Colleen Winter is the author of The Gatherer series of speculative thrillers. This is her debut post. You can find out more about her on her website www.colleenwinter.ca, or by clicking here, and buy her books here.
Hello! I am a new author in the Blackbird Writers and am excited to join this talented and supportive group. I write speculative thrillers, set in the very new future, and I’m looking forward to adding my books to Blackbird’s impressive list.
I recently concluded ten years of leading several writing organizations within my community of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, and even though it’s only been a few months since I stopped, when I met Tracey S. Phillips at Thrillerfest and she asked me to join the Blackbird Writers, I jumped at the chance.
People volunteer for many reasons. Some people like to feel they’re contributing to their community and others want to meet people. I volunteered for both those reasons, along with many others. What follows is my observations of what is good, bad and often great, about engaging with your local writing community.
Contributing to Community – It always feels good to be out in the community contributing. There is a certain joy in believing that you are making a difference, particularly during the pandemic when our online meetings were lifelines for many, including myself.
Meeting other Authors – Both organizations I was involved in, the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County and Voices at Word Up Barrie supported authors of all genres. I write speculative thrillers but learned from each of the authors we hosted, whether it was poets, graphic novelists, or creative non-fiction. We all had different paths but ultimately shared the ups and the downs and learned from each other’s successes and failures.
Supporting Authors – It’s no secret that writing is a tough go, whether it’s simply finding the time to write, trying to get the attention of an agent, or getting published. Creating a space where authors felt supported and could share their stories was important and rewarding.
Networking – Many authors loathe networking, but the reality is it’s essential. Meeting other authors, agents, editors, and publishers helps you learn about the industry and know the people who can help you fulfill your writing dreams. Especially as the President of two groups, I met people in the industry I would have never had access to.
You’re in Charge – As part of an organization, you get to decide – or help decide – the authors and topics to feature in the organization. My partners and I were able to arrange workshops that we wanted to attend and line up speakers we wanted to meet.
Time Commitment – Running an organization takes time, and it takes time away from your own writing and author activities that you need to be doing. There will be points when your own priorities take a back burner because the writing association is outward facing and there are things that need to get done by a deadline.
Finding Volunteers – There have been much longer pieces written on this topic and the overall decrease in volunteerism, but the fact is, it is difficult to find others to help. Our members were happy to attend meetings and participate and were upset that Word Up was closing its doors, but that didn’t result in any of them stepping up to help.
Cross-Promotion – You might think that meeting so many authors and networking with them would result in an increase in book sales. The people you meet are supportive and will help promote your books, like when I recently released my third book THE STORM, but it is difficult to tell if there is any correlation at all between time spent and book sales.
I’m going to be short here, since we don’t want to dwell too much on the ugly parts, but it’s worth mentioning that burn out is a problem when volunteering as there is always so much to do and few people to do it. Some members and authors aren’t friendly or appreciative. Even though you are a volunteer and giving up your own time to organize the event, people will still complain and blame you for things. If you’re dealing with dues or workshops, you’ll have to do banking, and as a non-profit there are even more hoops to jump through. And don’t even get me started on grant applications.
It’s easy to convince yourself that getting involved in a writing organization, or any organization, isn’t worth it. I strongly disagree.
Being a part of both organizations shaped who I am as an author, and who I am as a person. These organizations gave me a safe space to grow. The afternoons we spent at the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County talking shop and immersing ourselves in the world of words and writing were magical. Even when we ran into difficulties, I came away from every meeting happy that I had attended. I always learned something, and it spurred me on to keep going.
Have you considered volunteering? Are you willing to give it a try?