The Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) recently announced two debut panels at the upcoming BlogPaws Conference in Nashville on May 28-30, 2015. CWA members will share their expertise during two CWA sponsored panels, “Publish or Perish” and “Bridging the Gap Between Journalistic Excellence and Blogging”.
Goodnewsforpets is pleased to be interviewing each of the panelists leading up to conference. Our next interview is with author, blogger and publisher Janiss Garza.
Everyone has a story to tell about how they got involved writing about pets. What is yours?
I’ve been online since 1993 and writing online and building websites since 1997. For a while I was the Yoga Guide at About.com, and after that gig was over, I started a fitness website. Not long after that (2002), I got Sparkle, and since the rest of my life was online already, I decided to start a website/blog for her too. I monetized her blog by doing affiliate marketing, which was a popular thing back in the early to mid-00s. She had a monthly diary, an advice column and she plugged high end cat trees! It sort of took off from there.
How did you get involved with the Cat Writers’ Association?
Sparkle started doing her monthly advice column in the fall of 2003, and after about three years, I had a book’s worth of Dear Abby style cat advice. Since I’d worked editorial for magazines and had a book published, I decided to create the book myself and put it out on my own indie imprint. I carefully edited the text and photos, laid it out in InDesign and set up a business account with a printing and distribution company. The book looked good enough to win a couple of awards, and it was ultimately my in to CWA. My sponsor was Anne Leighton, who like me had a background in rock journalism but also wrote about cats. She still works as a music publicist.
What have been the benefits to being involved in Cat Writer’s as a member?
I got to write for Cat Fancy magazine through CWA—I met with editor Susan Logan at the first CWA conference I went to, and wrote for them for a long time. The magazine is gone now, but I still have a column, Cat’s Eye View (http://www.catchannel.com/cat-lifestyle/cats-eye-view.aspx), on CatChannel.com, their online presence. I also met the Catster folks through CWA and write for them sometimes. And I’ve won awards for my articles, photography, and Sparkle’s blog, in the annual CWA contest. Then, there’s also the camaraderie—I love so many of the members and a number of them have become really good friends.
The Cat Writers’ Association is offering two new panels at this year’s BlogPaws Conference; can you tell us a bit about the panel you are speaking on?
It’s called “Bridging Journalistic Excellence and Blogging,” but while those of us on the panel have journalistic backgrounds, either before or after writing about cats, I’m sure it’s going to go into other aspects of writing and professionalism. I know a lot of BlogPaws members are mostly in it for fun and maybe some extra income, but that doesn’t mean their blogs can’t look and feel professional—and that their stories (even the fun ones) can’t be accurate.
As president and head editor of FitCat Publishing, can you tell us a bit more about your company?
I created the kind of publishing company I wish there were more of—a boutique or indie company that supports and nurtures excellent talent. I don’t see a lot of that out there. I see the two-ton gorilla companies that you can’t get into without an agent (and let’s not even get into the difficulty of getting an agent). I see small publishers that take a writer’s book, do minimal editing, and toss it out there without a lot of writer-publisher communication. But I don’t see a lot in-between: small companies that really craft books, that work closely with the writers on editing, that really care about design inside and out, that will help writers promote their books—and that will do everything in their power to make sure the author gets royalties. I strive to do all that with FitCat.
What was the most recent work published by FitCat Publishing?
The most current release is Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. As the title itself explains, it’s an anthology of a dozen cat rescue stories, told through the cats’ points of view. I chose the writers through a call for submissions. The selling point of this book, in addition to the quality of the stories, is that a third of the book’s profits go towards cat rescue. I had each writer pick a rescue to benefit, and assigned them each a month for the next year to promote the book, with the third-profits from that month going to their chosen rescue. I worked it out this way (in spite of the accounting headache it’s bound to create) because I knew it would give the writers extra-added incentive to get out there and promote the book. And so far I’ve been right! Both the rescues and the writers have been very enthusiastic about getting the book out there and so far, the book has been doing very well for a very small indie release.
I also have another book in the works, but it’s a secret and I can’t talk about it right now! But it is cat-oriented. I have a couple more cat-centric ideas for future releases, but I’m also looking for other non-pet related projects. I’m a fan of edgy, underground fiction and I may create an imprint for that.
You started the award-winning blog Sparklecat.com for your cat; can you tell us how you came about the idea and what the blog is about?
As I mentioned earlier, I have a very rich and full online life, so when I got a kitten, it just made sense to put her online. I even picked out her name, Sparkle, to be nice and non-controversial for readers. I just thought it would be fun to write something from the kitten’s point of view… and it took on a life of its own. When people found out I’d put my cat online, they started asking me questions about their cats and I’d answer, “Well, if your cat was asking about this, here is how she would put it….” and that’s how the advice column (and two books) got started. Sparkle had a great voice. I actually had a couple of books in the works for her when she died unexpectedly.
You were a ghostwriter for two Sparkle the Designer Cat’s two books, Dear Sparkle: Advice From One Cat to Another and Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice From the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist, can you tell us how you found your cat voice, so to speak, for the project?
I didn’t find my “cat voice.” Sparkle lent me hers.
Your writing and editing background spans many genres, such as rock journalism, vintage film and fitness; can you tell us what journalists can learn from bloggers and what bloggers can learn from journalists?
I don’t even know what journalism means anymore because I’m not sure a lot of what I see on the major online news outlets can be considered journalism. When I went to college, before the internet became all-prevalent, journalism meant to get all your facts straight, to dig for answers, to make sure the places you did your research really knew the topic. It meant being concise and interesting at the same time. It didn’t mean being wholly unbiased, but it meant you had to present your story with integrity and truth. Can we get back to this, please? I’d love to see bloggers integrate this sort of attitude into their blogging, and I do think some of the best ones do.
Do you have any projects outside of your blog and Cat Writers’ that are currently in the works?
Oh, just the book I’m currently editing and laying out, the couple of book projects I’m developing, and hopefully a new writer or two to work with. Plus helping out some writers I’m not even publishing. So yeah, I’m not really busy with much right now, ha-ha-ha!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nope! I think we’ve covered enough.
Note: The two CWA sponsored panels debuting at the upcoming BlogPaws conference in Nashville, TN are designed to help writers and bloggers alike, improve their writing skills and publishing knowledge. More information about the CWA panels can be found here. For information about the BlogPaws and the 2015 conference, including how to attend, visit here.
http://www.sparklecat.com – cat blog
http://fitcatinc.com/ – publishing website
https://www.facebook.com/FitCatPub – publisher FB
https://www.facebook.com/RescuedtheBook – FB page for Rescued