One of the best bargains I’ve come across lately has been the $20 I pay annually as my dues to American Night Writers’ Association (ANWA). One day, I asked Marsha Ward how they could get away with just charging $20 a year for dues. Marsha is an author, but she’s also founder and membership secretary for ANWA. Her reply was succinct: “Volunteers.”
ANWA is unique among writers’ groups, because one of the prerequisites to membership is that you are LDS. Another is that you’re a woman. There are no age restrictions. The youngest member was twelve when she joined; the oldest (I’m guessing here) is about 85.
I already had two books published by Deseret Book (the first two books of the Spider Latham Mystery Series, The Lodger and After Goliath) when I first heard about ANWA This is the way it came about: My daughters and I had published Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan, and I was looking at marketing angles when I contacted Cecily Markland, editor of The Beehive, the LDS periodical for southern Arizona. I was hoping to capitalize on the Arizona tie-in to acquaint saints in that area with this book about a Mormon woman in Afghanistan in the mid-1960’s. I don’t think I got any marketing capital out of that call, but I didn’t go away empty handed, because Cecily told me about ANWA.
I have to admit, I joined ANWA simply for the marketing connection, still hoping to get that article written in The Beehive. That never happened, but it was the best thing I ever did for my writing career, because I embarked on a journey of learning about my craft that is still ongoing, five years later. Plus, I have a built in critique group and indefatigable, if indiscriminate, cheerleaders scattered all over the U.S. (They're indiscriminate in that they cheer equally for each ANWA sister's progress.) As any aspiring writer can tell you, it’s hard to find someone to read a manuscript, let alone spend the time to critique.
What do I get for my annual $20? Here’s a sampling:
1. I get a monthly newsletter that not only lets me know what’s going on in the organization, but also contains writing tips and upcoming writing contest information.
2. I have access to three writing on-line groups. ANWA Social is dedicated to social things such as visiting, making birth announcements or asking for prayers for a missionary son. ANWA Critique is a place where a member can post a chapter or some other piece of writing and ask others to look it over critically. With several published writers and quite a few English teachers, the feedback is excellent. It’s also constructive, positive, and accompanied by teaching (you need a comma here because…). The last on-line group is ANWA Write, and it is dedicated to signing up for and reporting about writing challenges, such as Book in a Month and Write One Hundred Words for One Hundred Days.
3. I get a discounted registration fee for the ANWA Writers’ Conference held every February in Phoenix, AZ. It’s a great conference and a great bargain, besides. And, I’m invited to the ANWA Retreat, held for three days each summer.
None of the numbered items could come to pass if it weren’t for the dedicated people who volunteer to make them happen, from the excellent newsletter editor to the executive board to the chapter presidents. These are ladies who honed their organizational skills and cut their ‘service teeth’ in Relief Society and Primary. They manage an organization that offers a great service to the world as an incubator for future writers who will write lucid, compelling, thought-provoking prose and poetry reflecting the light of Christ that is within.
Thank you, Ladies. I’m a better writer because of ANWA, and I’m spreading the word. Click here to find more about this great organization that’s open to any LDS woman who would like to learn the craft of writing.
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