Recently I listened to leaders of three organizations, all similar in their work, discuss their passion for what they do. All three have become successful by helping others. All three said they are not in competition and actually work together when they can.
This brought to mind my own work as teacher, mentor and writer. In recent months I have seen bitter conflict, ugly accusations and even have fallen prey to my own fears from those who imitate what we in NCWN West have accomplished in the past twenty plus years.
Many, many writing events have been held and sponsored by NCWN West including all day conferences from Lake Logan in Haywood County to Blairsville, Georgia. We have held three-hour workshops at the Senior Center in Hayesville, at church fellowship halls, and in the libraries. Netwest has sponsored visits from some of the best writers and poets, all who have added to the success of local writers.
Netwest sponsors four events every month in the Cherokee, Clay and Towns County area. Two counties, Henderson and Transylvania, have begun free open microphone events for writers, set up by Netwest Representatives and sponsored by NCWN West.
I think of the North Carolina Writers Network, our state literary agency, as the parent of all of us and NCWN West (Netwest) as the oldest child. Beginning with Marsha Warren, Nancy Simpson, Kathryn Byer and others, models were set up that served writers in the southwestern part of North Carolina and neighboring states.
Under the umbrella of the state, Netwest organized events for local poets and writers. Although this was not so long ago, it was a time before the Internet and instant messaging. Thank God for the telephone and newspapers.
In the past decade, communication changed and with these changes, our world as we knew it changed. Suddenly writers found other writers in their own towns, in their own neighborhoods, and even around the world. Writing groups began to form such as the Winston-Salem Writers. They began holding events within their region similar to what we had been doing in the mountain area. With the opportunity to go online, create a website, an organization could quickly be born. Some of them last, some don’t.
Because NCWN supports and serves all writers in North Carolina, it doesn’t deny any group and even promotes their events when asked. Small groups of like-minded writers have discovered each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other online systems.
Where do leaders of these groups get their ideas? Often from NCWN and from Netwest. Netwest has been called, in the past, the star of the Network. Ed Southern, Executive Director of NCWN, admits he liked the way Netwest appointed county representatives to reach writers throughout the region. He used that concept when he began appointing regional reps for the Network and found it to be an excellent way to serve members and non-members.
Now it seems we have other imitators setting up in the Netwest region. Again, we should be flattered. It shows we, our leaders in Netwest, have done a great job and continue to do good work in the far western mountains.
Recently a woman in another town told me she was thinking of copying my idea of holding writing classes in my home studio. She needs a chemically free environment as I do, so why shouldn't she?
Our first inclination when we hear of people usurping our ideas, our successful ventures, might be anger. “How could they?” We might resent the way it is done. But on more careful thought, we have to realize that through unity we can reach more people, do more good and be more successful ourselves.
Competition has never come between us in Netwest. As J.C. Walkup said in a recent post on our former website, this group of writers does not compete against each other. Instead we help each other to succeed. In my opinion, it is wrong to bash an organization, or try to undermine it, especially if you are a member. Far better to simply drop out or never join.
Thankfully, the reputation of inclusiveness of NCWN West precedes us throughout the region and the state. We are here to serve writers according to our mission statement. If you haven’t read it, please visit our website: www.ncwriters-west.org and learn all about us. If you live in a far away place, feel free to copy our concept and serve writers in your area.
Imitation is, indeed, the sincerest form of flattery.
These opinions are those of Glenda C. Beall, former Program Coordinator for NCWN West. She holds writing classes at her home studio. Read more at www.glendacouncilbeall.blogspot.com