Last year, the Cat Writers’ Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary Conference in St. Louis. This year, due to the pandemic, this stellar event will be virtual. This is a great opportunity for non-members who produce cat-related material (stories, books, videos, poems, photography, art, etc.) to learn more about this great organization and for anyone else who might be curious about it. I’ve been a member for over twenty years. Joining this group has helped me grow as a writer, network with other authors and cat lovers, and make many new friends.
During the Awards Ceremony, the winners of the Muse Medallion, the most coveted prize of the Cat Writers’ Association, will be announced. Those who received Certificates of Excellence are eligible to win in the categories in which they won the certificates. My cats are keeping their paws crossed that I will win a Muse this year.
I hope you’ll be able to join me and the other members of the Cat Writers’ Association on Saturday, August 8, at 7 pm EST. The event will be live streamed on the CWA Facebook page and the Glammies to Jammies event page, as well as on Zoom. Don’t miss this pawsome event. Your kitties can even attend with you.
I just returned from the Cat Writers’ Association’s 25th anniversary conference and thought some of you might want to hear about it. While it’s impossible to cover all the presentations, events, exhibits, and other happenings, here’s a brief recap of the programs I attended and my sightseeing experience in St. Louis.
The trip didn’t get off to the best start when I realized my iPhone was missing after passing through security. I went back, but it hadn’t been handed in to their lost and found. Luckily, the phone turned up when it was pinged. However, after all the confusion and rushing around, I ended up waiting at the wrong gate and nearly missed the flight. The only reason I didn’t was because the plane was delayed. After that, it was smooth sailing or should I say smooth flying.
I landed in St. Louis around noon and grabbed a taxi to the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch where I was booked for the next 3 nights. I was impressed by the lobby and the friendliness of the front-desk staff. Even though the rooms aren’t usually ready until 3 pm, they arranged for me to get in earlier because I wanted to attend the session given by Robbi Hess on “The Myth of Busyness: How to Claim Time for your Business” and needed to freshen up before it.
While waiting for a room to open, I took the opportunity to grab some lunch at Angelo’s Taverna, the Italian restaurant located in but not a part of the hotel. The food was delicious. I even came back later that night for dessert after the swag stuffing party and had spumoni which really hit the spot after taking a stroll around The Arch park in the close to 90-degree temperature.
The swag stuffing party Thursday night was more play than work as we oohed and ahhed over the great donations by the pet sponsors of the conference.
We were also treated to an appearance by Summer the Therapy Cat with her human, Janiss Garza. After the bags were stuffed, there was a raffle and then all the helpers were given a pretty gift bag that included a few snacks and a CWA 25th anniversary cookie.
On Friday morning, I attended a session presented by Dr. Kurt Venator and Dr. Janet Jackson of Purina on “The Science of Cats: Feline Nutritiion and Hydration.” This was very informative and made me feel more at ease about feeding my cats both wet and dry food, and I learned that the average cat needs to drink 20 teaspoons of water per day. I’m looking forward to viewing the flash drive in Purina’s swag cup for more information on feline nutrition and Purina’s role in providing it.
During the break after the session, I visited the exhibits, picked up some giveaways and won a prize.
The following session was conducted by Robyn Conley, a book doctor. Robyn presented “Cross marketing and Self-Editing to Broaden Markets and Multiply Sales. This was another interesting seminar that covered two important topics for writers. I also met with Robyn privately for an editor appointment the following day for her to review the first five pages of my unpublished manuscript. She wanted to spend more time to look it over, so we arranged for her to send me back the pages with her feedback.
Before lunch I attended Lisa Miller’s presentation “Practical Guide to Social Media for Selling Books.” Lisa, Business and Marketing Manager from Amphorae Publishing, discussed goal setting for book selling on social media and strategies to reach those goals. An interesting fact I learned from her talk was that a 3,000 copies is considered a good number for hard copy books to sell. She emphasized the importance of knowing yourself and your audience and to pick one primary platform to use for the majority of your postings and sharings. She also explained that social media is just one of the tools an author needs to use to reach an audience. I also met with Lisa for an editor appointment, and she answered some questions I had about publishing.
