People who have things in common usually find ways to get together, maybe for no other reason than to discover they aren’t alone or . . . weird. They spend time together, hours sometimes, doing what they enjoy, discussing it, learning about it.
Belonging to a group of folks who have similar interests has the primary advantage of learning from others and the bonus of paying forward what you’ve gleaned during your membership.
So far as I know, everything that could possibly interest you has an organization. Stamp collector? We’ve got a club for that. Bowling? Hey, join a league.
This week alone, I sat in on Monday night chat with the My Book Therapy crew led by popular Christian author Lisa Jordan, and I’m taking a course with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association taught by the renowned editor, Donald Maass. All last month, I took a professional editing course taught to the Christian PEN members by Kathy Ide. Next Saturday, I’ll have the opportunity to listen to a speech by Alan Schleimer, author of suspense thrillers, at a luncheon with the Writers on the Storm chapter of ACFW. I’ll get to judge a couple of contests and help encourage other writers. If I have time, I’ll critique a couple of submissions to ChristianWriters.com and authonomy again, an opportunity to help and encourage other authors.
I’ve preached about this before, but seeing all the opportunities I’ve had this week–this month–I figured it was worth writing about again: join a group. Is it time consuming? Not always, not bad, only when everything hits at once and you have to pick and choose. Is it expensive? Can be, depending on how deeply you want to dive into it and what kind of benefits you want out of it. Or, if all you want is to belong to a community of writers, it can be totally free. Christianwriters.com and My Book Therapy, run by Susan May Warren and Lisa Jordan, are free and are for Christian authors.
HarperCollins runs Authonomy.com, a mainstream site with a small Christian community. The point of this site is to put several chapters of your work up for view and critique by your peers, and to get it bumped up on the list for possible viewing by editors at HarperCollins. The ultimate dream is an HC contract. You really have to work that site to get bumped up that high, but people have done it.
If you just want to gauge interest in your work or get a bit of feedback, the forums at authonomy and Christianwriters.com are perfect. If you want to learn from professionals, My Book Therapy is great. CW and MBT are also great for networking, getting encouragement, and sharing victories.
Paid organizations are invaluable, too. Even if you can’t go to a conference (although I wish everyone could, at least once), groups like ACFW, WFWA, or any of the other genre- specific organizations have advantages that don’t come from the free cyber-groups. Access to agents, editors, big name authors in the industry; on-line courses taught by those who’ve conquered dragons; prestigious contests that carry weight among your peers; opportunities for mentorship and critique partners and groups; networking opportunities that surpass all others; smaller, local chapters where you can really connect with fellow writers.
There are other organizations too, many I don’t know about. If you do, post them in the comments, okay? I’m certain there are groups aimed at those who self-publish that I’m not familiar with. Also, there are organizations aimed at every single genre on the planet. One of the most recent I heard of is Realm Makers, started by Becky Minor. This one is aimed at Fantasy/Sci Fi writers and has an annual conference. Tosca Lee is teaching at the 2014 conference, so you know I wish I could be there!
If you don’t already belong to a group, join one. Even if you do, join another. Belong to at least one professional organization–which means paid membership, I know, but it is totally worth it.
And don’t be surprised if I write about this again. I tend to harp on things I believe in.