Sampling RWA Chapters

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

RITA awards
RITA awards presented by RWA
Pic by Barbara Samuel
via Wikimedia Commons

One of my writing goals for this Round of Words in 80 Days is to attend at least one Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting. I have been repeatedly urged by fellow writers to check out this organization. In fact, this round I have sampled three RWAs. I want to share what each offered at the meeting I attended.

Northwest Houston RWA. I had the August 3 meeting on my calendar long before I discovered who was coming: Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. In case you don’t know, Smashwords is “the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks” and has partnerships with Apple, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, Sony, and others.

Mr. Coker presented 15 Secrets of Ebooks. The information was fabulous and not based on conjecture, but rather his experience and careful observation of statistics and trends. This Northwest Houston RWA information program made me feel like I’d hit the jackpot on my first time to a meeting.

If you want the gist of what Mr. Coker said, you can simply download his Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Also, if you plan to self-publish with Smashwords, be sure to download their Smashwords Style Guide. Both of these ebooks are FREE.

West Houston RWA. The August 10 meeting featured a panel of three local booksellers. Owners/representatives from Katy Budget Books, Blue Willow Bookshop, and Murder by the Book answered questions from RWA members. The topics ranged from their efforts to include local authors in their bookstores to the effects of ebook publishing on their businesses to how independent brick-and-mortar stores are faring.

The most important takeaway for me was to establish relationships with your local bookstores. Shop at the indie gems. Converse with the staff. Attend author events. Be supportive and friendly. If you’re invited to sign at the store, advertise like crazy and doing everything you can to fill the place.

In the changing atmosphere, when many booksellers have gone out of business, the independent bookstores that weathered the storm are now doing well overall. Print sales remain strong, and ebooks can be purchased through local bookstore websites. Local booksellers offer personalized service, both for the reader and for the author. Maintaining a good relationship with them could be key to getting the spark started for a word-of-mouth wildfire about your next book.

Bay Area RWA. Author Donna Grant spoke to the Bay Area RWA on August 20. Donna is the author of more than forty romance novels and novellas. She discussed her writing process, her hybrid publishing model, working with her editor, and marketing tactics. One interesting marketing approach is Donna’s Dolls, her “street team” who help promote her books in exchange for first looks and other goodies.

It’s always interesting for a prepublished author to get a glimpse into the working life of an multi-published author. Her output sounded amazing (about 20 pages a day, 5 days a week), but the key seems to be her laser-like concentration. Her routine is organized, straightforward, and focused. It was a good reminder to me to push aside distractions when writing or editing a book and prioritize tasks so that I can see the progress I desire.

Will I return to RWA? Yes. At this point, I plan to return to the Bay Area RWA. It’s geographically closest, the group is a little smaller, and I ended up chatting with several people. Really, any of the groups would be helpful to a writer.

I have also looked into SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). However, their Houston chapter is about an hour-and-a-half drive from me and meets on Tuesday evenings. I’m just not motivated enough to battle Houston rush-hour traffic for a weeknight meeting that will last less time than it took me to get there. But I may join the national organization, the chapter, and watch for weekend workshops and conferences.

ROW80 Update

1. Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. I’ll be tackling this one soon, since the kids return to school this week.

2. Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Already done, plus I edited a third short story that I wrote last week.

3. Read 10 fiction books. Finished. Anything else I read is icing on the cake!

White CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black
Firelands by Piper Bayard
Almost a Scandal and A Breath of Scandal by Elizabeth Essex
Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

4. Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Done. Still typing up notes from the book, but I’ve finished reading.

5. Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.

6. Attend at least one RWA meeting. Done in spades: As discussed above, I attended the Northwest Houston, West Houston, and Bay Area RWA meetings.

Are you in a writers’ group? What have you gained from that experience? And how was your week?

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15 thoughts on “Sampling RWA Chapters

  1. I haven’t joined a writer’s group since college. Mainly because I’m a big chicken, LOL. I’m considering joining RWA though. The only downside is that the local chapter is about 1 hour away. I have to check around and see if there are any other groups closer.

    Great job on your goals and yay for getting all that reading done! Have a great week and happy writing!

    1. Yeah, I’m a big chicken too. I’m a big talker with people I know, but a massive introvert in a room of people I don’t know. So attending these meetings was way out of my comfort zone. Still, I’m glad I did. I think I’ll learn more and make some valuable connections. Thankfully, the writer community overall is a very welcoming place to be.

      Thanks for the encouragement, Kat! Have a lovely week.

  2. Her routine is organized, straightforward, and focused. <– love this. I want this. I'm glad you had great experiences already with RWA, very encouraging. This week, Julie, we're going to get stuff done. 🙂 Looking forward to a productive week.

    1. Bring it on, S.J.! When I told my husband what all is on my plate, he said, “You’re expecting to get a LOT done this week.” I was like, “You betcha!!!”

  3. Hi Julie! I am a member of an online writing group – Critique Circle – but I haven’t actually ‘done’ anything there. Yet. I’ve heard great things about it, so once I have something to share and need feedback on it, this is where I’ll be heading. It’ll be fun to critique others’ work as well because that’s a great learning experience too.
    All the best with your week. 🙂

  4. I attended my first writer’s convention a couple of weeks ago, Romance Novel Convention, in Las Vegas. And Mark Coker was there! I was so excited. He did, I think, three classes.

  5. I’ve been thinking about RWA and SCBWI, but I haven’t made the time to go explore either. Like you, I don’t want to brave rush hour traffic on a weekday evening. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and congratulations on plowing through your goals!

  6. I’ve not joined anything due to finances, hopefully with the new day job that will change sooner rather than later and I’ll be able add that goal. I have a fabulous mentor in Joely Sue Burkhart though.

    Great progress with your goals Julie! Wishing you a great week.

    1. Mentors are fabulous. I’ve also been so pleased how multi-published authors are willing to reach back and help others coming behind them. Hope you can swing those finances too for RWA!

      Have a marvelous week, Raelyn!

  7. These highlights for your three RWA excursions were fun to read. Thanks for the link to Coker’s self-pubbing book (downloaded it!). Since I write historical fiction, I never thought of joining RWA, but your comments encourage me to take a closer look, though, like you, my local chapter is a bit of a drive — and you have to join National as well as the local chapter. I’m seeing steady progress on your ROW80 goals and love your clear reporting. Enjoy the rest of the summer and the crunch leading up to the end of Round 3.

    1. Thanks, Beth! Yeah, I resisted RWA for a while too. There’s romance in all of my stories and books, but they’re not usually the main focus. But RWA has a reputation for teaching writing craft and publishing trends so well.

      Enjoy your summer too!

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