By Camille Minichino
If there were a JA—Joiners Anonymous—I’d be president. So “Writers Clubs—Do You Need Them?” is a natural blog topic for me.
I’m such a Joiner that my chosen field for my first career was physics—the major you can’t do alone, not since Newton anyway. Whose garage can accommodate something like a 17-mile-long tunnel to house a collider or a 192-beam laser for fusion?
Physicists gather around huge equipment in giant laboratories these days, working as a team. My graduate school mates and I spent long hours together in the same laboratory every day, sharing data, power supplies, and monster-mentor stories. We became close friends and knew each others’ families as well as our own for a few years.
All the while, I’d wanted to be a published writer—something with more popular appeal than my technical papers on the scattering properties of a titanium dioxide crystal. But I couldn’t imagine sitting alone in a room with pen and paper, or keyboard and monitor, pouring out my thoughts and plots, in solitary confinement.
Imagine my delight when I learned that writing—mystery writing especially—was a community endeavor. I discovered not only professional organizations and critique groups, but book Clubs, conferences, internet lists and groups, and blogging colleagues.
I gave up membership in the American Institute of Physics and joined all the Clubs with chapters in my neighborhood: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the California Writers Club (with not one, but two chapters in commute distance – heaven for a Joiner!)
For the past 20 years, I’ve enjoyed membership in all of these organizations. I’ve heard speakers that inspired me, taken workshops that sent me in new directions, met some of the most interesting and generous people I could imagine. Sometimes I wish there were one extra Saturday in every month, to accommodate all the meetings that are available to me. I regret when I have to choose between a workshop by screenwriter James Dalessandro and a talk by psychologist-to-cops Ellen Kirschman.
I’ve done my best to be an active Joiner, not just soaking up the benefits of the Clubs. Earlier this century I was President and/or Board Member of all three organizations (Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and California Writers Club) at the same time. OK, a little overreaching, even for a Joiner, but I loved being in the middle of things. Most Joiners do.
Yes, I’m a writer—25 mystery novels in 4 series for starters—so there’s a lot of me-and-my-chair for hours at a time, but I always know I can call or email any number of colleagues or post to my Club groups, if I want to brainstorm a plot point, or discuss a new character I’m developing. With each book, my acknowledgments list gets longer.
The writing community is smart, fun, and generous. I’m glad I found it. I’m sure some writers prefer to go it alone, but I never would have made it.
So, Writers Clubs—who needs them? Me, me, me!
Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer. When her first book, on nuclear waste management, didn’t sell well, she turned to cozy mystery novels and has published 25 of them in 4 different series, with different pen names. She’s also written many short stories and articles. She teaches science at Golden Gate U. in San Francisco and writing workshops around the SF Bay Area. For more on Camille Minichino, visit her website: http://www.minichino.com/