by Holly West
In the past year or so, I've become much more involved with both the crime fiction writing community at large and my own local community. In addition to writing weekly for the Do Some Damage blog, I now write a bi-weekly post for Prose & Cons. Locally, I'm the Vice President of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and the newsletter editor for the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Finally, I'm involved in the planning/administration of the bi-annual California Crime Writers Conference, an event that's near and dear to my heart because it was the first writers conference I ever attended (in 2009).
Admittedly, some of these commitments result in some regular kicking and screaming on my part. For example, the monthly Sisters in Crime meetings are located in Pasadena and everyone from Southern California knows that the east/west trek from Venice to Pasadena (or really, anywhere in SoCal), is a pain in the ass, even on a Sunday afternoon.
And of course, a more serious consequence of getting more active in the writing community is the time it takes away from actual writing. This continues to be an issue for me, but one I'm determined to overcome. Why? Because becoming more involved in these circles have added far more to my life than they've taken away.
How do I benefit?
1) It's tougher to make friends as one grows older, but my activities in SoCal MWA and Sisters in Crime Los Angeles have resulted in numerous new friendships. Some are deeper than others, but on the whole I feel blessed to have so many great writers as friends.
3) You've heard it said a million times that writing is a solitary craft. Leaving the house on a regular basis to socialize with other writers is sanity-enhancing.
4) Name visibility. With so much marketing responsibility on our author-plates, this is another opportunity to get your name out and sell books.
I'm fortunate to live in Southern California, where there is a vibrant crime fiction community. If yours isn't quite so active (or even non-existent), you can still join MWA and Sisters in Crime at the national level. You can pitch and write guest posts to bloggers like myself (and not just when you have a book coming out). And if you do live in a place where you have local writing organizations, I encourage you to get involved. Don't be like me and wait until your book is coming out. You just might be surprised by how much value you get for your time spent.