Meeting Notes – January 19, 2016

Attendance

  • Brian Buckley (Coordinator, Speaker)
  • Denny Bonavita
  • Judy Brody
  • Barbara Donohue
  • Renee Ergazos
  • Lori Paximadis
  • Julia Phelps
  • Jana Riess

Time

6:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Format

Virtual. Google Hangouts video chat.

Opening comments

Welcome to the first meeting of the rebooted Ohio chapter of the EFA!

Brief discussion of how to use Google Hangouts.

Member introductions.

Discussion of chapter business

Introduction

First of all, we are an official chapter of the EFA. We have a web page (the-efa.org, Chapters, Ohio). We have an annual budget of $700 (according to document I was given).

Membership list – we do have an official membership list. Membership matters for two reasons: 1) It allows us to say how big we are – useful for planning, funding, etc. 2) It tells us who has a say in decisions, who can vote, etc.

Members – currently 10, plus 2 interested. Brian will follow up with the 2 after this meeting.

Survey stuff

Most of you got a survey when we first started talking about all this, around the end of October. We’ll go over results.

We have members from all over Ohio, biggest concentration in Cleveland. And one member in western Pennsylvania.

  • Would you prefer all in-person meetings, all virtual meetings (online/phone), or a mix of both? Broad agreement on a mix of in-person and virtual.
  • If we meet in person, would you prefer to rotate the meeting location, or always have it in the same central location? Broad agreement on rotation.
  • If we meet in person, would you be willing to host meetings on occasion? Many people willing to host, which is good for the rotation idea.
  • How many times per year would you prefer to meet? Answers ranged from 2 to 6. I think most people would be reasonably happy with quarterly meetings, which seems practical.
  • What would you most like to get from this chapter? What are your expectations, what subjects would you like us to discuss, what goals would you like us to have, etc. Summary: networking, practical information (via training, speaker, or discussion), socializing.
  • What other questions, comments, or suggestions do you have? Perhaps we could have meetings with tours of facilities that have some connection to writing/language/research/publishing. Find things to do in the area when having face-to-face meetings.

Chapter structure and organization

Just Brian’s initial ideas, not based on anything from EFA. Suggestions for things to change, add, or remove, or anything else, let me know. We’ll go through it, then we’ll have discussion afterward.

Guiding principle: have some loose structure, enough that we know what we’re doing. Don’t need to be overly formal too quickly.

Brian sent out a document outlining chapter structure and guidelines (attached to email from a few hours ago). “Chapter structure and guidelines.docx.”

Ohio chapter of the EFA – structure and guidelines (DRAFT)

Mission: The chapter’s mission is to help EFA members, in and around Ohio, to (1) network with each other and others in their industry; (2) gain practical knowledge and skills from speakers, training, and discussion; and (3) socialize and have fun. (Taken directly from survey results.)

Meetings: The chapter has four annual meetings, typically in January, April, July, and October. The first and third meetings of each year are online/virtual only. The second and fourth meetings are in-person, optionally with an online/virtual component for those who can’t attend in person. In-person meetings are held in various locations around the state, with the goal of making the meetings available to as many members as possible. (Again, taken directly from survey results.)

Roles

  • Coordinator – The chapter coordinator organizes and runs meetings, and any other events. The coordinator is also the chapter’s main point of contact for potential new members and EFA leadership.
  • Secretary – The chapter secretary takes meeting notes and distributes them to the chapter.
  • Treasurer – The treasurer tracks the chapter’s funds.
  • Other roles?

Elections: The coordinator, and any other chapter officers, are elected by chapter members at the second meeting of each year. Anyone wishing to be a candidate should submit his or her name to the current coordinator, according to the “proposal” guidelines below.

Proposals: Any member who has a proposal (e.g. an idea for an event, a change to chapter guidelines) should email the proposal to the coordinator at least 5 days before the next meeting. The coordinator will send the proposal to all members for review, at least 3 days before the meeting. At the meeting, members will discuss the proposal and vote on it.

Voting: Votes are conducted during meetings, and decided by a simple majority of chapter members. This includes members present for the vote, as well as members who send their votes to the coordinator beforehand (in case they can’t make the meeting). The coordinator abstains from voting, except to decide in case of a tie.

Attendees: Meetings are primarily for chapter members. Any member may invite up to two guests to a meeting. Other guests wishing to attend a meeting should let the coordinator know beforehand. Guests do not vote.

Can discuss this now, take some time to think it over, revise if necessary, decide if we’re good with it. Once we get more than half approving, we’ll adopt the document.

Questions? Anything that anyone feels should be changed? Discussion?

Talk (from Brian) about handling delicate situations with clients

A lot of client communications are routine. Asking when a manuscript is ready, clarifying details, etc.

Then you have the emails where you write seven drafts before you hit Send.

I’m not an expert, but here’s how I deal with such things.

Difficult situations? Two major categories I can think of.

  • First major difficult situation: Giving a client bad news
    • Could be something you did wrong – it’s your fault – or could be something else that simply happened
    • I personally don’t make mistakes or have problems, but I hear some people do. Examples would be…
    • You will miss a deadline, have missed a deadline, client found mistake in your work that you have to acknowledge, saying you can’t do a job you thought you could do
    • Apologize – but only if necessary! If you did something wrong, or didn’t hold up your end of the bargain, sure. But if you made some tiny, ordinary mistake, or can’t give the client some “nice-to-have” that you never promised, don’t apologize for that.
    • Whether apologizing or not, show that you understand what this problem means to the client. Empathize. If you’re delaying schedule, acknowledge that. Much worse than a contractor who makes a mistake, is a contractor who makes a mistake and doesn’t “get it” or seem to care.
    • Provide specific plans or suggestions for how to fix the situation.
  • Second major difficult situation: Telling a client they’re doing something wrong
    • Examples: not giving you necessary information, having unrealistic expectations, not paying on time, etc.
    • Dealing with these situations is surprisingly similar to helping a writer understand their weaknesses – and handle them in a similar way
    • Advice from Jennifer Lawler: Don’t assign blame, act like archaeologist who has discovered this situation with the manuscript, which appeared there through no fault of the author. (I noticed you put your protagonist’s name in a different font than the rest of the story. And the font is Wingdings. Here’s something to consider about that.)
    • Similarly, don’t jump to blaming the client – just present the problem, and explain why it concerns you.
    • And don’t need to call it a problem, necessarily. Using author analogy – instead of saying “Chapter 5 is written in Klingon, and that’s idiotic,” say, “Chapter 5 is written in Klingon, which means most of your readers will skip it.” Similarly, if your client is failing to give you crucial details, say, “Once I get these details, then I can begin the work.”
    • Remember, also, you never know what’s going on in client’s world – sometimes things that seem crazy have good explanations and you feel like a jerk afterward, if you rush in guns blazing.
    • Be very specific about what you want client to do, even if it seems obvious. Instead of “You never tell me what’s going on,” say, “Can you send me updates on our project once a month?”
    • Worst-case scenario: fire client
  • In any event:
    • Be polite.
    • Read over your own email carefully, more than once. Ideally, put it aside for an hour and then read it again.
    • If appropriate, have a positive, forward-looking attitude.
    • Make sure you both understand what the problem actually is. Educate without being condescending.

Open discussion and networking

[No notes for this portion. Did not have a Secretary yet.]

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