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:~: Monday, August 06, 2007 :~:

How Involved Are You?

I spent last weekend updating the blog template for another blog I'm a part of, the Mid-Willamette RWA blog. (By the way, Saturday I posted pictures there from my trip to Nationals, in case you're interested.) With so much happening within our group - sales, news, etc - overseeing the blog is quickly becoming a full-time job. I'm also the secretary for my local RWA chapter, and while that doesn't require a ton of time outside the meetings, there are several things I'm responsible for (like finalizing the "scenario" for our upcoming Fall Whoodunit Workshop - which I still need to do.) Elections are also coming up this fall and I have repeatedly been asked to step into the VP roll, and repeatedly, I have declined, only because the way our Bylaws are set up, a "yes" also means assuming the presidency for one year when the VP position is over. Could I do it? Sure. I could. I might even enjoy it. But my family and my writing would suffer right now.

Over and over I am amazed at what my writer friends are tackling outside their own writing. Joan, for example, is starting her own local RWA chapter because there isn't one in her area. Karin Tabke recently took on the presidency roll for her local chapter, amidst all her deadlines even. Trish Milburn has been an awesome PRO liason at the National level (and recently sold her first two books. Way to go, Trish!), and still other well-known authors - like previous president Gail Wilson - have served RWA at the National level when they could be using that time to write their latest novels.

This year - I think especially this year because of all the hullaballoo about the new RWA recognition standards - I've read a lot of negatives about RWA as a whole. Epub authors are upset about the changes to the recognized publishers, erotica authors are upset at the lack of recognition they receive within the organization, historical authors are up in arms about the changes to the GH/Ritas. As someone who's involved in RWA at the local level though, I want to point out that being involved is a big chore. Those of us who are don't do it for glory or fame or recognition. We do it because we love writing and the goal of RWA, which is to promote women writers in the publishing marketplace. If you are unhappy with what is happening within RWA, I will say this to you simply: GET INVOLVED. The only way to make changes is to do it from within, not to sit on the sidelines and complain when decisions are made that don't go your way.

My roll as secretary is coming to an end, but I'll probably be running for Treasurer this fall so I can remain on our local board and stay involved. I want to be a part of the decision making process, not a bystander on the side. We all have limits, and for me, right now with three small kids at home, this is my limit. It doesn't mean I won't ever take on a bigger roll, but I'm happy there are others who can. Being involved doesn't mean you have to run for a national position, or that you have to start your own chapter, it does mean that you have to put yourself out there though and do something more.

So share. How involved are you in RWA or any other writing organization? Why or why not?



Blogger wavybrains said...

Neat comment. I've been trying to be more involved with our chapter, but you're right it's such a balancing act. With a baby coming, now just isn't the right time for me to be an officer, but I hope it will be later down the road. I do love doing stuff for the blog, so if you need me to do more there so that you can do more as an officer, I'd be happy to do that. I think a lot of giving back means figuring out what you CAN do & LIKE. The LIKE is really important. I was doing other stuff for our chapter, but it felt like a chore. My weekly news column, on the other hand, is very rewarding, and I love doing it. The key is to find things that your organization needs that you won't mind doing. People who figure that out tend to keep doing things while others tend to burn out quickly.

Great post!

6:45 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Well . . . considering I'm not an RWA member, I'm completely not involved. Y'all know I used to be an RWA member and let the membership lapse for various reasons (it wasn't that RWA doesn't work -- it was that RWA didn't really work for me, if that makes sense). I do, however, realize how much RWA's members do to further the careers of other writers and I know that's through involvement.

My involvement tends to be at the school where I teach. Coaching and advising take up a lot of my "free" time. But I am trying to convince a colleague that next summer (or in 2009), we should offer a summer writing institute. By then, he'll have completed a graduate degree in creative writing from Oxford and I think we could put together something really awesome.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Carol B. said...

Wow. You inspired me to create my own blog post. I'm linking back to yours, E, but I always feel like I should give back to any organization that benefits me.

