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Friday, February 26, 2010

Join us

I’m an avid reader of Regency Romance and in the back of an Eloisa James’ novel, she advised budding authors to join their local Romance Writers of America chapters. That truly is some of the best advice I ever received. So, in turn, I tell everyone who will listen to me the same thing. If you write romance and aren’t a member of a local RWA chapter – do look into it; and if there isn’t one in your area, look into a specialty online chapter. You won’t regret it.

I cannot stress the importance of such organizations, and not just because I’m now the President of my local chapter; but because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. When I first joined my chapter in Raleigh, NC, I had yet to finish a manuscript. I had dozens of ideas floating around in my head, and I had several stories started on paper, but I really didn’t have a clue about the industry. I’m one of those Henry David Thoreau-types. I just want to sit in my lonely cabin by Walden Pond, live in my own little fantasy world, and write.

But writing the manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to know so many things these days – “Show, don’t Tell,” POV, GMC, etc. And that is just to make your manuscript submittable. Some people reading this might not even know what I mean by these terms. Then you need to know how to query an agent/editor. What should you say? How do you know who to submit to? How long should you wait before getting panicky? Then - and for me this is worst - how to write the dreaded synopsis. And all of that is before you get “the call”. Then you need to have suddenly earned a degree in Marketing. How do you get book signings set up? Do promo bookmarks really work? Does anyone know any good website designers? Trust me, the list is endless.

We have some amazing members at my local chapter and they treat us to some equally amazing programs each month. At our meetings, speakers present a variety of topics from finding your voice to characterization to navigating the treacherous waters of publishing. I have learned SO much from my chapter-mates and guest speakers. There isn’t enough time or space for me to list it all. They are wonderful mentors, indeed. And I would not be where I am today without them or their selfless guidance.

But the most important reason to join a chapter, in my opinion, is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with other writers. In a word – camaraderie. We writers see the world a bit differently than a lot of people, and it is so rejuvenating to spend time with other people who speak the same language we do. This business is tough enough. Talking to someone else who gets it is a precious thing.

Are you a member of a local or online chapter?

If so, do you find the organization as helpful as I do?

And if you're not a member, what is keeping you from joining?


  1. America's writers are so lucky. You are the book market we Aussie's aspire to enter. And you have it all there before you. The amazing RWA Chapters, published authors who are so nice to newbie's and chapter mates. It amazes me when I come across someone who isn't a member of RWAmerica or a local chapter.

    Even from the east coast of Australia I wish I could jump into a car and drive to hear some of these fantastic writers speak. But I make do with what I can get, RWA membership and membership to the online chapters that interest me, such as the Beau Monde. Even that little bit is worth it.

  2. I'm jealous of your RWA local chapter. It sounds fantastic. I would love to be part of a local chapter, but the closest one is three and a half hours away. I know that's closer than Australia, but the weather in winter can make the drive more like five hours and dangerous. I would like to be part of a group that I can contribute to year round.

    How would I go about finding out how to start a chapter on my side of the state?

  3. Great blog, Lydia. I can't imagine finding my way through the publishing maze without the support I get from my chapter sisters. The membership fee pays for itself when you consider the reduced price of writing classes. I belong to 3 chapters: 1 local, 1 online, and 1 special interest. Most people wouldn't need that many, but our local group is very small and I like the daily contact with the larger online group.

  4. Heather - I wish you were closer too. :(

    Don't you have RWAustralia? Do you have local chapters that work the same way?

  5. Samantha -

    I believe you have to have 15 members to start an RWA Chapter these days. According to rwanational.org - If you're interested in forming a chapter you can contact Leslie Scantlebury with RWA at 832-717-5200x130 or via email at chapters@rwa.org

    Gail -
    I'm right with you. :) I belong to three chapters too: my local chapter - Heart of Carolina Romance Writers; the Beaumonde specialty chapter; and Hearts Through History specialty chapter.

    I love the interaction with other writers. I need it as much as I do my morning coffee. :)

  6. Great post, Lydia!

    I, too, love being part of RWA and my local chapter. Being in NYC, I get opportunities to mix and mingle with editors from the big NY houses, which is really cool, along with some great NYT bestsellers. Being part of the group is invaluable, and even if it wasn't, I've made some great friends :) The support that comes from my local chapter mates is mind blowing! I just love being a part of it.

