James River Writers, the local organization for writers that I’m part of, asked members to blog about a favorite memory or a little bit about how we got involved with the group this month. When I sat down to think about this, so many great things came to mind. Late night, post event chats with fellow writers over tacos. Fancy monthly happy hours at the Jefferson about writing and life with acquaintances turned friends (hello, Wednesday wine specials and pimento cheese). Lunch meetings you don’t want to end because, holy awesomeness, you are releasing your amazing memoir with how many prestigious reviews next month and yet, you love BLTs as much as me?!
So clearly, for me it’s all about the people, and maybe a little bit the food. But seriously, joining an organization is about making connections. Sure, the educational opportunities (i.e. things like this, and this) are important, but really nothing can replace the experience of spending time with like-minded people. People who “get” you. People you don’t have to explain yourself to. People who will go out of their way to make sure you have a chair.
When I sat down to think about my favorite James River Writer moments, one that kept appearing was the image of Hugh Howey finding chairs for attendees at the last years conference. My friend Meredith R. Stoddard recounts the whole situation here, but to sum it up, the sessions he was presenting were crowded and he took it upon himself to make sure everyone in the audience had a seat. To me, this is what any good professional organization does– pulls up a chair for you, invites you in, makes you feel welcome and accepted.
So whatever your thing is, be it pie baking, or scrapbooking, or cross-country mountain biking, or goat-raising or Jedi-mind-tricking — find a group of people who are passionate about the same thing and hang out with them. And if Hugh Howey isn’t there to get a chair for you, pull up your own and create the magic for yourself.