Cat Writers’ Association 24th Conference, a New Presidential Beginning, and Purrs for My Eye Surgery

Sure…my luggage might have a few love scratches and frays from my cats, but as long as the contents are less than 50 pounds, I don’t care!

Hey everyone! I had wanted to do a recap of my experience attending the 24th annual Cat Writers’ Conference and Awards Banquet last June 7 – 9 in Houston, TX. From start to finish it was a perfect alignment of the sun, moon, and stars. I remembered to pack my razor and phone charger. I had pre-TSA check-in at the airport. My luggage was less than 50 pounds and my hair was uncharacteristically cooperative during my stay.

The conference itself was amazing. Actually one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended in my whole cat-writing career. The atmosphere was intimate enough that everyone really got a wonderful chance for networking and bonding without feeling left out or overwhelmed. The informative sessions were planned so there were no overlaps and people didn’t have to make the agonizing choice of choosing one over another. Our keynote, Dr. Marty Becker of *Fear Free Pets, was a wonderful combination of inspiration, humor, and education, and my debut as a panel moderator wasn’t as bad as I thought. Sure, I got tongue-tied now and again, but for the most part, I was able to overcome my stage fright.

Opening the conference and moderating the “Research – First, Last, and Always” panel with Amy Shojai, Patricia Fry, Arden Moore, and Lea-Ann-Germinder.

Dr. Becker during his inspirational and informative Fear Free Pet Keynote.

We also had lots of great outside activities, like our Friday night evening at the super-cool El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Café and a book signing table at the Cat Fanciers Association Cat Show that was being held in tandem with our conference on Saturday.

Hanging outside the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe for a fun evening and book signing event! Just when did I find the time in my life to write 3 books and a feature story for another one?!

Having a fun photo-op with the owner of the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe, Renee Reed. I love that her place helps raise awareness on cat rescue and that her cats are also available for adoption.

Wow! Look at this super-cool artwork featured inside the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe!

Some of my favorite cat ladies hanging out at the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe. Yasaar Nakchbendi, Susan Willett, Patricia Fry taking a photo, and Katherine Kern.

One of the gorgeous black cats available for adoption at the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe.

I’m in my element – hanging out with one of the cats up for adoption at the El Gato Coffeehouse and Cat Cafe.

And then there was the awards banquet Saturday night. This was a surreal moment for me from start to finish. First off, I was presented with the distinct honor of winning the Fear Free Pet Enrichment Award for my article, “Is Your Cat Feeling Stir Crazy? 10 Tips to Relieve Feline Boredom in an Everyday Environment” as written for Zee & Zoey’s blog, but even more surreal, was being passed the gavel from CWA President, Marci Kladnik, to me, now the new CWA President.

I had shared with everyone I was having difficulty finding a leopard print dress for our awards banquet – I settled on going as a lady in red with leopard accent and loved the look!

Hanging out with our new CWA Vice-Prez, Paula Gregg andTreasurer, Dawn White, as well as the multi-talented Yasaar Nakchbendi.

This breath of fresh air with me is Jessica Spawn, a soon-to-be member of the CWA. Jessica is a true social media diva and is also the author of The Christmas Kitten.

Accepting my Fear Free Cat Enrichment Award – quite a humbling moment!

It was quite emotional for both of us. I will be forever grateful to Marci for stepping into the role of President under difficult circumstances when our President, Lorie Huston unexpectedly passed away on September 30, 2014. It wasn’t always easy for Marci, I know because I was by her side for most of it, and she did her level best to stabilize our organization and move us forward.

Presenting Marci Kladnik with a beautiful custom-made necklace from fellow CWA member, Wendy Christensen, before Marci gets ready to pass the presidential gavel on to me.

My recap all changed, however, when I became quite sick last week and was bedridden nearly all of Thursday to Sunday. I’m still quite weak, and to top it off I have vitrectomy surgery confirmed for this Tuesday to remove a wrinkle pucker that has developed in the retina of my left eye. I’m trying to remain calm, but honestly, I’m terrified. The recovery could be intense and I’ll probably be off the radar for some time.

For someone who has a day job, a new role as CWA president, and relies on social media to promote her business, I know I’m going to instantly be drowning in catch-up work. As it is, I’m already drowning and I haven’t’ even had the surgery! But, oh well. Time has proven over and over again that the world continues to rotate on its axis regardless of my schedule.

What’s most important is my recovery and health and if I can’t get everything done in the timely manner I want to, not only will I have to deal with it, but so will others. I’m grateful to have Dan, my family, and my kitties by my side to help me through it all. And I know all of my wonderful blogging and cat friends will understand as well. I will keep you all updated as best I can, in the meantime, I hope everyone is doing well and any prayers and purrs you can send my way would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and P.S. – if you like the T-shirt you see me wearing, you can find it here at Zee & Zoey’s Cat Creations

How has my life changed since becoming CWA President? Well, I’m now in charge of a million things that take up space in my home, such as banners, print material, and name badges. Thank goodness I have Jazmine to help organize it all. The other big change – my email inbox has gone up exponentially about 2000% since becoming President

I’m a little nervous about my surgery, but as long as I have my sweet kitties to help me recover, I should be in good paws. This is them enjoying some swag I brought home from the conference.


