Editor’s Note: Amy Shojai, publisher, author and co-founder of the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), holds a very special place with Goodnewsforpets.com as the latest Germinder20 Power of Pink Honoree. As then president of CWA, she was the first to sign on as our media partner in 2000. She has evolved her business as CWA and Goodnewsforpets.com has expanded to a digital platform. Now with her recently launched webinar series, we get ready to celebrate another benchmark together, the 25th Anniversary of the Cat Writers Conference and Banquet. True to her giving spirit to CWA, she has designated her Power of Pink Honoree donation to the CWA. Here’s Amy’s story and you’ll quickly see why we think she’s a terrific. #Germinder20 #PowerofPinkHonoree
Typically we start these interviews with a “how did you get started” and in your case — writing about cats. But we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing you before. In fact, as a co-founder of the CWA and the first media partner for Goodnewsforpets, we counted 68 references to you since we launched in 2000. So, let’s start with the here and now — your brand new webinar series. How did you come up with the idea?
Thanks for the invitation, and I am honored to be in such great company as the other Power of Pink Honorees. It’s hard to believe that CWA has been around a quarter of a century, mee-wow!
As you know, one of the founding principles of CWA was mentorship. When I first began writing (before email and personal websites, eeek!), writers sat in their closets all alone, without resources to help. I was fortunate to have mentors along the way, and firmly believe in passing it forward.
Besides, an oft-repeated mantra among the “indie” writing community these days is, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s true. The more I help others, karma returns the gift in multiple ways.
Can you give us some details about your webinar program?
I call the writer program my WRITE SCHTUFF COACHING SERIES. Currently, I have 8 coaching calls planned. The first is free and available on-demand. The online presentation is live (and recorded for replays), in which I ask attendees what they need and want, answer questions, give a PowerPoint presentation, offer handouts and other perks, and recommended no-to-low-cost resources that I’ve found helpful in my own work.
Each coaching call is based on what recipients want. I launched my WRITE SCHTUFF email list last summer for that purpose. I asked subscribers to tell me what they needed. The result was the free first in series:
PLANNING & PLOTTING FICTION & NONFICTION: Beat Writer’s Block, stay Motivated & Write the #$%^! Book
(Even if you have only 10 minutes a day!)
The remaining 7 coaching calls cover specific “pain points” that subscribers say they need help addressing. Those include step-by-step publishing tips (Print, Ebook & Audiobooks), as well as book promotion and author branding. Folks can purchase individual courses or get all 7 in a discounted bundle. I’m keeping the price as low as possible, so that the series stays affordable and far less than comparable programs. For the bundled program, I also offer a private mentoring group for subscribers.
In fact, once the WRITE SCHTUFF series is online, purr-haps I’ll do similar on-demand coaching for cat lovers and dog lovers seeking to learn more about pet behavior. There are many would-be pet sitters, animal advocates and volunteers eager to expand their knowledge—and then write about their experiences.
What do you hope participants will get out of the program?
A book! Maybe several books! But more than that, I hope participants recognize that they can DO THIS, and give them the resources and guidance to help them be successful. Real life constantly tells us, “You’re not worthy, those other folks are better, younger, older, more experienced, fill-in-the-blank.”
I’m here to say, YOU ARE ENOUGH! And help you prove it.
I’ve received private messages from veterinarians and other professionals ready to share their own expertise, but flummoxed how to begin. Today, publishing seems overwhelming and can be a “moving target” with ongoing changes. Demystifying the process means more authors get published and read, and that means better information for readers.
When the readers are pet lovers, the cats and dogs benefit. Whatever area of interest one shares, the reader is blessed.
You’ve been mentoring and coaching for a long time. In fact, that’s the premise of the CWA, which you co-founded. Why did you decide to do a webinar format?
I’ve presented at many conferences, and informally mentored one-on-one for years. But the cost and time involved in traveling and attending can leave some folks out of the mix. And heck, these days it takes a lot more to get me out of the house away from my fur-kids.
So it seemed a no-brainer to leverage modern technology and present an on-demand coaching series. It costs me less in time and offers convenient low-cost, no-travel to attendees.
I mean, who doesn’t love to stay home, wear PJs and sip a fav beverage while learning at your own pace—with a cat on your lap and dog at your feet? That’s my kind of classroom! As each new coaching topic launches, the writer session link will be posted on this page.
We know your pets give you inspiration. Who do you have in your household now?
We have Bravo who is a Bullmastiff rescue, now almost 8 months old (and already 80+ pounds!). His pregnant mom was dumped and one of my husband’s clients told us about her puppies at just the right time.
Karma is about 5 years old, and a stray rescued by our previous dog, Magic. Karma and Magic were best friends, and when Magic died last year, Karma mourned for weeks–and now is totally devoted to Bravo.
