Chances are you’re reading through our website because you want to become a published writer. So first, congratulations on exploring the perfect initial step to honing your craft—Writers’ Program classes!
In today’s literary marketplace however, there’s sometimes a little more to it than writing well. How do you get published within your specific genre? Where do you meet others (outside of Mom, your spouse, or your next door neighbor) to read your work? Where else (outside of the Writers’ Program) can you find a supportive community in what often times feels like an isolating experience?
Professional writing organizations exist for nearly every genre you write in, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction—in everything from romance writing to Christian writing to writers within the trucking industry. These organizations all serve the same purpose: to serve as a helpful resource for their members.
Prolific writer and Writers’ Program instructor John Morgan Wilson agrees. “Writer’s organizations, particularly the non-profit groups, can be incredibly valuable to all writers, both neophytes and the more experienced, for networking, keeping their knowledge of the writing world and marketplace fresh, and for feeling less alone and part of the larger writing community.”
While it’s true that some organizations charge a fee to cover administrative costs, many organizations have more affordable “associate” or “student” memberships available for non-published writers. Some, such as Writers’ Program partner PEN USA, offer scholarships for talented writers in need, so always be sure to check out all your options.
Here are a few more good reasons to explore writing organizations:
Networking: Writing organizations are an easy way to network—not only to meet other writers, but to meet industry professionals and as John mentioned, as a way to keep your knowledge of the marketplace current. For example, the Writers’ Program sponsors the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual summer conference where both published and aspiring writers learn more about their craft, meet agents, and get their work read. Most professional organizations offer events throughout the year, as well as literature and online discussion boards available by membership only.
Benefits: For writers who do not have a full time job and who therefore may not have steady insurance benefits, some professional organizations offer such benefits as advice and services to members about business issues, legal or contract advice, health insurance and tax advice.
All of the Perks: While writers’ organizations hold events that are open to the public, it’s often the members who get the perks including discounted events, publishing opportunities, members-only critique groups, annual contests, and regular newsletters with up-to-the-minute craft and industry news. Another great example is the International Black Writers and Artists of Los Angeles, whose members receive priority in being considered for unique opportunities such as the Writers’ Program Community Access Scholarship.
Recently, the Writers’ Program participated in UCLA Extension’s ArtsDay LA, an inspiring day of free lectures. During one of the panels, John passed out a detailed list that he put together for his students over the years. The wide-ranging list is comprised of local and national professional writing organizations, and he has allowed us to share the list with you (thanks, John!).
In his words: “For years, I searched for a comprehensive list of these organizations to pass along to my UCLA Extension students, but couldn’t find one. So I’ve searched the Internet and compiled my own list. It includes about 75 organizations, mostly national and international. Many more local and regional groups are out there as well for the writer who will take a little time to look further. I’ve also included, separately at the end, a link to the country’s primary organization of literary agents. I hope students in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program find it useful.”
Our advice? Stop procrastinating! Take a Writers’ Program class, check out some local branches of any writing organizations you’re interested in, and get one step closer to your Byline.
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative for Creative Writing (Onsite) and Screenwriting (Online).