Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Confessions of a Volunteer
My name is Rowena and I have Chronic Volunteeritis.
It all started over ten years ago, when I first went back to writing. It was innocent enough at first. I just joined a writing organisation.
Soon I was a chronic 'joiner' with several writing organisations to go to on the weekend. When things needed to be organised and I put my hand up. This progressed to chronic volunteering. Before long, I found myself on the management committee of state and national arts bodies.
I joined BrisRom - a romance writing group. Very supportive, very practical.
I joined the Queensland Writers Centre -- lots of useful workshops.
I joined Romance Writers of Australia. What a great bunch of women. Supportive and serious about writing, but able to have fun.
With Marianne de Pierres, I founded the VISION writing group, for writers of SF, fantasy and horror. There wasn't a genre specific group in Brisbane. At VISION we set exercises, and critiqued work. The group is still going strong 13 years later.
Before I knew it, I was on the Romance Writers of Australia national committee, where I set up a national Romance Award that is still going.
I served for 3 years on the management committee of the Queensland Writers Centre.
I did one year on the management committee of the Brisbane Writers Festival.
I did 4 years as Vice President of Fantastic Queensland. This grew out of VISION and they were a great bunch of people to work with. There I organised a national mentoring writing workshop, where aspiring writers were mentored by published authors, while they did rewrites on their books. As an organisation we set up Clarion South, based on the US Clarions and we ran the national SF convention in 2006.
I was a judge for the Aurealis Awards (Australia's Spec Fic Awards) for 3 years, then ended up the Assistant Director for another two.
Marianne and I established the ROR writing group which has been going nearly 10 years. We started this because we wanted to push ourselves and our writing craft. So we gathered together a small group of fearless writers who agreed to lay bare their babies (works in progress) for examination. And we, in turn, promised to read the rest of the group's manuscripts before we got together once every year or so. It is a bit like a guild, I guess. We support each other as we sail the rocky seas of publishing.
And now I'm back on the management committee of RWA, where I'm in the middle of organising a national mentoring workshop, the 5DI.
I don't regret the time I've spent 'passing it forward' to other writers.
From other writers, I learnt about the craft of writing and critiquing.
I learnt how to run a critique group so that we concentrated on writing and supported each other.
And I met lots of wonderful people. We helped each other through the ups and downs of publishing, which is a crazy industry.
If I could go back now to that dewy eyed aspiring writer that I was, and give them advice I would. (Disclaimer, this advice is meant for me 13 years ago. It may not be useful to you now).
I'd say, get a good agent who keeps an eye on the publishing industry and is ready to move with the times.
I'd say, diversify. Don't stick with one publisher, or one genre.
But more than anything, I'd say, believe in yourself. But don't invest your identity in your writing. Be a whole person.
What writing organisations or people have helped you along the way. And, if you could go back and give yourself advice, what would it be?