Monday, August 31, 2020

History of the Arizona Authors Association 1998-2005 - by Kathleen Cook

Resurgence 1998-2005 - Vijaya Schartz's presidency

Vijaya Schartz, with encouragement and a great deal of help from Toby Heathcotte, took on the leadership role and helped to put the organization firmly on its feet once again. She filed the ACC form more than a year late but was granted a waiver from penalties. Here's how Vijaya describes that period of our history: 

"At that time neither Toby nor I were board members. The lack of leadership had led to a fiasco. No newsletter, no meetings, and loss of all members but 30. The literary contest had been announced in various publications far in advance, so the mailbox was full of unopened entries. Previous entries had been opened, the checks cashed, but nothing done about organizing judges... and the deadline to announce the finalists had come. Toby and I volunteered for the board and convinced the board members to vote out the president. Toby asked me to run for president and she ran for VP. And quickly we realized the other board members didn't want to do anything. So we had to clean up the mess ourselves. First, we had to cancel the contest. Toby went through the contest entries. She had to return them all and refund the entry fees that had been cashed. 

“I went through the finances. There was no money left. From the minimal files we retrieved, I took on membership, created a roster and contacted previous members, inviting them to rejoin. I also created and implemented our first website to feature our members. It made membership more attractive to members who weren't tech savvy and didn't have their own website. We featured a page for each published member with a portrait, a bio, a cover and link to all of their published books. 

"Then I created a newsletter and made sure all our members' successes and publishing credits were acknowledged, which was not easy, since most of our members at the time weren't familiar with email. I also created a blog for the association to feature its members. Then Toby reorganized the contest and we listed it in many publications to insure our next contest would get entries. We reformed the disbanded critique groups. 
Critique group meeting at Vijaya's house in the early 2000s
"We also designed and printed membership and contest flyers and distributed them far and wide in the Arizona writing community. At the time, we also sent press releases to local newspapers, listed our meetings in local calendars and recruited new members, but still no luck with recruiting volunteers for the board. Toby was successful in securing judges; the website and the blog did attract new members, and soon, we were on the way to recovery." 

Toby Heathcotte
During her tenure, Vijaya, with Toby as her vice president, attracted a robust membership and increased revenues and savings. During her second year, the money collected from the contest, membership dues, etc, was $7,166.25. When she left office in 2006, receipts had nearly doubled to a little over $14,000. Together, Toby and Vijaya welcomed the services of Linda Radke to design an even better professional website. 

At the time of Vijaya's inauguration, the Arizona Authors Association still mailed their newsletters out to their members. Costs for mailings, printing and postage stood at approximately $4,000 per year. These costs soared to nearly $5900 by 2006, reflecting the increased membership. Vijaya extended the reach of the Arizona Authors Association by doubling the number/dollar value of prizes for the contest and attracting more members with workshops, seminars, exhibits, book signings, and of course, the annual awards banquet. Due to Vijaya's leadership, the Arizona Authors Association was back on the road to the heyday enjoyed by Boye De Mente during his presidency. 

Patricia L Brooks
Patricia L. Brooks, a longtime AAA member, recalls that Kiki Swanson oversaw the selection of guest speakers many years ago. Patricia conducted workshops during this period and said that the association met monthly at the time, at various places such as the church on Hayden and Osborn (Scottsdale Presbyterian Church at 3421 N. Hayden in Scottsdale), as well as a location near North Mountain in Phoenix. She writes: 

"I remember early on, 20 years ago, a group of us participating in the Phoenix Book Festival at the Carnegie Library at the Heritage Square, and at the Prescott Book Festival at the Sharlott Museum. The Phoenix one was huge with stages and national speakers and the Prescott one was smaller. The group had a booth and we shared space at both, or we had our own tables and supported each other." 

Concerning the website and banquet, Patricia observes: “I felt the website was a real plus and well maintained and I am sure Vijaya was on top of that most of the time. We did AAA member conducted workshops for many years, as recently as 2019, had the Literary Contest as we do now, but it seems to me it was much larger and utilized nationally. I did win for my first memoir and was pleased about that, but not able to attend the dinner. A friend attended for me and said it was a great night. I still have the Literary Magazine from that night - I found it today – dated Fall 2006 and photos by Heather Kirk whom I know as a designer. It was $10 at the time and in B/W. Greta Manville was the contest coordinator. Marcia Fine was also a winner and is still a friend of mine." 

Jeri Castronova
Jeri Castronova, PhD, author, artist and clinical psychologist, shared her first memories of the Arizona Authors Association under Vijaya's presidency: "I joined after moving to Prescott, just finishing my first book, a self-help book for women titled Paint the Sky and Dance: Women and the New Myths. Based on my work at Napa State Hospital and my love of poetry/storytelling, it offers guidelines for creating new personal myths and stories to overcome trauma and past behavioral and addictive disorders. The book and workbook are used by many therapists. 

"Vijaya was President and I’d drive down to the always interesting workshops. I joined the Prescott writers group and later became president. We’d have Valley authors come and speak at our monthly meetings and all would say they loved coming to Prescott. At one meeting Lisa Schnebly talked about her great grandmother, Sedona Schnebly, a fascinating woman whose spirit even now graces us with her presence in her land. Our group was lively and enjoyed hearing AAA authors speak about their books, marketing, publicity, and self-publishing. I participated in several Book Fairs with the AAA. 

"When I moved to Sedona, I continued my role on the Prescott board. When Toby asked me to be the Arizona Authors Association High Country liaison, I accepted and we would offer various workshops and talks quarterly. Since Sedona didn’t have a writers group, at least an organized one, the authors here jumped at our meetings. Sedona has many writers and a few of us have recently organized into a monthly group called Sedona Pen and Brush. 

"I finished my second book, Code of the King: A Deadly Search for Ancient Wisdom, Book 1 of a mystical thriller trilogy. Marilyn June Janson, AAA member, was kind enough to write a review. The book was an award winner in the AAA contest for published fiction. I attended the banquet with my editor, Kris Neri, renowned mystery author. What an honor to receive an award for doing something I love." 

Vijaya’s presidency ended with the year 2005, but she remained on the board. She had instituted changes designed to keep the Arizona Authors Association healthy far into the future. 

Next time, we’ll explore the years beyond 2005.

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