Romance Writers of America isn’t the first writers group I’ve belonged to. For several years, many years ago, I belonged to the National League of American Pen Women--an organization of artists, composers, poets, and writers founded in 1897 to recognize and link women in the arts. Some pretty important women were members of NLAPW--think Eudora Welty, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Pearl S. Buck. You can stop giggling--I really truly was a member of this dignified and gracious organization.**
I respected my sisters in NLAPW so very much, but something was missing. I stood in awe of the talent at the meetings each month, but never felt as though I fit. I wasn’t educated enough, nor literary enough, I was too ordinary. Oh, don’t get me wrong, those women were lovely to me. Always kind and gracious and supportive, but somehow, my jeans-and-sweatshirt personality never quite worked with their tailored suits, polished pumps, and white gloves. The failure to fit in was mine, not theirs.**
But outside of the surface-y stuff, I also didn’t find the authorial help I was looking for. I wanted writers who shared my love of romantic fiction, delicious happily-ever-afters, and examining the structure of storytelling. After a few years, I left the organization. High-brow poetry and literary-magazine-style stories were all well and good, but I needed hardcore critiques and down-and-dirty editing.
The atmosphere at my first RWA meeting sucked me in immediately--exciting, fun, maybe even a little bawdy--these folks welcomed me with enthusiasm. Within weeks, I was part of a critique circle and found at last, a writing group I could relate to. My critique partners have been invaluable in cleaning up my stories, tightening my writing, and offering unvarnished editorial advice. Through RWA, I’ve met writers like myself--romance junkies who respect all stories, but need that happy ending. More important, I've become a better writer, learned more about writing, and become even more passionate about the art and craft of storytelling. Best of all, I've made good friends, true kindred spirits whose writing inspires me to be better (I'm looking at you, Liz Flaherty!)
My local RWA chapter gives me support when I need it, promotes the heck out of my work when I send it out into the world, rejoices with my successes, and lets me cry when I just can’t seem to get it right. I’m grateful to this hodge-podge group of storytellers. We’re all different, we all tell stories in our own way and with our own special voice, but together, we are sisters (and brothers--we do have our token dude!) in the craft. We’ll be celebrating the special bond we share at our annual Retreat this coming weekend and I can't wait!
Wranglers, do you have a special group of writers that you depend on for support, critique, and sympathy? Tell us about it.
**Disclaimer** Chances are good this organization has evolved since the late 1970s and early 1980s. I just checked their website and things look pretty cool, so bear in mind that my experiences were many moons ago when they were stuffier and I was younger.