By Narelle Atkins
How can writers support each other? What does this look like in practice?
These are questions that have been discussed among my writing friends in recent weeks. I’ve personally experienced a lot of support from my writing friends and writing organisations. A non-romance writing friend has suggested my positive experiences reflect my involvement in the romance writing world.
In recent weeks I’ve attended the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio and the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney last weekend. It was lovely to catch up with Dotti and Mary in Sydney.
|Dorothy Adamek, Mary Hawkins & Narelle Atkins at #RWAus14|
I loved catching up with old friends and making new friends. I attended Rowena Beresford’s helpful workshop on YA fiction. Dotti, Mary and I met Ian Acheson in person for the first time when he stopped by Olympic Park for a morning coffee at Gloria Jeans.
During the Sydney conference I reflected on why this community of romance writers is so supportive of each other. The answer was obvious in every aspect of the conference. There’s a culture of generosity and volunteerism in the romance writing community. I’ve also seen this in action as a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) community. ACFW started out as American Christian Romance Writers, and the culture of volunteerism is very strong in ACFW.
Romance Writers of Australia have members who are volunteering many thousands of hours each year. Yes, I said thousands. The organisation has nearly one thousand members. Their entire conference committee is run by volunteers who give up their valuable time, sacrifice their writing time and family time, to pull together an amazing conference each year. There are members doing a long list of jobs for the organisation behind the scenes, too many roles to list. They run a large number of writing contests and have volunteers who co-ordinate and judge the contests.
The volunteers are willing to give generously of their time because they love the organisation. They don’t do it to get something in return. Although, when you have a culture a volunteerism you will ultimately receive benefits from the work and generosity of others.
I’ve heard people complain about having to pay membership fees to writing organisations. They question if they will receive value for money from their membership dues. I think this can be the wrong question to ask. In a culture of volunteerism, we join a writing organisation with a view to give and contribute. We have a servant heart and ask the following questions: How can I help out? What unique gifts, talents and skills can I offer?
The membership dues for organisations like Romance Writers of Australia would be unaffordable for nearly everyone if those thousands of volunteer hours were performed by paid employees.
Many writing organisations offer membership discounts, for example to attend their conferences and enter their contests. There are some costs, for example newsletter printing, postage, website hosting, that can’t be covered by volunteer labour. In most cases the annual membership fees are small when compared to the potential benefits for members. If you don't believe the membership benefits are relevant or helpful, it may be wise to consider joining a different organisation that could better suit your individual needs as a writer.
If your primary goal in joining a writing organisation is to get something out of it, and if you’re not willing to contribute your time, money and resources, you’re taking an unhealthy step in the direction of selfish author syndrome. The writing organisations I value would not exist without the selfless contributions by willing volunteers.
My challenge for you: Examine the writing organisations you belong to and see if you have any capacity to volunteer in a big or small way. How can you ‘pay it forward’ by helping others in their writing journey?
Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/
She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins