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?


j-a brock said...

I follow a few of those blogs, and have found them really helpful. It's good to hear other writers' experiences. If nothing else, it's sent me back to the page many a time!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Rowena, you are flat out /s/c/a/r/y/ awesome!

I am very much a loner, and until I ran into Baen's Bar I hadn't considered actually, seriously, writing. I had fun World Building, and imagining, but very little got put down on paper, besides the occasional map or starship design.

Almost every place else I've been has been a recommendation or link from the Bar, including this place.

C Kelsey said...

Indeed. I had several bad tastes of being "voluntold" growing up. Volunteering now is something that I should do, but I have a strong aversion to it. It is fantastic that you do so much, Rowena.

Anonymous said...

and that's only half of what you did!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

j-a brock,

That is so true. There were no blogs around when I started writing.

But since they've come in, I've found them really useful.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Sounds like Baen's Bar iw a wonderful idea. Wish it had been around when I was first starting out.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I couldn't help myself. I'm the eldest of 4 kids. So I have big sister syndrome. If I see something that needs doing, I do it. I often apologies at the time, because I can be a bit overwhelming. The equivalent of 'I am, I saw, I cleaned the house'. LOL!

Besides, I like to have a mental challenge. And having 6 kids isn't enough.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


What are you doing lurking here????

I must 'out' mdep.

This is Marianne de Pierres -- long time friend, fellow VISIONARY and RORee.

She writes both SF and humorous/crime romance with a paranormal flavour.


Chris McMahon said...

The Vision group was the single best thing that happened to me as a developing writer. Fantastic for getting me 'out of the attic'. Made some really enduring friendships as well.

Well if I was going to give advice to myself I would say - Focus! Between Engineering, Martial Arts, a potential music career, writing and family - something's got to give!

C Kelsey said...


As far as the "something's got to give" thing... I'd actually argue the opposite. It seems to me that the writers I enjoy most are also the ones who have extremely wide tastes and don't just focus on something. Of course, they also complain constantly about not having enough time...

Kate said...

Things I'd tell my younger self....

1. No, computers are not a fad. That guidance officer doesn't know what he's talking about.

2. Learn to touch type.

3. Find a writer's group with actual published SFF authors in it, and join.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Kate.

I wonder what that Guidance Officer is doing now? Taking typing lessons?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris MaMahon,

VISION was lots of fun. Like you, I made enduring friends.

You're mentioned in the dedication to my new series!

Chris McMahon said...

Thanks, Rowena.

Hey, Chris. Since I never did manage to give any of those up, maybe there is some hope for me after all:)

Dave Freer said...

:-) I suppose Rowena, that you are proof of the adage - "If you want something done, ask a busy person."

Your ailment has been a problem all my life - I don't think I've ever not been on a committee/ involved with at least 3 community/sports/school type thing. Something I am trying not to do here in our new life. It's not working too well... Community garden meeting next week...

(wave to Marianne)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Dave.

It is SO hard not to volunteer, especially when you know how to do something.