*For those that would like more information, or would like to become certified, Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners to provide learners and pet lovers with the knowledge and tools to not only look after a pet’s physical well-being, but her emotional well-being as well. Founded by “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker, Fear Free has become one of the single most transformative initiatives in the history of companion animal practice, with over 31,000 veterinary and pet professionals committed to becoming Fear Free certified. Please click here for full details.

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  1. Stephanie says:

    I had really, really hoped to attend the CWA conference this year for so many reasons but your wonderfully descriptive post and photos make me still feel a part of things! Thanks so much! And congratulations, again, on your Presidency!

  2. Congratulations on becoming the new Prez of the CWA! You will be pawsome in the role. I also hope your surgery goes PERFECTLY PERFECT and you recover super fast with the help of the kitties and humans standing by to be your “Caretakers”. Just relax – you’re in good hands.

    Hugs, Pam and Teddy too

  3. Wow, thank you for a great round up of CWA Conference, and also an insight into whats going on elsewhere in your world. I sincerely hope that your worries over the surgery are unfounded and that your recovery is quick and uncomplicated. I am sure your family, big and small and friends globally all wish you the best. Heres to the coming years of your presidency and the ongoing success for CWA and it’s goals and achievements.
    Toodle pips and purrs
    ERin and Mrs H.

  4. Brian Frum says:

    Such a wonderful recap and it’s nice to see so many pals doing so many wonderful things. Purrs from all of us for an easy surgery, we’ll be thinking of you.

  5. Patricia Fry says:

    Sending lots of healing light. With your positive outlook and grateful catitude, you’ll do meowvelously.

    Great recap. Thank you for that.

  6. Thank you so much for that great round up of CWA Conference ! Claire wishes she could attend one day ! Concatulations on being the new President ! Purrs

  7. Hey Deb, this was a great recap! I’ve not had time to do my usual recap, either (boy does life happen!) so you’re way ahead of most of us. Talk about leaping into the presidency, you’re already spot-on (pun intended). Just remember to BREATHE…you have a great team able to help you out. *s*

  8. I truly enjoyed the CWA conference this year and am so glad to meet some wonderful new collegues and reconnect with those I’m known for a few year.

    I look forward to being your Vice President and working beside you this year.

    My prayers and good thoughts are with you as you face eye surgery this week and the recuperation.


  9. Denise Fleck says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful pictorial and editorial on the CWA Conference which I am so sad I missed. I am thrilled however, that my two special awards arrived in the mail this weekend, but it would have been even sweeter to receive in person. My best wishes to you Deb not only as you embark on your Presidency, but with your upcoming surgery. May you heal well and quickly and enjoy the year ahead! Purrs, tail wags and a few woofs from my pack!

  10. jmuhj says:

    ConCATulations on your new responsibilities and honors!

    As to the surgery, I trust you have an excellent surgical team and will come through with flying colors. As you know from reading my past posts, I have had several of the issues you have and have come through well thanks to excellent opthalmologists and support. You will, too, I pray; and as for the work, it’s frustrating knowing it’s piling up, but on doctors’ orders, it will have to wait. You WILL catch up. Get plenty of C.A.T.!

  11. LOVE this recap! We hope your surgery goes well and you’re back to your glorious self soon. Until then … enjoy those purry little healers.

  12. First and foremost I am sending love and good wishes/positive thoughts for your surgery, that is MOST important. Praying all goes well and that you have a seamless recovery. It is normal to be terrified, I would be! Second, congrats Prez!!!! Please take good care xoxo

  13. Mary McNeil says:

    Purrayers and POTP for your surgery and any other health issues you may be having. I know your family (two and four-legged) will be surrounding you with love.

  14. ConnieMarie Poulson says:

    Concatulations Deb on your award snd CWA Presidential position. I’m going to take fear free cat classes!!
    My thoughts, best wishes on a successful and speedy recovery. It’s scary I know, but it’ll be fine, I just know it.

  15. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to attend the conference. I heard it was great…and your recap verifies that. Definitely next time. Sending you lots of good thoughts that your surgery goes well. ~Island Cat Mom

  16. Great recap! Wish I could’ve been there, hopefully next year. Sending purrs for your surgery and recovery!

  17. Ellen Pilch says:

    I will be praying your surgery goes well. The conference sounds fun and educational.

  18. Bernadette says:

    Sending love and purrs for your physical and emotional health and your upcoming surgery. I hope you get a chance to rest for a while afterward and regain your strength.

  19. Chirpy Cats says:

    A wonderful conference it was and a nice recap especially for those who didn’t attend. Sending you prayers, purrs and positive thoughts for a successful surgery. Looks like you will be in good hands! Take care xx

  20. Congrats on your appointment as President of the CWA, healing purrs and POTP for your eye surgery and thank you for the recap.

    Mommy got to meet Lorie Huston and enjoyed getting to know her immensely, we were very sad when she passed away. She left a huge vacumn in the blog world.