As a former president and current member of the Kansas Writers Association, is it incumbent on me (as it is all members) to state my feelings regarding the forthcoming changes to the organization.
It is noble to recognize that an organization in existence for over 16 years which has not ostensibly changed since that time is no longer serving the needs of its members. Change can be painful, especially to those of the “Old School” who constantly repeat the mantra “This is not how we used to do it”. Those are naysayers. The individuals in KWA who have recognized a need for dramatic change are to be commended.
However, both the recent newsletter and web page article, “The Future of KWA”, send mixed messages which require clear and precise clarification.
From the article: We had several Board meetings in July to discuss how to make KWA relevant. We kept several questions in mind: What would best serve our membership? How do we offer our members even more opportunities to interact? How do we promote our members – and help them learn how to promote themselves? How do we best utilize our resources? We took a hard look at all of our offerings to decide what to focus on for our future.
This is followed immediately by the declaration that there will no longer be an Adult Contest nor a Scene Conference. However, a Youth Conference will still be offered. Unless the age demographic has changed dramatically since my departure from the Board in April of this year, I do not see how this serves the membership, which is made up largely of adults. Youth writers will not attend monthly meetings, will not have the time available to commit to such an organization, and will not be the focal point of networking with adult writers. I feel this focus serves the need of Board members more than general membership.
From the article: “Gordon Kessler, our current Ambassador and founding member of KWA, is going to start an affiliate program in the Kansas City area. We’re not quite sure what that entails just yet, but we are excited to be able to reach more of Kansas.
If the intention is to downsize the organization to a manageable level, how can an affiliate program in another city serve the current membership? Additionally, for the current Board to be uncertain of the details is disturbing as it appears to be more of a whim than a concrete idea, serving the interests of a one individual member and, once again, have no relevant bearing or usefulness for the general membership.
There are many members of KWA who do not come regularly to meetings and some who have never attended a meeting. The aspects of networking to them is more significant. If such members are not on Facebook, their only viable connectivity is via a monthly newsletter, which can include pictures and links. From the August newsletter: ” We don’t live in a society that waits by the mailbox for a monthly volume of news to arrive. News is happening right now and anything from last hour is old, so why hang onto an aging format?” As the current membership has an older demographic, there are still individuals who do not share this digital vision. Nevertheless, this notion was broached nearly a year ago and it was rejected under the premise of respect for the older members. Does this change indicate that respect is lost or simply that it is too difficult to put together a viable monthly newsletter?
Rather than focus of platforms and query letters and marketing and agents and e-publishing, the focus should be on the craft of writing. The indication that regular write-ins will be conducted and critique groups will be encouraged is definitely a step in the right direction. However, I still sense that the Board is considering its needs over that of the general membership. Politics still play a part in an artistic group. Whereas the popular response to that is “That’s just the way things are”, I reject the notion entirely. There is no room for this type of attitude when the goal is to help others develop their skills. What purpose does it serve to denigrate the speakers at a conference…on the morning of the conference, yet never having lifted a finger to provide meaningful input, assistance, or support? The Board does not need to be filled with warm bodies but rather scintillating minds.
Beyond looking at the organization as a whole, the Board needs to look at themselves. Anything short of a completely altruistic attitude does not belong. Change can be painful. But in order to move into the future, KWA needs to break with the past and not simply in terms of presentations and newsletters. Active recruitment of new membership from all writing genres and styles. Community involvement to seek out the fringe artists who do not have a unified organization to connect with. “Cross pollinating” with other art forms and other artists within Wichita and the surrounding area.
In the end, the organization will follow the dictates of the Board unless the general membership speaks up loudly and proclaims “This is MY organization and I want you to speak to MY concerns.” Otherwise, a great notion will become a memory.
[Some may question why I chose this forum, my blog, to make these comments. I know that some of my followers are nowhere near Kansas. Perhaps they are interested in joining a writing group in their own area and will use this as a cautionary tale.
However, it was done as much for a sense of free speech. When I posted on the KWA Facebook Page my resignation from the presidency, the post was taken down the next day with the commentary that I was airing dirty laundry. The irony can not be overlooked: a writers group censoring a writer.
This was meant as an open letter and, as such, invites open civil commentary. Perhaps I will be ignored. That will be more telling than any retort. My honest hope is that the organization will survive for the betterment of the general membership. I wish you well.]