Before I ever published my first book, I dreamed of having a shiny “Award Winner” sticker on the front of it. The raised embossing, the way it catches the light, the intricate design, forever displayed on the cover of my book.

At the end of 2019, I discovered a wonderful organization called The Cat Writers Association.

The Cat Writer’s Association was founded in 1992 by four “cat journalists,” Cat Fancy magazine editor Debbie Phillips-Donaldson and circulations specialist Suzanne Stowe; Cat Fanciers Association public relations expert Michael Brim; and freelance pet writer Amy Shojai after a fateful meeting at the Cat Fanciers Association Invitational Cat Show in Fort Worth, Texas.

The CWA is an international organization comprising a variety of talent, supporting evolving mediums and platforms such as Fine Arts, Journalism, Social Media, Graphic Design, Writing, Radio, Television, Videography, Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Photography, Illustration, Cartoons, and so much more!

It was then I knew I had found a home and was more than happy to join. Little did I know, this was the first step in fulfilling the dreams of a bright eyed little girl, who clutched a notebook full of stories to her heart every day at school.

Only a short time after joining, I discovered the CWA hosted their own Cat Writers Awards. And it wasn’t limited to the CWA. It was open to anyone who had written about, painted, photographed, cats. At first, I was skeptical. There are some red flags when it comes to entering book award competitions, which I won’t cover here. There were certainly a lot of categories, which CAN be a warning sign, but I realized this was completely in-line with the values of the organization, and not a money-grabbing scheme like many other “award” opportunities. As an organization that promotes cat art (and education) or all kinds, it made sense to offer each of these unique avenues their own category, within reason.  

I thought to myself, “oh, why not?” and entered my latest work, Dorothy Claes and the Blood of the Tsar, the third book in my Silver Fox Mysteries which takes Dorothy and Solomon to Russia to obtain the fabled Constellation Faberge Egg. Then, I promptly forgot about it, until I received notification that my book, my little novella, my fifth published book, had received a Certificate of Excellence.

I was so excited! But what did that mean? A Certificate of Excellence? Is… is that the same as an award-winning book? If you haven’t learned this about me yet, you’ll soon discover I am a glutton for research. I was the kid in school who was given LIMITS on research papers. To this day, I still love researching. What follows is my breakdown of the Cat Writer’s Association’s contest.

What Is the CWA Communications Contest?

The CWA Communications Contest began in 1994, in an effort to award and showcase those working to spread positivity and education about our fellow felines. Whether through educational blog posts, or fictional feline book characters, the goal is always to bring our beloved cats to the forefront in a positive, and well-showcased light.

Who judges the CWA Communications Contest?

Each category is judged by 3 Professional Members of the CWA. The judges do not know who else is judging their category, so they have no way of communicating with one another to stack the deck in any way.

What is a CWA Professional Member?

According to CWA’s website, a Professional member must meet the following requirements:

For published cat writers, artists, broadcasters and other communications professionals who are regularly published and are paid for their work. Acceptable work samples for PROFESSIONAL STATUS include:

  • 2 published exhibits from newspaper, magazine, ezine/online publication, or internal publication; OR
  • 2 broadcast or file scripts or tapes; OR
  • 2 public relations speeches or technical material exhibits; OR
  • 1 book published within the preceding 24 months.

These people know their industry inside and out, which qualifies them to judge their peers within that category.

The CWA’s website further explains the more detailed guidelines of works, which you can read HERE.

How is the CWA Communications Contest Scored?

It’s actually very similar to the Telly’s! The entrants are not competing against each other. Rather, each entry is scored individually based on a specific set of criteria. Some of that criteria crosses between categories, others not so much. Judging the Content / Quality of Message in a fiction book is not the same as judging the Content / Quality of Message in an educational, medical magazine article. However, here are some basic guidelines that are used:

Content / Quality of Message

The piece should be engaging, relevant, and appropriate for the audience. The strength of the concept and overall message is evaluated, as well as its uniqueness, whether it’s coherent and can hold the audience’s attention. Judges consider all elements that go into the creative process and how successful the original idea has been communicated.

Production & Execution

The piece has to look good and be presented in a quality way. If it’s a video, it shouldn’t be grainy, and the sound should be mixed and leveled well. If it’s a book, the cover should be professional, and the interior should be well-formatted and not distracting from the reading experience.

Overall Experience

Judges are not only looking at the parts of a whole, but what those pieces ended up creating in the end. How was the work realized and executed by the creator? Was the message/theme compelling? Was the tone and medium appropriate for the story? Do the production and execution values enhancing the consumption experience?

Many years ago, the CWA did not allow vanity published works – both as a guideline for membership, and for entry to the CWA Communications Contest. However, with the advancements of the indie publishing industry, self-published books are now definitely allowed, and many times win!

In the end, pieces that are awarded a score of 90 or above will receive a Certificate of Excellence Award within the category they entered. This means there may be more than one Excellence winner in a single category, or none at all.

The highest composite score in each category wins the Muse Medallion. And, sometimes there are ties with more than one entry winning.

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What is the MUSE Medallion?

The MUSE is awarded to the best work of its kind within its category. In 1994, the newly formed Cat Writers Association held its first writing competition, and founding member, Karen Kuykendall, designed the MUSE Medallion.

Now What?

Now, I wait to see if my humble little book wins a MUSE Medallion. Even if it doesn’t, I have finally achieved a life-long dream: recognition by my peers for my hard work and dedication to the craft of writing.

If you are a writer or creative featuring cats in your work, check out the Cat Writer’s Association HERE.

View the CWA’s bookstore, featuring CWA Member’s award-winning books HERE.