Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Support your local writers group

Rusty Shelton and I spent last Saturday at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Writers Workshop’s first annual Writers Conference. The event was held in Grapevine and had a mighty impressive turnout. I didn’t give a talk, but I truly enjoyed meeting the authors, agents and other industry professionals at the event. One of my favorite parts of this job is speaking with authors when they’re in the very beginning stages with their books. I love introducing them to literary publicity!

The keynote speaker was an author and entertainment reporter named Candace Havens. Havens has several books under her belt and has interviewed numerous celebrities for FYI Television Features. She gave an excellent and entertaining speech on the importance of perseverance when it comes to writing your book and she echoed my statement on this blog several times: publishing isn’t for the faint of heart. Havens reflected on the support that she’s had from her fellow author friends (including Britta Coleman, author of Potter Springs and Rosemary Clement-Moore, author of Prom Dates From Hell).

Havens, Coleman and Clement-Moore also happen to be members of the DFW Writers Workshop. Havens spent much of her speech attributing her success to the support she received from her local group. In an industry that is so cutthroat, a support group can mean the difference between shoving that manuscript in a drawer and setting aside time to revise it.

If you are new to the industry, here’s why you should be looking for a local writers group:

-They allow you to network and build friendships with other writers.
One thing that was immediately apparent to me at this particular conference was the camaraderie between the writers in attendance. They rely on each other for honest feedback on their work, celebrate one another’s publishing successes and lean on each other when an agent rejection letter comes in the mail. Joining a writers group could be a great way for you to expand your network of fellow authors who can give you frank opinions and empathize with you as you navigate the publishing world. The key here is "frank opinions"—a stark contrast to the praise you may be receiving from those who know you well (and are too afraid to bring up your run-ons).

-They educate you on the publishing and publicizing of your book.
Writers groups (like the Writers League of Texas, for example) that offer annual conferences are great because usually that entails panel discussions and lectures with industry professionals. Sure, you can probably find this information on the Web, but it’s helpful to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. I highly encourage you to attend these conferences, take lots of notes and ask the speaker questions. This is perhaps the most important component to advancing in this industry: building relationships.

-Simply put, they can help you make your writing better.

Many authors despise writers groups, but I firmly believe that you don’t have to sell your soul to the organization in order to get a lot out of it. Simply do a Google search for “writers groups” (or “writers groups in __” for your home state) and you’ll see tons of organizations devoted to authors in your area. There are literally organizations for everyone, from American Christian Fiction Writers to the North Texas Speculative Fiction Workshop.

Here are the links to a few of our favorites:



DFW Writers Workshop

Mystery Writers of America


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