Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Organizations & Conferences: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I must admit, I've never really been a "joiner." Although I've been a published writer for many years it was always the last thing on my agenda to join organizations associated with my writing. All of my writing buddies urged me to join the local RWA, the national this and the regional that. As my writing began to delve into areas outside of romance, I was encouraged to join Novelist Inc., and Mystery Writers of America to name a few. I'm not really sure what my disinterest is exactly, although I more than enjoy going to the the organization parties and conferences. It's great to see my friends, that I only connect with via email and the parties hosted by the publishing houses always have great food.

I suppose there is an inherent need in all of us to "belong," to find a place in life to fit in and find others like ourselves with whom we can communicate on a level that is foreign to anyone outside of this special circle. We each long to be recognized for our accomplishments and contributions and who better to bestow accolades upon us than our peers. As writers, our faces are not readily recognizable to the general population, but to our fans... well that is an entirely different rush. Who can deny the puffed up chest feeling you get when a perfect stranger (at a conference) rushes up to you and says "I love all your work!!! I'm your biggest fan." Or... you hear the whispers as you stroll through the conference hotel ".... isn't that Suzie Q.... I just love her....get her autograph... hurry before she gets on the elevator." Aaah, the rush of celebrity.

Of course organizational conferences range from the mind-numbing to the Vegas extravaganza--and everything in between. Ideally they are set up to network, show your wares, promote yourself or your business and to recognize those individuals who have made a notable contribution to the industry during the year.

So what is the purpose of today's monologue? Actually, I'm gearing myself up for our annual conference, the Romance Slam Jam. http://romanceslamjam.com This is our ten year anniversary. There is that part of me that cringes at the process of simply "getting ready to go," the packing, the remembering to take stuff, my presentation, the right outfit for the right event. And then there is a part that is looking forward to seeing my friends who can appreciate the same woes and triumphs of the writing life.

But one thing I must admit that I always take away from the conferences is a new burst of energy. I'm almost anxious to get home, or at least up to my hotel room to write... to knock out that chapter. It's almost as if I become enfused with the energy and excitiment of everyone there. And all the angst about traveling and having the right outfit and enough bookmarks don't matter anymore. It really is about the work and sharing and reveling in ourselves and each other, by those who truly understand.

So maybe there really is something to the whole joining thing. Instead of waiting once or twice a year to be filled with literary elixir, you can get it on a regular basis, once a month at the location of the groups choice--and you won't need to pack, catch a plane or Amtrak to get there. Hmm, what a novel idea.

Do any of you belong to groups or organizations, local and national? What has been your experience and more importantly what do you find you get out of it?


Kim Ray said...

Hi Donna:

I enjoyed looking at your blog. Very informative.

My friend Misherald Brown is at RSJ and told me that she gave you one of the packages I sent out to shop my novel. She indicated that you would be giving it to your agent. I think it's only fair to say that I already submitted it to her, and she turned it down. But maybe taking a fresh look will change her mind (fingers crossed). Whatever the case, I wanted to say thanks in advance for even taking a look at it.

By the way, I have a blog too: www.suburbansista.blogspot.com

Stop by sometime.


Anonymous said...

Mayflower Compact Coalition (Wangstas Fo' Shizzle My Nizzle)...

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman today attended the unveiling of the 21st Century Mayflower Compact at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C.. The nine-point agenda includes support for school choice and private Social Security accounts. The Coalition is advised in part by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s consulting firm.

African Americans often reach different and surprising conclusions on social issues that the casual (Caucasian) observer just won’t understand. For example, Black folks still want to see Michael Jackson find happiness. His high-pitched voice and soulful delivery is the soundtrack of generations and has a permanent place in the Black community’s psyche, no matter the plastic surgery, skin bleaching and alleged child molestation charges. Possibly, it’s the “he’s still Black” phenomenon that African Americans well understand. They want Michael Jackson’s name cleared. In short, they want him to make good music and just leave the damn kids alone.

