Feline Honored: Nine Certificates of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association

Elsa Clair inspects my Cat Writers' Association Certificates of Excellence. Jasper seems somewhat less than impressed.

Elsa Clair inspects my Cat Writers’ Association Certificates of Excellence. Jasper seems somewhat less than impressed.

Recently I was honored by the Cat Writers’ Association with nine Certificates of Excellence. 


Like one for each of the proverbial cat’s lives.

It’s almost too much to absorb.

Receiving CWA Certificates of Excellence is a special honor because I was judged by other creators of cat-related content, who are not only my peers in loving and writing about cats, but are also people I look up to who are so much more accomplished than I am.

Judge and be judged

I volunteer as judge for the annual CWA Writing Contest, and what impresses me the most about the contest (other than the talent of the people who enter) is the rigor and quality of the judging parameters. Every entry is reviewed by three judges, who grade each submission on very specific metrics of excellence. The scores are submitted, an average calculated, and only the entries that receive a grade of 90 or above receive a Certificate of Excellence. 

So to be acknowledged by these judges is incredibly gratifying, validating, and thrilling. Though it’s an overused word, it truly is an honor.

However, to be recognized not just once, but nine times blew me away so much that it has taken me weeks to write about it. Like I can’t believe it’s real. Or maybe I shouldn’t write about it because it’s somehow boastful or rude. Or maybe I don’t truly deserve it. (Shut up, Agnes.) 

But being proud of what you do, and what you can do, is a good thing. And maybe I can inspire a writer or photographer or poet or videographer or two who thinks they can’t—just like I used to—but can work at their craft, can learn from those who excel at it, and can one day be honored and celebrated by their peers. 

It wasn’t always this way

The first year, I entered the CWA conference, my stuff didn’t get any certificates. I read the articles that won, attended writing conferences, and worked to improve. The year after that, I was really happy to receive three certificates. 

Elsa Clair reviews the CWA certificate for one of the stories about her..

Elsa Clair reviews the CWA certificate for one of the stories about her.

At the annual CWA Awards Banquet, the highest scorer in each category receives a Muse Medallion. Last year, I received six Certificates of Excellence  and was nearly speechless to be honored with three Muses: in the poetry category for one of my Haiku by Cat (Attraction), for a video (Elsa Clair’s Gold Medal Purr-formance) and for a story I wrote about adopting a cat for my mom. Even more gobsmacking was that I was honored with two special awards for the adoption story: the CATalyst Council Connection Award and the Kari Winters Rescue and Rehabilitation Award, sponsored by TICA (The International Cat Association).

Calvin noses at the certificate I received for a photo of him.

Calvin noses at the certificate I received for a photo of him.

So what exactly was excellent?

This year, three of my haiku received Certificates of Excellence: Broccoli, Liquids, and Evil. While haiku are only three lines of text that add up to 17 syllables, and I sometimes feel a little sheepish that such few words count as a poem, and mine are more humorous than deep, as anyone who has tried can attest, writing within those restrictions while trying to capture the essence of catness…well, it can be a challenge. I know that the CWA judges get what a haiku is supposed to be, and when they recognize my work, it gives me a feeling of validation. Maybe I can actually call myself a poet.

Two of my photos were also honored this year with Certificates of Excellence. I’ve entered my photography every year for the past four years, and this is the first time any of my pictures made the finals: Elsa Clair Rules the Stairs and Calvin is Shocked.

Another first was a certificate for a fiction piece: A Jewish Cat’s Purr-spective on Hanukkah and Christmas. I don’t write much short fiction, and this was a stretch for me, so it gives me the courage to attempt more stories.

I’m also excited that two of my articles about keeping cats healthy were honored: 8 Ways (and a Whole Bunch of Tips) to Make Your Cat Happy and Keep Your Cat Healthy, and an article about how to make a trip to the vet easier on feline and human: Almost as Good as a Spa Day: Taking Your Cat to the vet Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful.

Most interesting, though, was the fact that I received a certificate for a post I wrote as a public service to people like me who simply cannot read a book, watch a movie, or sit through a TV show if the cat or dog or any other animal dies: What Happens to the Cat on Stranger Things? A spoiler for animal lovers

Life with Dogs and Cats is honored to receive 9 CWA Certificates of Excellence.

Life with Dogs and Cats is honored to receive 9 CWA Certificates of Excellence.

I’m always learning

One thing I’ve learned as a writer and photographer and yes, even a poet, is that I can always learn. I can always find ways to perfect my craft. I can always grow as an artist. 

This is why I go to writers confernces, and this is why I’m going to the CWA conference yet again this year. There’s a great line-up of speakers, and not only will I learn, but I’ll get to spend time with people who love cats and who love writing. Best part? There will be cats to visit and snuggle as well. 

Love cats? Love to write? 

You should head to the annual CWA conference, held this year from June 7 to 9, in Houston, Texas. Tickets are still available!

Held at the same time as the Cat Fanciers’ Association Gulf Shore Regional Cat Show, it promises to be an educational and purr-fectly pawsome event, and includes the annual banquet that awards Muse Medalions and special awards to talented cat people.

Want to learn more? Check out the other talented winners of Certificates of Excellence.

Want to go? Find out more about the CWA conference.

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12 Comments on "Feline Honored: Nine Certificates of Excellence from the Cat Writers’ Association"

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  1. Brian Frum says:

    Congrats, we are beyond thrilled for you, that’s darn amazing and so well deserved!

  2. Mary McNeil says:

    Great job !

  3. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    guyz….CONGA RATZ two yur mom, we iz BUZZED happee for her….we think thiz iz total lee awesum, veree well dee served, N we wood post a bout it two if we winned an awardz !! ☺☺

    … sew yea, shut de hell up agnes… coz yur just gel uz, yur namez KNOT on de certifee catz, and susan’s….. IZ ☺ ~~~~~~~~

    mom izza poet
    agnes iz knot two dam bad
    conga ratz two mom ♥♥♥♥♥

    pea ezz…her can dee lete this commint if her wantz coz
    oh R toy let tongue ~~~~~ ☺☺☺ we understand

  4. Wow! Congrats on all your Certificates of Excellence. Well deserved!

  5. Tell Agnes where to stick it! You should be recognized for your amazing writing skills. I’ll be the first one to buy that book 😉 ***PROUD OF YOU*** and so thankful to call you my friend.

  6. Sandy Weinstein says:

    congrats, this is wonderful

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