Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why I Like Hanging with Writers

Many, many years ago I almost didn't join the Kansas Authors Club. I don't remember how I first came across the organization, but I remember not going to a meeting because my eighth grade English teacher was on the membership list. I can't really tell you why that stopped me. I was a pretty good student in school and I have fond memories of that class. I still have some of the projects I completed, most notably a poetry book and a book I put together about my cat. I guess I must have let myself feel intimidated. Luckily, I got over it, and I finally went to a meeting. And my eighth grade English teacher? I've never seen her there... though her name remains on the membership list.

The very first KAC convention that I attended was in Wichita. I only went for the day of workshops and I was inspired enough that I was determined not to miss a minute of the next convention. The following year, however, my district was co-host, so I got to work running the book room as well as attend the whole event. I think that was the year that I truly got hooked.

During that same time I was actively finding my way as a writer. I was involved in a fairly active online writing community and participated in a great email list run for and by writing moms, primarily stay-at-home mothers with kids under age 5 in the house. These virtual communities were wonderful, but not entirely fulfilling. Looking back, I think part of the problem with my online writing communities was how easy it was to completely immerse myself in the thoughts and inspirations of people who were on such similar paths. The information was good. I was learning and lot and making good contacts. But then I would go to a KAC meeting and find myself interacting with writers on a wide variety of paths, from the traditionally published to the still figuring out what they wanted to write, from the romance writers to the academic historians, from the sonnet writers to the whimsical stories about growing older.

The variety always left me feeling energized and full of new ideas. I remember putting programs on the tables at the convention in Hutchinson with several other organizers. Doris Schroder, who would later serve as president of the club, suddenly stopped and said, "You know what I like about spending time with other writers?" Her answer was about how accepted she felt. Something to the tune of writers understanding that it was okay to be different.

Doris and I had a conversation in the elevator this year about that moment. I told her that her spirit of acceptance had really stayed with me and from that convention on, I've made a point of getting to know one new writer each year. Each new writing friend has made my life richer. Most of them have become and remained active members of the club, and I hope they've gotten as much out of membership as I have.

At the end of this year's convention, Doris wrote:

All you "peculiar people"
Getting older (and hopefully wiser) I realize more and more why we enjoy the convention so much and getting together with those who have the same affliction as we do... that of writing.
I actually came home with such peace in my being for that very reason. Each year the conventions seems to get better and better. It must be that writers have a spark of originality in them that has to get out....
Every year in October now I have a standing date with my friends from the Kansas Authors Club. It's something I really look forward to. I've attended twelve conventions in my thirteen years of membership, and I look forward to attending many, many more.

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