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Networking, conferences, volunteering

April 8, 2013

Every beginning writer has heard the mantra – network, attend conferences, volunteer – and wonders whether it works.

Having working in the newspaper industry, networking and attending conferences and trade shows is essential. It is where new ideas spring from and where professionals meet others like them that can help give a business a competitive leg up. Volunteering, both industry and civic-minded associations, to a lesser extent, is crucial. It shows the professional’s willingness to work, to build up goodwill for their company while they develop relationships that often lasts well into retirement.

If you are in based in Florida, there is a wealth of associations that host conferences and have opportunities for you to volunteer and network. Some are: the Florida Writers Association(FWA), Sisters in Crime, and the Mystery Writers Association – Florida Chapter.

To those who say, “I don’t have the time or money to travel to volunteer or network,” not all volunteering requires you to leave your home. For example, I recently became the editor of the Southeast Chapter of the Mystery Writers Association newsletter. Do I go to a brick-and-mortar office to do that? No. With Word, Cute PDF, Publisher, and email, I can do it from home. The opportunity arrived by email. It’s the same way with the FWA. The membership application asks if you want to volunteer and email blasts usually ask for volunteers. This is in addition to the call for volunteers at the annual conference. Writer’s groups and book clubs, like those housed within FWA and Goodreads exist also in an on-line format.

By volunteering, you become a known quantity, which is always better than remaining unknown. People generally do not like the untried or unknown, tending to congregate around the known. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet and get to know industry professionals, including agents and publishers, as well find support from your fellow writers.

In the writing and publishing business, I can say from personal experience, that all three – networking, attending conferences and volunteering in various writing associations is a way to not only to learn the craft, promote yourself and your writing and show that you are serious about writing, but it is also a way to break out of your protective clam-like shell. Promoting yourself and your writing is not a bad thing; it is a necessary talent to develop and by definition, is one of the hardest for introverts. Take chances, realistic ones; it is the only way that you will see success. Be patient and continue writing. Instant gratification, sold by Hollywood and today’s consumerism, is not always what it is cracked up to be.

About Susan
An avid reader, Susan Berry, is an aficionado of historical fiction, trains, the South, and the United Kingdom. Ripped from the headlines of newspapers from bygone eras aptly describes the source of her characters and plots. She is represented by Nicole Resciniti with the Seymour Agency, and a member of and chairperson for the Florida Writer Association, the Georgia Writers Association and the newsletter editor for the Southeast Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Susan can be reached at

One Comment
  1. April 8, 2013 9:46 am

    I couldn’t agree more with this article!

    Last May, I volunteered as Editor of the Tallahassee Writers Association newsletter. I had only joined a year or two prior and they were in the middle of transitioning board members. I had an opportunity to convert over to an electronic based system for the newsletter. Finally, I was able to use my technical skill set and offer something of value while learning more about the world of fiction writing.

    People do appreciate volunteers. How much would they be able to accomplish if they had to hire people to do all this work? These organizations educate, inspire, and bring people together who can help each other with success.

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