I am delighted to announce that I won the 2019 Shojai Mentor Award from the Cat Writers Association (CWA.) This award, named after past-president Amy D. Shojai, recognizes the CWA member “who has offered guidance, encouraging counsel, support, or other help that has had a direct and positive influence on another’s writing/publishing success. The recipient shall exemplify the highest ideals of the CWA vision, that is, to promote communal support, networking, and mutual respect between colleagues.”
The award was announced at the association’s virtual ceremony last Saturday. I hadn’t submitted any of my own writing to the communications contest, but watched to connect with and congratulate my fellow cat writers on their wins.
I am truly honored to have won this award, especially because I have such tremendous respect for the two women who nominated me.
“Although I’ve been a professional writer for 30 years, my career took a turn in 2018, when I began writing about mindful approaches grieving the loss of a cat. Building a platform isn’t easy at the best of times. When one’s topic is culturally taboo, that makes building a “platform” even more challenging. This person mentored me into the world of cat writing, she welcomed my posts, and made it possible for me to share the things I wanted to say, to the right audience.
But she’s given me so much more than that. She welcomed me into the cat-writing world at a time when few outlets were open to articles about pet loss, grief, and issues around euthanasia. Not only did she give me space to write about these topics—which boosted both my visibility and credibility—she’s also been an enthusiastic champion of my upcoming gift book, and she’s made introductions and connections I never would have been able to make otherwise. She has gone above and beyond in her kindness and generosity, sharing her wealth of knowledge freely and using her own substantial platform to boost my emerging one. Most recently, she surprised me by writing a preview post for my book (and sharing it on her social channels), which resulted in several dozen new email subscribers to the Tuna email list.
It’s fair to say that without her support, my book either wouldn’t have a publisher, or it would have taken much, much longer. On both professional and personal levels, my work and life has been enriched through my relationship with this person. I can’t repay her generosity, but the Shojai Mentor award would go a long way towards letting her know how much I appreciate her mentorship.”
Ingrid R. Niesman MS PhD, the Director of the SDSU Electron Microscope Imaging Facility at San Diego State University, whose writing about FIP and COVID-19 you’ve come to know here on The Conscious Cat, and who won a Muse Medallion for her article A Report from the Winn Feline Foundation Symposium on FIP, Part Two: The Cats and Their Humans Who Fight This Battle, had this to say:
“I was searching for a place where I could post some articles about my feline research to tap into public support for feline research. I ‘cold-emailed’ this person to see if she accepted guest articles to her website since I determined she was interested in science and feline medicine. I wanted to work on my writing skills after taking a few science writing courses and attending the Santa Fe Science Writers Workshop a few years ago, but work commitments set me back. This person graciously accepted my novice work, patiently edited, and provided me with stories ideas and direction. I am steadily gaining confidence that in the next few years, as I retire from academic life, I can continue improving my writing. I am grateful for the opportunity she has provided me to grow professionally without boundaries and to contribute to the success of her website. This is true mentoring.”
This award means so much to me.
I’ve been fortunate to have had some amazing mentors in both my professional and personal life. I’ve always considered mentoring others a way to pay the gifts I received from my own mentors forward.
I’d like to extend my profound appreciation to Sarah and Ingrid for nominating me, to the Cat Writers Association for sponsoring the award, and to Amy Shojai for her kind words about me as she presented it. I’d also like to thank Kate Benjamin for more than a decade of being my mentor and friend. Kate’s mentoring took The Conscious Cat to levels I couldn’t have achieved without her support.
And since this is a cat writers award, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of my cats, both past and present, for the inspurration and for getting me started on my journey of becoming a cat writer.