part of these organizations but are reading our posts or following us socially. We owe it to our audience to be the best we can be. They take time out of their busy days to support us and we need to acknowledge that by producing quality content regardless of what medium it is. And you don’t need to be a professional blogger looking to make money from brands, or only blogging about serious topics for that to apply – being the best you regardless of the circumstances is a victory for everyone.

That Rescued book I was telling you about. I met Janiss Garza for the first time at a CWA Conference in 2011 – because she knows my work, she trusted my instinct with the story I pitched her. And Steve Dale CABC, syndicated newspaper columnist, author, and radio host who wrote the foreword for my second book, Purr Prints of the Heart – do you think he would have written that had I approached him as a stranger? Highly unlikely. And now in my email inbox, I get requests from brands asking to work with me before I reach out to them! Mind-boggling!

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This was Janiss and me back in 2011 at my first Cat Writers’ Conference – my very first book signing event! I had no idea at the time just how far we would both come and how much of our journey would be shared together.

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Steve Dale writing the foreword for Purr Prints… amazing! Even more amazing, getting him to pose with a pair of my cat ears next to a dog bone!! Only in my world…

I will leave you with one last thought. I was part of a panel last year at BlogPaws – Bridging the Gap Between Blogging & Journalistic Excellence. I am not a public speaker and it was a humbling experience. I forgot to look at my PowerPoint. I rambled a lot. But I spoke from the heart and my message was simple – with dedication and passion anyone can follow their dreams and make them come true.

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This was the “Carrot Lady” and me at last years BlogPaws. She took the time to let me know I had inspired her to get cracking on her story, Mister’s Garden.

I was on Facebook the other day and a video caught my attention. It was from “The Carrot Lady” of JB’s World. She came up to me after my speech to thank me for inspiring her to finish a book she was nervous about completing called Mister’s Garden. I watched the video and burst into tears. Not only was it exquisitely lovely, but I was just so proud of her. She found the strength to continue with her dream. Was I responsible? No, certainly not. But was I a part of it? Yes, absolutely. And that, my friends, is something money can’t buy. That wonderful feeling of knowing you made a difference in someone’s life.

I hope to see you all at BlogPaws this year and in the immortal words of Joan Rivers, “Let’s Talk!” I’d love to hear from you in the comments – if you are members of either of these organizations, what do you feel are some benefits? If you are not members and are considering it, what is holding you back? Where can these organizations change to better serve you? And if you are not a blogger and visit my blog and others strictly to read the content, do you feel these organizations help to make our blogs more enjoyable to read?

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To register for the BlogPaws conference and receive a special 10% off the $229.00 rate for bloggers and CWA members, please use code BP16-Amb-Deb10. Click here for details.

For a great article on how to save money to participate in the BlogPaws/CWA conference, please click here.

For information on joining the CWA (there are both associate and professional memberships, depending on what level you need), please click here.

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  1. meowmeowmans says:

    Great article, Deb. Congratulations on being selected as an ambassador. You’re perfectly suited! I’m sure we’ll figure out some questions for you. :)

  2. Deb, What a fantastic blog post of your journey as a writer/blogger/author and the difference attending BlogPaws and CWA has made for improving writing, publishing and social media skills and presence. I wholeheartedly agree!

    BlogPaws could not have chosen are more perfect ambassador.

    TO READERS: If you are new to BlogPaws reading this, do reach out to Deb Barnes. Leveraging all this talent and expertise is worth far more than the conference fee. And the connections and friendships you will forge, will last a lifetime!

    Best experience ever.

    Christine Michaels

  3. CATachresis says:

    Terrific blog post, Deb, and you explain the benefits very well indeed! Being on the periphery of the cat blogging world is a choice I have made. I blog just for fun, but do help and support others who are in the line of fire of animal care as best I can. Even not being part of blogpaws or the CWA it is still a great community. xxx

  4. Deb, as you know I’ve wanted to go to BlogPaws for several years, and each year I’ve planned I’ve had to bow out due to work or life circumstances that supercede the event.
    I’m not willing to say “I’m coming” just yet because I have a few important details to line up before I can commit. But I am delighted that you are an ambassador of the event, and you certainly convinced me that the organizations–beyond the actual conference–are worthwhile!
    Would so love to experience the event with you there!
    Can’t wait to read more about your role and coming attractions for BlogPaws!

  5. Wonderful post, Deb ! Concatulations for all your accomplishments ! We’re proud to be members of CWA (well, Mum is a member) and of BlogPaws. We learned and still learn a lot from both organizations. Purrs

  6. It sounds like you’re doing truly wonderful things for kitties! Congrats on being selected!

  7. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    Deb

    conga ratz to you on being chosen as the ambassador to BlogPaws 2016 !!! YAY !!!! :)

    very happy for you; and this is well deserved…..

    just think…ambassador today; president of the country tomorrow…and THAT should get you a ticket to the Ellen show

    ……enjoy your ambassadorship….now I’m like da tabbies….makin up werdz !! ♥♥♥