What does it mean to belong to an organization like your local Romance Writers of America chapter? Does it mean paying your dues and gleaning as much as you can from the meetings, newsletters, and conferences and then applying that knowledge to your work? Does it mean participating so long as you grow, so long as you get something out of it, so long as you become a published author? And when you become a published author, does that mean the chapter and its members have served their purpose? Will you become too busy to participate?
Or do you give back?
Do you double down and make sure that you share your knowledge with the new members? Do you lead workshops, help organize conferences, or sit on committees? Do you accept a board position because you understand that becoming a member of a service organization like your local RWA chapter requires give and take? Do you understand and accept that, now that you’ve become a published author, your chapter members need you more than ever?
Everyone has reasons they pass up volunteer opportunities: I’m too busy. I don’t think I have anything to offer. I volunteered once; isn’t that enough? Even the term “volunteer” conjures up the frightening notion of handing over limited resources of time, money, and talent to others and thus diminishing one’s own.
But you know that’s not true.
You know that when you give of yourself—whether it’s time, money, knowledge, or talent—you get something of much greater value in return. Being a member of an organization like your local RWA chapter is a two-way deal. In return for your dues, the organization will provide valuable knowledge and guidance. But it doesn’t end there. It is also your duty to return the favor by serving your fellow members in any way you can.
My purpose with these questions is not to guilt-trip you (well, maybe just a little). I am recommending to you something that is part of the fabric of America—volunteerism. And not only because it’s the right thing to do. It also feels really good. Yes, you’ve got kids, a sick parent, a full-time job, a deadline—all kinds of pressure. How could you have time to spare?
Start by simply thanking the people who are shouldering some of the work. When you get an email from your local contact, respond with an extra line of thanks for the great job they are doing. Believe me, kind words go a long way.
More small favors that are greatly appreciated: judge five entries in a writing contest, bring treats to the next monthly meeting, pick up a visiting speaker from the airport, sit at the registration desk at the next conference, write a short article for the next newsletter or the blog. Trust me. You can find the time to do one thing to help out.
Sometimes that one thing you volunteer to do can turn into something big for you. I was asked to conduct a workshop for one of my writing groups. I sweated bullets over it. What would I have to offer other writers? Turns out, I did have something of value. I’ve since presented that workshop at other venues and received compensation!
When the call comes, say yes. When someone from your organization asks for your help, it’s okay to say, “I can’t do it this month,” or “I don’t have the expertise for that,” but be sure to follow with, “I’ll have more time this fall,” or “I’m very good at (fill in the blank).”
Some of you might be preparing to attend a conference or workshop in the next couple of months. When you do, take a moment to personally thank the people working behind the scenes. In most every case, they are volunteering. A word of thanks from you will make them smile and make it all worth their time. I guarantee.
Don’t just join. Join in.
You know whom to contact. Shoot them an email. Take on some of the burden to lighten the load of others. You can’t imagine how much your help, however seemingly slight, will be appreciated. So, step up, jump into the fray, change your life, and in doing so, change someone else’s life. Be part of something bigger than you.
To bend the words of the Bard: We few, we happy few, we band of writers!
By Jennifer Trethewey
If they survive this trip, it’ll be a miracle.
Louisa Robertson’s father is furious when he finds her acting on stage. Now, she’s being shipped off to America to marry some stranger her father thinks will bring out the “lady” in her. Luckily, Louisa’s maid agrees to switch places with her! Her maid will marry the American and get the wealthy lifestyle she’s always wanted, and Louisa can do whatever she damn well pleases––for the first time in her life.
Highlander Ian Sinclair needs an army commission, and the only way he can get one is to safely deliver the general’s Daughter-from-Hell to her intended in America. Easy, right? It would be if the lady’s companion Louisa didn’t wear breeches and do everything the exact opposite of what he orders. It’ll be a miracle if the sparks flying between Ian and Louisa don’t set the bloody ship afire before they arrive in America.
But just when Louisa thinks her plan is going to give her the acting career she wants and a Highlander to boot…Ian discovers her secret.