This interview features published author, Joanne Fisher. As the current President of the Space Coast Writers’ Guild, Joanne offers insight, advice, and guidance for writers looking to join an association.
To start, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in the Space Coast Writers’ Guild?
Joanne: About 2017, my first book was ready to be published called With All Of Me, and I had been writing it for about ten years. I had no clue how to publish, where to go, or what to do. So, I ended up finding a vanity publisher. For those who don’t know, vanity publishers charge you for publishing your book and then basically own the rights. But, they give you a percentage of the sales, the royalties when your books get sold, and all of that.
Once I finally got my book published, I started looking for local authors and was directed to the Space Coast Writers’ Guild, and I’ve been going ever since. The guild has been super helpful and has taught me a lot about the industry. When I was presented with the opportunity to become president in April of 2019, I accepted and was voted in.
I’m a Canadian Italian American author. That means that I was born in Canada then moved to Italy when I was about 20 years old or so, right out of college. I lived there for 18 years and got married. All three of my children were born there. Then, my ex-husband and I returned to Canada in 1997. After we divorced, I met my current husband, who was living in Central Florida. I now live in Central Florida as well and love it.
Can you tell me more about the offerings of the Space Coast Writers’ Guild for people who are interested?
Joanne: The Space Coast Writers’ Guild’s motto is transforming wishes into reality and ideas into words. We offer a variety of programs and speakers at our monthly meetings. Before COVID, we would get together on the third Saturday of every month, and our speaker would discuss different aspects of the writing and publishing industry. Some people came and talked about how to write adventure books. Others talked about how to write a murder mystery, a romance, or a Christmas novel. Speakers also talked about how to publish on Amazon or how to look for a traditional publisher. We have so many different speakers who cover a range of topics. Many of the speakers are our members as well, so we like to present our own.
The membership is only $40 a year, and you have the opportunity of getting your writing published. We print an anthology every year, and each good standing member gets to submit a poem, short story, or screenplay. We normally release the anthology around Christmas time, and it’s a great gift because you read a chapter, which is a single short story, story, or screenplay, and then you can put it down to continue reading later. We’ve also been starting to meet in person again at the Eau Gallie Library. Slowly but surely, our crowd is coming back. The library has been so accommodating. They’re allowing us to spread out. We’ve even had some people at the library come and listen in, so that’s pretty cool. If you have any interest, please come and join us!
In your opinion, why is it important for authors to join an association?
Joanne: It’s important to join a writer group of any shape or form. There are famous writing groups like RWA, which is the Romance Writers of America. There’s the Mystery Writers of America. There’s the Sci-fi Writers of America. All these huge groups have local chapters. For example, in the Space Coast, we have the Space Coast Writers of Romance, which is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. I was part of them, too but left when I took on the presidency to be more involved in the guild. I’ll probably go back though after I’m done with my assignment here and see what my experience can offer them.
Overall, I would strongly recommend that you join any kind of writer or author group because you learn a lot and they become family. Our guild supports one another. We read each other’s books, review each other’s books, and give advice. A lot of the authors are also editors, which is great once your story needs an editor. There are all sorts of talented people that will donate their time to these kinds of organizations. So definitely, before you do anything, join a group.
What’s the importance of having others critique your work?
Joanne: A critique group consists of many authors or writers who come together with different literary backgrounds to provide critique. You don’t have to take their advice if you don’t want to, but they are there just to say, “I think that sentence would flow better if you write it this way.” Or, “What’s the idea that you’re trying to get across, and maybe we can make it more clear for the reader.” Critique is important because many heads are better than one.
I’ve had my work critiqued many times. I always try to give them my first two or three chapters when I’m writing something. And then, based on the critique I receive, I try and continue the rest of the book using their advice. They’ve helped me improve my writing dramatically since I first started.
For new authors who haven’t been published yet, how can joining an association help them do that?
Joanne: In a group like ours, there are some authors who have been published and some who have not. Associations allow you to write an article or a short story and submit it in various contests. For example, we just finished a short story contest. We had three winners and two honorable mentions, and they got prizes. It’s not a lot of money but around $100 or $200. From a contest, you might also win a free review or critique of your writing.
So, anyone, even if they’re just jotting down ideas, should join a group. We can help you transform those ideas into a good short story, poem, or novel. We have a lot of experienced people who have published many books, not just one. And they can also help teach you the publishing process.
How would you say COVID-19 has changed writing groups?
Joanne: Well, when COVID first hit, we had to cancel a couple of meetings. Then in April, we started doing zoom meetings. I love modern technology, but sometimes people couldn’t connect, or they would lose their internet. But now, we’ve been offering meetings both virtually and in-person.
Last month, we had a speaker present in person and used Facebook Messenger Rooms to record it, so people at home were able to watch. Facebook Messenger Rooms is easy to use and very straightforward. It’s been working very well for us. So, if you’re not comfortable meeting in person, you can certainly join online!
Do you have any general advice for new writers?
Joanne: My advice is, don’t worry about formatting. Don’t worry about editing. If you have an idea in your head, write it down. Even if you have a dream and you say, “Wow, this would make a great sci-fi novel,” write it down. Don’t worry about all the details. Those will come later. But definitely, if you have an idea, write it down and join a writer group. Even if you’re not in our area and can’t join the Space Coast Writers’ Guild, join any group. You will get the help you need.
Do you have anything else you’d like readers of this Q&A to know?
Joanne: If you want to visit the Space Coast Writers’ Guild website, you can go to https://scwg.org/. There you can hit the join button, and $40 will give you a year-long membership. If you are a published author, we have a tab called “Our Authors” on the web, and we will post your picture, bio, and the titles of the book(s) you’ve written. We will also post your website and social media.
With regard to myself, I’ve written about ten books so far. My range of genres includes historical fiction, murder mystery, and also steamy romances. My husband and I are traveling Boomers, so I have also written a couple of travel guides. One is called the Traveling Boomers First Stop: Italy. The second is called Traveling Boomers Second Stop: Israel. Visit our website https://thetravelingboomers.com/ to read more advice from a seasoned traveler’s perspective.