Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"You're Free"

By Pat Remick

During the weekend, I completed my year-long presidency of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and my lovely parting gifts were accompanied by a card that showed an open pair of handcuffs and the words "You're Free."

While I laughed at this message, it is true. I am now FREE of a job I volunteered for that has consumed vast amounts of time over the past twelve months. Don't get me wrong -- I loved this task because of the friends I've gained, the unforgettable experiences I've enjoyed, and my great delight at seeing many of my ideas come to fruition, thanks to a supportive and hard-working board that oversees our dynamic chapter of almost 200 women and men spread over a six-state region.

MWANE President Margaret McLean and SinCNE President Me
As president, I also had the opportunity to co-chair the 9th annual New England Crime Bake for Mystery Writers and Readers with the president of the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America as these groups co-sponsor this amazing event (and profit from it). Crime Bake sold out four months early this year and featured the incredible Charlaine Harris as Guest of Honor and a "nest" (that's Vampire-speak, I've learned) of incredible New England authors led by Dennis Lehane.  Believe me, if it weren't for SinCNE, I would never appear in public in a vampire cape and sunglasses.

The conference, as I noted in a previous posting, required a great deal of time to organize, but was a blast to be part of and an experience for which I will be forever grateful. 

My point here is that serving as President and Co-Chair was memorable, fulfilling and mostly a whole lot of fun. These volunteer positions also were a whole lot of work and consumed a great deal of my time in order to further the cause of my fellow New England authors. Because my first novel is still a Work in Progress, these jobs never were platforms for promoting my books. So what did I gain from these endeavors?

I leave knowing I did the best I could to support my fellow members of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, both within our mystery writing community and outside of it. I made wonderful writing friends and had an opportunity to work with incredible people who also love mysteries. In sum: This past year has been a wonderful experience.

But now, it's time to move on -- and back to where I belong. The closing words of the card thanking me for my hard work and inspiration were: "Now get back to writing!" And that's what I plan to do.

But this has been my dilemma over the past year: The more time I devoted to SinCNE and Crime Bake, the less I had for my own writing. However, my thank you card reminds me that I'm "FREE" to return to it once again, with my life much richer because of my experiences.

I'm sure many of us have faced this conundrum -- wanting to support the writing community but knowing it could interfere with our own writing. Which choice did you make -- and why? 


Wilfred Bereswill said...

For me it was trying to find time to write while promoting my first book. You're constantly thinking about how to increase sales and doing appearances. It is hard to balance.

Ramona said...

Pat, for the record, this was my first experience at Crime Bake, and it was terrific. You all put on a fabulous conference that I will attend as often as I am able.

Volunteering--boy, what a subject. As a parent, I went above and beyond and look back with some regret. I should have been working for money.

One thing I did was mentor a book group at a large public high school, for about three years. It make me crazy at times, because some of the kids were trouble, but I wouldn't take back a moment of it. I learned a lot as a writer, too, listening to their opinions.

Next year, I will be involved in a venture between the public library and a local writer's group, offering monthly free writes, open to the public on Saturday mornings. I'm going to be the facilitator, which means I have to run the show. We will see how that goes.

Jennie Bentley said...

I prioritize the writing. It's my job and my career and it takes up a ton of time. I'm a member of a whole bunch of organizations, and if I make it out to one meeting for any one of them per month, I'm doing good. I don't have the time to serve on the board, or arrange the conference, or judge the contest, or any of those ongoing things, but I figure that by being a part of the organization, as a published member, and being available - at least by phone or email - I'm doing something to help. Hope that doesn't sound too terribly self-congratulatory; I don't mean it that way, honest.

Annette said...

Oh, Pat, this really hits home for me. I'm also finishing up a year as president of our Pittsburgh (Mary Roberts Rinehart) Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I've been an area rep for Pennwriters for 6 years (I think) and I was their conference coordinator in 2009. But I'm determined to scale back. No more conference chairs. No office with my Sisters in Crime this year. And one last year as area rep for Pennwriters. I've decided that every time I say "yes" to some volunteer project, I'm saying "no" to my writing. Does that mean I'm giving up volunteering? Heck, no. I don't think I can. But I intend to pick and choose and NOT overload my plate anymore.

Any someone please remind me of that if you see my hand go up at a meeting!

patremick said...

It really is hard sometimes to just say no... but I am going to be more Jennie-like to prioritize my writing. I have volunteered so many places in the writing community and outside of it, but now it's time for me to do this. We should think about this as New Year's resolutions (blogging theme?) perhaps! Thanks Ramona re the Crime Bake -- it WAS a blast!