In a previous column (“Solitary No More”), we touched on the benefits of joining a writers association. While the list of associations is long and varied and can be daunting to sort through, many national or regional groups often have a local chapter. One such local group is the Inland Empire California Writers Club. S. Kay Murphy, publicity person for the chapter, was kind enough to answer some questions via an e-mail discussion.
Q: How does a writer benefit from a group like the California Writers Club?
A: It gives them a sense of connection to the larger world of writing. So much of what we do is in isolation that we can become alienated and discouraged, tossing manuscripts into the mail slot at the post office (or by clicking the send button these days), but never hearing from a human being. Writers groups give us the opportunity to connect with other writers who share our same experiences, which makes us feel less alone in the world. In addition, a group provides the opportunity for feedback; we can present ideas and see how other writers respond. Hopefully, if a group has published, knowledgeable members, a writer can learn more about the process of writing and publishing along the way.
Q: Has the recession affected the IECWC?
A: Not a [whit]. We still have anywhere from a dozen to 30 people show up to meetings. If anything, some folks are more motivated to get work out there in the hopes they can earn a few extra pennies.
Q: What tips do you have for new writers?
A: 1. READ. Read every day. Read in the genre you want to publish in. Writing is like body building; you lose muscle every day that you don’t lift weights. Similarly you lose confidence in your own creative flow when you don’t keep your pencil sharp. Read and write every day as part of your training.
2. DO NOT expect kudos from those closest to you. For many of us, writing fulfills a psychological need, and for that reason, we have a strong emotional attachment to our words. Always remember that, to your family, you are simply daughter/son/sister/brother/mom/dad – not future National Book Award recipient or guest on Oprah Winfrey. Find an acquaintance with whom you have no close emotional ties to critique your work. (That person need not be a published writer… but should be a regular reader in the genre they’re critiquing.) …. Expect this and you’ll develop your writing identity more quickly.
3. NEVER GIVE UP. Polish every piece until it shines (know where the commas go; there are rules), then send it out over and over. Start small … then hit the bigger markets. Save every rejection letter; you’ll want to look back and laugh someday.
4. ALWAYS follow the writers guidelines given online or in [the] Writers Market for the market you’re submitting to.
Many thanks to Ms. Murphy for her words of wisdom. More information on the IECWC is available at their website.