Calling all Writers: Volunteer!

j0439384-600x564Hello writers, this is Adair Heitmann penning my post to you. Let’s talk today about a topic we rarely discuss. The forbidden word is volunteer.

“Oh no,” you exclaim, “not that, I don’t have time. Don’t make me!” Well, I won’t make you, but I’ll share a story with you.

Back in 2008 during the economy downturn, I wanted to increase my writer’s platform. I also wanted to become a member of a writer’s critique group. My name was on the wait list of Fairfield Public Library’s Writing Critique Groups. They were full. One year passes. I inquire again, the groups are still full, but I was asked if I’d like to volunteer to start and lead a new group. “Oh no, ” said I, “I am too busy!”

Time passes, I inquire again, and am extended the same invitation, basically, “If you start it they will come.” Wanting to join a local group so badly, I succumbed. Fast forward to 2014, I’m still leading a fabulous writing group and I’m co-authoring this blog. I’ve gone on to lead creative writing workshops, how to build an author’s platform, and social media programs at other libraries. I’ve even landed a full-time job at a library . . . and it all started by volunteering.

But enough about me. I know other writers who volunteer on Fairfield’s One Book One Town committee, and others who chair author talk committees. What better way to learn how to improve as a writer than to attend author talks and hear first-hand other writer’s successes and challenges? How else can you learn about publicity departments at publishing houses than to be in contact with them on behalf of your volunteer position for a local library? You aren’t tooting your own horn, you’re doing a good service.

Other writers I know volunteer every few years at big book festivals. It’s a win-win situation. Writers give back to the community, expand their professional networks, are seen in the marketplace, and build their author platforms, all while doing something they love and for a cause they believe in.

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another. ” ~Erma Bombeck

During this season of gratitude we are grateful for all the volunteers who help make literary connections happen, and for you, who spend time with us here online. Happy Thanksgiving.

Until next time, keep on writing.

Humor and Mystery = Fun

It’s my turn for the blog. This is Adair Heitmann writing to you about the Author Talk I recently attended at the Fairfield Public Library. Susan Santangelo, who is the author of the humorous Baby Boomer Mysteries: Retirement Can Be Murder, Moving Can be Murder and Marriage Can Be Murder spoke to a crowd of writers and non-writers alike. The photo I took of her (l) and a happy reader (r) shows the connections this author makes with her fans.

The author’s writing process starts each book with a dead body, but it sometimes takes her six months or more than five chapters later, to figure out who it is. “The characters tell you what they want you to do,” she says. Santangelo added that for a mystery to be good, “it’s very important for it to be logical.”

She wrote book one and was rejected by three major literary agencies. Two agencies told her that they loved the book but there wasn’t a market for it. The third wanted such a major re-write that Santangelo gave it a try for a month then realized as a reader, she wouldn’t read the book the agency wanted her to write. So, she and her husband started their own publishing company on Cape Cod, Baby Boomer Mysteries.

After self-publishing her first book (and including her email address in the back), she heard, via emails from around the world, “You are writing about my life.” This encouraged her to write more books. Santangelo’s writing and public speaking style are like sitting down with her over a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Her quick wit comes across in speaking, and her real life experiences inspire her fictional works.

She noted “inspiration is everywhere, especially among the clothing aisles of stores when women are talking on their cell phones.” This author writes what she knows and her fans gobble it up. She is working on book four, a mystery about a high school reunion. Santangelo ended the lecture by saying, “Once the book hits Kindle, the sales skyrocket.”

Susan Santangelo is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center, and also reviews mysteries for Suspense magazine. As Santangelo stated in the comment section of this blog last month, she is obsessed with writing murder mysteries. From the look on her fans’ faces, they are thrilled with her obsession too.

Until next time, keep on writing!