For the last year, I’ve been a member of the Academy of American Poets. In fact, this is my second time as a member; the first time, I was fresh out of college. A couple of weeks ago, I got a notice in the mail that it was time to renew my membership. I tore it up and tossed in the trash. But I did renew my subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine, and I think I’m about to go into my second year as a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). The membership is a two-year stint when I signed up last June, so it’s not up for renewal yet).
What was it about the Academy of American Poets that put it on the chopping block not once but twice?
I’m not about to disrespect the Academy. It’s a fine organization that’s been around for years, decades. But it wasn’t right for me. Over the last year, I’ve pretty much abandoned my poetry work. There are events put on by the Academy, but they’re all in New York, which doesn’t help me living in Los Angeles with no travel budget. In fact, the only benefit my membership has given me was the fact that I can put it on my resume. At $50 per year, it just didn’t seem worth it.
AWP, on the other hand, is a useful resource for a writer looking for a job. They let writers know about any job openings nationwide through their monthly newsletter, have a career services program that makes it quick and convenient for writers to send their resumes and other relevant materials to potential employers, and they’ll sometimes review you resume to see if there are any openings they feel you might be particularly interested in.
Poets & Writers Magazine is another thing that I feel worthy of a writer, as they always have information on upcoming contests and grants, as well as wonderful articles on how writers can make the most out of their talents (this is in their “Practical Writer” section, which has become my favorite part of the magazine). On top of that, a lot of the time, they have a cover story that could really boost a writer’s professional spirits; any writer will tell you that a boost in morale is welcome.
If you think that joining a bunch of literary organizations is the way to go for your career, be warned. These organizations are not gatekeepers to something grand, and membership does not promise that you’ll wallow in literary luxury. Instead, you have to find what’s out there that works for you.