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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

5 Reasons to Attend Your Local RWA Chapter Meetings

A writer friend recently asked if it was worthwhile to attend the local RWA chapter meetings. Well, of course, it’s worthwhile to me, those people are my friends! But I did stop and think objectively about what I get from my local chapter that’s not available on the national level.

I belong to the Coeur de Bois chapter in Boise, Idaho, which is probably one of the smallest RWA chapters. We have 35 members, but many of them live far from the city. With mountain roads being impassible much of the year, we only average about twelve members at our monthly meetings.

So what do I get from such a small group?

A specialized lending library: Our chapter has a small but impressive library of CD’s from past RWA conferences, both national and regional, as well as how-to-write books that are not available through our public library. I may have initially over-estimated the size of this library, because our librarian is so gracious in sharing her own collection. This is true of all our members, who have fascinating collections on everything from English History to chemistry.

Access to a wide variety of experts: I’m not talking about the guest speakers, although they are wonderful. I’m referring to our chapter members, whose expertise ranges from gardening to luxury shopping to poisons. In our ranks, we have a former EMT, a chemist, a doctor, and a college professor. Whether I’m looking for a mathematician, computer whiz, travel agent, or billboard model, the varied talents of our little group never cease to amaze me. And nothing beats sitting down and talking to your sources in person.

Built in Travel Buddies: Idaho is far from all the major conferences. Luckily, my chapter sisters are willing to travel together and share expenses. Roommates make it possible to stay longer and get more done.

Exposure to New Experiences: My local chapter often challenges me to step outside my comfort zone. Whether it’s a field trip to a firing range or a local strip club, members are always willing to support your “research.”

Friendships that last a lifetime: I love my online crit partners, but it’s only at my local chapter that I can have a regular coffee date with someone who truly understands what it means to be a writer. They help me brainstorm, critique my work, and commiserate when life gets in the way. How they put up with all my whining, I will never know. But they always cheer me up and get me back in writing mode, and for that I’m truly grateful.

So there you have my top 5 reasons for participating in my local RWA chapter. What makes your local chapter special? What do you get at your local chapter that you can’t find online?


  1. Nice! You put that list in reverse order of importance, didn't you? :)

  2. You rock! And the chapter loves you back

  3. I'm a member and member of my local chapter, Maine RWA, for all the same reasons you list. The chapter has given me more than I can ever repay. I doubt I'd be published today if not for MERWA and the supportive writing friends I've made there.
    Susan Vaughan

  4. Hi Susan, Thanks for commenting. Your chapter sounds wonderful and I think? they have a great contest going on right now too.

  5. How true! All these apply to our Mid-Michigan chapter as well. Sometimes we tend to forget how important we are to each other as a support network. It's good to be reminded.

  6. My chapter, Heart of Carolina, has opened up my world tremendously since joining in Feb. There are writers in absolutely every stage of publication (or lack thereof, like me), so there is always someone to ask questions, to commiserate with, to give helpful tidbits and advice, and to help you network.
    Without my chapter - which btw led to my critique partners - I doubt I would be half as far along as I am today.
    Oh, and Clarissa? If you wanted gardening advice, you only had to ask... ;)

  7. Clarissa ~ I can't believe you just called me out in an email saying I wasn't representing my chapter!!

    All right, you asked for it...

    I am the President of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, which is right outside of Raleigh NC. We have 137 members as of today. (Though we usually have 50 or so at any given meeting.) We have members in Virginia, South Carolina, Charlotte and the coast - but the vast majority of us live in the Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro areas. We even have members in North DAKOTA and NEW ZEALAND.

    I love, love, love my chapter and not just because I'm the president. I would never have run for office if I didn't love my chapter.

    We have members at every level. Those just starting out who have yet to finish their first manuscript to those who are NYT Best Selling Authors and everyone else in between. We have members who write in every genre and at every length.

