Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Writers' Associations

Wow. Two months since I've done a Weekend Writer. Well, I've had a few Weekend Writer-worthy bits tucked away for a while now. Today, my lads and lasses, we will discuss one of them, writers' associations. I've been thinking about them lately, because I've been talking for the last couple of months with a very new writer.

What Are Writers' Associations?

What I'm referring to here are associations organized to support writers and provide them with professional services. Of course, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators comes immediately to mind. So does the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and  Romance Writers of America. These groups could be said to be developed around genre. Others, like Pen America, are more general.

The website Writers and Editors maintains a list of major writers' organizations, as well as a list of local and regional organizations.

What Are The Benefits Of Joining A Writers' Association?

Training. Some of these organizations offer conferences and workshops covering process, marketing, and the publishing business. Expect some offerings to be better than others, by which I mean you may not find every workshop you attend at a particular conference to be stellar. You have to glean, hunting for the usable info among the not-so-usable. Some writers' associations also act as "clearing houses" for writers' groups, directing members to groups in their geographical area or on-line. An association sponsored writers' group may have members with more writing experience or training than one that has formed in other ways.

Specific Services. Some of these organizations can connect members with assistance in dealing with contracts or making connections with professionals such as editors or web designers.

Community/networking/finding your tribe. If you've connected with an association that runs programs, attending them will give you opportunities to meet other writers. Meeting authors who are both at your career point and beyond it is important. You can get both support and information from these types of people. Some associations may sponsor listservs and Facebook pages for members where information can be shared and you can "meet" other writers.

A personal community isn't built over night. You have to expect this to take some time.

When Should You Join A Writers' Association?

It depends on what you're looking for and probably on the writers' association. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, for instance, is well-known for working with new, unpublished writers. Someone interested in children's writing might gain a lot from joining right away. (I didn't join until after I'd published a couple of books. If I'd known more about the organization, I might have joined earlier.) Other associations may be better at working with more established writers.

Think about the following: 

  • Do you want training right away?
  • Do you want to have completed some writing before you look for other writers?
  • Are you comfortable with identifying as a writer to strangers at this point, whether you have published anything or not?
  • Will training and meeting other writers help make you feel like a writer, feel as if you're part of that world? Do you want that now?
  • Do you feel comfortable spending money on a writers' association membership fee at this point? If you can't afford conferences and workshops now, do you feel you'll be gaining enough from what the association offers its members to justify the basic membership expense?

Even if you aren't interested in joining a writers' association now, or ever, it could be a good idea to do some research on some. Just their informational material may be useful.

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