Thursday, May 05, 2005

Some Merits for Volunteers

Some writers never join organizations.  They proudly write alone and never take a class or go to a writer’s conference—unless they are invited to speak to them. This type of writer labors alone and independently to craft their words.  I’ve never been one of those type of writers.

I’ve always tended to join different groups and learn from the experience. In the early days of my writing, I was active with the Orange County Christian Writers (it was surprising to find this beautiful website—thanks Google).  It was about 20 years ago my colleague at Wycliffe Bible Translators, Larry Clark, began this group.  As the founding director, Larry organized a board for the group and one day writer’s conferences in the spring and the fall. He wrote to magazines and book publishers to get sample copies of their publications and writer’s guidelines, located a vendor to provide lunch and almost single-handedly at first put on these events.  At Larry’s request, I served on the board for a couple of years and helped him with the some of details of the conference. I’m pleased to see that the OCCW organization hasn’t died (as many have in other parts of the country) but has carried on to this day (with completely different volunteers and board members). Quickly I can think back to some people I met in those early days who are still active in publishing like Rolf Zettersen (current publisher at Warner Faith and back then worked for Dr. James Dobson at Focus on the Family) or Joseph Farrah (currently editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily who back then was the managing editor at the Sacramento Bee) or Janet Kobobel Grant (current literary agent at Books & Such but back then a book editor at Focus on the Family). My relationships with these individuals began through these one-day writer meetings.

Because I was a magazine editor at In Other Words then Decision, our publications were active in the Evangelical Press Association.  I took an active role in this organization.  I mentioned serving on their board for two years. Each year, the EPA holds their convention in a different part of the U.S. The local members organize the event (again all volunteer work). There are meetings and emails and phone conversations to pull off such an event each year.  I had the opportunity to see some of my other EPA colleagues face to face for these discussions.

Yes, it involves an investment of time and energy for this type of volunteer work but I’ve found the return is so much greater than anything I’ve given. For the last few years, I’ve been active in the American Society of Journalists and Authors. It means I’ve served on different committees which mean participating in different phone and email discussions about the business of the Society. I’ve made some amazing friends (and continue to do so) in this group. I’ve learned more than I can express in these few sentences. My involvement has helped my learning experience. Today I learned that I’ve been elected to an at-large board member for the ASJA. I’m exactly unsure what it means other than I’ll be involved in more email discussions and an occasional phone conference. Also I have to attend a mid-year face to face board meeting in New York City in November. It’s a three-year term and I assume I will learn a great deal from this opportunity.

Your level of involvement is a choice but there are literally hundreds of writer’s groups which need volunteers for the organization to run properly. You can make some new writer friends, learn a great deal as well as make a contribution to the lives of others.  There is a great deal of merit (and work) to volunteering but it’s been a great experience in my writing life.

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