NIWA was founded on February 5, 2011 in Vancouver, Washington, the brainchild of independent authors Mike Chinakos and Adam Copeland. Seeking to network resources and work through the challenges unique to independent publishing, they united a far-flung membership under a banner of creativity, collective problem-solving, and a commitment to professionalism. But if you’re a book-lover, you want the real story. So here it is from NIWA’s first president, Mike Chinakos:
We had a dream.
Okay, maybe just an idea brought up over dinner and several pints of Pacific Northwest microbrew. As we watched the Steampunk, horror, fantasy, sci-fi and just plain odd costumes pass by our dinner table, I knew that we were in the right place for an idea and dream like NIWA.
The first day of Orycon 32 rocked. As usual, the people putting on the event were great. The con-goers were a blast to talk shop with. Thanks to the organizer of the vendors’ room, Lea, I had the chance to share a table with an author I had never met before. It could’ve been a disaster. Anything could’ve gone wrong. He was a fantasy author. My book was a horror story. We could’ve hated each other at first sight like two gladiators thrown into the arena, only the strongest leaving alive.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit too melodramatic, but you get the point. We had no idea what would happen when we shared a table at the convention to promote our books. As it turned out, Adam Copeland and I hit it off right away. I had brought help, and so had Adam. It didn’t take long for all of us to bond, realizing how lucky we were to meet each other. Call it Kismet, Karma, blind luck, whatever, but all of us got along so well that first day that we ended up sharing dinner in the venue’s restaurant to celebrate a good day of sales—and a fun time in general.
Earlier that day I had a thought rolling around in the back of my mind as I wandered around the vendors’ room talking to a few other independent authors. That night at the dinner table, we talked more in-depth about it. The idea was a simple one: What if we started a writer’s group to help local independent authors network resources? We could share everything from critiques and writing advice to marketing and the pros and cons of independent publishing.
That’s how the Northwest Independent Writers Association came into the world—kind of like a lot of other children, now that I think of all of the beer we drank. Just a lot quicker, without the screaming and all of the pain. After a few days of good sales, fun and hangovers, Adam and I parted ways, but we kept in contact with each other.
One thing I can say about the dynamic duo that we are is that we strongly complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sure I fired off the random idea of NIWA after wandering around a bit, but Adam took the ball and ran like Walter Peyton with it. He kept us on task to gather other like-minded writers for an initial meeting. Booking a restaurant for all of us to meet in, we didn’t know that Adam had just punched the ball in for a touchdown. Just like when we first shared a table at the con together, we had no idea what to expect.
Thankfully, the fellow Founding Members of NIWA—Andy Bunch, Mark Kellar, Mary Saunders and Brad Wheeler—turned out to be a great group who believed in our vision of the newly created writer’s group. We all shared a certain sarcastic sense of humor, a love of writing, a need to bond with fellow authors and a sense of purpose that surprised us all. And did I mention the beer?
Since then, we’ve been joined by a fantastic cast of characters, all dedicated to writing, and all hardworking people I’m proud to call friends. I’m glad you’ve joined us here at NIWA.
With over 100 current members, NIWA has grown faster and more robust than the founders had imagined. Though most members are located in Oregon and Washington, we now have members also in Idaho, Alaska, Montana, and soon in the midwest. Our members write both fiction and non-fiction and range from those beginning a first novel to bestsellers with more than a dozen titles.
Once your book is published, NIWA works for all members to increase awareness of member titles among those who buy and read books – whether they are readers, retail bookstores, or in the media. We do this through numerous coordinated events, and through participation in and support of charities devoted to creating a culture of reading childhood through adulthood.