Five Reasons to Join RWA® When You Don’t Write Romance

11 Jul

Last month, five of the Gem State Writers joined over 2,000 writers and publishing professionals at the 31st annual Romance Writers of America® National Conference in New York City.

If you’re not an RWA member, you might be surprised to learn that only two of those GSW members who attended write straight romance. The others write mysteries, thrillers, and mainstream fiction. So why fly across the continent to attend a romance writers’ conference?

Here are just a few of the reasons writers of all genres join RWA:

There’s Power in Numbers.  With 10,000 active members worldwide, RWA is large enough to effectively advocate with publishers and booksellers on behalf of all authors. RWA has the resources to keep track of industry trends and announcements, and advise its members of the implications for authors.

A Career Plan.  RWA offers a clear career path for aspiring authors. Members are encouraged to meet certain goals, which will lead them toward a successful career as a published author. Whether you’re striving to finish that first manuscript or to sell that first novel, each step along the way is supported and applauded by fellow members.

Quality Educational Opportunities.  Over one hundred workshops were presented at this year’s RWA National Conference. Many covered topics of interest to all writers such as visual brainstorming, writing dialogue, body language, social media, understanding contracts, and marketing tips.

But RWA does not limit itself to workshops at conference once a year. Many local chapters offer a free workshop to members each month, periodic online classes, regional conferences, and writers’ retreats.

Local Chapters and Special Interest Chapters: RWA has more than 145 chapters world-wide. If you are not in a major metropolitan area, RWA may be the only national writers group with a chapter near you.  Even in a truly remote location, you can always benefit from one of RWA’s online-only or special interest chapters.

The RWA special interest chapters focus on certain sub-genres such as mystery suspense, inspirational, paranormal, historical, or Young Adult or Women’s Fiction. These chapters are particularly popular with writers who don’t write romance.

Networking:  RWA provides opportunities for writers to get out of the slush pile and meet legitimate editors and agents in person. But perhaps the single most important service RWA provides for its members is the opportunity to meet other writers who are working toward the same goal. Writing is often a solitary endeavor and no resource is more valuable than the support system that forms when writers come together.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. Are you a member of RWA? Why or why not?



Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Idaho


38 responses to “Five Reasons to Join RWA® When You Don’t Write Romance

  1. johannaharness

    July 11, 2011 at 5:37 AM

    Great points, Clarissa! I have discovered so many local opportunities when I’ve been willing to step outside my YA niche. A little discomfort is good for us.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      Thank you, Johanna. We’re always happy to see you when you adventure out 🙂

  2. Carley Ash

    July 11, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    I write women’s fiction, but have found RWA extremely beneficial. I did join some of the special interest on-line groups last year, but found it a bit overwhelming to have so many e-mails flying though my e-mail box.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      It’s true. There’s so many great chapters to choose from, it can be overwhelming. We’re lucky to have you in our local chapter, CBC-RWA. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Janis

    July 11, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    I’m a member of RWA and I write romance. Wow, sounds like a self-help group. 🙂

    Whichever fiction you write, a plot, character arc, and conflict is needed. You just have to open your mind to translating those components into your genre.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      It’s funny how confessing you write feels like you’re announcing you’re insane. But yes, great writing is great writing, no matter which genre you choose. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Liz Fredericks

    July 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Clarissa, you did an excellent job of summarizing the advantages to RWA. I don’t write classic romance, but have learned a great deal from the RWA website and my first national convention. By far, the greatest advantages come from the local chapter. The monthly workshops help me maintain momentum on ALL aspects of writing – business, craft and muse. This was the single smartest decision for me as a writer. As a person, the friendships have been a godsend.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Liz, I’m so glad you mentioned the friendships. The most intangible element is also the most important. Where would I be without my CBC-RWA sisters? I feel so lucky to have met all of you–directly or indirectly- through RWA

  5. Peggy Staggs

    July 11, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    I’ve been telling people this for years. Your points are great. RWA is the only group that will not only teach you how to write, but how to manage a career.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      “the only group that will not only teach you how to write, but how to manage a career.” What a nice concise way to say it. Thank you, Peggy!

  6. Kyrstenn

    July 11, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    You are so right! I have learned so much through RWA and my local chapter – made some great friendships as well.

