NaBloPoMo (11/2016) – Day 5: GCLS Behind the Scenes

As you can tell from the title of this blog and from the month of the year, I participate in National Blog Posting Month in November. This is my third year participating. Many of the people I know do NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – in November. That’s awesome because, well, they are writers. They’re either published or want to be published. While I’ve had fantasies of writing a novel and being published, I also recognize that this is probably not something that is going to actually happen in my life. So, I keep a blog.

Another thing I do each year is to use one of my November blog posts to talk about an organization that’s important to me – the Golden Crown Literary Society.  The GCLS has been around since 2004 and has grown exponentially over the years. When I joined the board in January 2013, we had fewer than 300 members. Today, our membership has grown to over 600 – and we keep getting new members every week. It’s exciting!

mission-statement

gcls-logo_chicagoOur flagship event each year is our Annual Conference. In 2017, it will be held in Chicago, IL! This is a 5 day event that brings authors, readers, editors, reviewers, publishers and fans to celebrate Lesbian Literature. It’s a great mixture of fun, work, and education. We offer workshops, panels, presentations, author readers, autograph sessions, and master classes. In addition, there’s karaoke, sight-seeing, a silent auction, and old-fashioned mingling. To cap off the Conference, we present the Golden Crown Literary Awards – affectionately known as the “Goldie” – at the end of the gathering. We give awards in 18 categories and follow up the ceremony with a celebratory dance. It’s definitely a night everyone looks forward to!

But the GCLS is so much more than just our Annual Conference.  We also participate in other events throughout the year.

  • In October, we host an event during Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA. This event includes a Meet and Greet, Author Readings, and autograph sessions. It’s free to all who wish to attend – authors, readers, and fans alike.
  • Over the last 3 years, we’ve also had a presence at the Left Coast Lesbian Conference in Palm Springs, CA. It’s a smaller, more intimate gathering, but just as significant. Again, it’s a chance for authors, readers, and publishers to gather together over a shared love of Lesbian Fiction. A GCLS representative attends to support the LCLC.
  • In April, we’re always happy to be invited to the Lone Star Lesfic Festival in Austin, TX and are proud to be a supporter of this event. This festival is run by readers and they invite their favorite authors to interact with readers and celebrate Lesbian Fiction. It’s a free event and open to the public. The organizers are fun and friendly and, gosh, do they put on a great festival.
  • The last few years have also brought us to Women’s Fest in Rehoboth Beach, DE – also held in April. There we sponsor and organize a day of author readings and autograph sessions.

We’re looking to expand our outreach to include additional events throughout the year. We’re gearing up right now for an announcement about our attendance at the Amelia Island Book Festival in Fernandina Beach, FL. We’re awaiting more word on another book festival in Texas. I’m hoping to organize some author readings in Chicago during the months leading up to our Conference. And we’re always happy to hear more ideas from our members.

But wait! There’s more!

The GCLS is, at its heart, an educational organization. We have the Cate Culpepper Mentoring Program which pairs up new writers with veteran authors to help them hone their craft. During the conference, we have Master Classes taught by experts in their fields. We provide our members the opportunity to serve as content experts and beta readers – and offer up those volunteers to our author members.

And then there is the Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a 1-year program that is run by our Director of Education and taught by faculty who have significant experience in teaching writing, are well published, and have an award-winning body of work.

“The Writing Academy provides a teaching and learning environment that supports the development of a community of learners through regular online interactions, ongoing communications, shared assignments, and teamwork. The program is comprised of 10-15 students and 3 full time faculty plus honorary guest speakers and additional mentors. It is our hope that our students will leave the program with not only a great learning experience, but also with a sense of being a member of a lifelong community of writers.”

The program is intensive, immersive, and effective – a number of our graduates have gone on to obtain publishing contracts!

So, as you can see, we keep pretty busy all year round.

Most people don’t realize that we do so much more than just the Annual Conference. In fact, “the Conference” and “GCLS” are often used interchangeably. “Are you going to the Con this year?” “Will I see you at GCLS?” And, I think, because of that, people don’t know how much it takes – in terms of volunteer hours and money – to keep the organization running. The 10-member Board of Directors put in a great deal of time. But we have a few key members who step up and put in hours to help us, too.

What do our volunteers do?

  • Well, all of those events I listed up there? They are overseen by our Director of Events, who organizes the events, works with the various venues, and seeks out new opportunities.
  • The Writing Academy and the Cate Culpepper Mentoring Program are run by our Director of Education, who recruits and hires faculty, arranges for guest speakers, markets and advertises the Academy, and manages the team of volunteers who help her keep the Academy and the Mentoring program running throughout the year.
  • Our Director of Volunteers recruits and organizes the volunteers who help us at the Conference and the various events we attend throughout the year. It’s a big task!
  • Our Directors of Membership – there are 3 – keep in touch with our members to make sure they are informed, recruit new members, answer member questions and help solve problems, and seek out new ways to grow the membership. Among so many other things!
  • We don’t have Directors in charge of Fundraising, Sponsorships, Marketing, or Grants right now, but that doesn’t mean things in those areas don’t get done! We have members who have experience in these many areas who take some time out of their own busy schedules to fill out grant applications, help us design advertising (both graphics and copy editing), seek out new sponsors, and think of creative ways to get the word out about the GCLS.
  • The Director of Organization works with the Director of Education and a couple of member volunteers to put together the proposals for panels, presentations, and master classes. Once they’ve all been chosen, the Director of Organization then puts out a call for panelists. Once that is done, she starts putting together the schedule for the conference – this is a project that takes up months of her time. It ain’t easy.
  • Our Awards Administrators work all year long to ensure that all aspects of the Awards Process flow smoothly. And they are instrumental in organizing and planning the Awards Ceremony at the conference.

That list could go on and on. But, honestly, I’m getting tired and my wrist is starting to hurt from all of this typing! Needless to say, there is a LOT that goes into keeping this organization flying. We’re flapping our wings all 12 months out of the year – not just those leading up to the conference.

If you’ve made it this far, first, let me thank you for continuing to read. But I also hope that it gives current members some insight into what it takes to keep the organization going. And I hope it gives those of you who aren’t members a glimpse into a great organization.

We’re currently at the beginning of our annual Fall Fundraiser. We’re hoping to raise $8,000 to match the $8,000 that has already been promised by a number of generous donors. This money will help us with our day-to-day expenses. Our membership dues are only $25 a year (going up to $30 in January 2017), so it’s not like we bring in barrels of money from new memberships and renewals. The money we raise during the Fall Fundraiser helps us pay for things like our Membership Management/Web Site provider (YourMembership), which allows us to have a great online presence. It also helps us pay for Open Water, the Awards Management platform we implemented in 2014 to help us manage and streamline our Awards Program. The money we raise goes towards marketing and advertising, toward various events held throughout the year. It helps us with the cost of online video streaming and video hosting. It helps us to maintain our equipment – video cameras, laptops, projectors – all of which are used both at the conference and at other events throughout the year.

We won’t complain if you choose to donate. 🙂

If you have questions about the GCLS or any of the programs or events I’ve listed here, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I love talking about this organization.

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