Some of us were born with the Volunteer Gene. So, we really can’t help it — when we hear, “I want to make this happen, but I can’t do it alone,” and “this” sounds like a great idea — we’re there!
Finding Your People
I joined WNBA-DC in the mid-2000s. At the time I was working on a novel, and feeling isolated: I needed to connect with other book people. The DC Chapter was hosting the launch of an anthology edited by DC literary powerhouse and WNBA member Richard Peabody, so I attended. The book, Grace and Gravity, comprised short stories by Washington-area women, eight of whom read bits from their stories and responded to Q&A.
By the end of the program, I knew I’d found my group, and I joined the chapter.
Networking brunches in the spring and fall provided opportunities to share my ambitions with other members and to cheer on their successes. If you haven’t spent much time in the DC area, you may not be aware that it’s an extremely cutthroat professional environment — I attended parties where the instant people realized knowing me was not going to further their career, our conversation was over. But WNBA wasn’t like that — not only were these (mostly) women friendly, we openly supported each other’s efforts. That’s rare.
Community of the Book
One of the things I love about WNBA is that we embrace the entire community of the book. While many members are writers, hoping to expand our network and raise our profile, this organization also welcomes a dizzying variety of other book and word skills, from editing and blogging to bookselling, publishing, and graphic design. Our ranks include journalists, translators, agents, librarians, researchers, book packagers, literacy advocates, and of course, readers.
A favorite WNBA moment occurred in the Q&A during a program on publicity for writers. One attendee stood up in the audience of 60, and said, “It’s obvious almost everyone here has a project or book to promote — why don’t we go around the room and each say something about it?” So we did.
When we go to a presentation, our focus is on the presenter — by expanding that attention to the whole group, the attendee sparked a flurry of networking that revealed connections and turned the room from audience to participants.
That woman joined our chapter and contributed her Twitter skills and insights to our board. Her suggestion was a perfect demonstration of the impact one person can have in a group.
I learned in my twenties that organization is what you make it — want something to happen? Take action, enlist others, make it a reality.
Instead of thinking to yourself, “This group isn’t doing thus-and-so,” do your part to bring that to life.
Participate. Make it better.
By stepping up, you will learn new skills, meet new people, and strengthen networks that, along with benefiting the organization, also come around to benefiting you.
WNBA is now in its second century, small but mighty. Be part. Keep it great!
NC Weil has a lifelong devotion to words: sound, sense, and consonance. She writes novels and short stories, sonnets, song lyrics and free-form poetry, and reviews of books and films. Her short stories have appeared in the anthology Electric Grace, edited by Richard Peabody (Paycock Press, 2007); the online journal ArLiJo; and she was a winner in the 2017 Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival Fiction Contest. Her novel Karmafornia was published in 2011, and its sequel Superball in 2016. Learn more about her on her website: ncweil.com, or her blog: aestheticpoint.blogspot.com. She serves as WNBA Award Chair, National Website Co-Chair and Washington DC Chapter Newsletter editor of the Women’s National Book Association, a network of women and men devoted to books and literacy since 1917. She is an April Fool.