Six years ago, another author and I decided it would be great to start a local writer’s group in Tallahassee, Florida. We had been traveling together for over a year attending conferences and visiting different writing groups, and had a general vision of what we wanted to do. We thought it would be nice to start something in our own backyard for aspiring writers, published authors, and avid readers. So in September 2008, we booked a meeting room at the main library, emailed everyone on our local mailing lists, and invited them to meet us at the library. That day, the Tallahassee Authors Network was born.
Although only seven people showed up for that first meeting, we continued to move forward on a bi-monthly schedule. Now, we have over thirty members who attend and participate on a regular basis. The mission of TAN is to bring published and unpublished authors together with avid readers in one venue for networking purposes. We don’t charge a membership fee or have any type of dues. Our only requirements are participation and subscription to our website at: www.tanfl.webs.com
If you’re serious about starting a group in your area, the following five tips should help you decide if you’re ready for this challenge:
1. Quality vs. Quantity. You will have to ask yourself if you want to have quality meetings or if you just want to build membership. Some authors won’t start a group because they don’t feel like they have enough members to make it worth their time. If you feel you need at least ten people to establish a group, you’ll probably never get started. In my opinion, it only takes 2-3 writers to start a group. If you build it with substance and promote it properly, others will hear about it and eventually come. However, you must focus on trendy topics that authors and readers want to talk about and are willing to give up their valuable time to come out and participate.
2. Having objectives. You should have measurable objectives for starting your writers group. Will it be for networking purposes only? Will it be for developing writing skills? Will it be solely for doing critiques or reviewing each other’s work? Will it be only for published authors? Once you have answered these questions, you can develop a mission statement that will help shape the overall structure of the group. The key to being successful is setting reachable goals. We decided to make TAN a place for readers and writers to connect with one another. Although our primary goal is networking, we also have writing exercises, and share our works in progress at almost every meeting.
3. Building structure. The next step is deciding on the structure of your group which is probably the most important thing. You have to answer the following questions: Do you want it to be an open or closed group? Do you want it formal or informal? Do you want members to apply for membership? Do you want to have a registration fee or membership dues? Do you want officers and directors for the group? Do you want to meet every week, once a month, or once every other month? Do you want to have meeting agendas or not? We decided to make TAN an unlimited open group, meaning that members can join, or leave at any time, without an application process. We also decided to meet every other month instead of monthly.
4. Meeting place. Once you have set your objectives and decided on a structure for your group, the next step is to find a general meeting place that’s free. With that in mind, the library is probably the best choice. We started TAN in a small meeting room upstairs at the main library located in downtown Tallahassee. We quickly grew out of that room and moved into the large conference room downstairs. Occasionally, we have meetings at local restaurants to fellowship with one another in different settings, but we have never rented a building. Now, we meet bi-monthly at one of the branch libraries because it’s easier to secure a room when we need it.
5. Commitment. You’d be surprised at how many authors have started writing groups but have given up after a few months for whatever reasons. That’s why it’s going to require commitment (on your part) to build a successful writer’s organization. Membership may not always be where you’d like it to be, members may not participate as much as you want them to, but you have to be committed to attending every meeting and leading the way. In the beginning, my partner and I conducted (or led) each meeting. Now, members rotate the leading of each session and participation has greatly increased. In six years, we have grown from seven to forty-eight members but quality still counts.
Our standard agenda consists of the following: Welcome, short introductions, old business, new business, break, presentation (author), Q & A, writing activity, readings (if time permits). We normally meet for 2-3 hour sessions. In January, we started taping our author presentations and posting them on our Tallahassee Authors Network YouTube channel.
I hope this blog has helped you with deciding if the time is right for you to start your own group or not. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please post them here, email me, or contact me on Facebook.
Remember, you can join our online group at: www.tanfl.webs.com
Barbara Joe Williams is an Amazon bestselling author, indie publisher, and motivational speaker living in Tallahassee, Florida. She is a Navy veteran, a graduate of Tallahassee Community College, and Florida A & M University. Barbara is also the founder of Amani Publishing, LLC (2004), and the co-founder of the Tallahassee Authors Network since September 2008. She has published books for over thirty authors. All her books are available now at Amazon.com, BN.com, Booksamillion.com, and all other retail bookstores upon request.
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