    I’d like to add that the RWA presentations go far beyond the broad scope of writing – time management, problem solving, keeping a positive attitude, history, psychology, building websites, social media – a collection of intelligent people sharing interesting information.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      You’re so right! Some of my favorite workshops/presentations have been the ones where we visit with experts in their fields. Through CBC-RWA, I’ve learned to fire a gun, talked to forensic experts, and gone out on the water with the Coast Guard. On my own, I never would have known how to do any of those things. But RWA made it happen 🙂

  7. Meredith Conner

    July 11, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    I love romance and although I write in a sub-genre of romance, I simply love a good love story – that’s why I joined RWA in the first place. I have never regretted it. When I begin to change the path of my writing I found all the support and information I needed within RWA. It is such an amazing organization.I learn something new all the time and with the ever growing changes in the publishing field – it is wonderful to have a place to learn more and find answers.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:13 PM

      Meredith, It is a wonderful place to learn. I know I learn from you all the time. So glad you joined!

  8. Judith Keim

    July 11, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Clarissa, You are absolutely right. I’ve been able to encourage a number of people to join, even if they just want to write their own memoirs. I joined RWA a number of years ago and though I write Women’s Fiction and Middle Grade adventure novels, RWA is my home base. It’s important to have a supportive professional group who can provide a wealth of knowledge along with the emotional support to someone during their journey of writing a book and getting it published. I’m always amazed by the support of other writers and am grateful for their understanding of a process no non-writer can fully appreciate.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:20 PM

      Isn’t it wonderful how supportive RWA members can be? I’ve met the nicest crit partners through RWA. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Judy.

  9. ValRoberts

    July 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    Clarissa, here’s one more reason for you:

    Romance Writers of America is the only U.S. professional organization for genre fiction authors that does not require publication as a prerequisite for membership: MWA, SFWA, HWA all have specific requirements for publication before you can even apply. The last time I checked, ITW membership was by invitation only, so you not only have to have had a thriller published, a current member has to vouch for you.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:21 PM

      Thanks, Val. That’s a very useful bit of information. I found it very easy to find information on RWA, but hard to find comparative info on other writers groups. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  10. Collyn Gale

    July 11, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Clarissa, I’m a Mainstream Historical author even though I’m a RWA PRO too. I’ve been recommending joining RWA to other Historical authors. I have lots of reasons as to why membership is an advantage. But for me, the biggest one is the devotion to high standards in the craft of writing. The gals (and guys!) of RWA make sure you get that one right and it’s so important. It is, quite simply, the best!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      Hi Collyn, I love that RWA focuses on putting craft first. I hope it will always maintain its high standards. Good luck with your writing 🙂

  11. Laurie Kellogg

    July 11, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Another reason is that any non-romance novel is bound to sell better if there is a little bit of romance in it. If you study any of the blockbuster movies there’s usually some romantic element or tension that makes it appealing to both genders.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:24 PM

      Laurie, you are so right about that. With the exception of children’s books, there are almost no blockbusters (either books or movies) that don’t have at least some romantic elements. Thanks for pointing that out 🙂

  12. A Smith

    July 11, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    “most important service RWA provides for its members is the opportunity to meet other writers” – as Val Roberts is fond of saying, people who get you. They understand the unique sting of rejection and dizzying giddy of finaling in a contest. For me it has always been about the support, knowing I’m not the only one that talks back to the voices in her head is huge.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 9:27 PM

      There are so many things about writing that only other writers can understand. Thanks for reminding me of all the times I’m so grateful for my chapter sisters. 🙂

  13. Debby Lee

    July 11, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    Hi Clarissa, I’m a member of three local chapters, Olympia, Greater Seattle and Peninsula, and I belong to two special interet chapters, Hearts through History and Faith Hope and Love, the Inspirational chapter of RWA. I belong to so many chapters because I get so much out of them. Each one offers something unique and the networking opportunities are awesome. I love being a member of RWA.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 10:25 PM

      Hi Debby, It was so nice to meet you at a RWA conference and to continue “seeing” you in our online RWA chapters. Thanks for always supporting our blog 🙂

  14. Paty Jager

    July 11, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I’ve been a member for 13 years. and I have to say if I had not joined the group I would probably still be floundering. It is a great organization. I’ve attended many RWA events over the years and I always run into writers who belong who don’t write romance. They say the same thing. It is the only place where you can hone all your writing skills.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 11, 2011 at 10:27 PM

      Hi Paty, It’s always nice to see you commenting on the blog. Writing skills and friends. Who could ask for anything more?

