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:~: Sunday, March 26, 2006 :~:

The Writing Community

I discovered RWA over a year and a half ago when I was perusing the net looking for writing resources. Through the national website I learned there were local chapters where writers get together and talk about writing related topics. The idea inspired me. Imagine, meeting other writers, talking about books and learning how to get published! It sounded like something I needed to be a part of.

Never one to be afraid of a challenge, I searched out my local chapter, sent the president a quick email and found out the time and place of the next meeting. I couldn't wait to get started.

It was October. I remember well because I was hugely pregnant with my third child and about to walk into a room full of people I wanted to be. That first meeting, I didn't really know what to expect. I hauled my big ol' body into the room and looked around a conference table full of attractive, well-put together women who all looked and sounded like they knew a helluva lot more than me. And my first impression was - Holy crap. They're all published and I'm writer-wanna-be over here. I tried to chalk the queasiness in my stomach up to being pregnant, but the real truth was I was out of my comfort level, over my head, and pretty close to turning around and walking out.

Everyone turned and looked at me like I had something stuck to my face, and I tried to suck in my belly to no avail. The chapter President was very sweet, although I have to admit a bit intimidating with her blonde hair and skinny body. (All pregnant women notice other women who are skinny. And we hate them all, so, Genene, it wasn't personal.) She also had a very strange name which to this day I can't spell.

Now, I'm not an overly outgoing person. (Hard to believe, huh? Paty, stop chuckling over there.) The truth is I can be rather shy and quiet when I'm in a new situation. Once I feel comfortable with a group though, watch out. Not so shy and quiet anymore.

However, at that moment, I wanted to run out the door. What was I thinking?! I wasn't ever going to be a writer. Not a real writer. Not like these people! Luckily, common sense prevailed (Okay, good old-fashioned German stubbornness) and I didn't run. Instead, I sat and figured I'd give it an hour and see what it was all about. Some people might call that "goal-driven". I call it just plain nuts.

Well, that night (and I'll never forget this as long as I live) they had three guest speakers. Leah Vale, Lissa Manley and Terri Reed. All three are published authors who live in Portland. All three are CPs even though they write in different sub-genres. I sat - riveted for an hour (and that's hard to do when you are fat and pregnant) - and listened to the discussion about how their critique partnership works. But what made the most impact was when they each laughed and gave a quick rundown on their first sale. How they all sold within months of each other. How they all love what they do.

And I made a choice, right then. That was gonna be me.

I got real serious about writing after that. I mean, I had been serious already for about a year at that point, but after that meeting I talked more openly with DH about my dreams and what I wanted to do and how important writing was to me. I'd always felt funny talking about it before, like it was some pie-in-the-sky pipe dream I'd never really get even though I knew deep down I had the confidence to do it. That meeting gave me the external confidence even thought I'd had it brewing inside me for a long time. It showed me there are other people out there who think like me and want the same things.

So, as you probably already figured out, I went back to the next meeting, and the one after that, and the one after that (and I was wrong, not everyone in that room was published). I've made some great friends in my local chapter - both published and unpublished. We support each other in the little things. We chat writing on our e-group and also in person. We make a point to go out to dinner before each meeting to visit and talk about what we're each doing not only in our writing but in our lives as well. We celebrate each success and offer encouragement when our writing friends need it.

We're not all the same age. Some are older than me, some are younger. Some have grown kids, some have small kids, some have no kids. Some of us are single, some are married, some are divorced. But what we all have in common is that we write because we love it.

I have fabulous critique partners I chat with and email every single day. Without them, I'd be lost because they know not only my work, but me as a person. We bitch and brainstorm and vent and write. We support each other when we're down, kick each other in the butt when we need to get to work, and celebrate when we hit a high. What I have with them cannot be replaced. But I also have a wonderful local writer's group that meets once a month. I make a point to go to every meeting because just "being" with other writers is a thrill you cannot get online.

Of the three of us (Joan, Eli, Lin), I'm the only one who's active in her local RWA chapter. Actually, active is a pretty mild word. I'm more like knee-deep in it. Okay, hip deep. I'm now the secretary for the chapter and contribute to several committees, and over the past few years have realized I know quite a bit about this industry that I can share with others, enough that I was the guest speaker for my group in January, and will be one of two guest speakers next month. The Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter is the only chapter located between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. We have members that span that entire distance. Several members drive 70 miles one way just to attend our meetings. Our chapter president battles mountain roads and icy passes and a three-hour drive ONE WAY, just so she can be with us. She is a saint.

I encourage you to join a local writer's group and immerse yourself with other writers. Meet people, make connections, talk. It will make your passion stronger. It will boost your confidence. It will make you want to write when you have those days where the television looks a lot more appealing than the laptop. If you're a romance writer, the best place to start is Romance Writers of America. Find a local chapter, give them a call and then get out the door.

Writing is often a solitary adventure. Just remember it doesn't always have to be.


Blogger Paty Jager said...

Bravo! That's how I feel about the Romance community. I don't mind driving the 2.5 - 3 hours over the mountain pass knowing I will converse with other writers and published authors at the meetings. Sometimes I sit on my side of the mountain and think, "Man, I don't feel like driving over there." But then I go and I am so pumped on the drive back home that I turn around and do it the next month.

There is just something about the comraderie and friendships built in the chapter that make me want to be a part of everything that happens within the chapter.

The congratulations for triumphs, the shoulders and chocolate for the pitfalls. It's a wonderful organization!

4:49 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hey E,

You inspired me. While there is a RWA chapter about 100 miles away, I didn't feel it would be worth the expense and time (neither of which I have extra of right now) to make that jump. But I did email a local writing group I've worked with in the past that has regular crit groups and discussed starting a new one with romance and suspense fiction writers. The coordinator said there was a new one forming that handles crits just the way I liked (on paper, not simply reading aloud to the group) and they were all women writing in women-related genres.

So I joined. It's still a 45 min drive each way, but its only 2x a month.

Got my positive cap on. Hoping it works out.


11:53 AM  

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