Thursday, December 17, 2009

How I Became a Regional Rep

How I Became a Regional Rep

"Musings" for December 10, 2009

I was already a poetry activist before being invited to become a NC Writers’ Network regional representative. I had started a monthly reading series at a local coffee shop mostly to give local writers an audience, only to discover that poets from across the state were looking for the opportunity to find an audience, read their work, and hopefully sell a few books. I had begun writing a weekly column on poetry for the local newspaper largely as a way of promoting the reading series and giving the participating writers a bit more exposure. Because the writers were increasingly distant from the newspaper’s range, I created a blog so that those beyond the readership area could read about the writers as well. And as editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and contributor to Main Street Rag, I was already writing reviews of every new NC collection of poetry I found that I liked.

Accepting the invitation to be a regional rep meant that I now I had a title, perhaps even a job description, for all the things I was already doing. Titles are nice. They make you feel a greater sense of purpose; they help you focus your efforts; and they reinforce that what you’re doing is appreciated enough by someone that they bothered to make up a name for it.

One thing I hadn’t been doing but which numerous people had asked me about was conducting any sort of writers’ group. I had balked on that idea because my past experience with writers’ groups had been that they were only successful when the participants shared similar interests, ambitions, and levels of proficiency in writing. My concept of a writers’ group was essentially that of a critique group. Thinking of myself as NCWN regional rep helped me get outside of that paradigm and see the possibility of a group whose purpose had more to do with networking, sharing opportunities, providing support, and exchanging ideas (all of which I assume to be the underlying objectives of NCWN). With that in mind, I began monthly meetings which we decided to call simply Writers’ Night Out.

I was afraid that in a community the size of Hickory, roughly 36,000 people, we would wind up with no more than 5 or 6 people and we would run out of things to talk about pretty quickly. In fact, however, we’ve consistently had 10 to 12 people at each meeting, and it’s not the same 10 to 12 each time either. There have been 22 different people attend the 6 meetings we’ve had so far, and instead of running out of things to say, we seem to go further and further beyond the slated times. The other surprise in this group was how many people drove from surrounding counties to attend. Two of our most reliable participants come from as far away as Charlotte and Winston-Salem.

Writers, it seems, are very eager to connect not only with readers but with other writers as well, with individuals who can appreciate the efforts they go through to practice their art and with those who might know of “ways in” to what is often a too-insular, almost too-secretive pursuit, whether that be one of vocation or avocation. For decades NCWN has been at the center of efforts to create these vital connections in NC. Establishing regional representatives seems a wise next step in the right direction. I applaud all of those who have taken up this task and hope to see many more Writers’ Night Out groups, or its equivalent, springing up across the state.

1 comment:

  1. Writer's Night Out is such a great idea. Ed and are going to be talking after the first of the year about what else I can do to help out in the Charlotte community. Would love some more ideas!