    What I love about my chapter is the camaraderie and selfless sharing. Since joining HCRW, I have sold 7 books and know that I wouldn't be where I am today without the mentorship and guidance of members who have been there longer than me. If I ever have a question, someone knows the answer or has an experience to share. You can't get that reading a how-to book or looking information up on line. Live and in person is the best way to go.

  8. Clarissa,

    I've been in search of a local group but the closest one to me that has meetings I could attend is three hours. But so far, my schedule has not allowed me to take a full day away from home. Hopefully one Saturday soon I will be able to.

  9. Hi Nancy--I just stopped by your website. What beautiful covers you have! Thanks for commenting.

  10. Amy- You have my sympathy. I can't imagine living that far away.

    Lydia, I thought you couldn't comment from your work computer. LOL!

    Erin- Your chapter and our crit group are lucky to have you. By the way, there would be more CBC-ers here, but for some reason? the blog won't let them comment.

  11. Clarissa, You offered some lovely thoughts on our CBC chapter and I've got to zing the compliments right back to you. Your willingness to include and mentor all of the 'newbies' in our group has kept many of us hanging in there. WRITING IS TOUGH! Without our chapters and critique groups, few of us would make progress. That moral support is critical in a world where many of our co-workers, friends and family haven't a clue about what we are trying to accomplish. Thank you, Clarissa!

  12. I love meeting with my local group of SCBWI. It helps me to know some people when it comes time for the larger conference.

  13. Clarissa ~ I'm writing from work today with my laptop. SHHHH! Are you trying to get me in trouble?

    We are going to have to have a talk, you and me. (shaking my fist at the laptop screen right now.)

  14. Jeannie, You are absolutely right about the reverse order of importance. I figured if I started gushing about my chapter sisters, I'd never get to the other points.

    Liz, Thanks for all the kind words. You are a joy to "mentor" and I think this may be a case where the student outshines the teacher.

    Tara, SCBWI sounds great. I've always wanted to join, but I don't think we have a local chapter.

    Thanks for all the comments! You all rock!

  15. I'm lucky that my chapter sisters, ahem Erin and Lydia Dare to name a couple, put up with me! :)

    All kidding aside (I hope!) joining HCRW was the best thing ever to happen. I couldn't ask for a better group of ladies to encourage, complain and just get you in a way that no other person could.

    Three cheers for my chapter!

  16. Gail,
    As a new member of CBC,I want to say that I was welcomed with open arms and as a fairly new writer, they have given time and advice along with a lot of laughs(field trip). They helped me find critique partners and read (without laughing too much) some of my work and encouraged me. I can't imagine a better group to work and learn with. Steph

  17. My local groups are each about an hour and a half away. Not a big deal, but my weekends are always busy with my son's football games or whatever sport is in season. It does really benefit to get to know your group and take advantage of what they offer. I've had some incredible workshops through them.

  18. As some of you know I've been considering joining my local chapter, but money is so tight at the moment I'm afraid it won't be worth it. But the way you all rave about it, I'm really considering it once again. My RWA membership is up in Jan though, I hate to join so late in the year. However I know you get one free visit so I am planning to go next month and get a feel for my local chapter here in Charlotte. And then join in Jan at the same time I renew my RWA membership.

    Thanks for posting this Clarissa! Your posts are always so helpful.

  19. Marquita and Melissa, Those NC chapters must be pretty impressive. There sure are a lot of you here today. Thanks for the comments.

    Steph- Thanks so much for coming out to support CBC. We do have a fantastic group and if anyone has been thinking of joining us, please do. You can visit three times for free.

    Anita, it's always good to hear from you. You have my sympathy on the distant chapter. But we are both very lucky to be BC Babes :)

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

  20. Yet another reminder of why I need to join RWA and a local chapter. LOL. One of these days...

    Of course, then I'll have to decide between two great "local" chapters here in the DFW area. Or maybe I'll just have to join them both. We'll see.

  21. I think the single most important thing is the common love of writing - doesn't matter what genre - and the connection that's shared between us.

    We know the "world" we disappear into to when we get writing and understand what it means to be consumed that passion.