Later that day, I did some sightseeing and visited The Gateway Arch where I waited in a huge line despite my ticketed time but finally was able to take a tram up to the top where I was treated to a clear view of the city and was able to purchase a commemorative photo. I also picked up a few souvenirs in the gift shop and viewed the museum attractions.
That night, I joined other CWA authors at a book signing event open to the public that featured a fundraiser for the Humane society of Missouri.
On Saturday morning, I attended the CWA member business meeting and then took some time off to sightsee where I visited the St. Louis Central Library and donated some copies of my books. As a librarian, I enjoyed touring the lovely building and it’s interesting collections including it’s rare book room overseen by librarian Renee Jones.
Back at the Drury, I was one of the four panel members for the “Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World.” My fellow panelists included Mollie Hunt, known for her Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series; Patricia Fry, prolific author of the Klepto Cat series; and Sandra Murphy, short story author. During the presentation, a slide show created by Mollie was shown featuring the cats and books of the four panelists. After we each gave a brief bio, we opened up the session to Q & A and were glad to answer a variety of questions about fiction writing and cozy mysteries in particular.
Since many CWA members are non-fiction writers, some weren’t familiar with genre classifications and needed a definition for a cozy mystery. I provided one that described a story usually set in a small town with quirky characters and a murder that takes place behind the scenes and isn’t gory or grizzly. I also mentioned that foul language isn’t used and that romances are sweet with any sex scenes behind closed doors. Patricia added that the cats in these books are never harmed. At the end of the discussion, we raffled off some of our books. Maggie Marton won a copy of my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks. I autographed it for her, and we took a photo together.
After the panel, I attended a session on “Instagram for Authors.” I have to admit that, although I have an account, I don’t use this social media platform often. Janiss Garza (JaniceGoddess), Jessica Spawn, (catmom), and Summer the Therapy cat, Janiss’ cat who has his own Instagram account (summerstravels), have now convinced me I should consider using it more. Their presentation included instructions on how to set up an Instagram business account and profile page and the best practices for Instagram (photos vs. videos vs. live video, stories vs. posts, and IGTV). They also had suggestions on how to reach your audience by following the big accounts in your niche and the smaller active ones as well as using 20-30 hashtags on posts.
The final presentation before the awards banquet was conducted by Bob Baker who is devoted to helping creative people make a living from their endeavors. His books include The Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook that appeared in the movie “The School of Rock,” The Empowered Artist, The Guerilla Guide to Book Marketing, and The Passion Principles, 55 ways to promote and Sell Your Book on the Internet, Unleash the Artist Within, and more. Bob’s presentation was called “Hypnotic Marketing: How to Create Descriptions and Sales Offers That Mesmerize Readers and Sell More Books, Products and Services.” It was a very interactive session where members of the audience read three different versions of the same paragraph and showed how the use of using “You” more often than “I,” can make a difference in capturing people’s attention. He also gave 3 steps to effective marketing and focused on the revenue-generating step. He gave the audience a laugh and a good example when he shared an email headline that produced a high open rate when he advertised his new release by writing, “I’m giving birth to my 8th baby–take a look.”
The highlight of the conference was the awards banquet the final evening. This was a chance for cat writers to strut their stuff, donning cat ears and fancy feline wear. The event started with former president and co-founder of CWA, Amy Shojai, accompanied by Marci Kladnik and Paula Gregg singing the tune”Muse” from Strays, a musical written and created by Amy. After the wonderful entertainment, the guests were invited to a delicious buffet dinner with a special 25th anniversary cake.
The winners of the special awards and the muse medallions, the equivalent of what Arden Moore called the Acatemy Awards, were then announced. Pet Safety Cat, Casey who teaches pet first-aid with Arden, assisted her in hosting. A complete list of the winners is posted on the Cat Writers’ Association website and can be found here.
Before my flight home Sunday, I took a pleasant carriage ride through town and visited the Old Courthouse near the hotel.
