It was the year of my divorce and move from our country inn to my farm. After 36 years of marriage and fourteen years as an innkeeper I was alone and out of work. I kept busy putting the house in order then all my attention was focused on creating gardens in the surrounding hay fields. I gave myself a year to do what I wanted before "the real world" came knocking and I had to get a job. That was nineteen years ago and I still don't have a regular job.
It's also hard to believe but it's been nineteen years since I joined Garden Writer's Association of America; 1991 to be exact. I was working in my gardens one day when a woman, who was visiting a friend in the neighborhood, stopped to talk gardening. We exchanged information and when she found out about my weekly newspaper column she invited me to join GWAA. She even had an application in her purse.
I didn't waste any time filling out the paper work and mailing it, with my dues, into the organization's office. With confirmation came the news of a National GWAA meeing to be held in St. Louis, MO. Again I acted with speed and registered to attend. When I arrived at the airport I hailed a cab and sat back to take it all in: a new city, belonging to a new organization and maybe a new life. It had all started in my garden.
After checking in and putting my bags away I went looking for the group. I got registered and put on my badge with the "newcomers ribbon". That ribbon told everyone else I needed help and a kind word. Right away I was included in small groups who helped me find my way around. I felt a part of things and it turned out to be the begining of my new job.
One of the first things I found out was if you registered a new member you got $15. off your own membership so it was a really smart thing to carry a form in your purse.
Over the years I attended meetings in places I might never have seen: San Diago, CA, San Antonio,TX, Toronto, Canada, Chicago, IL, Augusta, GA, Portland, OR and Grand Haven, MI. More important, I met lots of perople who enableled me to visit even more places: Florida, Alabama, S. Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. Actually I was born in Tennessee but going back to Nashville and Memphis was all new.
It was really special to be at a GWA Symposium in Raligh, NC this year. I signed up as a mentor for newcomers, hugged old friends and met lots of new people. It had been four years since I had attended a National, but had been to several Regional meetings over the years, and you just don't get to see some people if you don't go to the big ones.
I owe so much to the networking I have done at GWA meetings; publishers, editors, writers and photographers, all teaching me about the business of garden writing. And fun, lots and lots of fun.