    Non-writers just don't get it. :-)

  22. I rarely have missed a local chapter meeting in eleven years. My husband says I come home high as a kite with enthusiasm and babble on about all the great things I learned and experienced. I belong to the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter and have been on the board for nine years. I have the delightful job of taking reservations and then greeting them as they check in. It's given me the chance to get to know everyone and last year they gave me the one and only 'heart of the chapter' award. I was honored they thought that way.

    The thing about going to chapter meetings is being around other writers and discussing whatever happens to be on your plate at the time. We give candy kisses for good news we share and candy hugs for bad. It's fun to watch authors sell their first book and move on to NY best sellers. It's even better to be able to share your own accomplishments. I adore my writing friends and can't stress enough how much I've learned about writing hanging out with them once a month - and I drive an hour to get there. :)

  23. What a great post & terrific responses to remind me of why I have stuck with my chapter. I have been a member of the NYC Chapter of RWA for over 6 years now (I was a member periodically, previously, but lapsed from time to time). In Manhattan, as you might imagine, we have an equally wild and wide breadth of personalities, writing interests and talents, everything from a number of actors/singers, to doctors, financial employees, and business types. Authors from NY Times best selling authors to folks just beginning their first stories. There is not a genre that isn't repre

    The most impressive thing about NYC? The community of spirit and support. It is vital for successfully suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous publishing fortunes and monstrously important for continued motivation that we all need so much.

    I have never encountered such a savvy, intelligent, generous crowd of professionals anywhere in my many business and professional dealings.

    Glad to see there are so many other folks enjoying the benefits of local RWA membership.

  24. I'm so glad to hear you all have had positive experiences too. It sounds like no matter where you live, RWA is a wonderful experience.

    Kylie, are you the NZ member of the North Carolina group? I loved your GH acceptance speech. So good to see you at Lady Scribes.

    Cat, I hope you will be able to join soon.
    Thanks for commenting.

  25. Hi, Clarissa.
    I live on the W slope of Colorado. Many years ago, we had a RWA chapter, but we closed it. 12 members just wasn't enough. I wasn't a member of RWA for yrs, until last year, when I started doing contests again. I have tried several times to get a RWA chapter going again, but there's just not enough ppl or interest to make it happen here. I can live without it, but it would be nice to have the companionship and resources close by. The nearest chapters are in Denver, that's at least a 4 hour drive. I know, there's on-line groups, but it's not the same.

  26. Hi, Clarissa.

    I would love to be part of a local chapter, but distance and my work schedule play a huge role in me not being part of one. Meetings are 3 hours away and I work some weekends.

    I do feel I'm missing out when I speak with others about their local chapter meetings. I know there is much to gain, but I'm not sure the benefits outweigh the burdens for me at this point. If ever I become a full-time writer, I would like to join a local chapter.

    For now, I'll have to be content with having coffee with my non-writer friends who love to talk about the exciting world of publishing. It's actually pretty fun to talk with avid readers who think it's cool I'm following my dreams. :)

  27. I made as many of my local RWA meetings as possible. I'm still managing to make them since we moved. The East Texas RWA is a small chapter I think we have 12 registered members, I'm supposed to know this as treasurer but I dont' have the membership roster lol. We're so tiny we share the jobs. Even though I moved across the state I have gone back for two meetings so far.
    There is a local RWA Chapter in Austin I hope to visit one day soon. I'll remain with my East Texas friends but I may join Austin to see a different view. There is no conflict with the meetings they meet on totally different days and times lol.
    I think joining the local chapter gave me the encouragement and ability to stay with my writing.

  28. You sad it so well, Clarissa. I no longer write romance, but I refuse to give up RWA because that would mean I have to give up my local chapter. A small price to pay for all that I get back.

    Thanks for making me aware of why I love my chapter so much.

  29. I'm so ready to join a "local" chapter, even though the closest one is almost three hours away. It would be so lovely to sit and talk with fellow writers more than once a year. :)

  30. Thanks to everybody who commented. For those who don't have a local chapter, I hope you find one soon. For those who do, your participation is what makes it great.