Let’s Go Clubbing! – Why Writers Need to Join Clubs

Today’s guest post is by author, teacher, and counselor Karen Gorback:

The article in the local newspaper was tiny yet enticing. A local writers’ club was soliciting entries for its annual short story contest. My heart raced. A little story about a single mom returning to college had been percolating in my head for years. Should I put my people on paper, allowing other folks to see my story and judge it? Judge me?

The thought was terrifying. Still, at the last minute on the last day to submit entries, I slid the large envelope into a mailbox on my way home from work. Mail pickup would be at five. Yep, I met the deadline for my first entry into a short-story contest.

That was fifteen years and dozens of stories, poems, articles, scripts and one novel ago. I joined that writers’ club, along with several others, and never looked back. I have found the value of club membership over many years immeasurable. And while activities vary from club to club, in terms of quantity and quality, the overarching benefits are clear.

  1. Writers’ clubs provide opportunities to continue learning about both the craft and business of writing. And in an industry changing as quickly as ours does, ongoing education is vital. Clubs frequently bring in speakers from the professional community to teach and inspire attendees at club meetings and special events. I enjoy attending meetings to suck all the information I can out of presentations provided by writers in all genres, publishers, techies, editors, and copyright attorneys who gladly share their expertise either pro bono or at reduced rates. Writers and experts in ancillary businesses are among the most generous professionals around.
  1. Networking is a major benefit of club membership. While online communities are a wonderful source of information and advice, they can’t replace the personal bonds that form from human connection. Clubs provide the venue to exchange business cards, set up book signings, and find writing or speaking gigs. Most importantly, they provide the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and support of like-minded individuals in the local community. Nothing replaces a hug from another writer who feels the pain of rejection or the exhilaration of publishing, just as you do.
  1. Critique groups are often provided as a benefit of membership in a writers’ club. Rules for critique groups vary widely. Are members required to bring five pages to read out loud at each meeting for the group to critique, or are members expected to e-mail two pages to each group member and also edit each other’s work prior to the next meeting? Club members need to research critique group requirements before making a commitment to ensure that it meets their needs and fits their availability. When all the stars align, critique groups are a terrific, safe place to beta-test one’s work.
  1. Clubs often need content for their newsletters, both in print and online formats. Writers who have not yet published and are anxious for that next step might choose to flex their publishing muscle in a low-risk environment, which can also help build a resume of published work. Some clubs have state or national affiliations that may offer wider distribution of articles printed for local clubs. A regular monthly column, if available, is an outstanding opportunity for a club member to crank out content on a regular basis and learn to live by deadlines.
  1. Clubs may offer reduced fees for conferences and may also purchase tables at community book fairs where members can showcase their work. Thus, club members can take advantage of the economy of scale that comes with belonging to a professional organization.
  1. Writers’ clubs provide numerous avenues for leadership development and are generally run by volunteers. Club members can learn and practice a variety of skills by chairing committees, managing finances, running membership drives, securing speakers, facilitating contests, organizing conferences, writing press releases, editing a newsletter, updating the club’s website, and running meetings. Of course, members may simply choose to attend events without taking on organizational responsibilities. This is fine too; however, during the years that I volunteered for the largest projects, I also reaped the greatest benefits, in terms of both personal and professional development. The return on the investment of my time and talent has doubled, many times over. My advice is to give back whenever possible. Volunteer to help the club move forward.

Ready to Go Clubbing?

Club meeting locations, dates, and contact information may often be found in the “community news” or “calendar” section of local newspapers. Prices for membership vary but are generally nominal. Some clubs will allow prospective members to attend their first meeting without charge. Groups with an online presence can be easily located through Internet search engines using the name of a city and the term “writing club.”

People who prefer meeting with other writers in an informal setting may enjoy participating in a local Meetup group. A wide variety of Meetup groups have been organized by like-minded individuals around the world. A simple search of their website will provide a list of many Meetups in the specified area or allow the searcher to start a group of his or her own for a small fee.

Finally, genre-specific writing clubs abound. Examples include Sisters in Crime, the Romance Writers of America (RWA), and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I recently joined the national SCBWI, which also made me a member of my local club branch. Great deal.

By the way, that first short story grew into my first published novel, Freshman Mom.

Karen Gorback headshotDr. Karen Gorback has a doctorate in education and thirty-five years’ experience as a teacher, counselor, and administrator. She is the author of many prize-winning short stories, one-act plays, numerous articles on education, and a novel titled Freshman Mom (honored as a finalist in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Book Contest). Visit Karen through her website here.

Feature Photo Credit: j-No via Compfight cc

5 Responses to “Let’s Go Clubbing! – Why Writers Need to Join Clubs”

  1. Nita April 27, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    I moved to a new town last year and one of the first things I did was join a writers group. I unjoined 4 months later. One or two people were pleasant and welcoming but it wasn’t enough to counter the hostility from the rest. I should probably just start my own group, lol!

    • Karen Gorback April 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

      Hello, Nita:

      I’m sorry that you did not have a positive experience. Clubs vary quite a bit in terms of leadership, support for new members, objectives, and activities. Perhaps you can find a national organization in your genre that can refer you to a local club with a good reputation. You might also try contacting the English Department of your local college or university to ask for recommendations. Thank you for reading and responding to my post.

  2. Rebecca Vance April 27, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Karen, thank you for such an informative post. I am working on my debut novel, but I have been interested in groups. There are a few in my city, but some are quite far for me as I don’t have a car. Many years ago, I had a writer’s group that met in my apartment. There was only about 5 of us, and that was perfect for me. I don’t really care to be in large groups and the thought of public speaking makes me break into a cold sweat. I liked the intimacy of a small group. Those that I’ve seen are very large and that intimidates me. I don’t live in a complex that has a clubhouse, so I hesitate to start a meetup in my apartment. I’m not sure of the safety issue. I do like the idea of the personal touch. I do so much online, but I don’t really connect with many on the personal level anymore and I do miss that. One of the groups I go to once a month. They only charge $5.00 and they have a speaker that is instructive on craft. I have been a couple of times, and a few say hi, but there is no connection. They don’t stop to talk and I’m left alone. I enjoy the speaker, but the opportunity for networking seems quite remote.

    Thank you for bringing up this subject. I am going to search a bit more to see if there is anything I may have missed.

  3. Michael Anthony April 28, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    I think finding a GOOD writer’s group is extremely difficult. I’ve been searching for years and have been to a lot of different groups. Too many groups are filled with people who just want to write as a hobby and don’t take it seriously. And often, the people who do take writing seriously aren’t because of their love for literature, they’ve just got this brilliant “business book,” that they’re looking to get out there. Just a little bitter, here, I know. It’s just that after you get out of school it’s so hard to find a solid group to work with. You’ve mentioned a lot of the good reasons for joining a group, the hard part is just finding one. I’m still hopeful though, I’ll find the right group for me one of these days.

  4. Elizabeth April 30, 2015 at 5:01 am #

    Unfortunately I have had some similar experiences to Nina and Michael. The writers group I have tried to join are either riddled with writers that write for hobby and don’t care about improvement or the serious writers are often so negative and unwelcoming hat it’s hard to stay positive and keep writing. I am still trying to find a writers group I enjoy and am going to try a few more this month but I have to say I’m less then optimistic though I would love a writers group to be involved

    There are always going to be unwelcoming and unfriendly people out there, we just have to be confident, believe in ourselves and keep moving forward. I am going to continue to try and find a writers group that works for me and if not plan to start my own. Thank you for reminding me of all the wonderful benefits a writers group can offer !

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