Code of Conduct

To help each writer feel included and empowered to achieve their best, our community honors the following Code of Conduct:

  1. We welcome every participant and encourage each of them to become fully engaged with our community. Our group nurtures all writers. We celebrate writers of every level of literary accomplishment. Because writing is an emotionally challenging process for many, we foster a regional culture that cherishes the personhood of every participant and recognizes that people are who they say they are. We grow as people and as writers and poets by respectful engagement with peers whose identity attributes differ from our own. America’s present sociopolitical moment is fraught; people come to the table with different life experiences, identity markers, and cultural expectations, so we demonstrate welcoming behavior by assuming positive intent and by handling disputes and misunderstandings with grace and discretion.
  2. We eliminate barriers to safe participation. We try to host events where there’s no cost to attend, transportation options are reasonable, and people with disabilities can access the venue with dignity. We do not allow activities to occur in places that, by their very nature, adversely affect the health, safety, or emotional well-being of participants or are inappropriate for children. For that reason, official activities cannot occur in private residences. We also try to make events open to virtual audiences where practical, either in real-time or through recorded video, for people who cannot attend in-person activities.
  3. We respect that children are writers, too. Our public spaces should operate at a level appropriate for children, both in terms of the language used as well as the subjects raised. We are also sensitive to what innocent eyes might encounter if they glanced upon our computer screens. People who wish to discuss sensitive, mature, or off-color topics are welcome to use private messaging on our Discord server or to request a private channel on Discord where access is carefully controlled by staff.
  4. We focus on writing. Our conversations and our programs should never lose sight of the fact that we’re all writers, and that each writer walks a unique path. As such, we avoid “genre shaming” and feats of linguistic pedantry (like the gratuitous correction of grammar or spelling) that diminish others. We also ensure that in spaces focused specifically on writing — e.g., the #writing-chat channel on Discord — the conversation remains germane at all times.
  5. We honor each other by modeling appropriate behaviors. We think carefully about how we present ourselves and how we treat others within our community. We realize that discussion and mutual respect are the hallmarks of a mature writer, so we avoid petty behavior, name-calling, inappropriate self-promotion in communications platforms, shadow moderation, or malicious reporting. If we’re corrected by others or by staff, we respond with grace. In cases of cultural or religious clashes, we find value in arriving at mutually acceptable accommodations. We do not impose our political, social, or religious beliefs on others or attempt to compel others’ conduct or speech.
  6. We respect that “stop” means “stop.” Boundaries are important — particularly in a community of people united in their love of writing but otherwise coming to the table with divergent interests, identities, life experiences, and belief systems. If a person asks you to refrain from engaging in a specific behavior or discussing a sensitive subject publicly, please stop doing so, immediately and without hostility or ostentation.
  7. We educate, we do not punish. Sometimes when disagreements arise, a program director must get involved. Whenever the parties to a dispute cannot amicably resolve it among themselves, either or both of the staff leaders will intervene to advocate for (and ultimately enforce) a solution that promotes a new learning about the situation and its effect on others. Our approach to moderation is one of coaching and mentoring before sanctioning. When friendly correction is not enough — when a situation rises to the level of bullying, abuse, or persistent mean-spiritedness — interpersonal challenges should be referred to a staff member for a definitive resolution. If a staff member is part of the problem, the matter should be referred to the board of directors of the Lakeshore Literary Foundation for further review.
  8. We do not tolerate certain beyond-the-line behaviors. Despite the foregoing point, some behaviors are so egregious that even a single occurrence may permanently disqualify a person from participation in our activities. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: engaging in violence at one of our activities, engaging in active bullying or overt discrimination against others at an activity, being credibly accused of a crime involving violence or sexual misconduct even if that crime has not yet been fully adjudicated, expressing a desire or intent to commit harm upon others, stalking or bullying another participant, or willfully disrupting the group’s activities despite requests by staff or a volunteer host to stop. A person banned from our activities will be removed from the group and depending on the circumstances, potentially be reported to local law-enforcement officers.
  9. We acknowledge that the staff leaders have the final, subjective right to moderate and steward participation within our community. Either staff leader may make binding requests to participants to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with this Code of Conduct, and limit or revoke their right to participate in regional events and regional communications platforms. The staff leaders’ decision in these matters is final. Many situations may arise that are not explicitly covered by this Code. Staff will therefore strive to arrive at decisions that are informed by (and consistent with) this framework and the relevant bylaws of the Lakeshore Literary Foundation. Although most disciplinary actions are not for public record, staff leaders may offer comments about specific cases as needed to protect the well-being of the community as a whole.
  10. We promote our Discord server as the primary chatting destination and virtual-event venue for our community. While on the Discord, users agree to be respectful, to honor this Code, to select roles with care, and to frame conversations based on role in a manner consistent with the role’s intended purpose. Discord users should not engage in pseudo-moderation and should be sensitive to the overall tenor of a chat so as to avoid monopolizing the selection of topics or activities.

We write all the words, learn all the things, and treasure all the people. Ultimately, the West Michigan Authors’ Alliance is a celebration of writing — of being creative and feeling safe “being a writer” with peers who “get it.” We take joy in drafting, in editing, and in learning more about the craft and business of writing. We don’t let little setbacks get in the way of becoming more authentically human through engagement with the best literary talent we can muster — and, ultimately, hone into a story of which we’re justifiably proud. We work as a team, supporting each other to write just a few more words or to crack a case of writers’ block.

Protecting Minors and Potentially Vulnerable Adults

A potentially vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 or older who manifests reduced decision-making faculties or an inability to communicate or resist unwanted physical contact. This situation may be permanent, as a result of a physical or cognitive impairment, or it may be a temporary state of incapacity related to a mental-health crisis, pharmacological influences, or a perception of duress.

To ensure a safe environment for minors and potentially vulnerable adults, we enforce the Code of Conduct in a special way:

  1. A legal guardian must always be present for the duration of the activity when a minor or PVA participates in an event.
  2. During an event, hosts and participants support the guardians by ensuring that at no time is a child or PVA left alone with just one unrelated adult in a location that lacks recorded video surveillance.
  3. Physical contact between adults and minors or PVAs is not allowed without the explicit consent of, and supervision by, the legal guardian. This contact includes hugs and back or shoulder rubs.
  4. No person may administer first aid, including prescribed or over-the-counter medications, without the explicit consent of, and supervision by, the legal guardian.
  5. Adults who suspect that a minor or PVA may have formed a parasocial relationship with them should refer the matter to a program director for intervention.
  6. If a person suspects that a minor or PVA is being abused virtually, either through social media or through a direct messaging service, that information must be shared with a program director (Mel or Jason) immediately for investigation and review.
  7. All hosts receive a background check using the I-CHAT system run by the Michigan State Police.
  8. All hosts receive training in the protection of minors and PVAs that align to the ministerial standards of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

WMAA has a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior. When minors or PVAs are the subject of this behavior, we will respond with a permanent ban on participation in future events. Program directors also reserve the right to file complaints with law-enforcement officials.