Likewise, Blacks see Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance Program, popularly known as Social Security, as an entitlement forced into place during a period when “bigots” wanted to run things. And against the odds, a well respected Franklin Roosevelt was able to established needed protection for the public from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment. As its original name suggest, African Americans believe the insurance program was created to do much more than provide an old age benefit.

Wangstas (whites and uh oh oreos) are extremely white people who attempt to be “gangsta” (cool with Black people) in order to “pimp out.” They dress, speak and act for all practical purposes as an African American aside from the fact that they are not. Normally they are hated by the fam for being fake.

The White House and its oreos who support overhauling Social Security have launched a highly targeted campaign to convince Black people that President Bush’s plan to create private investment accounts will have special benefits for them. The ghetto fab element about the GOP message to African Americans: “The shorter life expectancy of Black males means Social Security in its current form is not a favorable deal.”

Proponents of privatizing social security who claim no group has as much at stake in the debate over reform as African Americans, in fact, are right. Black families of workers who become disabled or die are much more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be dependent on the grip available from disability and/or survivor benefits. Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 23 percent of African American children receive survivor benefits, and 18 percent of the community are disability beneficiaries.

Although the wangstas are making a special effort to appeal to the strizzeet with the 21st Century Mayflower Compact, the “lower life expectancies” illusion appears to reached every one except the African American senior. Their attempt to focus on a very narrow element of the system (current program based on longevity is unfair) is misplaced and doesn’t gain cool points. What the oreos fail to realize is their attempt to be “down” for da brothas... is just “gosh-darn” obnoxious (using their vernacular) and another clue identifying the new face of segregation.


Social Security is an insurance program that protects workers and their families against the income loss that occurs when a worker retires, becomes disabled, or dies. All workers will eventually either grow too old to compete in the labor market, become disabled, or die. President Roosevelt created the program to insure all workers and their families against these universal risks, while spreading the costs and benefits of that insurance protection among the entire workforce.

It is a “pay as you go” program, which means the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) payroll tax paid by today’s workers are not set aside to pay their own benefits down the road, but rather go to pay the benefits of current recipients. The tax is progressive. The low-wage workers receive a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings from the program than higher-wage workers. And, in the 1980's, Congress passed reforms to raise extra tax revenues above and beyond the current need and set up a trust fund to hold a reserve.

As was the case when the program was established, higher-wage workers still oppose the social nature of the program. They argue low rates of return as a reason to switch from the current “pay-as-you-go” system to one in which individual workers claim their own contribution and decide where and how to invest it. In short, rather than sharing the risk across the entire workforce to ensure that all workers and their families are protected from old age, disability, and death, higher-wage workers want to enable opportunity to reap gains from private investment without having to help protect lower-wage workers from their disproportionate risks.

Allowing high-wage workers (who are more likely to live long enough to retire) opportunity to opt out of the general risk pool and devote all their money to retirement without having to cover the risk of those who may become disabled or die, is da fo’ shizzle identifying the republican party’s desire to return to a segregated society.

Roosevelt’s benefit formula currently in place intentionally helps low income earners. Lifetime earnings directly factor into the formula. And, thirty-five percent of Black workers born between 1931 and 1940 had lifetime earnings that fell into the bottom fifth of earnings received by workers born in these years. African Americans’ median earnings (working-age in jobs covered by Social Security in 2002) were about $21,200, compared to $28,400 for all working-age people.

HNIC, President Bush, does acknowledge the difficulty Blacks will have in accumulating enough savings in their individual accounts to provide for a secure retirement once the progressivity of the current system is eliminated. However, he has only suggested allowing lower-income workers to place higher portions of their income into the uncertainties of investment accounts (creating even more risk).

Yes! Private accounts would be passed on to children or other heirs. But, what the HNIC and his oreos doesn’t explain is lower-income workers would be forced to buy an annuity large enough (when combined with their traditional Social Security benefit) to ensure that they would at least have a poverty level income for retirement.

Yo’ playa... da new private Social Security account fizzle sucks!