(A letter from Katherine Ceruelan — please note these are only my opinions and not those of the AWA leadership team as a whole)
Recently someone asked if the Athens Writers Association’s fundraising was ‘dead in the water’. They probably didn’t mean it in a negative way but it made me realize I’d never fully explained my philosophy about money and the AWA. So indulge me if you will.
The AWA emerged from the shadows of my first group, How to Come Alive: Living Your Dreams in Athens. Both ‘Come Alive’ and the AWA share the same philosophy — encouraging each other to be the best we can be, sharing our journeys and knowledge to help others succeed, and forming a whole that is a beacon of excitement, creativity, and support.
The mistake in believing our fundraising was ‘dead in the water’ is that it assumes I ever let it out for a swim to begin with. I didn’t. If you see some value in the AWA and what we’re doing here, it is because of a plan and a philosophy.
I want you to feel encouraged and welcome at every AWA event, website, and meeting — and never feel like a consumer. We are co-creators of something grand here.
From the beginning, I didn’t want to charge any money for members to belong to our Meetup.com page (our only significant cost). I’d visited Meetup pages that asked for $5 or $10 dollars off the bat, before you even attended one meeting, and I couldn’t help feeling a little discouraged and put off, even though they were probably worth it. I even felt (and still feel) that a donation box at meetings could have a dampening effect on joy and creativity.
The conversation has come up about all the cool things we could do (prizes we could offer, equipment we could buy, etc.) if we had a treasury. And I’m in no way against anyone who wants to raise money or buy us things, but there are four reasons it kind of goes against my philosophy (and this is just me, we have lots of other important voices in the AWA) —
- Fundraising takes time (actually, secret of the universe: everything takes time). If I’m gonna spend time on the AWA, I want to get the most bang for my buck (pun intended). I want to put on a workshop, or a public reading, or edit a book of local authors for publication. If I was a new member, these are the things I’d most like to have and they are free (or nearly so).
- I don’t feel like money is the answer to some questions, like: How do we motivate people? How do we increase our membership?
- Not all AWA members have (or choose) a lifestyle that involves having extra money. For some $5 or $10 would be a hardship and even if it were voluntary, people might feel guilty or angry about not being able to give.
- And most importantly — I don’t want your mind on money. We live it a world where we are basically consumers from the moment we awake (hearing that ad on our alarm clock) to when we turn off the late night TV and go to bed, and I want AWA to be an oasis from that. You are here to create, not consume; to be an eager writer, not an instant winner, and to see the simplicity and value of less, not to instill a voraciously for more.
AWA isn’t trying to tell you how to live your life, only to give you something truly valuable in our commoditized lives — a gift with no strings attached. A place to meet others and share in the joys (and occasional pain) that is the writing life. And a tool to help you to become the great novelist, poet, playwright, etc that you are capable of being.
The AWA leadership team is made up of active, growing writers (just like you!) and we have limited time and want to create a great AWA for all its members. If you want us to focus more on fundraising, let me know. In the meantime, I remain the sole AWA financier (+ a couple of donations we’ve received at reading events). Also of note is when we attend events as a group that cost money (like fairs) one member typically shoulders the cost and the other members pay what they can so that no member is dis-included due to financial reasons. That way people who are new or unsure won’t feel like if they don’t have money then they can’t be included in the things that do cost money. And while I’d be happy share Meetup costs if anyone wants to privately email me, and while we might have some bigger ‘mini writers conference’ events in the future that would a have a cost, rest assured that AWA membership, meetings, and classes will remain as they’ve always been — free.
I understand why money and the things it buys are fun, and could be a boon to some of our members. But in the end, I kind of agree with Banksy —
Feel free to email me at Katherinecerulean@gmail.com
Thanks for listening.