It was wonderful to meet and mingle with my fellow authors, cat writers and lovers, at the conference. As a long-time member who hasn’t been able to attend many previous conferences, I was glad to be able to make the 25th anniversary and also see some of the sights of St. Louis. It was also fun to have a few photos of my cats included in the conference and award banquet programs that were beautifully illustrated and designed by member Wendy Christensen.
I’m already excited about attending the next conference which will be in Edison, New Jersey next July during the Garden State cat show.
My spring calendar is bursting with writing activity.
In April, I’ll be attending Long Island’s Local Author Fair with fellow members of LIAG (Long Island Author’s Group) and other local writing associations. This event will take place on Saturday, April 6, at the Tilles Center on the LIU/C.W. Post Campus. Admission is free, and it runs from 3 to 8 pm. There’ll be over fifty authors participating, keynote speaker, Steve Israel, panels, and book signings. I’m looking forward to a great day meeting and chatting with authors and readers. If you’re in the Long Island area, I hope you can make it.
In May, I’ll be traveling to St. Louis, Missouri for the 25th anniversary conference of the Cat Writer’s Association. I recently received a Certificate of Excellence in their annual contest for my cozy mystery, Love on the Rocks, and will be up for a special award at their banquet. I’ll also be signing books at a fundraiser for the Humane Society on Friday night, May 17. This event is open to the public and will take place at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch.
Also in May, my new mystery, Sea Scope, will also be released, but it’s on pre-sale now.
Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she accepts an invitation to return to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.
She hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.
After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope.
Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home. As the past and present collide, she must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?
It started on a clear Friday morning, the 2nd day of June, as I boarded an early train to Penn Station along with my friend and fellow Long Island author, Lisa Diaz Meyer, and her son and husband who were also on their way to BookExpo in New York City. Lisa was exhibiting her three wonderful dark-fiction collections while I was representing my library. Although, as a librarian and author I’d been to other local library and book-related conferences, this was my first time at BEA.
Walking through the glass doors of the Javitz Center, I noticed the huge signs of publishers and booksellers such as Simon & Schuster, Ingram, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. People in business attire were walking around with coffee cups and conference schedules, their registration badges hanging around their necks identifying them as librarians, authors, editors, and others involved in the book world. Spanning four floors and including conference rooms, stages, and exhibitor booths, most of the action took place on the main level. That’s where Lisa set up her table with the other Indie authors. She had been exhibiting since Wednesday and planned to remain for BookCon which took over on the weekend.
When I received my badge for the day, I was interested to see that it advertised Michael Connelly. As a librarian, I was familiar with the appeal of his books to thriller lovers. One of my patrons who once received books at home when she was homebound was a particular fan of his, and I always had a hard time keeping up with her request for his titles. When I learned he would be appearing at a booth that afternoon to sign copies of The Late Show, his latest release, I thought of Mrs. Nelson and knew she would love to receive her own autographed copy of this book. I made a point to attend the signing and, although the line was long, I managed to get the book, meet Michael in person, and even have a photo taken with him. It was the highlight of my day.
During BookExpo, I also attended the library programs that previewed upcoming summer and fall titles. At many of these, I was able to receive advanced reader copies of these popular forthcoming books. Since I order the fiction and mystery titles for my public library, I found these sessions very informative and knew they would help me select the most anticipated novels for my community. In addition, since we are starting an adult summer reading program this year, some of the ARC’s and exhibitor giveaways can be used as door prizes for our closing event.
Besides the signing with Michael Connelly, there were two other pleasantly unexpected events that happened to me at BookExpo. The first was discovering the Librarian’s Lounge, an oasis hidden away in the far corner of the main floor. Sponsored by Publishers Weekly and open only to librarians, this wonderful area featured food and refreshments throughout the day along with authors and book signings. In the morning, there were bagels and spreads with coffee; and, later in the day, a sweet treat of ice cream and cookies for tired librarians in need of a pick-me-up from the long day of walking around the conference center. During this afternoon break, several authors were also present to sign copies of their books.
