No Time for Writer's Block: Writers of Southern Nevada Perseveres During the Pandemic
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
As the pandemic has granted more time and opportunity to writers of both fiction and nonfiction, it has also increased the need for those writers to understand the writing industry's legal and business aspects. Which, is one of the goals of the local writing group, Writers of Southern Nevada.
Writers of Southern Nevada (WSN) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit literacy organization made up of both fiction and nonfiction wordsmiths of varied backgrounds working to advance their writing careers and businesses.
Eric James Miller, the President of WSN, shared how the group is equally split between fiction versus nonfiction members. They also discuss topics related to corporate writing, copywriting, and journalism.
Founded in 2010, WSN became a membership-based organization in 2014, changed its charter to accept members, and become a collective of like-minded authors. According to Miller, almost all 30 members they presently have are published, full-time working authors.
He also shared that the group won the 2017 Las Vegas Book Festival’s Crystal Bookmark Award. They won this as recognition for their community service through their ‘Painted Stories’ program, where authors read from their work while an artist paints what they hear, as the audience absorbs both the words and the art.
According to Miller, what sets WSN apart from other writing groups is that they focus a little more on nonfiction, whereas most writing groups predominantly lean more toward fiction writing. Miller himself, and some of the other board members, have a background in entertainment arts and law, legal writing, and accounting, and have used that experience in the organization to provide resources to writers on the business aspects of writing, in addition to the craft of writing.
“[We] have done workshops on basic contracts, discussions on the business of writing, how to file your LLC, the benefits of becoming a sole proprietor, how to run your business, how royalties work, [and so on],” Miller said. He added that running your business as a successful writer goes beyond whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.
“With writers having extra time to write in recent months, it’s more important than ever to understand the business aspects that come with being an author,” Miller said. “You have to have those cards stacked in place - it doesn’t matter how you’re published.”
As a result of the pandemic, WSN had to slow down or halt some of their programming; they lost some of their revenue streams, lost a few members, and started holding their ‘Writers Roundtable’ monthly meetings virtually. These meetings are usually moderated by the Programming Director and UNLV journalism professor, Greg Blake Miller (no relation).
They also look for outside guests to bring in who cover specialized topics. “Last year we had Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner lead a discussion about different types of weather systems, weather phenomena, and weather jargon,” Miller said. “We plan to have more expert presenters on topics in the future so that writers can add new and interesting levels and language to their writing.”
Miller said that they are doing the meetings via Zoom now and that they have seen both a negative and positive outcome from that change. While they lost the person-to-person aspect, they now have members who can now join them who were unable to before.
“We have members across multiple states who weren’t previously able to join in on the in-person meetings, but with Zoom, they are now,” he said, adding that this ultimately has helped them expand their reach to their members.
One of the programs affected by the pandemic that presently would not be effectively transferred to a virtual setting is their ‘Painted Stories’ series mentioned previously. “Watching a person paint while listening to someone else read doesn’t have the same visceral magic in a virtual setting as it does in a live setting,” Miller said.
Miller also spoke of their ‘Dueling Artists’ program, where two different artists were painting simultaneously.
“What the artists hear is what they paint, and they interpret the words they hear differently which is what makes it so interesting to the audience,” he said, adding that they would then pay the artists for their time and give the painting to the author. This program has also been put on hold for now.
During the pandemic, WSN didn’t program any events or workshops, but they are actively keeping people optimistic about next year and have responded by looking to the future.
“We have to form a new path,” he said, adding, “We’ve adapted for this year, moved what we can online, and we’re reevaluating and looking at the future.”
Regarding the group’s outlook, Miller said that they are working on a new three-part publishing workshop series through their Writers Roundtable, called, "Publishing During The Pandemic", where people can access working authors who are “making it happen during the pandemic” and learn how they’re getting published. The first part of the series launched on October 20th.
Usually, the Roundtables are members-only or allow non-members to join by making a $5 donation. This series, however, is free.