Giving Back Gives Back
By Wendy Tyson
My family moved from Philadelphia to Vermont last year, and I’ve spent the last ten months getting further acquainted with our new hometown. Small-town living is quite different from life in the sprawling suburb where we used to live. Everyone has been welcoming, and I’ve had the chance to get to know many of my neighbors, including the local florist. She and I found we have a mutual interest in plants and gardening. One conversation led to another and we decided to do a joint event: a book sale and signing at her shop with proceeds of the sale going to a local food bank. She would promote my books through consignment sales, and I would promote her shop by advertising the event. Hopefully the real winner will be the food bank we sponsor.
This obviously is a small event, and writers paying it forward is nothing new. Dean Koontz, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, James Patterson…these are just a few of the authors who have made donating to charities a priority. But giving back doesn’t have to mean major philanthropy. Looking to get more involved? Here are a few ways I’ve enjoyed contributing to the larger writing community—and the general public:
- Get to know local libraries and independent bookstores. If I’m lucky enough to have a great indie bookstore nearby, I visit it frequently—attending events, buying books, mentioning it online, and offering to do signings. Same for public libraries. I’ve found local libraries to be a great support and resource. You can offer to help the library by holding workshops and participating in speaking events. I’ve also donated signed books and Greenhous Mysteries-related items for raffles and auctions that benefit the library.
- Mentor other writers. Once published, other writers will reach out—for guidance, support, even endorsements. Taking the time to respond to them will mean a lot, even if you can’t do what they’re asking. We’ve all been new authors at some point. It can be difficult deciphering the confusing world of publishing, and new and aspiring authors appreciate the benefit of others’ experience.
- Teach a class. Sharing your insight is a great way to give back. This can be done individually, but also through workshops and at conferences. If you have a particular skill, offer to teach a class. Writing festivals are often looking for workshop leaders, as are libraries. Teaching is also a great way to make connections.
- Visit book clubs. I love book clubs, and I’ve found book club visits to be a terrific way to connect with readers. Plus, in my experience, book club members are incredibly appreciative of an author’s time. Every time I attend one, I learn something new about my own work—and I make new friends. You don’t have to go to someone’s house. You can offer to meet in a public place (such as a library, coffee shop, or bookstore), or you can do it online via Skype or another platform.
- Help kids. One of my favorite ways of giving back is by teaching kids and talking to kids about writing. I’ve found kids of all ages eager to learn and excited about the possibilities. Stop by your local schools and offer to talk to students, or reach out to local libraries or camps.
- Do you write about a particular hobby? Children’s’ books? Does your day job offer a special skillset? Find a way to use your platform to raise money for a worthy cause related to your work—or a cause close to your heart. I love to raise money for a local animal rescue at my signings. Sometimes fund raising can be as simple as doing a book signing at a nonprofit event or donating proceeds on a given date to a charity of choice.
- There really are endless ways you can volunteer to use your writing abilities to benefit others. From taking on a role in a writing organization, to writing brochures for a local charity, to donating your time during a writing convention, you’ll likely find people eager for your help and expertise.
- Organize around a cause. Last year I was invited to write a short story for an anthology that would benefit survivors of violent crime, especially domestic abuse survivors. The task was straight forward: write a short story that touches on domestic violence. The result was Betrayed: Powerful Stories of Kick-Ass Crime Survivors. Twenty-two crime authors, including Allison Brennan, donated their time and words to the anthology, and many other people gave marketing, design, or other expertise. The book came out last November and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding things I have been part of as an author. It all came together because of one woman’s vision and passion. Don’t be afraid to rally the troops for a good cause—or contribute to another’s project.
For me, a writing career has been a life-long dream. The chance to pay that opportunity forward? Priceless.