the professional writers association

 the professional writers association

The Importance of Joining a Professional Writers Association

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1. Benefits of Joining PWA

PWA, or rather the Professional Writers Association, provides individuals with various services, activities, and other benefits in order to enhance their career, lifestyle, and knowledge. One of the most important elements of any writer’s career is networking with other professionals in the field. This can be difficult for a writer who works from a home office. PWA provides a forum for members to share ideas and information and seek advice and support from colleagues. Members can participate in online discussions, review books and software products, and exchange links to their websites. Many writers have a great difficulty breaking into the market or finding a publisher for their work. PWA offers a solution to this in the form of job sharing. Members can post URLs to their writing which will be reviewed by the PWA job placement coordinator. When a publisher is seeking a writer or has a project available, the job placement coordinator will post details of that job and it is up to the member to contact the employer directly.

2. Resources and Support for Writers

The presence of resources and a strong support network is vital to a writer who is working on their craft. Like any other profession, writing has its own required tools and materials, and provision of these is an asset for any organisation claiming to represent writers. However, “resources” is a broad term, encompassing everything from professional advice on contracts and legal issues to writers’ guides on style and the mechanics of writing, to lists of vetted publishers and their specific requirements. The first category of resource is particularly crucial in an industry where writers are increasingly required to undertake a variety of tasks (e.g. publishing on the internet, or working for a company or charity) for payment, and where copyright and other laws are not always clear to those they affect. The Society of Authors, for example, provides its members with free legal advice on contractual issues which the individual writer might not have the means to resolve. Professional associations also enable peer support and reciprocal reading among writers of similar levels of experience, which can be invaluable to the development of a new writer, who might feel without support from the more established literary community. Finally, a resource for the international writer would provide information on the state of writing as a profession in different countries, and writers’ chances of obtaining work there. The principal means of support for a writer is representation when in need, and this manifests in several ways. Firstly, many associations strive to negotiate collective agreements with publishers aimed at securing better pay and conditions for writers, and to ensure that writers are consulted on decisions that affect them. While some argue that this approach is outdated with the increase of freelance work, and that it is unrealistic to apply a universal rate of pay to work of differing type and quality, it is true that many writers (particularly those who are inexperienced, or from countries where literary pay is very low) have felt exploited by publishers and have been made to accept terms that are not to their benefit. Such writers will benefit from a collective agreement and information on minimum rates. Unfortunately it is not always possible for a writer to avoid or resolve a dispute with a publisher, and some associations have had to intervene in serious cases of unfair treatment of writers, often providing the affected writer with legal support.

3. Networking Opportunities

Whether trying to break into the writing field, sustain a career, or surround oneself with like-minded professionals, the value of networking becomes apparent. According to the Toronto-based writer and editor Maureen Haran, “Writing is a solitary activity, but to be a success at it, you need strong ties to people who can help you along.” Just what networking can do and how it can be accomplished is wrapped up in personal interpretation. For the broadest definition, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s career planning and placement counselor, Richard Bazian, says “Networking is really about gathering information and getting to know people who can help you with your career.” With such reason, professional writers associations, which can provide extensive resources and moral support, can present unique opportunities to mix and mingle with other writers. Networking throughout the business of writing has become steadily reliant on Internet access, not only to expand resources and writing markets, but to communicate with other writers on a global scale. Recognizing such industry changes and keeping in tune with member needs, many professional writers associations have integrated message boards, listserves, chat rooms, and websites for advice in writing and building of careers, or just socializing with other writers. From an informative standpoint, such resources can answer questions and provide encouragement to writers who may otherwise feel too isolated in their career. In view of newer writers or student writers, seasoned professionals and mentors of the association can offer invaluable wisdom and career advice through online communication, or through mentoring programs often set up by associations.

4. Professional Development and Education

It is through the increase of organized creative outputs that we can increase our profession and the industry as a whole. Professional development and education of the writer is what allows for the ability to promote change with new and exciting projects. In a professional writer’s association, education of the trade is a constant and ongoing process. With writing workshops, critique groups, seminars, lectures, and conferences, the writers of all levels can increase their writing and storytelling craft. This is not only important for the writer who is looking for improvement in his or her skills, but also for the professional who is looking to maintain a high level of quality. The science fiction and fantasy writer’s work is far too often stereotyped by mainstream critics as low-level, and with increasing education we can slowly disintegrate that stereotype. Lastly, by education and development, the writer can increase his business sense and knowledge of the industry. With the ever-changing digital landscape and corporate developments, it is important to be current on industry standards and business knowledge. This will ensure that the writer in any genre will have a long and prosperous career.

5. Advocacy and Representation

A writers association would also offer support to help members develop their professional skills and promote and publicize their work and the literary arts to the public. Different writer groups may offer resources ranging from job boards and market databases to grant opportunities and advocacy tools. They may bring in speakers to talk about the craft or business of writing, hold writers’ workshops or retreats, or provide the opportunity to network with other writers. Depending on the group’s emphasis, it may conduct readings or provide information about readings or signings in the area. Finally, many groups offer resources to help writers find an agent and display a book’s potential revenues. This can be especially helpful for fiction writers who are not always aware of the opportunities available.

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