Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Key Part of a Writer's Life

By R.J. Harlick

What benefits do you derive from belonging to a writing organization?

The short answer is many and varied benefits. It all depends on the organization. I belong to six, each of which serves a very different purpose.

In my early days as an aspiring crime writer, I joined a local Ottawa-based organization called Capital Crime Writers at the recommendation of another aspiring author. It proved to be one of the smartest moves I made for it became my primary support group in the early years of my writing journey.  About forty members, we were all at varying stages of writing with none of us yet published apart from the odd short story. Until this point I had been plunking away on my first book completely alone. I didn’t know anyone who wrote fiction, let alone crime fiction. I had no one I could talk to about my writing.

To find myself in the company of other writers with whom I could share my ideas and aspirations was like finding a rare and precious home.  At the monthly meetings, I was able to boost my knowledge about the writing craft from invited speakers. I learned about the intricacies of forensics, pathology, the criminal justice system, etc. from experts that were also brought in to talk to us. I became part of a critique group with three other members, which proved invaluable in helping me to get my first manuscript into good enough shape for a publisher.  A group of members had started publishing short-story anthologies with a real live publisher, which gave us an opportunity to have publishing credentials should we be lucky enough to have a short story included.  Eventually one of the members finally obtained a publisher for her first book, soon followed by another member. It was through these members that I ultimately found my publisher by being so bold as to approach this publisher during one of their launches, a far more effective approach than a ‘throw it over the wall and pray’ query letter. And it is from this group that I have found lifelong friends.

At this stage of my writing career, the organization of aspiring writers no longer met my needs. I needed to be with other published authors to learn more about the publishing world, book promotion and the like. For this I joined Crime Writers of Canada, whose main purpose is to promote Canadian crime writers and crime writing. Though CWC helps with book promotion through its online data base and Cool Canadian Crime catalogue and author event newsletter sent out to subscribers, its greatest benefit to me is the network of published members from across the country. Whenever my path crosses with other members at conferences, festivals and the like, I love the chance to share publisher and writing war stories and gather tips and the latest info on publishing in Canada. Being a keener on the promotion of Canadian crime writing, I volunteered numerous hours to the organization from sitting on the board as a director to being the president. It has proven to be a very valuable organization for me as a crime writer. Check www.crimewriterscanada.com if you want to learn more.

When I became a published author, I also joined another organization, The Writers Union of Canada, which is the professional organization for writers in Canada. Very different from CWC, this organization basically fights for writers’ rights, from ensuring we are appropriately re-imbursed for the lending of library books to working with the government to ensure writers’ unique copyright interests are accurately reflected in copyright laws. When Google was trying to put all our books online for free, TWUC joined the Authors Guild to fight them. I have little involvement in the organization as an active member, since CWC serves that need, but am fully supportive and appreciative of everything TWUC does to ensure writers’ interests are not ignored. While you must be a published author to belong, it does offer some services to aspiring writers.

I also belong to another organization, the Quebec Writers Federation, which is focused on English-language writers in the predominantly French speaking province of Quebec. I use it to find out what is happening with my fellow Quebec writers and to make use of a reading program they have in partnership with the Canada Council to fund author readings and travels to other parts of Canada.

With the publication of my previous book, A Cold White Fear, I joined International Thriller Writers, but will admit apart from taking advantage of their offer of an interview on my new book in their magazine, The Big Thrill, I have taken little advantage of anything else they have to offer. I did explore attending their annual ThrillerFest, but decided it was far too costly for what I would get out of it.

I also belong to Sisters in Crime, but other than attending the SINC breakfast at various conferences have little to do with the organization, likely because there is no chapter in Ottawa.

As you can see, I believe writer’s organizations are a very important part of a writer’s life. We writers are solitary creatures who hide ourselves away in our fictitious worlds. Occasionally, we need to come up for air and connect with other writers.  An organization of like-minded writers is the best place to do this.

I’d like to remind you that my latest Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder is now out in Canada and will be released in the States on November 7, though I think the e-version is now available. I have begun a blog tour and for the next month will be posting on various blogs. Check R.J. Harlick’s Meg Harris Mysteries on Facebook to learn more. You can also follow me on twitter @RJHarlick. Those of you who live in the Ottawa area are all invited to the launch on Nov. 7. We're going to have a grand celebration.


Unknown said...

Good insights here, RJ - and a reminder for me to join TWUC, if only on principle. Have a great launch on Nov 7 - wish I could be there!

Susan C Shea said...

I'm always impressed by the strong writers' organizations in Canada. You, RM, and Cathy are well-served and I know you contribute to the strengths of those groups. Good luck at the new book launch!