Several years ago, I joined the Romance Writers of America. I felt membership would help me learn the craft and the business of writing, and that being a member would give me credibility as a writer, and especially as a romance writer. Genre romance is often described as “by women, for women,” but men are writers and readers too, albeit a small fraction. However, the main reason I was joined was to attend the meetings of my local chapter.
I had learned about the RWA years earlier, from the local chapter. They had a table at Word on the Street (sadly not held in recent years due to COVID). At the time, the only way to participate in the local chapter was to be a member of the parent organization. I delayed joining because of the cost, but once I joined I had the wonderful opportunity to meet romance writers at various stages of their careers and attend local workshops. The RWA offered a big annual convention, but that was out of my league. Something else the RWA offered was acknowledgement of your status as a published author, through a member category called PAN – Published Authors Network.
Call me vain, but I set obtaining PAN status as a personal goal, and continued polishing my book with the suggestions and advice from members of the local chapter and other friends. PAN also promised an exclusive discussion forum, and private workshops at the convention, but I had no interest in that.
Meanwhile, the RWA imploded. I later learned that the RWA had been through a series of racism and sexism controversies, and events in December of 2019 were the last straw for many members and local chapters. Several chapters, including the local Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, became independent (full disclosure – I was then, and am as I write this, vice-president of that organization). At issue for the chapter was not just the problems with the parent organization, but concerns over the relationship between the parent organization and the local chapters. And problems with the RWA continue.
I received my PAN status, but did not renew my membership in RWA. It is no longer necessary to be a member to belong to the local group, which is where I get valuable information and support. None of the local members have expressed any concerns about my ability to write romance, and the larger writer community has been mostly supportive. The few exceptions serve only to remind me that not all writers are nice people. As for credibility, an RWA membership may do more harm than good.
It felt great to achieve a writing goal set years earlier, but by the time I earned it, the value of the goal was questionable. Perhaps I am trying to have it both ways, celebrating the recognition while walking away from the organization that granted it. I’m also conscious of the gate-keeping aspect of the status, which excludes self-published authors. However, the important aspect of getting this pin was not the external recognition or any desire to be exclusionary – it was my achievement of a personal goal. I’ll probably never wear it. This was one of many goals in my writing journey, and, having achieved it, I’m looking to the goals that lie ahead.
PS. If you’d like to help me achieve future goals, you can buy my book as a paperback or eBook. The eBook is just 99 cents (all platforms) during October 2021.