Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How RWA and Its Chapters Help You

Maven Darcy BurkeDoesn’t that title bring to mind the educational movies you watched in elementary school? You know, the ones filmed in the late 50s or 60s and explained everything from how to winter plants to how to do calisthenics. Perhaps you settled into your rock-hard chair at your desk, excited about seeing a movie (or maybe it was even a “filmstrip”) instead of doing long division. But then you realize it’s something you’d seen last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

Hopefully your RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter meetings are not like that! But I get ahead of myself. First, do you belong to RWA? Or, if you’re not a romance writer, do you belong to whatever national/international writing group that might apply to you? Do you also belong to your local chapter? If you don’t have a local chapter, do you belong to any online chapters? (Isn’t the Internet grand?) Note to reader: Joining RWA and a chapter can be a great way to promote yourself!

If you answered no to all of those questions and are dead-serious about getting published, you might want to rethink. The first thing I did when I decided I was “serious” about writing romance was join RWA. Took me another six or so months to join my local chapter, Rose City Romance Writers, but I kind of eased into the writing thing over the first year. Then, a year after joining RCRW, I, uh, raised my hand at the wrong moment and found myself the new vice president of programs. Whoops. Er, yay! Note to reader: Becoming an active member of your chapter can be a great way to promote yourself!

I’m not in charge of promotion, but I am responsible for ensuring we have a program at each meeting. This is typically a speaker who talks for an hour or so on a writing-related topic. We love to have big names and exciting topics that will draw loads of members and often we do. I also really appreciate our chapter members who present a handful of workshops each year. I always learn something and I enjoy getting to know my fellow chapter members in this way. Note to reader: Giving workshops can be a great way to promote yourself!

RCRW also offers published authors all sorts of cool things – links on the chapter website, plugs in the printed monthly newsletter, opportunities to come talk (hint, hint), and we always, always invite our authors to sign their books. We have our business meeting and then we break before the program. Our awesome local bookseller brings and sells the books for the author to sign during the break and we happily rack up her sales numbers. Note to reader: Attending chapter meetings and signing books can be a great way to promote yourself!

We also have a PAN (Published Author Network within RWA) liaison and a PRO liaison for those of us on our way up to publishing. Anyone will tell you in any field that who you know can play a huge part in success. Your chapter members will be more than writing supporters, they will be networking contacts. They’re likely to read your book because, hey, they know you. And once they read your book, they’re likely to recommend it. Note to reader: Networking with chapter members can be a great way to promote yourself!

You no doubt have figured out (or will by the end of next week when we conclude our promotion series) that promotion is one of those things that will give results based on what you put into it – whether it’s money, or time, or passion. Here’s a new Mavenism: If you work it, it will come. (Hmmm, definitely a romance writer, I guess.) How about, If you pimp it, it will come. (Not any better, huh?) Ah well, what I’m trying to say, is work your chapter meetings and events, work the RWA National Conference – make this membership work for you! That’s absolutely what it’s for.

How has RWA (or appropriate organization) helped you? What kinds of promotion opportunities does your local or online chapter offer?


Celeste said...

I'm a Member of Maine RWA (lovingly known to us as MERWA). What's really interesting about our chapter is how SMALL it is - we have about 35 members. Like you said Darcy, there is a very real possibility that if you raise your hand to stretch at the wrong moment or ask too many questions, you will end up an officer :) It happened to me, too, Darcy! But I have to say that joining this very intimate group has made all the difference to my decision to keep writing. Many of us are unpublished writers, some are e-published, some have multiple books, but ALL are generous with their time, advice, and squeeing when someone needs a chirp-session on the loop. (Me. Just yesterday.)

MERWA members helped me:
1. write my first query letter
2. calm down after my first full ms request
3. stop whinging after my first full ms rejection letter (it was a "good" letter after all!)
4. work through my first in-person pitch session (and several more since)
5. learn all I could about random jobs by putting on programs about what THEY do for a living (I know I can count on them for research details if they do the job themselves! no need to scramble for an interview!)
6. learn how to shoot my Ruger (one of our MERWA husbands is a fabulous shooting instructor and SWAT team guy!)

