Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The benefits of traveling with a herd


Writing can be a lonely business. Social networking can help us break a sense of isolation, but only in a virtual way. One of the best ways for writers to connect is to become active in professional writer's organizations. These groups, such as ITW (International Thriller Writers), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), and SiC (Sisters in Crime), have national and local chapter meetings and events that serve many useful purposes, including networking, advice, and support. 

To get full benefit from the organizations, it's important to become active, not just attend meetings. Several writers on this blog are active in national and local writer's organizations. I've been a member of the board of the Southern California Chapter of MWA for the past year, and I recently became the Program Chair. Our first program of 2010 was "Tales from the Publishing Trenches." It featured Kristen Weber, a former Senior Editor at Penguin Group (and my former editor), who regaled a packed house with stories and advice about the real world of NY editing. Kristen was interviewed by bestselling author Patricia Smiley (Kristen is pictured on the left, below. Patricia is on the right).


When you become actively involved with your writing organization, you contribute, make contacts and get your name out in the public.  As a writer, I am capable of going long periods of time with little human contact except for my family and cats (who think they're human). If nothing else, attending the meetings makes me drag my butt out of the house.

I'd be interested to hear about your experiences with professional writers' organizations. How active have you been, and have you found the groups to be helpful or enjoyable?

6 comments:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Don't go it alone!

    I belong to Sisters in Crime and we have a very active chapter (the Mary Roberts Rinehart chapter) here in Pittsburgh. I was VP of the chapter for two years. We have more than a few published authors in our ranks-- Nancy Martin, Rebecca Drake, Kathleen George (nominated for an Edgar this year!), Kathryn Miller Haines, Heather Terrell, and I'm probably missing a couple. I know for sure that my writing would not be as far along as it is without this group.

    And it's definitely good to get out of the house and away from the family, including the cat. I think my husband is glad to get rid of me for an evening a month.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with you, Joyce, that becoming active in the groups, even before one is published, is helpful to one's writing. My LA Sisters in Crime chapter is very encouraging and nurturing to writers at all stages of their career, including unpublished writers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd bet that very few people who get published do it without some kind of support group. My involvement with ITW and Thrillerfest is the reason I got an agent. I met Irene Goodman at the first Agentfest at Thrillerfest in 2007, and she's been my agent ever since. If I hadn't gone to Thrillerfest and received that kind of support, I probably wouldn't have my first novel coming out in May.

    I highly recommend that those who want to get published go to conferences and meet authors, agents, and editors in person.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Living in Las Vegas, I belong to the Las Vegas Writers Group, the Henderson Writers Group, and the Southern Nevada chapter of Sisters in Crime.

    The Sisters in Crime and the Las Vegas group feature speakers, who are almost always armed with pertinent information, effectively delivered.

    The Henderson group is a critique operation, and I can easily say that my writing has noticeably improved by the criticism I've received from them.

    I wholeheartedly encourage writers to join such groups.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Boyd, Mike, I'm glad to hear that the organizations have been beneficial to your writing. One of the best things for me was meeting writers and realizing that "regular people" could become successful authors. I wish I'd known about the groups years ago--I'm sure I would have gotten started in my writing career much earlier.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Both helpful and not. I belong to two organization--one national and one regional. The regional one is non-fiction focused (I'm a fiction author), so they don't have much for me. But one year, about five years ago, I watched their pitch room fall into chaos, so I volunteered to run it. I've run it since, and all the agents remember me. I've had a couple of referrals from doing this.

    The national organization--well, I tried to volunteer a couple of different times. They made me not want to volunteer. The first time, they asked me about organizing an event. I asked about three questions to get more information--since I'd been involved in conferences before, the questions were reasonable ones--and I never heard from them again. I even volunteered to run their pitch sessions like I do for the other conference, and they never even bothered to respond with a "No, thanks. We have someone else."

    They later did an upgrade to their website. I pointed out a couple of bugs, which included having the wrong date for the conference in one place. Since they thanked me for noting the corrections, I mentioned a couple more that I later spotted. That one got me a very snippy response along the lines of "Why don't you volunteer?" Apparently, it never occurred to him that I was volunteering (at the time I had extensively bug-tested a website, for which I was paid for). So I'm still a member, but I will no longer volunteer.

    ReplyDelete