Guest Blog by Toni Kief
Responding to a challenge, I started to write at the age of 60. I stumbled along with a shared project and when it was over I had a new passion. I was in sore need of inspiration, so I searched online and discovered Meetup.com. I found a group just starting out, the Writers Kickstarter and signed on.
We were a group of two for a few months, then the leader quit the same day we had three women join us. I changed the meeting location to a mutually convenient spot and the group took off. After years of 500 word flash fictions, Kickstarter evolved into manuscripts, and in time, publishing.
I watched many new authors struggle with the editing and publishing steps with questionable success. One of the women had a $2,000 edit that was a sham.
Shawn Spjut, Susan Brown and I got together over food and discussed how to meet the challenges of modern-day publishing. In a few weeks we were committed to taking the next step: The Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest was born!
Now that we were a reality we got busy dividing tasks; we trusted each member to handle her assignment. After some stumbles, we agreed to act like a cooperative which meant considering every suggestion. Some lived, some were adapted, and a few dismissed, but we moved forward. We met for breakfast every other week, reported our progress, asked for help and agreed on the next steps.
We decided not to micro-manage; each member has the trust to work for the common good. To avoid a hierarchy, we chose not to have titles.
We allow each person to identify her own position as the need arises. I am a director and with my habit of being early my only inflexible task is to secure the table at IHop and bring cookies to the bi-weekly meetings.
We have occasional issues, but we try to avoid confrontations. The basic tenent stands: respect and trust each other and utilize the variety of gifts from each member. Working as a true cooperative we have been educated and amazed by the genius of the collective.
After a year laying a foundation we started our own Meetup.com group. The Co-op has been in full operation for over three years; our membership grows weekly. The planning continues to this day as we keep refining our goals. The Coop schedules signings and events and tries to support members’ individual readings and signings.
The majority of members are women, and self-published, but we are inclusive to all authors. We’re open to all genres, romance, fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and erotica. I’ve tried to read one book from each member. They have taken me on a wild ride while I struggle nightly to read as fast as the Coop grows.
We strive to pay attention to our writers’ needs, assist with challenges, and celebrate victories.
It’s become important to hold regular meetings and post frequent updates for members. There is a catalogue of over 100 books. This month there are marketing projects underway and library presentations.
Susan and I have continued the biweekly breakfasts. There are weeks I’d implode without them. One day soon, I’ll try an omelet instead of pancakes on the senior menu and finally be convinced that the Oxford Comma isn’t trying to destroy me personally. In the meantime, I focus on the Coop, keep the Facebook active, manage the Meetup group and procrastinate on my fifth book.
Before becoming a published writer Toni worked as an insurance adjuster in Florida and Washington State, where she now lives. Toni is a longtime civil rights activist and one of the founding directors of The Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest. She defines her genre as OA: older adult. She continues to gather stories in unlikely situations that are ripe for embellishment.