I could go on, but you get the picture. The benefits of being in RWA are endless, particularly if you get involved in your local chapter!! Key words: get involved!!

Celeste said...

Wow. Sorry. I wrote a book there.

Anonymous said...

If you pimp it, it will come.

Bwa ha haa. This cracks me up on far too many levels.

Darc: Fabulous post. All of it very true, and good advice.

Celeste: Great answers! RWA rocks.

TARA (my Tampa chapter) also rocks. Thanks to them, I went to my first conference, attended my first workshop, did my first pitch, sent my first query letter, celebrated my first rejection, celebrated my first request, etc, etc, etc. My chaptermates, both published and not, are fun, friendly, knowledgeable, and always eager to share advice, hugs, high-fives, a shoulder, chocolate, a fresh mojito--whatever the moment seems to call for. Yay, TARA! =)

Darcy Burke said...

Celeste: Writers write books, LOL. Your chapter sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Erica: Having met several TARA members in Dallas, I agree they rock!!

lacey kaye said...

I kept seeing the comment emails coming into my inbox and now I see this post DOES rock!

Darcy, you pimped the heck out of RWA chapters! Heck, now *I* want to join one, and I'm already the president of my local chapter. Hrm.

May need to pick your brain sometime soon...

Isabel said...

Join the RWA and a local chapter(s)! was one of the first pieces of advice I got when I first starting learning about this business. Sound advice it is! Now, I say the same thing, join the RWA!

The benefits of being in RWA are endless, particularly if you get involved in your local chapter!! Key words: get involved!!

I did, I did *waves hands* :) I signed up to help out with our Chapter's -Silicon Valley RWA- GOTCHA! Contest. Though I'm not sure what I'll be doing...exactly. LOL

Darcy~ You rock all over the place! Right on the money with this blog.

Thanks to my chapter (which didn't join until January of this year, months after I got RWA membership) SVRWA, along with all of you Mavens and your readers, RI, my friends and the DH I'm still walking the road to publishing. One step at time and to quote you and Lacey ;) "one little ugly word at a time".

Isabel said...

I got when I first starting learning about this business.

Ack! *started*

Anonymous said...

Nice blog, Darcy. You pegged many of the great things our chapter has going for it.

One of my favorite parts of the meeting is "kudos." Members share the recent events in their writing journeys. Both positive and negative. I love to hear the uphill struggles of the other writers. It helps to know the multi-published author sitting next to me received 135 rejection letters and had three lines close down on her. And she's still plugging away. Very inspiring!

And you're right about the networking. I've bought tons of books by our authors. Writers are some of the most voracious readers.

I love running into our members at conferences or book signings, and attending the yearly retreat. Frankly I like the whole social system with people who love writing as much as I do. Some days when I'm pulling my hair out and about to throw my laptop out the window and never write another word, I stop and consider whether I'd let my membership in our RWA chapter drop. Probably not.

I'm enjoying the blog. I've told Darcy I thought you mavens are doing a lovely, professional job. Keep it up.

Darcy Burke said...

Isabel: Thank you, thank you! You made me blush. :-) Way to go on volunteering! That was the first thing I did in my chapter too. Last year I was a category coordinator for our Golden Rose contest.

Kendra! Thanks for stopping by, neighbor! I can't believe I forgot to mention kudos!!! Duh! Thanks for bringing it up because it's my favorite part of the meeting too. I love hearing everyone's news, good, bad, ugly. We have such a supportive group of women in RCRW. Thanks for reading!! :-)

Jackie Barbosa said...

As all the Mavens know, I'm the only one of us who hasn't taken the plunge to join a "real-life" chapter. I'm a member of the Beau Monde and I have attended a few meetings of the San Diego RWA chapter (which I really enjoyed), but haven't taken the plunge to join because I can so rarely attend their Saturday meetings.

Darcy is making me reconsider, though, especially since Jill Limber, current President of RWA, is a member of the chapter :).

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