Brits in the RWA

The packing list is done. Flights and hotels are booked. In a few days’ time I’ll be leaving my husband behind and heading to the Romance Writers of America National Conference.

I’ll be very interested to see how many non-US delegates are at this year’s conference. I’ve attended three RWA Nationals so far, and although, as you’d expect, the majority of the delegates are American, the non-US contingent seems to grow each year. Last year in New York I met romance writers from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and a number of Latin American countries as well as a sprinkling of fellow Brits. This year the conference is in San Diego, which is twice as far and twice as expensive for me, but probably more convenient for Pacific-based authors.

I don’t know whether the international membership of RWA is growing, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been a member since 2012 and I think it’s fantastic value for the $99 annual subscription. The organisation is welcoming to overseas writers and to unpublished authors, who are allowed to become general members. The only requirement is that you must be in serious pursuit of a career in romantic fiction writing, not a hobbyist. The RWA is a professional organisation, so that seems fair.

If you can find the conference fee ($570 this year for three full days) plus the cost of getting there and staying, Nationals is amazing, overwhelming, fabulous value for money. Overwhelming because the sight and sound of more than two thousand romance writers in one hotel is a hell of a spectacle. Fabulous because the atmosphere is so inclusive. First-timers get a special ribbon on their lanyards, and more experienced delegates go out of their way to make the newbies feel welcomed and comfortable. Value for money because the calibre of the presenters is seriously impressive. Workshops and chats are routinely offered by some of the most famous and successful authors in the genre (Nora Roberts, anyone?), together with agents, editors, traditional publishers, indie publishers, and all manner of other experts. Whether you’re focused on craft, career, research, a particular sub-genre, a particular publisher, self-publishing, or just looking for anecdotes and inspiration, you’ll find it. And if you can’t make it to the conference, you can buy the recording and listen to the workshops at home, or during your commute, or whenever you can snatch the time.

Even without Nationals, I think the online benefits of RWA are worth the price of admission for overseas members.

There are online loops for special interest groups such as self-publishing, marketing and social media. Post a question and nobody will call you stupid. Somebody with infinitely more experience will chip in and help.

There’s a monthly magazine and a weekly e-bulletin with news, updates and features.

There are online chapters for sub-genres such as romantic suspense (Kiss of Death) and historicals (Beau Monde), and I’m told that the collective knowledge of the membership is ridiculously comprehensive. Whether you need to know the effects of an obscure poison or the legal position regarding marriage at sea during the Regency, ask the question and somebody will know. There are also general online chapters like From The Heart Romance Writers. I joined that one recently and I’ve really been enjoying their Topic of the Week discussions. They also have a critique loop, an anti-procrastination loop, a regular announcement of good news and member successes, and no doubt lots more that I haven’t discovered yet.

Many local chapters also run contests where for a relatively small entrance fee (usually around $25-$35) you can enter an extract of your manuscript (usually but not always the opening pages). If you’re very good and very lucky, you may win, but even if you don’t, you might reach the final and have your pages read by an industry judge – usually an editor or an agent. If you don’t final, you will still receive detailed feedback on your entry from two or three judges and while the comments may vary from the helpful to the infuriating, I’ve learned something useful from every single contest I’ve entered.

Thanks to the wonders of the interwebs my membership of RWA teaches me something new almost every day. Nationals takes it to a whole different level and I’m ready to make the most of the opportunity. I’ll report back!

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 8th, 2016 at 7:23 pm and is filed under Blog, Eight Ladies Writing, Romance Writers of America, Writing, Writing Craft. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.