Sunday, July 26, 2009

Help Other Writers to Help Yourself

Welcome Kate,
Kate Robinson is an author of children's fiction and non-fiction, a poet, freelance writer, editor, researcher, and PR specialist
Besides her own work as a writer and editor, Kate is the Webmaster and Google loop moderator for PWP (The Professional Writers of Prescott, AZ) a large, diverse regional writers' organization.

Tell me how taking on volunteer tasks have benefited you?

My work with PWP started with a simple desire to give back to the people who gave me a boost. Bear in mind that it's not only the most experienced people who help you - I've found that I gathered bits and pieces of knowledge and wisdom from beginning and emerging writers as well as seasoned professionals. We're all students and we're all teachers, twenty-four/seven.

By putting one foot in front of the other you can give much more to others than you ever dreamed possible. Publishing and the arts thrive on networking, and networking benefits exponentially when writers and artisans volunteer.

I've gained more writing and editing friends than I ever could have had I decided that my writing time was too precious to give up. Another side benefit is learning about book and author promotion and the publishing industry. I've also learned much about technology by butting heads with the computer beast during the course of posting information on the PWP website!

How did you get so involved in your local writers' group?

As I finished working on my BA at Prescott College in the late 90s, a friend who arranged monthly programs for the Yavapai Archaeological Society inspired me to take my writing seriously and to join PWP.

I never felt I knew enough to serve the group and leaned toward trying my hand on the newsletter, but was pushed (shoved incredulously!) by outgoing VP for Programs to take his place. I would never have volunteered to arrange programs. It turned out to be a truly fun and rewarding. I'd encourage anyone to try their hand at a programs position or any position they feel an affinity for! Groups always need volunteers and creative ideas for fundraising and community outreach.

The following year, I had the idea to e-mail writing contest guidelines and writing calls for submissions to PWP members. I was collecting submission info for myself and it wasn't a stretch to collect a few more and mail them out as the e-zine "E-PWP."

I took a class in computer graphics while I worked at the Phippen Art Museum. Two of my ten thousand duties there were to update the museum website and to design, compose, and schedule museum advertising and press releases. Next, I took a technology in the classroom online class and a class in editing and proofreading.

I'm a little obsessive/compulsive about gathering and organizing information and felt the PWP website could offer a lot more to members, so it became a natural place for me to dabble. I had just enough skills and confidence and crazy determination when founding PWP webmaster moved to Arkansas. The site has truly "mastered" me and has taken a lot more time than I thought possible!

After a year of struggling to reorganize the website and to gain new web skills, I revamped the old PWP Google Forum page, into a member listserv that members now use to share writing news and tips and their personal successes. I brought the old E-PWP into the new forum as "Friday Markets," "More Friday Markets," and "Even More Friday Markets."

I'm also a member of the Arizona State Poetry Society and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Arizona, but haven't served as a volunteer in those organizations.

I'm sure that's only because they don't know what a talented volunteer they have waiting in the wings. Have any tasks pushed you out of your comfort zone?

I'm a major introvert and recluse, so anything that forces me to have public contact takes me out of my comfort zone.

How do you balance all your work?

I'm not sure that I live in balance - I'm an inch away from being a workaholic and my kids complain that I spend far too much time facing my computer. My work is fun. I can hardly wait to turn the computer on every day! Ironically, the speed of modern communications is matched by the complex web of time and energy that it takes to produce these "quick" pages and modules of information.

That said, I ATTEMPT to live a life in balance. I take time out for meditation and contemplation and exercise and entertainment - sometimes these happen all at once. As in a jog through my neighborhood, surrounded by scenic state land, I never know what I'm going to encounter. One evening I'll see a pair of deer, the next a big buck pronghorn, and some nights, a group of javelina or baby cottontails. Other times I'll meditate and read before bedtime, or watch a movie with the kids. The conundrum with teenagers is that when you make yourself available, they make themselves scarce!

What advice would you give to writers who are considering volunteering their valuable time to help other writers?

Do it! The loss of personal time is compensated by the metaphorical riches of giving. I don't think we advance far in our own endeavors until we share our skills with others. Accumulation of good merit is the fuel injector treatment for our personal aspirations and for even greater service. Spiritual teachers from all philosophies say that serving one another is the essence of life.

Thank you, Kate, for sharing your path. I hope writers at all stages consider volunteering with local writers groups and chapters of national organizations, both general and genre specific.

Kate Robinson is a K-12 sub teacher and the author of two middle-grade nonfiction books. Her poetry, short stories and creative nonfiction appear in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Literary Mama and Absolute Write. Her most recent published work is a slipstream sci-fi story anthologized by Elastic Press..

Her works-in-progress includes a novel, a group of linked nature essays,
flash fiction, and children's picture book fiction and nonfiction. Her second children's nonfiction book, Lewis and Clark, is slated for October 2009 release. She lives in Chino Valley, AZ.

Visit Kate at her website. Learn about Kate's Starstone Literary Services.


  1. Kate, I enjoy volunteering with my local RWA chapter, WisRWA. And I struggle with balance in my life, too. My kids complain about my computer time, so I have to make sure I make time for them each day. :)

  2. I do help others and volunteer my time. I never expect anything from it but it always come back to me


  3. Amber, what a great tribute to Kate Robinson via interview. Kath's philosphy certainly supports the great saying, "What goes around, comes around."

  4. You're all an inspiration to me - thanks for posting your comments!

    Keep writing and volunteering and seeking balance . . .