Monday, January 12, 2009

Volunteering with Writing Organizations

I've always been a big proponent of writers networking with other writers to further their careers. I even have an article, Top Ten Rules for Networking as a Writer, posted on the Articles section of my website (accessible via "Beth's Web Page" under "Links" to the right). A big part of that networking can be accomplished by joining writing organizations, both local groups in your community and the national or international professional organizations for your genre. The local organizations I belong to in Colorado are Pikes Peak Writers (PPW) and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW). The national genre organizations I'm a member of include Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Sisters in Crime (SinC), and the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS).

Besides joining the organizations, the best way to meet other writers and forge lasting relationships with them is to volunteer for those organizations. I've been a very active volunteer with PPW, sometimes logging as many as 30-40 volunteer hours a month. As Vice President for two years, I was one of a team of two that organized all the programs except for the conference. Because of that position, I made many contacts with successful published authors, literary agents, editors, booksellers, publicists, and other professionals in the writing community. Now, as a board member of both the local SinC chapter and the local MWA chapter, I'm making even more connections that I can use in my career.

Everyone has to decide for themselves how many hours a month they can commit to volunteering, and I'm sure many of my blog readers volunteer for organizations outside of their writing or reading life. However, I highly urge writers, especially, to find some level of volunteer position that fits your interests and time availability in a writing organization that you belong to. Not only are you giving back to your community, you are reaping huge rewards for yourself. I know for a fact that I would not be as far along in my writing career as I am now without my volunteer work.


kriswaldherr said...

One of my favorite writing organizations is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, aka the headquarters for 826NYC, a writing program that focuses primarily on kids ages 6 to 18. The nonprofit was started by Dave Eggers of McSweeney's fame, who clearly has put the money he made from A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS to good use.

The writing headquarters (accessed via a trick bookshelf through the store which sells all manner of superhero goodies, such as capes and invisibility potions) offers free after-school tutoring as well as weeknight and weekend workshops and help with school publications.

826 is helmed in other cities with different secret fronts. For example, in San Francisco, I think they're a Pirate Supply Company.

I've taken many a NYC tourist to the Superhero Supply Company to increase my coolness cred. Fun, inspiring and great for kids.

Charlotte Phillips said...


This is great advice for all writers. I'd add volunteering at conferences and conventions is also a great way to network.

Beth Groundwater said...

Yes, and volunteering at FAN conventions is a great way for readers to hobnob with their favorite authors!

Anonymous said...

Thought it is for children's writers and illustrators, I can't stress enough the wonderful things that I've gotten through volunteering with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustators (SCBWI). I've made so many friends and book contracts and learned so much while volunteering, it's been great.

Joy said...

I've just started joining writing and publishing organizations. I'm looking forward to moving back to the states later this spring so I can get involved.
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Eliza Gayle said...

I couldn't agree more. I just wrapped up a year as the Vice President of my local RWA chapter and it was well worth the effort. Fun and educational.

Katie Hines said...

I hadn't thought about volunteering in a writer-fashion. TBH, I don't know what is available in that area. Thanks for bringing an awareness of this.