This Goodnewsforpets interview features JaneA Kelley, a member of The Cat Writers’ Association, who received a Muse Medallion for her Magazine Column Recessionista during the 22nd Annual Cat Writers’ Association Communication Contest. JaneA is a Catster contributing author, and webmaster for Paws and Effect, an award-winning cat advice blog written by her cats, for cats and their people.
JaneA Kelley scored the only perfect score among all 290 entrants for her article, receiving a score of 100 from each of the three judges. We caught up with her shortly after her win to learn more about her, her writing process, passion for cats and all the hard work she pours into Recessionsista!
Every cat writer has a story to tell about how they came to write about cats. What’s yours?
I’ve loved cats all my life, but I didn’t start writing about cats until 2003, when I was laid off from my tech job in the dot-com bust. I wanted to do something to keep my skills fresh and I needed something in my life that was less depressing than searching for a job in a bad economy, and thus, my blog, Paws and Effect, was born.
How did you get involved with the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA)?
I learned about the existence of the CWA because I read a CWA member’s book. CWA co-founder Amy Shojai had mentioned in her author bio in one of her many great books that she was a member of the CWA. For many years I didn’t think I would qualify as a member since I didn’t have print work published, but once I started publishing articles on catster.com and getting paid for those articles, I joined. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Council of Directors and presenting at a couple of CWA conferences.
You just won a 2015 Cat Writers’ Association Communication Contest Muse Medallion for your magazine column in Catster called Recessionista, Congratulations! Can you tell us a little about the column, and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! The goal of Recessionista is to help people take the best care of their cats while living on a budget. I’ve had plenty of experience living “low on the hog,” so to speak, so I brought that perspective to writing the column.
You received a perfect score from the judges on your win for Recessionista, what do you believe is most appealing about Recessionista that earned you a perfect score?
I think it’s a combination of solid, accurate advice and the conversational tone in which it’s delivered. I’m certainly grateful that the judges felt so strongly that it deserved a perfect score!
Can you tell us about any behind the scenes work and research that goes into making Recessionista such a success?
A lot of it comes from lived experience, but I do a good deal of online and book research and I’ve had help from people in my network. For example, I worked for a pet health insurance company for two years, so when I had an article to write about being financially prepared for cat health emergencies, I asked the veterinarians there for some examples of terrifying vet bills and reasons to keep (or get) pet health insurance even if you’re on a tight budget.
Is there a key message you hope your readers get after reading your articles?
My greatest hope is that my articles help people know that they don’t have to be rich to provide excellent care for their cats. There are lots of ways to save money — and even get financial assistance if you’re in dire straits — and still give your cat high-quality care.
This isn’t your first CWA Muse Medallion win, what does receiving these awards from the Cat Writers’ Association mean to you? Both professionally and/or personally?
Personally, it provides a sense of validation. The Muse Medallions are concrete evidence that all the work I’ve been doing over the years is actually making a difference in cats’ lives. Winning these awards has also helped me professionally, not only as a cat writer but in my quest to find “day jobs” to pay the bills. (Believe it or not, freelance writing is not the most lucrative job in the world!) Potential employers can be quite impressed by a candidate who has earned top honors from a well-respected organization like the Cat Writers’ Association.
You have a blog called Paws and Effect, how does writing for your blog differ from your writings for Catster?
The voice and format of my blog are completely different from that of myCatster writing. Paws and Effect is written in the voices of my cats, and each week “they” answer emails from readers with questions about health and behavior issues. I have a lot of fun writing in my cats’ voices and providing entertaining and accurate answers to my readers’ questions. Ultimately, though, both Paws and Effect and my writing for Catster are driven by a love of cats and a desire to help cats and their guardians have the best and longest possible relationship.
How have your pets influenced your career?
Wow, how haven’t they? My cats have been my muses and have given me a sense of purpose. All I’ve ever wanted to do is help and teach, and my cats have moved me in the direction of pet writing to serve that purpose.
Looking forward, what types of projects or messages to do you hope to accomplish through your writing?
Through my 19-year-relationship with my beloved Siouxsie Mew, the last original member of the Paws and Effect Gang, I learned how amazing old cats are and and how important it is to be present through the aging and dying process. I’d like to move into the realm of helping people through that process — being a “midwife for the end of life,” so to speak — and to be a voice for elder kitties. It makes me terribly sad to see senior cats in shelters, so I’d like to do more to advocate for these cats and help them find a comfortable lap to live out their golden years.
I also have some creative writing projects I’m working on — some with cats and some not — and I’d like to finish those projects as time and energy allow.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Cats can and do save lives. The least we can do is return the favor and adopt from shelters and have our cats spayed or neutered to control the overpopulation that ends up costing the lives of millions of cats every year.
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