  15. Ruth Kenjura

    July 11, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Why join RWA,
    1. advocacy for writers
    2. People to support you emotionally that understand when you say “they rejected me” and know it will get better.
    3. The ability to ask a question regarding anything from the basics of writing to how do I fire my agent to a variety of writers, and know you will get help.
    4. The mere fact that you are not alone- writing is a solitary business, but the ability to tag another writer, even if they live in New Zealand and talk with them is priceless.
    5. Power in numbers-
    6. Being able to speak with other published authors and talk about things such as contracts, payments, editors, houses and where your career is going.
    7. Changes in the industry, RWA maintains their ability to keep up with changes in contracts, between agents and publishing houses and broadcasts them immediately on verification.
    8. Advising what to do when a house folds and pointing you in the right direction to protect your work.
    9. Did I mention friendship? Friendship with other writers, critique groups, articles on writing- sometimes just a sentence or concept brings about that bright light moment.
    10. workshops- at the chapter level, online workshops and the workshops at Nationals,(and not all center on romance- there are screen writing workshops, research, historical, etc.)
    11. Parties- Nationals are full of them from the small parties in the rooms to the ones given by chapters and then the ultimate publisher parties..
    12. Field trips- the Kiss of Death Chapter- which forcuses on mystery and syspense have had tours at the FBI,CIA, Coast Guard, Morgues, Police departments, State Department, to mention a few.
    13. Field trips on local chapter levels- ghost hunting field trips, trips at the gun range, the the marshes of Lousiana, etc.
    14. and last — why not? what could you loose? But oh what you can gain.


  16. Linda Warren

    July 11, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Great answers. If you want to be published, no matter what you write, RWA is the place to be. You can hone your craft through their many workshops offered at conferences and on the chapter level. Knowledge is powerul and RWA will take yiou where you want to go.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 12, 2011 at 8:59 AM

      Hi Linda, one of the things I love about RWA is that it offers training in so many different formats. If you can’t attend a workshop at Nationals, they have it on CD. Or you might see it at your local chapter. If you don’t have a local chapter, chances are you can find it in an online class. Yes, if you want to be published, RWA is the place to be. Thanks for the reminder. It’s all about educations 🙂

  17. Nan Dixon

    July 11, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    You’re right on the money with your reasons. I might add — Support Group. Even though writers may chose different genres – they all go through the same process. Look at the quality speakers that people rave about from conference – Hauge, Maass, Lawson. These are not educators for Romance – but for better writing. What I like – is the Pay it Forward aspect of this craft Published writers are willing to help newbies.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      July 12, 2011 at 9:47 AM

      “Pay it Forward’– what a wonderful attitude and that’s exactly what I’ve seen at RWA with established authors taking the time to mentor newbies. Great to hear from you, Nan. :0)

  18. Jacquie Rogers

    July 11, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    I’ve taken advantage of about everything RWA has to offer, but I have to say that the camaraderie has got to be the most precious of all. I found my critique partners in RWA, my writing buddies, my beta readers–most of my moral support group consists of RWA members.

  19. Hennie Johns

    July 11, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    I joined RWA in 1981 so I am telling my age here. What I have noticed is the way the organization has changed from strictly heterosexual romances to paranormals, erotica, and homosexual love stories. In the latest RWR report, I was shocked to see the advertisement on the back cover was of nude males. With young children running around, it was not a magazine that I wanted on my coffee table..
    That being said, I have never seen a career plan from the organization, but there is networking, lectures, and online classes available that would be helpful to any writer.The local chapters offer the opportunity to learn from published authors. The national conference continues to be one of the best writing conferences. However, if the writer writes non-fiction, christian, horror, or science fiction they might also want to find an organization that is more geared to the type of writing they do. My writing only has romantic elements, but I still belong to RWA. But in these hard economic times, I think writers have to decide which organization gives them the most for their money and their career.

  20. Kat Sheridan

    July 12, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I love being a member of RWA. That said, and not to be a Debbie Downer, I think it’s important to remember the mission statement of the RWA, published in every issue of RWR: “The corporation is hereby organized for the following purposes: To advance the professional interests of *career focused romance writers*. ROMANCE writers.”

    While I think everyone has something important to bring to the table, my concern is that by advocating that NON romance writers join the organization that A) the romance focus becomes more and more diluted and B) the organization itself risks losing its tax exempt status by not adhering to its stated purpose.

    It can be argued that most popular genre fiction does at least contain romantic elements, but I think a wholesale invitation to all writers regardless of their genre puts the RWA and its status at risk.

  21. morgan

    July 13, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    Many well-known non-romance authors cut their writing teeth on RWA. No other genre has anything like it. This year at conference TOR was a big sponsor, which shows the shifting of the types of stories being published under the romance heading.

    RWA members have given me the guidance, motivation, and confidence to submit my work to editors. Editors tend to regard work picked up at conferences as more marketable than work sent in from any old writer.

    It’s all good and I do get my money’s worth.


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