Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Writing Organizations

Among the Colorado writing community, I am known as the "Networking Queen" and have given talks at writing conferences and to writing organizations on the importance of networking for a writing career. The photos are from the Pikes Peak Writers' 2008 annual "American Icon" reading competition. The first one shows me (in my dreaded reading glasses!) working with fellow program planner Barbara Nickless and the three judges to determine the winners. The second one shows the happy winners with their certificates and prizes. Does it look like this was a fun event? It was--it included wonderful writing, booze and chocolate desserts, so how could it not be! My number one piece of advice for fledgling fiction writers is that you should join at least three writing organizations:

1. A critique group so you get other writers to evaluate your prose and give you feedback, allowing you to improve your writing until it is publishable and to keep it of top-notch quality from then on (See the recent post I wrote at my own blog praising my critique group!).
2. A local writing organization with educational meetings and/or workshops about the business and craft of writing that you will attend and learn from.
3. The national/international organization for your genre so you start thinking of yourself as a professional writer and learn all the unwritten rules for being a professional writer in your genre.

Now, as a "Networking Queen," not only do I follow my own advice, I've joined twice that many organizations. :-) As a mystery author, I am a member of:

1. My local critique group of six fine writers, to which I've belonged for ten years,
2. Pikes Peak Writers, based in my home city of Colorado Springs, CO,
3. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, based in nearby Denver, CO,
4. Mystery Writers of America and the Rocky Mountain Chapter,
5. Sisters in Crime and the Guppies online chapter,
6. The Short Mystery Fiction Society.

I have gained valuable knowledge, opportunities, contacts, publishing contracts!, experience, friendships and so much more from my association with these groups. The value of these gains is waaaay more than the expenses I've incurred for membership fees, driving to meetings, etc.

But, do you want to know the secret for how to increase the benefits you gain from belonging to writing groups even more? Volunteer! Yes, take your turn serving on the board, running an event, or tackling a volunteer chore. Then you become part of the "inside crowd", trading favors with other members, and making your name and work known to them so when they come across an opportunity appropriate to you, they think of you and make that connection. I have served as a board member, organized events, driven speakers, stuffed conference registration packets, schlepped tables and chairs, waived my speaker fee, judged contests, and much more. And I'm happy to do it, because the benefits I've gained in return have been ten-fold.

So, go out there and join up, my writing friends! What writing groups do you belong to? Which ones are your favorites and which would you recommend to fellow writers?


Pablo said...

Pike's Peak Writers Conference! I won a competition there many years ago in the young adult category. I couldn't attend to accept the award, but I was flattered all the same.

Lisa Bork said...

Beth, I'm tired just reading about all you do! I think your glasses are great, very professorial.

I belong to the Guppies, SinC, MWA, and the Writers Guild. I never found a local group like Pikes Peak. You're fortunate.

G.M. Malliet said...

For writers especially, in our solitary occupations, these groups are essential. My major 3: I belong to SinC and MWA, local and natinal, and RWA, because they have a fantastic magazine about the business of writing. These women (mostly women) have the toughest business heads around - don't let appearances fool you. (Although sometimes I wish the magazine arrived in a plain brown wrapper.)

G.M. Malliet said...

I meant national!

Alan Orloff said...

I totally concur. Belonging to the groups I do is probably THE major reason my writing has improved. I recommend joining a writer's organization highly.

I belong to a critique group.

I belong to The Writer's Center.

I belong to MWA and to International Thriller Writers (ITW).

And volunteering gets me more involved. I'm treasurer for my local MWA chapter and I'm a website editor for ITW.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Very valuable advice that I totally agree with. I belong to MWA and SinC, and for 8 years served on the board of SinC/Los Angeles, with the last 4 as president.

Joining organizations like these is so worthwhile, but volunteering at them is really beneficial. It's a great way to serve the group and increase your visibility even more.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

You are so right. I've belonged to the same critique group since 1981, 4 chapters of Sisters in Crime, MWA, PSWA (the conference is a writing conference) and California Writers Club.


Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations, Pablo! The PPW contest is a very prestigious one to win or place in because the competition is so stiff. And that's because the contest is so well run, the volunteer judges are top-notch and well-trained (and I'm one of them :) ), and the feedback is excellent. You should be proud of your win and use it in your query letters.

And thanks to everyone else for validating my advice. See, writing doesn't have to be a solitary occupation!

Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Beth. I belong to three such groups myself, and I can easily say that the critique meetings (conducted by the Henderson Writers Group here in Las Vegas) have helped me the most. My first novel is coming out later this year, and I've had two short stories published, all of which were critiqued and improved upon by this group.

I also belong to the Las Vegas Writers Group, a local group that does no critiquing, but rather features guest speakers in an educational posture. Finally, I'm a member of SinC Southern Nevada, which speaks for itself.

I find membership in these groups to be indispensable.

Cricket McRae said...

I can verify Beth is known as the Networking Queen here in Colorado! This is definitely good advice. I belong to a terrific writing group, MWA, SinC (national and the Puget Sound Chapter), Northern Colorado Writers here in Fort Collins (they even have a studio where you can go work, hang out with other writers, or take classes), and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. This year I'm also looking at rejoining Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and RWA.

Jess Lourey said...

Beth, I couldn't agree more about the benefits of volunteering for organizations.

I don't belong to a critique group and at the last Bouchercon, when asked how she felt about critique groups, Sue Grafton said they're a waste of time. She said we have to listen to our own voice which tells us when something is good and when something is bad (as much as we liked it when we wrote it).

I've heard many positive experiences people have had with writing groups, for the camraderie and peer pressure if nothing else, but for me, I don't do it.