We have another free week here on the blog, so I decided to write about another one of my many groups. I belong to two different “in person” writing groups, and one of them is my local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter. The Mid-Michigan chapter covers much of the lower peninsula of the state. Meeting locations rotate between four different cities: Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Jackson. I’ve belonged to this group for almost twenty years, and I’ve learned so much from the people here. We have many published authors – several with the major publishing houses – and many who are self-published, along with writers who (like me) have chosen to stick with smaller publishers who focus on putting out ebooks.
I mentioned in my post on May 4 that I got hooked on romances while I was a busy working mom. I read romances to escape into someone else’s world, and when that character overcame her hardships and conflicts and settled into her happily-ever-after, I was able to set aside my the stresses in my life and go to sleep. I became a regular at our local library.
One day I picked up a romance I thought I would enjoy. It was part of a series – one hero from each of the fifty states. I found the book with the hero from Michigan and settled in to read. Three hours later I closed the book, sorely disappointed. Not only was the hero NOT a native Michigander (yes, Chicago is close, but it’s in Illinois!), most of the action took place in Wisconsin (again, just across the border from the northwestern point of the upper peninsula, but not Michigan), and when the heroine was hurt she was flown from northern Wisconsin to a community hospital in a rural part of Michigan’s lower peninsula (if you check a map you’ll see that makes no sense). I was so angry I actually wrote a letter to the publisher asking them to please find an author who was either more familiar with the locale or willing to do the research. Of course I got no reply.
Like many others before me, I figured I could do better. After discovering the national organization (RWA) I went on the internet and found a local chapter. I even found the name and phone number of the president, so I called that person and got meeting information. I started going to the meetings and in between meetings I wrote. And I discovered what a major undertaking it was to write an entire book. But this group has been there, teaching me, challenging me, and cheering my successes. We meet monthly, but thanks to social media and email we can connect regularly – sometimes daily! Some ladies who live near each other meet bi-weekly at a coffee shop and just write.
Once a year we have a weekend retreat. This year it was at a beautiful resort about a forty-minute drive south of my home. We have a headline speaker (this year it was Rita Clay Estrada, the woman who started RWA!) and we gather in small groups to discuss different issues in writing and publishing. We have fun, and The peaceful lakeside setting, well-planned and superbly led workshops, and the fellowship with other authors always make me leave inspired and eager to get back to my keyboard.
I feel so fortunate to have found a group to help guide me on my path to publication. Romance Writers of America has 145 chapters – both face-to-face and online – so there’s a group for almost anyone who wants to write romance. It’s been almost twenty years since I first said “I could do that.” I really feel this group helped me to change that to “I did that.”