Sunday, 14 June 2015

The SWWJ: What’s in it for me?

This month I want to dedicate my blog post to a fantastic organisation for professional writers called the SWWJ.

Although its full name is the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and the vast majority of members are female, the SWWJ is not just an organisation for women these days. The doors are now well and truly open to male writers too, with men co-ordinating the drama section, helping with marketing and promotion, turning up and enjoying social events as associate members, and winning some of the regular members-only writing competition prizes.

The SWWJ is a long-established society for professional writers, and is now over 120 years old (This photo was taken at the 120th anniversary celebrations) - which can give the impression that it’s bound to be a bit old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy. Nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, quite a few of its members (me included!) are at the mature end of the spectrum, but that is usually because they joined many years ago and, having become a member of such a welcoming and supportive society, have never wanted to leave! That says a lot, doesn’t it?

The SWWJ is well aware that younger members are its future, and is extremely keen to welcome new writers of all ages. Novelists, journalists, playwrights, poets, writers of articles and non-fiction books… Society members come from all areas of the writing world. Geographically too, as quite a few live in other countries, all around the globe, keeping in touch via the Society’s regular magazines, e-newsletters and social media links. It doesn’t matter if you already belong to other writers’ organisations.  Many – like the Society of Authors, the Poetry Society, the Romantic Novelists’ Association or the Crime Writers’ Association - are very specialised, and the SWWJ certainly isn’t trying to compete when it comes to news, training and networking within a specific genre. But what the SWWJ can offer is the chance to meet writers and make friends from across all genres, learn and expand your writing knowledge in new areas as well as your own specialism, and enjoy some lovely social occasions.

The SWWJ’s new initials-only name and re-designed logo have, I think, helped to give it a much fresher and more modern feel, as has the new website, re-opened a few weeks ago - a complete transformation from its former dated look and rather limited content. There is a facebook  page (Please take a look and then press the Like button!), and the Society is becoming much more active on twitter too, so there are lots of ways to follow the SWWJ, find out what’s happening and spread the word about meetings, competition and market opportunities, members’ news and writing successes.

I have been a member of the SWWJ for around ten years now, and this year I joined the Society’s Council, where I am able to contribute to the planning of events and initiatives that are always so vital in keeping any society growing and thriving into the future. I have also taken on the specific roles of competitions co-ordinator and overseeing the manuscript appraisals service, whereby both established members and aspiring writers/non-members can access expert help and advice about their latest writing projects, particularly when trying out something new.

So, what’s in it for you, as a writer, if you decide to join the SWWJ?

 ·        Firstly, and most importantly I believe, you will become a member of a well-run, friendly and supportive society that offers regular get-togethers, both social (teas, talks and afternoon parties in lovely London venues with speakers and cake! plus a range of regional gatherings organised by members at local level) and instructive (workshops and talks at various venues), with the opportunity to network, make like-minded friends, learn, share and have fun! Guests are always welcome at all our events – or just buy a ticket and come along to see if you like us before you decide to join!
·        Every full and associate (male) member gets their own press card – a prestigious card that proves your credentials as a ’real’ writer, and is so useful as an introduction tool when meeting or interviewing, and for gaining admittance to press areas at exhibitions etc. Lots of places all over the UK will let you in for free with a press card, especially if you intend to write a review or article about the place in question or need to visit for research purposes. Sometimes it’s worth enquiring before you turn up, so they are expecting you or can send you a ticket in advance. The card alone can save you pounds in entrance fees which can easily re-coup your annual membership fee.

 ·        A quarterly colour magazine, The Woman Writer, packed with Society news, book reviews, market information, photos, articles and poems – much of which is contributed by the members themselves. And, so members don’t miss out on anything useful in between magazines, there is now also a new e-newsletter emailed out to every member who adds their email details to the mailing list.
 ·        More specific support tailored to your own writing interests and needs – eg. a thriving drama group offering the chance to read, perform and perfect your plays;  poetry meetings; the Manuscript Appraisals service, guiding your first steps into a new genre or venture (at a very competitive price); Scriptora, the Society’s assisted publishing service (helping you to produce your own book); workshops covering a varied range of topics; and lots more.

·        Regular competitions (poetry, short story and articles) which only SWWJ members can enter, with cash prizes, beautiful trophies and prize presentation ceremonies.

And, if you’re not a professional writer but want to support the SWWJ or get involved – perhaps as an avid reader, a book-lover, a librarian, an industry professional, a beginner or hobby writer – you can join as a ‘Friend’. The fee is cheaper because you are not eligible for the press card or to vote at the AGM, but you can still come along and enjoy all our events and you will receive the magazine. As a beginner or unpublished writer, you’ll find that mixing with established and successful writers at all stages of their writing careers can (and will) help you to learn more about the craft, make useful contacts, and move nearer towards the publication of your work and the chance to apply for full membership in the future.

Full details of all membership categories, together with current (and very reasonable) fees can be found here. Then just follow the links to a downloadable membership application form. You don’t pay a penny until your application has been considered and accepted.

I hope you will consider joining us. I’m sure you won’t regret it. I never have!