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?