I joined a writers group, thinking I'd meet critique partners, sell my novels from the group's table at area farmers markets, and be interviewed for the group's monthly video program. Each event appealed greatly, since I usually love meeting other writers and of course readers. But before one year has passed in my membership, all reasons that I joined this group have imploded, either due to rules changes or volunteer flakiness, and my inability to tolerate both.
Of greatest interest to me, the group offered weekly Zoom sessions for member interactions. I had thought it was a "Hi, how are you group," but the first time I showed up, I found out the group had changed its rules. Participants now were required to present work for review—which was fine, but I didn't have anything new to present. Another problem: the work had to be three pages or less, double spaced. Since most of my novel chapters run 9 to 12 pages in manuscript format, I didn't want feedback on 1/3 to 1/4 of a chapter. Sadly, I have not been back to that group.
Next, I signed up to sell books from the group's table at a farmer's market, but the group changed its rules, fearing that its nonprofit status would be ruined by members making a profit. Instead of a club activity, the booth suddenly became the sole enterprise of a woman who, well, was a bit more difficult than I wanted to handle. Luckily on the morning I was to sell, Bill had one of his intuitions and came with me out of concern. After waiting about a half hour for the table host to show up, we were greeted haughtily by a tall, dark-haired woman, garishly made up and dressed in a wild-west costume. After helping her set up, Bill witnessed a progression of negative glares and diatribes from this woman—each directed at me whenever I engaged with customers. Impatiently, the woman took me aside to say that she was now going to teach me how to sell books, as if I had not had success doing so at many previous book sales events. As our conversation became an argument, I got up and whispered to Bill that we were leaving. When the woman demanded to know why, Bill added in his physician's succinct way, "We don't need you telling us how to sell books." The woman became irate and spewed personal insults at my back, to which I turned and replied, "Aloha, Sweetie." That was rude of me, but I'm not good at taking insults. Needless to say, I won't be at that table again.
Life Has Gotten Crazy
The final blow to my joiner status came today, when I was scheduled to be interviewed for the group's monthly video program. Several months ago, the host booked me for 3:00 p.m. today. I did a lot of prep on my topic of writing a sequel to a mystery. And I'd honed my first chapter of ICE AND FIRE to read. However, the host sent a group email late yesterday afternoon, saying she would upload the final episode of her program today. Unsure if she meant my scheduled episode, I emailed her to ask if she still planned to tape me today. With not much of an apology, she replied that her life had gotten crazy. Gosh, could she not let me know this before the morning of the interview? I understand she was volunteering her time, but this program had been advertised on the club's website as a benefit of membership, and I had been prepping for a couple of days.
Is It Me or Random Circumstances?
I understand that group activities and events are led by volunteers, and they have wants, ideas, schedules, and procedures different from my own. But when nothing of benefit has come from being a member of this group, I fear it's time to either resign or let my membership lapse. Regrettably, this has not been the only time I've joined a group and naively hoped for social benefit, but quickly found myself let down, if not resentful.
Which begs the question: In order to be a good joiner, must I accept life's random roadblocks with a dismissive sigh, and tolerate flaws in human nature with patience and understanding? I dunnoh if any of those things are in my genes, but for now I suspect I'm simply not a good joiner. A lot of famous writers haven't been, either. Not that I'm famous, but I have little capacity to accept insults or uncaring attitudes without a verbal reply.