Another passion of yours is theater. Not a surprise as you are an incredible fountain of creativity! Is there crossover of ideas between your theater experience and your pet writing and other writing projects?
Ha, funny you should mention that. Currently, I’m rehearsing to perform as the “evil plant voice” in a local production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. I’m not sure how that figures into my other projects. (No wisecracks, please!)
One of my favorite projects was writing and producing STRAYS, THE MUSICAL with my co-writer Frank Steele. Nearly all the actors portrayed cats or dogs, with the show spotlighting the various behavioral and other reasons pets lose their homes. Of course, we created a happy ending with all adopted by the end of the second act. The show has since been licensed by other venues and remains our most popular offering.
A more recently production, STARZ, THE MUSICAL, was inspired by teaching at the Texas Thespian Festival, and celebrated the many ways performers of all persuasions and ages come to the theater…and stay. For those interested, the linked pages include details about the shows including audio recordings of the songs.
Our current musical RADIO DAZE, set in the late 1940s, takes place in a 3rd-rate radio station being run out of business by the advent of television. Like those of us in writing and publishing, these characters must figure out how to reinvent themselves when life pulls the rug out from under comfy situations.
Let’s talk about our collaboration. You signed on to Goodnewsforpets as a media sponsor and then we collaborated together to promote CWA under Germinder + Associates. What did you hope to achieve?
Wow. Well, way-back-when, I recognized that CWA needed help getting the word out about our organization and programs. I also recognized that I knew diddly about promotion, compared to the professionals. Throughout my career, I’ve made it a point to go to the experts for help.
I knew about Germinder + Associates by reputation in the pet field, of course, and was impressed by the launch of Goodnewsforpets. The concept paved the way for many others, but was one of the first focused on pet news in a professional venue. For CWA, the partnership was win-win, giving us additional credibility in the pet space by being recognized as worthy of partnership. Our members were interviewed, books spotlighted, and in turn we loved sharing all the great information published by Goodnewsforpets.
You are a writer and you value the importance of improving your writing skills, but you also value the importance of publicity and promotion. How did you come to appreciate PR so much?
Realistically, a writer’s words won’t ever be read unless readers know about them. I can publish books over and over, but they must be discovered for them to fulfill their promise.
“Discoverability” is one of the most talked-about buzzwords today in publishing. Promotion and publicity have always been vital, but today the value skyrockets. Publishing ease, and loss of physical book stores means book shelves have less space.
I had a dozen or so books published by “traditional” New York publishing houses. None of them provided publicity. Aspiring authors mistakenly believe winning that big-time publishing contract means all they must do is write – and they’re wrong.
In today’s world, whatever you want to accomplish, it requires a megaphone directed in the appropriate direction with the correct tweaks and insights to gain momentum. That’s true whether promoting a pet product, a veterinary hospital, or a book. There are some no-to-low-cost ways of promoting causes and products like books, but the more noisy/crowded the world becomes, the greater need everyone has to find a way to shine a light through the clutter.
The business of both journalism and PR has certainly changed over the years. What’s the best advice you can give to writers to stay current?
Don’t blink. *s* More seriously, continue to pursue educational opportunities. Find coaching classes that address the latest options, whether in professional conference settings or virtual classrooms. Join professional organizations in your field, as they offer collegial support and mentorship, while staying up to date on what’s important for your area of expertise.
Next year will be the 25th Anniversary of the CWA Conference and Banquet. You are a co-founder and have been an integral part of the organization since. What are your hopes for the conference and the organization?
Holy cats! I still can’t believe this benchmark. My hopes for the conference are that many members and aspiring writers attend, learn from the stellar speakers, and invest their time and knowledge into the organization and beyond.
CWA has grown up. No longer a kitten or gangly adolescent cat, our organization has matured into a steady, calm, and experienced entity. Like publishing, the organization must change with the times. That can be more difficult when “we’ve always done it this way” c’attitudes persist, but felines are nimble and quickly adapt. The 25th Anniversary events in St. Louis promise to bring new joy and energy to the CWA. I can’t wait to attend!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to conclude with a plea to all the dreamers out there. Dream big. Before you can reach for and grab that brass ring, you must first imagine it. I worked my furry ass-ets off but quit writing when I let publishing changes pull the rug out from under me. Once I got over my “poor me” lamenting (took way too long!), my reinvented career took off and it’s still growing today. Now, I know whatever happens, I can change gears and move into a different passing lane, and speed ahead.
You—the one reading this and shaking your head—I’m writing to you. If I could do it, so can you! Dream big, and believe.
Thanks Amy, and congratulations on being named a #Germinder20 #PowerofPinkHonoree!
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The Call for Speakers for the CWA 25th Anniversary Banquet and Conference is now open. Deadline is November 1st. Click here to enter.