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A few weeks ago I started working on the new show which Alexandra and I will be performing at the Melbourne Fringe festival in September. Currently titled ‘Fleur and Alexandra are Out of This World‘ it will be a pseudo-sequel to our last show, ‘Fleur and Alexandra Save the World’.

We’ve got a plot and we’ve started drafting the script, so we’re well on our way. I’m getting excited designing the puppets and set dressing and coming up with jokes and then late last week Alex suggested that we submit our script to a competition run by the Australian Writers Guild (AWG). I’d never heard of them, but apparently they’re THE people to talk to about writing for the screen/stage/radio in Australia.

The competition promised a cash prize which was to be used for development of the project, as well as the opportunity to pitch the Head of Comedy at the ABC. It looked good and I told Alex I was keen.

She did all the work to get the script from the first show into a screenplay format and down to 30 minutes, as well as most of the work to come up with plots for additional episodes (we needed to pitch six episodes).

Then we read the fine print – we had to be members of AWG. It was $210, double that of the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). It didn’t really seem like something I wanted to sign up for, but if I wasn’t a member we couldn’t submit to the competition.

In the end I decided that it was worth it for the prize. I would do my best to get value out of the membership while I had it, but it got me thinking about the value of professional memberships, especially in the arts.

I’m a member of the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, who meet once a month. The meetings and writing retreats are immensely valuable for both motivation and learning my craft. Writing is so often a solitary pursuit and meeting others in the flesh really helps you not feel alone.

I’ve been a member of the RWA, however the membership expired this month and I haven’t decided if I’ll renew it. I would have access to discounted rates for the conference, which I’m not going to this year, and to the online writing courses, but both of those can be purchased without membership, although one has to be a member to enter their competitions too.

I’ll do some more thinking about the pros and cons before committing. The RWA doesn’t have meetings I can attend regularly, which makes it feel like a much more ephemeral membership.

The tight-arse in me is skeptical of spending money on something for which I don’t earn any in return. Then again, I’ve paid for writing courses, I’ve paid for acting classes, I’ve paid for rehearsal spaces, and I’ve paid to record an EP.

Perhaps thinking of these things as strictly transactional is not helpful; measuring what’s put in against what comes out. It’s also possible that these transactions will have payoffs down the line. Networking with people in these memberships could end up creating an opportunity which bears fruit, or one day I’ll be rich and famous and all the money and time I put in will pay dividends.

We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. On the plus side, I now have a membership to AWG, an opportunity to win a sweet prize, and the seeds for four new shows. At least we won’t run out of material!