Between 2002 and 2008, I was highly involved in Romance Writers of America (RWA). For few years, I was on the local chapter board and served as the events coordinator for a couple of those. I loved my monthly meetings and the connections and relationships it fostered. And friendships. I went to our local biannual retreat and attended multiple nation conferences, traveling across the country to Dallas, Denver, Reno, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco.
I participated in online chapters, which were still just getting off the ground, and in 2007 I was part of the group of dedicated and talented ladies who founded Passionate Ink and coordinated out first ever chapter event at the Atlanta Aquarium during conference that year. For those who don’t know, Passionate Ink is RWA’s erotic romance chapter, and getting acceptance all those years ago was no easy feat.
I was part of the ‘rising’ crowd, I think <grin>, having scored a top notch agent, made sales to multiple traditional publishers, sold rights overseas, had books get book club selections. I didn’t need to pitch books or ideas since I had an agent to do that for me and books under contract already, so that freed me up to just learn and have fun. I sipped cocktails and giggled with coveted editors, I danced after the Rita’s with them, too. I had a great time at the conferences and thought my career was on cloud nine.
And then, in the fall of 2007 the bottom fell out on my world. I should have seen it coming. Actually, I should have made it happen half a decade sooner. My marriage had been bad for years, but I suffered in silence, keeping that part of my life a secret. I never thought I’d have the courage to leave my ex-husband and I was resigned to a life of sadness and loneliness. I may have suffered, but my characters did not. All the pain and anguish and emotion, I felt over years of a bad marriage was poured into my books.
But in the fall of 2007 my ex-husband acted out against my oldest child. I was resigned to being a wife in this life, I was not resigned to being a mother in it, too. I left him, but the next few years weren’t easy. I could write an entire blog post about the following years, hell, I could write a book about them, but this post isn’t about my personal life, it’s about my experiences with RWA.
Over the next year, I tried to hang onto my RWA friendships and relationships. I tried to write through my suffering, finished out what remained on my contracts, and attended conference in July 2008, but writing was already taking a back burner by then. Life was messy and complicated and difficult.
Months slipped into years. Six of them, actually. During those six years, I found my joy again. Lost weight, found a day job, met an amazing man, had a new baby, went back to college, and though characters drifted by to say hello, I didn’t have any stories scratching to be set free. I thought I’d lost the need to write and since I was happy, I didn’t need to pour my sorrow out on the page. But I missed the relationships and friendships. I missed the feeling of a story burning to be written. I missed the feeling and elation of writing ‘The End’.
In the spring of 2013, I began to write again. I self-published a few stories and did fairly well navigating a brand new world of writing and publishing. We’re in a new time and so much has changed since I quietly backed away from writing and publishing. In 2007 erotic romance was seen as the red-headed step-child, but now those hot stories are mainstream and bestsellers. Small presses and self-publishing was frowned upon. But now Amazon rules the market.
So this year, I decided to venture back into the world I’d been so deeply rooted in, so in love with, so involved with. This year, I went to San Antonio to Romance Writers of America’s national conference.
It was exactly how I remembered. But everything was different. Girlfriends I had before who were just starting their careers when I was are now super stars in this industry, or they’re gone, not having the thick skin needed to sustain. And there are so many new faces.
I felt brand new. I knew what to expect, how to navigate a conference, but the people had changed, attitudes about publishing had changed, acceptance of my genre had changed. I was in a weird space. I am an award winning multi-published author, and yet, I am a nobody. I belonged there, but didn’t feel like I belonged. It was a strange feeling. I’ve been home for a few days now and it’s still surreal.
So much about RWA is the same. The same amazing classes, the same authors using classes to self-promote, the same talented speakers, the same giving agents, and sought-after editors. I saw them all, recognized them, but doubted that they remembered me. Some I had partied with, drank and danced with, but right now, right this minute, I am a newbie and not in the ‘in crowd’.
What’s different now is that I have confidence in my ability to write. I know I belong in this world. Whereas before, I was scared and insecure, I am now a confident woman sure of what I want and what I want to is to be back in the loving arms of Romance Writers of America. This is the world in which I belong. Sure, I adore the control of self-publishing and admire those doing it full time and on their own, but I yearn for my old friendships and relationships born from my time involved with RWA.
So while everything remains the same, everything is also different. And I am going to EMBRACE those differences!
Hello RWA and readers. Get ready, because I’m BACK!