Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When Do You Say Goodbye?

by Janis Patterson

I’m stunned.

An organization I belong to – one I helped found decades ago and one on whose board I now sit – is now seriously discussing the possibility of closing down. Just the mention of such a possibility breaks my heart.

I literally sweated blood for this organization, sometimes staying up all night to get my duties done even though at the time I was single, working both a full time and a part time job and looking after an ill parent. For several years it was touch and go whether it would survive or not, but it did and blossomed into a marvelous group that was widely known and respected. The glory years were great.

But – the old guard who had forged this group stepped down, or retired, or moved, or died, and new people arose to take over the management duties. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? I guess ‘supposed’ is the operative word here. Nobody looks after your baby like you do. Mismanagement, both accidental and perhaps deliberate, and ego wars took their toll, and internecine warfare raised its ugly head. By the time the old guard both caught on to what was causing the slow decline and managed to get into position to halt it, great damage had been done.

And now even though we are in charge once more, we aren’t sure we can reverse it. Even if we do, there is the specter of who can we trust to succeed us? We’re old. We’re tired. We’ve earned our right to simply sit back and enjoy the benefits of that which we created. But into whose hands can we entrust it? During the time of decline membership declined as well, leaving a small and very insignificant field of those who could and would step up.

We can go on this way for a little while. Hopefully we can restore our group to a reasonable facsimile of its old self and even more hopefully that will bring people in of the caliber and dedication that the group deserves. Hopefully. If not, though, we will have no choice but to kill this living and wondrous thing that we imagined and grew instead of letting it die an agonizingly slow death until just two or three of us can still totter to the meetings.

Perhaps I am just being morbid. Perhaps we can revitalize the group and make it stronger and better than before. One can only hope. I am sanguine enough to know that nothing lasts forever… that all things end sometime. But, dear God, please not now. Not now.


Mitzi said...

I certainly understand how you feel. I was a member of the "old guard" in our RWA chapter We were small but mighty and caring with a lot of encouragement through all of life's trials...not just writing.
When RWA changed the chapter rules, we decided to disband. Several of our members were not writing "real" Romance (as now defined) and at least one was learning to be an editor for a small press, so they were non-voting members. RWA did not offer us the idea of associate chapter. So we gave them our treasury and disbanded.
Some of us still get together on the meeting date but under a different name. Many of us did not renew with RWA. The chapter was why we paid the National dues. And most RWA-sponsored conferences open arms to nonmembers.
So, yes, I feel your pain.
But remember: groups are not stagnant, they flow, they change with who joins, and they change with the times.
Keep writing. Stay in touch with people.
Tomorrow is another day.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

This happened with Mayhem in the Midlands--was one of my favorite mystery conferences. One of the 0ld-timers said the fault lay in the fact that they never embraced new, younger people on their committee, and the old ones got too old to do the job.

Morgan Mandel said...

That's a shame. I hope you can manage to revitalize what you worked so hard to achieve before

Fran McNabb said...

Watching a group dissolve or slowly wither is heartbreaking, but I think most groups ebb and flow. Some revive and flourish. Some simply die. I've been part of an RWA chapter that has lost most of its older members and larger membership. It's struggling, but surviving. I hope it can revive because at one time it was such a great group. I hope your group can find the right solution to flourish once again.

Gina Ardito said...

Ah, Dunes & Dreams, my baby, suffered the same fate when the "new guard" refused to respect the "old guard" or the membership. Since it was the organization I founded, I put my reputation on the line to save it, got caught up in the political fallout and nearly lost everything I'd worked so hard to achieve. It was an ugly time, but also a life lesson. Sometimes, it's better to let go than to cling to what once was.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I've been a member of several yahoo groups connected with various publishers who have published my work--novels and short stories. Unfortunately, three of them have either dropped their fiction lines or gone out of business entirely. The Yahoo groups have tried to hang in there but it is discouraging for all the writers.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Thank you for posting this heart-felt story of what you're going through. For twenty years I worked in a small social service agency and there were one or two times when Board members wanted us to merge because they were tired and wanted a way to get out gracefully (in their view). Fortunately that didn't happen and the agency continues, a testament to the commitment of many hardworking individuals. It's a wonderful thing when something you create goes on to have a life of its own, drawing in new people and continuing to thrive. But it doesn't always happen. I've watched terrific organizations (a small orchestra, a local theater, a small press, and more) come to the end of the road. I had a small press that I loved, but my partner and I went broke. It's sad, but I think of what we learned. We took that and applied it elsewhere. Good luck with whatever decision you make.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

I, too, am a co-founder of an RWA chapter. As one of the "old guard", I understand how you feel. Sending you positive thoughts.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I was a founder of Murder in the Grove, a great conference that eventually died. It was a sad time seeing it close.
I share your pain. Little lasts forever, but we can mourn the passing.

Alicia Dean said...

How sad! My group is going through something similar, although it's not due to any mismanagement, but a combination of RWA's guidelines and a loss of enthusiasm and support. The old guard is gone and there are a handful trying to keep it going, but they aren't getting much support. I also wonder when it's time to just give up.

Susan said...

Thanks to all of you for replying - and for understanding. Losing something you love is never easy. The group in question is not an RWA chapter, nor even anything to do with writing, but that doesn't really matter. When we care passionately about something - anything - its potential demise is painful. I still hold hope that we can salvage something from the wreckage and, like the Phoenix, perhaps rise into something better. Keep your fingers crossed!

mary hagen said...

Your blog rang a bell with me. I, too, have belonged to a group that has helped me tremendously in advancing my writing career, but now no one wants to volunteer for jobs that need doing. I can hope this changes with time.

mary hagen said...

I can relate to your feelings. We're struggling in an organization I helped start years ago. No one is willing to volunteer and the old members don't want to do it anymore either.