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How to make the most of your OWAA membership

By Pat Wray

August 17, 2019

The first, and perhaps most important thing I ever learned about the Outdoor Writers Association of America became clear at my first conference in Traverse City, Michigan. It was this: Everyone wanted to help me. They introduced themselves, shook my hand, did everything they could to make me feel comfortable. They also—and I was amazed at the time—went out of their way to help me become a more successful writer.
My late mentor, Ed Park, a giant in our industry, explained their attitude best. “Our business is not a zero-sum game. The money and stature you attain will not be subtracted from mine. There are an infinite number of ways for each of us to succeed and they are changing every day. Any success you achieve will reflect back and help us all. When one of us succeeds, everybody wins.” That attitude is the underpinning of OWAA and the foundation of your career in outdoor communication…if you are smart.

Don’t get me wrong. You need talent and the more talent the better, but there are plenty of talented people who have fallen by the wayside because they never made the necessary connections, never showed their talent to its true advantage, never learned how to make their OWAA membership pay. Last email, I offered ideas for making the annual OWAA Conference a money-making proposition for you. Here are a few more ideas to consider throughout the rest of the year.

  • Read Outdoors Unlimited cover to cover.Everything from job notifications to articles about major topics of the day are available in each issue. Many of us write features and columns based on what we read in the magazine. It’s also a forum where you can learn all about OWAA and have a say in the direction of the organization as well.
  • Enter the OWAA Excellence in Craft Contest.It allows you to test yourself against your peers and make money, too. Learn the requirements and plan some of your work to enter in the contests. You can be one of those OWAA members who regularly wins enough money to pay for travel, lodging and food at the annual conference.
  • Access OWAA’s ethics committee. Are you having difficulty in your professional life with unethical or illegal activities? We have an Ethics Committee, the chairman of which can provide advice and recommendations and, if the offending party is an OWAA member, can initiate ethical proceedings.
  • Access OWAA’s legal councel. Are you in need of legal advice? Bill Powell, Esq., offers OWAA members legal guidance. You can contact him at powell@smithlewis.com.
  • Connect with other members. Not sure how to proceed with a major project? Get to know OWAA members and reach out for help. Someone in this organization has the expertise you need. Guaranteed.

Case in point: When I decided to write and self-publish a book about chukar hunting, the quintessential small niche market, I became a fixture at the sides of Tom Hugglerand Mike Furtman, both experts in the publishing field, during meals, breaks and hospitality suites, picking their brains at every opportunity. It is not true that I followed them into restrooms. Those meetings were accidental.

When I needed photographs for the book, I contacted former OWAA member Ron Spomer, who provided a spectacular cover photo and seven inside photos at a steeply discounted rate. Multiple OWAA members edited the manuscript for me. Kevin Rhoades handled layout and design, as he has for two subsequent books. When the book was done, I sent review copies out to OWAA newspaper outdoor editors Bill MonroeTom WhartonMark FreemanRich LandersDave Buchanan and others. They were kind enough to review the book prior to Christmas of that year, virtually guaranteeing a successful release. The book was an OWAA effort from beginning to end and a remarkable success as a result. There are dozens, if not hundreds of similar stories attributable to OWAA membership. Because when one of us succeeds, everybody wins.

We’re going to delve into that idea much more deeply during our annual conference at the Jay Peak Resort in Vermont, June 27-29, 2020 with a session entitled “OWAA: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, Where We Want to Go,” a 3-hour, open-discussion workshop that will look at our past, present and future. Tom Huggler and Glenn Sapir are two of the most knowledgeable of all our members. There is no one better to summarize and explain the background and history of our organization. Emily Stone is an astute observer with an OWAA family history and a laser-focused idea of where she would like us to go as an organization. An extended discussion between those three speakers, which will include plenty of input from the audience, will help to lay the groundwork for a healthy future that can then be incorporated into an upcoming Strategic Plan. This will be your chance to make your mark on OWAA, now and in the future.

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