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A New Era Starts Now

When I showed up to my first OWA workshop, the nervousness that plagues anyone doing something new filled my stomach. Feedback isn’t easy, and the first workshop is always the hardest. Can you remember the first time you got feedback on your work?

I wasn’t sure anyone would like my story. For whatever reason, my story ended up being last, so I sat for two hours, sweating, pushing back drinks to ease my nerves, waiting for my turn.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive good feedback and encouragement. After years of writing in isolation—made worse by COVID—it was a breath of fresh air. That short story went on to make it into the recent Outcasts anthology, and I’ve been showing up to workshops ever since.

When I first submitted a story for feedback, I never imagined I’d be emailing you, introducing myself as the new president of Ohio Writers’ Association.

It’s a pretty simple story. With Brad and Emily moving on to other things, a few of us started talking about what OWA could look like moving forward. I reached out to Brad, pitched the idea of transitioning it to a nonprofit, and here we are. I’m so glad to be doing this with a team of people: Devon, George, and Jim—all regulars to the feedback group. (To read more about our team scroll down to our bios.)

Why a nonprofit? Well, on a practical level, it’s what I’m familiar with. I’ve helped launch numerous nonprofit and community organizations in the past, and knew the model would work well for our writers’ group. But also, I love the fact that we can rest assured that any profits gathered from OWA endeavors stays within the organization, reinvested into the mission of supporting Ohio writers. Also, with a board on rotating terms, we can set OWA to continue on well beyond our current leadership. Add to this, extra levels of transparency and the ability for a board to set vision and goals—it’s the perfect fit for this season of OWA.

As president, here are my hopes for the coming year.

First, we want to keep the workshops going and, over time, expand them, offering more opportunities for people to improve their writing as well as cultivate a community where members can make connections in the writing world.

Second, we want to open a conversation with you all about what your needs and wants are. The hope for this association is to serve writers in ways they find meaningful and productive to their writing. In the near future, we will be sending out a survey. We’d love your input.

Third, I want to continue building a safe and inclusive writer community. If you identify as a person of color, black, LGBTQ+ and have ideas on how we can help OWA serve a more diverse group of writers, please reach out. I promise to be a safe place, and commit to listening and learning.

Fourth, we will be rolling out new services that we hope you will find meaningful and well worth the $35/year membership fee. Later this spring, we hope to have a new website, workshops, resources, and publishing opportunities. Through it all, I want to take every ounce of OWA’s resources and use them to support and advance the members of OWA.

As we move forward, I’m honored to dream together. Writing is a lonely endeavor, which is why we’re better together.

A couple of housekeeping notes.

1. We’re all volunteers, and as such, I’m a big fan of slow and steady. Let’s just keep moving forward. Having said that, if I’m slow to reply or things seem quiet, please be patient. We’re doing the best we can. And if you want to help us do more, let me know.

2. As the founder, and as part of the donation agreement, Brad Pauquette continues to have access to OWA’s social media and mailer list. As such, you might see some posts and emails from him. The primary purpose of this is to promote past anthologies, which he continues to oversee. If you have any questions about this, or past anthologies, please let me know or reach out to Brad.

3. As we transition to a new website and new opportunities, we will do our best to keep everyone informed. If you run into any problems, please let me know and I’ll do my best to resolve them.

4. Later this year, we plan to file for 501c3 status with the IRS. This will open the door for grants, donations, and other resources that will help advance our mission. If anyone here is familiar with this filing status and is willing to help, let me know.

Be on the lookout for future updates. I am excited about this new step for the OWA and optimistic about its future. I hope you are, as well.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Joe Graves, President, Ohio Writers’ Association

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