Think you can’t teach? Think again
By Christina Allen ( C.W. Allen)
I became a chapter president almost by accident. It was 2019. I had just moved to Utah, and I was querying my first novel. I didn’t have any publication credits yet, not even a short story, and the “about me” paragraph of my query letter was looking pretty sad and empty. Maybe a professional writing membership would help spruce it up?
I went looking online and stumbled across the League of Utah Writers. Perfect! The only catch: the nearest chapter was more than an hour away from me. If I wanted local writing support, I’d have to start a chapter of my own.
Turns out that, even in my tiny rural town, there were other writers looking for fellowship and support. Getting people to come to monthly meetings was no problem. The problem was giving those meetings a point. We needed something different to talk about every month, and since I was (apparently, somehow) the president, coming up with meeting content fell to me.
I had no teaching experience. I had no publishing experience. But I had plenty of experience researching ways to improve my writing. I didn’t feel like an expert, but it turned out that wasn’t important. All I had to do was spend the month studying a technique to improve my writing, then give a “book report” about my findings at the next meeting. I wasn’t saying, “here’s this thing I’m amazing at.” Instead, I said, “here’s this thing I wondered how to do, and I thought you all might wonder about it too. Here’s what I learned.”
As I got more comfortable teaching, I signed up to present my findings to other chapters . After all, I’d already done all the research—why not put that work to good use? Once I’d practiced a presentation with my own chapter, doing it again over Zoom for a new audience was simple. And after teaching same topic for a couple of smaller groups, it didn’t seem so intimidating to teach the class at a League conference. The next time a class submission window opened, I decided to apply.
On my first attempt, I suggested the class I thought would appeal to the most people. That one wasn’t accepted—turns out what I thought of as Wide Appeal actually meant Too Generic—but I went for something more genre-specific with my next conference presentation submission, and that class outline was accepted.
Teaching at a statewide writing conference was an incredibly rewarding experience. As a presenter, I got to attend the rest of the conference for free—an amazing perk—but what I found even more valuable was the opportunity to network with visiting agents and editors who were also presenting, and also feeling a bit unsure about socializing with a bunch of people they didn’t know. Turns out publishing professionals are people too. Who knew?
The more classes I taught, the more comfortable I got in my public speaking abilities and my credentials as a writer. I was surprised to discover that not only did my classes go well, but I no longer felt like an imposter. I have some professional publication credits under my belt now, but perhaps more importantly, I know that I don’t have to “know it all” in order to confidently share what I do know.
We write because we have something to say. So don't be shy—go ahead and say it! No matter what genre, style, or format you write in, you have experience that can help another writer on their professional development path. In the process, you might find sharing that experience enhances your own professional development in ways you didn't expect.
The League of Utah Writers is accepting presenter applications RIGHT NOW! Visit
https://www.leagueofutahwriters.com/be-a-presenter to apply to present at upcoming conferences and https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1sBg7Wn1XP84Gq7N4Rrr1RMeTpi-Wn28RMyitpqM-e4s/viewform?chromeless=1&edit_requested=true&fbclid=IwAR0Tz_i6uWte8aEAqFoGNat3aJaz2Y1xUHoryag4WVCyyTWvRJbIBKpZt-0 to volunteer as a chapter meeting presenter.
Authors Bio Christina Allen (publishing as C.W. Allen) is a Midwestern transplant to rural Utah, where she serves as the League of Utah Writers newsletter editor and the president of the West Desert Wordsmiths chapter. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her middle grade novels Relatively Normal Secrets and The Secret Benefits of Invisibility are out now, with many more stories waiting in the wings.
Follow her latest projects at cwallenbooks.com.