Because I’m an inspirational romance writer who is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers as well as Romance Writers of America®, I’ve been asked a number of times why I belong to both organizations. Other inspy romance writers who are considering joining RWA® are curious what I see as the benefits.
Here’s my answer in a nutshell. Okay, make that a good-sized coconut shell. =)
RWA is one of the most organized and highly respected writer organizations in the publishing world. The over 10,000 members include published and unpublished writers as well as industry professionals.
There are 145 local, online, and special-interest chapters. I’m a member of the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter in northern California. This is the only romance writers group in my area. There are other writers groups, but I can’t get the genre-specific instruction from them I get at our SVR meetings. I enjoy the face-to-face contact with others who are writing romance. They’re quite supportive and share in my joy when I receive good news.
Because I write inspirational romance, I’m a member of the Faith, Hope and Love chapter, which is comprised of others writing in the sub-genre. We have an online loop where we interact. We get to meet in person at the RWA conference when the FH&L chapter holds its annual meeting, and we enjoy a special time of fellowship.
The conference is amazing. Over 2,000 writers and industry professionals gather for instruction from some of the top names in romance. At Nationals this year, to be held in New York City, we will be able to choose from over 100 workshops.
One of the much-anticipated events at Nationals is the Literacy Autographing. Over 400 authors fill hundreds of tables, signing copies of their books for eager fans. This two-hour event is open to the public, and the proceeds are donated to various literacy organizations.
The culmination of the conference is the Awards Ceremony, which has been likened to the Oscars. As is the case at the ACFW conference, we gather in our finery for the presentation of the awards. RWA has two annual contests, the RITA for published romance authors and the Golden Heart for unpublished writers. Each contest has around 1,200 entrants in 10 categories. A final in the RITA is a boost to one’s career, and a final in the Golden Heart can open doors for the finalists.
There are a number of smaller contests sponsored by RWA chapters, which give published and unpublished romance novelists opportunities to see how their work fares against their peers. Most of the unpublished contests provide feedback from the preliminary round judges, which can help the entrants learn what their strengths and weaknesses are. If an entry makes it to the final round, the writer’s work will be seen by the agents and editors who volunteer their time to serve as judges. If they see a promising entry, they might request a partial or a full, which have led to some offers of representations and first sales.
At this point, those who are members of ACFW might be wondering what the difference is. After all, ACFW has a number of chapters, holds an annual conference, offers high caliber-instruction, and sponsors the prestigious Carol Awards contest for published fiction authors and Genesis for unpublished writers.
While ACFW began as an organization of inspirational romance writers, it now includes fiction writers in all genres, so the instruction is not geared primarily to those writing romance. Much still applies, but the focus at RWA Nationals is on romance alone.
Some ACFW chapters have begun to sponsor contests, but there aren’t nearly as many as are sponsored by RWA chapters at this point. Since my offer of representation came as a result of an RWA chapter-sponsored contest, this was an important factor for me.
The editors who attend the ACFW conference are generally there representing houses that produce books for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market. For those authors considering expanding from the CBA market to the broader market of the ABA (American Booksellers Association), the RWA conference will offer them opportunities to meet ABA editors, whereas they’ll have fewer opportunities at the ACFW conference.
I’ve listed a number of benefits for being a member of RWA. One of the most important to me are the people. I was a member of RWA long before I knew about ACFW. I’ve made hundreds of friends in RWA. Many don’t share my faith or write for the inspirational market as I do, but they are some of the most generous and talented people I know who accept me readily and have blessed me in many ways.
I’m a member of RWA who is grateful to the organization and the wonderful people who make it what it is. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Is it for you? That’s for you to decide, but I’m a member who plans to remain one for a long time to come.