I guess my philosophy is: We all get more out of anything we invest of ourselves in.


7:28 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Wavy, knowing your limits is so important. And you're right, those that take on too much (esp. when they don't enjoy it) get burned out. This is part of the reason I'm not volunteering for VP right now. With my kids so little and demanding of my time right now, I couldn't give the chapter the time and energy it requires of its leader. When the youngest is in school, then we'll talk. ;)

7:35 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Lin, RWA isn't for everyone, and I understand that. There are lots of writers who do very well without being a part of the organization. Many are part of other writing goups,however - like the writing institute you're talking about - and the same rings true. You get out of it what you put into it, whether it's RWA orsomething else. (BTW, that sounds like a great gig.)

7:39 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...


I guess my philosophy is: We all get more out of anything we invest of ourselves in.

Great philosophy. :) I wish more people felt that way.

BTW, I owe you credit. I pilfered your pic of Sherilynn Kenyon from the Literacy Signing and posted it with my other pics. I told everyone in my chapter about her hat but forgot to take a pic, so when I saw it on your blog, I copied it. Hope you don't mind. (It was a great pic, BTW.)

7:42 PM  
Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Elisabeth. I'm a big believer in giving back to organizations that benefit me and have done that with RWA and my local chapter almost since our local chapter started. I do also have to caution about overdoing it though. I've been in that boat, and severe burnout can steak up on you quickly. Now I have a rule that I'll volunteer for two long-term commitments at any one time -- one is the RWA board and one is editing the Wet Noodle Posse e-zine.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Hey Trish. :) You deserve a big shout-out. Can't wait to see your books on the shelves.

As for burnout, very good point. (I learned that the hard way in my last job.) I think Wavy said it well - giving back means figuring out what you can do and like to do. Each of us has to decide what we're capable of and where our limits are. But I think there's something intrinsically rewarding about being involved with an organization like RWA (or any organization you feel passionately about). There are days I just don't feel like going to my monthy RWA meetings, but I go because I'm an officer and I need to be there. And every time, I'm glad I went. I always get something out of the meetings even when I don't think I will. Sometimes, it's as simple as being in the same room with other writers who just "get" it. That makes all the time and hardwork I put into RWA worth it.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Elisa said...

I'm not a member, either, and I'm not involved in the writing community much at all. For years, I was the PTO president at the kids' school and volunteered for pretty much every event, but I've had to back off on that a little. I just don't have the time I used to, though I help out at the mini-diva's dance studio, dyeing tap shoes and painting props when things like that need to be done.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I've had a four year stint- first as VP of the chapter and then as president of the chapter and as much as I love being on the executive board, I'm looking forward to not having the pressure of being at every meeting. It's not that I'm going to bug out and not show up, but if I'm feeling under the weather or just got back from somewhere, I won't feel obligated to make the three hour trip to the meeting.

I'm also the publicity chair for the online historical chapter, Hearts Through History. I enjoy being on the board and that the job requires only jobs now and then that I have to do. And there is no responsibility other than putting together some promo stuff. :)

I agree you only get out of an organization what you put into it, and I am one of the grumblers. I'm not happy with some of the things the National board has come up with, but I guess the majority put their two cents in and the rest of us have to live with it.

Being on the chapter president's loop, I see that the local chapters are the heart and soul of the organization and that they do more for the support and learning of writers than National and as long as they (National) doesn't start dictating what the meetings and chapters have to do in their meetings the organization will flourish.

I am also the person who contacts speakers for my local writer's group. I feel if you are in an organization you need to help in some way. Everyone else is a volunteer and if you want to receive the benefits of belonging you should help.

3:43 PM  
Blogger MaryF said...

I've been on my chapter's board, been librarian, among other small responsibilities, before it started feeling like a job. I stepped back awhile and enjoyed a few meetings, but then I started feeling more and more distant from the new members who were coming in. Recently, I've gotten more involved in subsets of the chapter, and that's helped a lot in my enjoyment of the chapter as a whole!

5:04 AM  

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