The second nice surprise was the number of cat items for sale. At a conference for book people, I actually should’ve expected this. I picked up a black cat tote and a shirt as souvenirs and nabbed a free copy of a Grumpy Cat book.
At the close of the conference day, toting twice as many bags as I’d entered with, my friends and I headed to Penn Station for the train back to Long Island. Unfortunately, it was rush hour, no taxis were available, and the conference shuttle was nowhere in sight. We ended up walking, and I was glad I’d taken the advice of my co-workers and director and brought along a rolling suitcase and comfortable shoes. The day was still pleasant, one of the best of the season so far, so the trek to the station was an enjoyable end to a great day.
Multitasking is counter-productive. Although I’ve suspected this for some time, Robbi Hess of All Words Matter in her seminar, “Overworked & Overwhelmed? 4-Step Process to Reinventing Your Writing & Your Routines,” stated that “multitasking is not your friend” and that the only way to get things done effectively is to focus on one task at a time. Hess also outlined a way for conference attendees to organize their goals.
You’re Perfect the Way You Are. This was one of the ending remarks of Kathleen Gage’s keynote address, “The Delaney Factor: Discover How to Overcome any Obstacle and Achieve More Than You Dreamed Possible.” Gage emphasized, through personal example and those of other people who have achieved their dreams despite setbacks, that the only person we need to compete with is ourself. We are all unique with unique talents and abilities, and we should not let fear or insecurity stop us from reaching higher goals for ourselves.
Content Differs by Medium. Twitter users know that they are restricted to 140 characters and that images are the primary focus of Pinterest and Instagram, but how are similar posts fashioned to reach audiences of various social media sites? Susan C. Willett, CWA member and award-winning blogger of Life with Dogs and Cats, explained with examples how this can be done in her presentation, “Telling Tales: How to Write & Craft Posts that Attract, Engage & Keep Your Audience Coming Back for More.”She also went over some important blogging facts such as keeping posts short, how and where to find ideas for posts, and the average length of a link that sets engagement (it’s longer than you think).
Networking in person at conferences and events adds a dimension beyond online networking. Although it isn’t always possible to attend in-person events because of costs or travel issues, the benefits outweigh the problems. Even if you are restricted to a local author event or book talk, meeting people in person, even those you “know” online, can forge a deeper connection. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Amy Shojai, CWA founder, CABC, and nationally known bestselling author and pet expert who writes the September Day series of novels, or “Thrillers with Bites,” as she calls them. Amy and I met for the first time years ago at one of the CWA conferences. We have been in touch online, but seeing her in person again after all these years was like reuniting with an old friend. I also enjoyed meeting Mollie Hunt, another CWA member and online friend, for the first time. Like me, Mollie writes a cozy mystery series, The Crazy Cat Lady Series. A new CWA friend, Dawn White, who I met at the conference and had not known online realized that we live very close to one another despite the fact that CWA has members all over the U.S. and several in other countries.
Attending Conferences can be stressful and tiring but also a lot of fun. While traveling and networking carry
some anxious and exhausting moments, they can also be enjoyable and fun. During the joint conference of BlogPaws and the Cat Writer’s Association, cats and dogs were seen throughout the conference center and were guests during sessions and at meals. The exhibit hall was full of booths featuring great products, information, and creative displays, some of them interactive. One of the sponsors, Red Roof Inn, a hotel chain where pets stay free, held a Sip and Paint Night where attendees painted a sunset beach scene with pets and, for those who wished, could have their paintings shipped home free of charge. The CWA kitty lounge included a feline/human astrologer, Ellen Zucker of Practical Astrologie. The CWA Happy Meower and awards banquet was a great opportunity for members to chat, grab a bite to eat and drink, and dress up in their fanciest cat clothes. Food was plentiful, and desserts beyond delicious especially one memorable Key Lime Pie. And, of course, the overflowing swag bags by the generous pet exhibit sponsors, made all the pets left at home happy when their person returned from the conference.
I had many other wonderful experiences at the BlogPaws/CWA 2017 conference. These are only some of the highlights and important concepts I learned.