Monday, September 7, 2020

Arizona Authors Association history 2006-2016 - by Kathleen Cook

Going Forward 2006-2016 

Toby Heathcotte, President 2006-2015
By the end of her presidency, Vijaya Schartz had instituted changes designed to keep the association healthy far into the future. Vice President Toby Heathcotte took over the presidency in 2006 and shared those goals. She worked diligently to maintain and increase the success that she and Vijaya had initiated. The board at the time included Vice President Scott Jones, Secretary Mali Berger, Contest Coordinator Greta Manville, as well as officers Kiki Swanson, Karen Kundin, Vijaya Schartz and Sandra Bowen. Although Vijaya stepped down from the presidency when her writing career took off, she still maintained the website and the membership rolls until 2016. 

Kathleen Cook
When I first met Toby in 2008, I attended an Arizona Authors Association workshop designed to help authors hone their craft. I happened to see a flier at a local grocer and thought, "Well, you're a writer and editor who hasn't written or edited in nearly a year. What are you waiting for?" Toby had spent years before an audience, first as a high school teacher in speech and drama and later as a speaker at various events and workshops, and it showed. She radiated warmth and expertise, and shortly thereafter, I became a member. 

In February of 2009 I attended a workshop given at the Glendale home of Vijaya Schartz. She exuded professionalism and a sincere desire to help her workshop attendees. When I discovered that she was a former president of the Arizona Authors Association, I knew I had found the right people and the right home to revitalize my career. The association helped me to regain confidence and just a few months later, I joined Demand Studios as a copy writer/editor. 

Toby has felt an affinity with her ancestors since childhood, which was only strengthened by psychic experiences. These experiences prompted her to study reincarnation and psychic phenomena. In every endeavor, Toby brings a sensitivity and unique insight. So she did during her tenure as president of the Arizona Authors Association, which lasted from 2006 to 2016, which is the longest tenure of any president. Over the course of those years she organized numerous workshops, some of which she also conducted. She manned the booths at book fairs, signings, and many of the events which attracted authors throughout the state. 

Toby and Vijaya at the 2007 Arizona Literary Banquet

For the first time in 2015, Toby arranged to secure a table at the Arizona State Library Association Conference. Another event she attended during her tenure was the annual Tucson Festival of Books. Members were able to advertise their work in the association's booth at very little cost. Such perks, expanded by Vijaya and expanded again by Toby, helped to retain members and make the Arizona Authors Association such a valuable resource. Under Toby's leadership, she reported that the AAA secured "a grant from the City of Glendale to do a series of workshops with about a dozen writers, culminating in one by Diana Gabaldon." 

It was during Toby's presidency that the newsletter saw its greatest changes. It switched from a paper newsletter snail mailed to all members to an online publication, thereby saving the association thousands of dollars. Regular columns included President's Corner, Member Spotlight and my own column, The Inevitable Author. Ken Weene's column and his Open Mic events attracted more members. Book releases each spanned a whole page in full color. Cherie Lee served as the newsletter editor. She learned to master Microsoft Publisher and put out a professional online product bimonthly, at a time when few others had the expertise to accomplish it. 

The Arizona Authors Association website thrived under Toby's leadership and Vijaya's proficiency as webmistress. The easy-to-use website boasted a welcoming and professional front page, a fully usable forum, and expertly designed members' pages, which were easy to load and fully interactive. At the time of Toby's departure, the website, newsletter, and workshops were a few of the biggest accomplishments of the association. Toby left the presidency and the organization in good shape for the succeeding administration in January of 2016.

Next time, we'll explore the dark years of 2016 to 2018 and the resurgence that followed.

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