Membership in a voluntary association, unlike a marriage, requires no vow of fidelity “for better, for worse.” If SCWW is to thrive, it must strive to earn the loyalty of its members against the clamor from other organizations and causes that contend for our time and attention.
Having strong local groups is one of the ties that bind us. Not all our members belong to a chapter. Many of our “unaffiliated” members reside outside South Carolina, but there are some within this state. Perhaps we should look at why we have chapters and what we expect from them.
It seems reasonable to expect three primary things from the state-chapter relationship. First, a local chapter should provide a safe environment in which to meet with fellow writers to share experiences and learning. Second, a local chapter should endeavor to advance the craft of writing in their communities. Third, a local chapter should seek out ways to improve our organization at the state level; conversely, the state should do the same for local chapters. In other words, a strong state association and strong local groups should operate by Covey’s ryke if “Win-win or no deal.” This brings three questions to mind.
My first question to our membership is: What should SCWW do to help our local chapters function effectively? If we have members who don’t feel at home in any local chapter, why do they feel this way?
Second question: Are there ways in which we can extend the best parts of the “chapter experience” to those who live outside South Carolina?
Third, do we have the right kind of chapters? Presently, all our chapters are geographically based. Is our present chapter structure the right one for our membership? Do we need to create virtual groups or interest groups for those who write in genres such as steam punk, sci-fi, and historical fiction, which may have not have much interest at the local level?
I’d be interested in knowing how our members would answer these questions. If you think there’s something we can do to strengthen both our chapters and the state organization, please get in touch with me.