A few weeks ago, Valerie Parv, whose books have been printed in their millions and who is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre in Western Australia, quoted something I said in a post on ‘show, don’t tell‘ in a tweet.
Both of these events made my day. When established, skilled writers like these take the trouble to read your posts, comment and then be nice about them, it’s an enormous boost. It’s the kind of thing you hold up as the candle to light your way through the darkness of the days when you think you can’t write an acceptable shopping list.
Obviously, both these women are sweet people (who deserve your patronage – go buy a book or three!). But you know what else they have in common? They’re romance writers (romantic suspense in Helene’s case).
When I set out on this fiction-writing journey, some years ago now, I started by writing a short romance. All of my friends and family, bless ’em, were supportive of my ambitions, but some did question the ‘romance’ part. They all asked politely, but the subtext was, ‘don’t you want to write something a bit… better? With a bit more prestige?’
This post is not one in defence of romance as a genre, so I am not going to go into that question at length. I will just say that a genre that sells as phenomenally well as romance must have something going for it. And stories that grow from a belief that love has the power to transform and heal and make life better are fine with me.
But as an embryonic romance writer, I joined the Romance Writers of Australia. I don’t know whether that could be classified as the road less travelled – we have a lot of members – but I do know that it has made all the difference.
In this organisation, I have found extraordinary resources. I have never known such a group for willing volunteers (and trust me, as a volunteer all my life, I have known plenty). As a result, the group manages to maintain a web page, a blog, a Facebook group, a members-only online chat group and a members’ forum, in which members are meeting this very month to participate in a 50k in 30 days writing challenge.
RWA also has a fantastic competition schedule, and a slew of other member services, not to mention a magnificent annual conference and increasingly, other events. I first encountered Michael Hague through a RWA-run event and I shall be forever grateful for that learning opportunity.
But most of all, this group has introduced me to the most talented, wonderful, generous group of writers.
These (mostly) women are serious about their craft and good at it. This is company you want to be in, if you want to learn your craft and improve in it. And from the most successful to the most starry-eyed newbie, they have welcomed me with open arms. They patiently answered my wet-behind the ears questions, they have shared their own stories and struggles, they have put up with me talking to them at conferences and they made me feel that I could do this.
I have had tea with Stephanie Laurens. I have shared a laugh with Keri Arthur. (Both NYT bestsellers, in case you don’t know. My cocktail-party cachet has gone through the roof.) Helene and Valerie and Anne Gracie and Marion Lennox and Trish Morey (all rock stars of the genre) and countless, countless others have been nice to me, when all they knew about me was that I was an aspiring author.
I think it’s fair to say that I would not have come as far along this journey as I have without them. I am not writing the same things as I was when I started. (Although love is still in there, because what’s life without it?). But even if I started writing stories with no romance at all, I would never give up this group. Because I don’t think there is any other like it.
If you don’t believe me, trust Michael Hague. He commented on it, when he came here for the workshop and found that there were several multi-published authors in the room, along with the unpublished. He said that you just don’t get that in, say, screenwriting workshops. But he sees that sense of community, of collegiality all the time in romance groups.
So what’s my point? First, it’s to thank all the people who built RWA and continue to make it what it is today. I am richer for knowing you and my writing almost owes its existence to you.
Find them. Join. Enter competitions. Go to workshops. Engage. Volunteer.
Your writing will thank you.
What about you? Do you have a group you wouldn’t be without?