Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

How the Wisconsin Writers Association can help you

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My blogs Monday and Tuesday focused on awards and a new anthology from the Wisconsin Writers Association. I hope writers and aspiring writers among my readers have taken notice and are asking themselves: How can the association help me?

It can help in many ways. I joined the association about 8 years ago, around the time my nonfiction book, “Death Beyond the Willows,” came out. I started attending the spring and fall conferences regularly, and I developed a network of fellow writers whom I consider friends. Many writers belong to local clubs, and that’s fine. My job and personal life keep me busy, however, and I don’t think I have time to devote to a local club. I feel, however, that I can bounce my creative writing and ideas off a number of these fellow WWA writers, however, and get valuable feedback.

I was getting so much out of the organization that two years ago I agreed to run and was elected to the board of directors. Since then, my involvement has opened even more doors to me.

Still, our organization is like many these days. Many people aren’t inclined to join clubs like they once did. Even if they join, they don’t attend conferences as consistently. Our organization began in 1948 when Professor Robert E. Gard, director of the Wisconsin Idea Theatre, pushed to spread educational service across the state. We still have about 450 members, perhaps a few more, but only 75 attended the fall conference last weekend in Wisconsin Rapids. That disappointed us. Our leaders are almost all volunteers, and we do our best to juggle work, family lives and WWA responsibilities. Sometimes we fall short. Leadership vacancies don’t help. Our publicity director’s spot was vacant in recent months, and that didn’t help us properly promote a conference that, from start to finish, had the best lineup of speakers and workshops I can remember in my years in the WWA.

On Sunday morning, I stood up and encouraged those assembled to consider becoming more active members. Volunteer for leadership roles. At least return home and—if they enjoyed this fall’s conference as much as I think they did—urge fellow writers, journalists, teachers, librarians and others to join the WWA. Our conferences can only be as good as the money available to fund them, and membership dues and conference attendance are our main revenue sources.

Our spring conference will be May 3-4, probably in La Crosse. Mark your calendar, and monitor the WWA website for details to come.

Our board voted Sunday to move our fall conference, traditionally the last weekend in September, to the first weekend of October next year, again at the Hotel Mead and Conference Center, a quality venue in Wisconsin Rapids. Why did we make this change? Because for at least two years, we’ve had a calendar clash with the Edgerton Sterling North Book & Film Festival.

I contacted Diane Everson, publisher of the Edgerton Reporter and founder of the book festival, on Friday morning and asked how we wound up with our events on the same weekend. The Edgerton event has moved around since it began in 2006, she explained, depending on availability of each year’s top speaker. Edgerton’s organizers don’t want it to be on the first weekend of October, however, because that’s when the World Dairy Expo in Madison jams all area hotels.

So I figured the first weekend in October might be a good move for the WWA convention because World Dairy Expo will not fill hotel rooms in Rapids. Our board agreed. Mark your calendars for the fall conference, Oct. 3-5.

Here are a few other things the WWA offers writers:

Publications: The Wisconsin Writers’ Newsletter offers tips on the craft of writing; keeps you informed on activities of the association; has news of local groups; and puts you in touch with other writers. Creative Wisconsin gives you a chance to submit your writings for publication and allows you to read work by fellow WWA members.

Novel-in-Progress Book Camp: This is a new, major project from WWA. See our Facebook page for more details.

WWA Press: We already have three books and one ebook under the WWA Press imprint and more to come. Our latest book is “A Wisconsin Harvest Volume II,” an anthology featuring 58 articles and poems from 38 Wisconsin writers.

Conferences: These are chances to meet old friends, greet new ones, hear professional speakers, make connections, check out books by other members and read your work at Roundtables. There is no substitute for this in-person experience!

Contests: They are twice per year on various topics. Those entering fall contest categories are seeking the coveted Jade Ring, awarded to each first-time winner.

Writers’ Workshop/Forum: We’re breathing new life into this online forum. Access it by clicking WRITERS FORUM on the WWA website. Post your work and have it critiqued. Read (or write) reviews of books about writing, or books related to Wisconsin, or books by Wisconsin authors. Tell us about your own book and how to buy it. Ask questions about writing techniques. Hear the latest news about WWA and its activities. Share the knowledge!

Charter clubs: Do you attend a local writers’ group? If that group has enough WWA members, we want to reward you by discounting your membership, your conference registration fees, and contest entry fees!

Given all this and more, I hope you’ll join us.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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