where the writers are
PET WRITING 101

            I began writing about pets more than two decades ago, on a Royal electric typewriter. At the time, we lived in Eastern Kentucky in a very small town that boasted a tiny library that carried a short shelf on how-to writing books. There was no such thing as Email or the Internet—at least, not for aspiring wannabe writers.

            My information came from an outdated version of the writer’s “bible” of the time, Writers Market. It listed the markets (magazines and book publishers), what they published, and how to approach them. I was working blind, sending out stories and articles to the named editor (who likely no longer worked there) and hoping I’d get lucky.

           Because I’d worked at a veterinary hospital, most of my work featured dogs and cats. Therefore, I targeted dog and cat magazines. After reams of paper, rolls of postage stamps, and enough rejection letters to paper the walls of my apartment, the Dog Fancy magazine editor took pity on me and explained what I was doing wrong. 

            I corrected the errors, and sold the very next article. Ain’t it amazing how much difference a bit of guidance makes?

            After learning about other writer organizations that offered that helping hand, the Cat Writers’ Association, Inc. was born. I served as the founding president for the first nine years, and this year returned as the president for our 16th annual writer conference.

            The CWA aids aspiring writers become published and supports professionals who have a special place in their hearts for cats. While the organization has a focus on cat topics, the annual writer conference offers seminars that address all writer needs and interests. If you have any aspirations for writing—and especially if you have an interest in pet topics—this conference is the place for you. At past conferences, I've garnered multiple artlcle assignments and even landed several book deals, including The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats (just got another healthy royalty check on that one!).

            This year we’ll be in White Plains, New York which is about a twenty-minute train ride from Manhattan. Several New York editors and agents will attend the conference and meet with our members and guests. Editors from the same magazines that first published my work will be there. And because writing has changed so very much since I first began, sessions include topics such as “social networking” and website writing and more. 

            There also will be sessions by veterinarians and other professionals on topics near and dear to pet owners. What’s the latest in feline care? How can we budget the best treatments during economic downturns? I’ll share columns on some of these issues in the future.

            Two featured speakers will bring us laughter as well as wow-information. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald from Animal Planet “Emergency Vets” speaks at the Friday night banquet—who knew, he’s a stand-up comedian specializing in pet humor? The Saturday lunch features Dr. Leslie Lyons, a researcher into genetic diseases of companion animals. I’ve interviewed Dr. Lyons on one of my previous Pet Peeves radio shows and she has amazing information to share. Saturday afternoon the entire conference moves from our hotel sessions to a cat show at the Westchester Conference Center, and holds a mass pet-book signing event featuring more than 25 authors who write about cats and dogs.

            Writers are a different breed. And those of us who write about cats and dogs are special. We do it because it’s part of what and who we are. Since those first very wobbly steps as a writer, I’ve been blessed to see my work published many times. More than that, readers have assured me that my work has made a positive difference in pet lives.

            As I begin work this week on my next (23rd) pet book, I hope those of you who have a dream waiting to happen take your own steps to make it happen. If it’s writing, maybe the helping hand can be found at the CWA conference--here's the schedule.

I’ve learned over the years, though, that it’s not only the end result, but the experiences along the way that brings the greatest satisfaction. May your journey, whatever it may be, bring you great joy.

 

Amy D. Shojai, CABC is a nationally known pet care specialist, author of 22 pet books and the founder/president of the CWA. She can be reached through her website where you can sign up for her free monthly E—newsletter Pet Peeves.