Today, I renewed my membership in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association after it lapsed some time several months ago.
I’d let it expire for a few reasons, among them the fact that I hadn’t made more than two meetings that year. That, and I pinch pennies like I actually have a reason to, which I really don’t.
Why’d I rejoin? I missed the camaraderie. Whether or not I went to meetings often enough, I enjoyed every one that I went to. Afterwards, I felt more empowered to write. Also, there’s a delightful static that fills the air of a room filled by lovers of the craft, a vibe that’s impossible to replicate. Just for this reason, I renewed. Community’s a great thing.
Information’s another huge benefit. Ask any aspiring writer why they struggle in writing, and most will give the same response: That there’s no clear course. Unlike becoming a surgeon, a veterinarian, or a carpenter, the road to writerhood isn’t a highway, but a quagmire.
Let me rephrase: Morass.
Ah hell, I should have seen that co–
Talking to people who’ve traversed the marshes before helps you dodge most the treacherous sinkholes and dead ends along the way. Trust me, there are plenty of other ways to soil your travel-clothes. Save yourself the wasted time and soiled clothes, ask for directions before you embark on your journey.
So camaraderie? Check. Information? Check. How about workshops and conferences? If you feel that your writing’s not quite up to snuff, writers’ associations know most of the regional workshop, and can find a good fit for you. Conferences: They’re your way of getting AFK and meeting the others who call the publishing industry their home. If you’ve never met an agent or an editor, a conference will definitively prove that despite your darkest suspicions, they aren’t an underworld beast feeding on the frustrated desires of aspiring writers, callously eviscerating your work and leaving a bloody mess, a trail of tears, and a half-chewed manuscript in their wake as they wend toward their next victim.
Trust me, I’ve met both agents and editors, and I’ll vouch that most of them aren’t soulless monstrosities feasting upon youthful idealism while an uncaring God scratches his belly in front of Monday Night Football. For those who are, might I suggest you buy my Abomination Slayer Kit, complete with all the necessities for your battle against creatures of the night: Garlic, salt, holy symbols from four major religions, the blood of a virgin (harvested ethically at a blood bank, for bait), a manuscript written entirely in Enochian, as a decoy, and a copy of Strunk & White. Interested parties can locate me by casting my name out thrice upon the frigid winds. Be not shocked at the light pop of displaced air as I materialize behind you. Ignore the mad cackling too, I’m the victim of a Natasha’s Hideous Laughter / Permanency spell combo after I lost a battle of wills against a LARPer. Or could it be that even this valiant defender of good and right fell before the dark brotherhood, and even now, they wear his skin and peddle ineffectual remedies to lull you into false security. You’ll have to risk it.
Or don’t. You probably won’t need any of those things. Remember: They’re people too, and they’re people who love books!
Oh, but if you really want one of those kits, at least introduce yourself prior to the sale, I wouldn’t want to think you were just using me for the kits.
Finally, and maybe this falls under information, but Writers’ Associations provide opportunity. They expose you to people who also strive, and who are more than happy sharing their successes and failures with others. Most writers love passing on new markets they find, little informational scoops they’ve uncovered, and valuable scuttlebutt about the industry. For all these reasons and more, if you’re not a member of your local Writers’ Association, you’re missing out. Go ahead, give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.