    I'm also part of Hearts Through History and the Beau Monde online - what amazing resources! I've learned so much from those loops!

  7. I'm not part of RWA at this point, but it isn't because I don't want to be. Right now, the one and only issue is money. Pretty much every aspiring writer has their struggles with balancing their primary job (the one that pays the bills) and their dream job (the writing one!). I'm a full time student on top of that. At the moment, the primary job I have (the one that works with my school commitments) barely pays the bills, so an RWA membership, or conferences, or writing classes - those are all just things that I dream about being able to afford, once I've finished with my education and have a better paying primary job.

    So, in the meanwhile, I just listen to all the great advice that I can get from others who are RWA members. But one of these days...

  8. Jerrica -
    I'm SO glad you love your RWA chapter, and even more glad that I nagged you 'til you joined. Yay! Did you join just to make me stop nagging?

    Catherine -
    I SO understand the money issue. As the economy gets tighter, it harder to decide what to spend money on. I promise I won't nag you like I did Jerrica, until you're ready to join. I'm glad you're able to get great advice from RWA members. I've found them to be so giving of their time and knowledge. WHEN you do join, you'll fit right in. You are so generous of your knowledge too. You're like an honorary member already. :)

  9. When I thought I might try my hand at writing, Julia Quinn had advise for writers on her website...join RWA...the best thing I ever did!


  10. Tessy -

    I completely agree. It was like a whole set of information and resources opened up for me. The best thing I ever did too!

  11. This will be my second go round with RWA and I've never regretted. I took a five year break from writing and RWA and rejoined the moment I could afford it. It really is the best advice. Great post Jodie!

  12. Yay, Melissa! I'm so glad you're back in the fold. How does it feel?

  13. I am not a member of a local chapter because there isn't one. I have been researching the ones within driving distance and as soon as the weather clears I am going to try the one in St. Louis. It is a long drive (3 hours each way) but they meet on Saturday and believe it or not, works best with my schedule. If anyone has any more information on the St. Louis chapter I would love to hear it.

  14. We do have RWAustralia, but from what I can tell the American chapters are a lot busier. More courses and published author attendance. I'd love that.

  15. I'm really loving the specialty chapter, Heart Through History chapter, I haven't gone to my local chapter yet because it is almost a two hour drive for me as well. I may try it and see if its something I can do. Thanks Lydia, your chapter sounds really great, I wish I could drive up there but I know I could never make the trip lol.

  16. Amy - I don't know anything about the St Louis Chapter, except that I finaled in their contest a few years ago. So I think they're great!

    Heather - You'll just have to move stateside.

    Melissa - You're not THAT far away. Maybe you could come for something special. We have an awesome October Workshop scheduled this year with the brilliant NYT Bestseller Sabrina Jeffries. It's an all day affair. And if you've never seen one of Sabrina's programs - you are missing out.

  17. Hi ladies,
    I've nominated your lovely blog for the Sunshine Award.


  18. Well, Anne! That is so super nice! On behalf of the group blog - this was MY post after all - thank you so much!

    What a great way to end our day!

  19. Wow, thank you. This was totally unexpected since we're so new but wow, that just totally made my day! Thank you, Anne

  20. I love my chapter, Lydia, and you're such a fabulous president! Thank you for all your hard work. I couldn't have had such a successful career without my New Orleans chapter (NOLA) and HCRW.

  21. Thank you, Sabrina. Now I feel all warm and fuzzy. :)

    I think one of the reasons we have such a wonderful chapter is that you and our other PAN members are so active and so willing to give advice and share your knowledge. Thank you!

  22. Wow, Ms. Jeffries. Excuse me for being a little tongue tied but you're one of my favorite authors. But thank you for dropping by with us and I have to agree with Lydia being pretty wonderful. She's been such a help to myself and others and we just adore her. That's it, I'll simply have to come to your chapter now, Lydia. At least once, I'm just not sure I can afford the gas up there lol.

  23. Joining RWA was the best thing I ever did. It has taught me so much and presented so many opportunities to me. My local critique group is wonderful to. There is nothing better than sitting down in a room full of people that share your passion for writing.