Michelle Wittle On Volunteering

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

I am a firm believer in paying one’s dues. My sister wanted to be a doctor for the longest time, so while she was in school, she became an EMT. Not only did this show her she wanted to be a nurse and not a doctor, but it also gave her connections to people in the community. On a sappier note, she also met her husband through volunteering as an EMT.

I dare say that the writing community is no different. It is important for writers to make connections to other writers. You can’t just write a terrific novel and think major publishers will be able to pick up the scent and come knocking on your door with a contract. You have to work for it. Sure, getting an agent and sending it around will help. If you took my advice and joined a writer’s group, then you have those connections. But if you are serious about making yourself heard in the writing community, I think you need to take every opportunity you can find. Trust me, there is no better opportunity then volunteering.

Let me tell you about my start with Philadelphia Stories.

It all started one day when I was on my way to visit Mark. I had some time to kill and like a dog sniffing out contraband apples at the airport, I found a Borders. I sat down at the café after getting probably a tea and a brownie…maybe a pie…and there was a copy of this free literary magazine sitting on the table. I was curious and I started reading a poem in the magazine. My feathers got ruffled and I was thinking I could write better stuff then this (which seriously, I can’t…no it’s like honestly…no, I can’t). So, that’s right, I stole the magazine. It was free, so was it really stealing?

Anyhow, I stuffed it in my bag and continued on my way to see Mark. I had to time it right to make sure his chicken nuggets weren’t cold when I got them to him, but after a few times and missed street signs, it was old hat to me.

I left the magazine in my bag for a long time. Then in the winter of 2007, I started really thinking I wanted to look into getting back into the writing community. I looked up Philadelphia Stories online and I just emailed them. I was like “hey, do you need any help? I could deliver magazines to the bookstores for you?” I was basically looking to do anything. I would have stamped envelopes if they needed it. I just knew that if I was serious about being a writer, I needed to get into the community and make connections.

I can honestly say that sending that email was one of the most important and crucial events in my life. I started to see it was indeed possible to become a writer if you were willing to work hard enough for it. I revisited my love for publishing and writing. Now, here it is almost two years later and I have learned so much about the kind of contributions I want to make to the writing community and about myself.


So, my little trip down memory lane was to inspire you to get out there and look for a place to volunteer your time and your knowledge. No one has your experiences and people could learn from your insight. Do you seriously want to be a writer? Then you seriously need to start acting like one. Find every opportunity, every class, and every workshop your pocket book and wallet can afford. Agents can’t smell your great work sitting in your laptop and you can only go so far with one opportunity.


As a side note, I never did deliver magazines to the bookstores.


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