It was the late 80s when I joined the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association, and I joined for one reason and one reason only. I was going to write a few of those ‘silly little books’, become very rich and then write the kinds of stories I really wanted to write. Worthwhile stories, you know, not just formulaic romances. I mean, how hard could a Harlequin/Mills and Boon be to write? Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.
And therein lies the rub.
How do you write a story that will grab the reader’s attention when they know the ending already? Writing a romance novel is a lot – lot – harder than you can imagine. Receiving rejection after rejection, I discovered this was definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme.
But I persisted. I even made the final of The Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest and had a New York editor ask me to send her my manuscript. (I never did – but that’s another story.)
However, I gained many riches from joining ARWA, just not in the way I initially thought I would.
The first came as a question from ARWA’s founder – Judith Duncan – who asked me what I liked to read. My answer was women’s fiction. ‘So why aren’t you writing that?’ She was 100% right. That put me on a course to write the kinds of stories I loved to read – and write.
The second… well that was in the people I met in ARWA. It is probably the most supportive group you will ever meet and it is where I found – as Ken Robinson describes in his book Finding Your Element – ‘my tribe’. My fellow writers have become friends – great friends – and with two of them in particular, I have travelled Europe and North America sharing adventures and fun.
Thirdly… ARWA allows you to try things out in a safe, non-judgemental setting. Once upon a time, writers tended to be read, not seen or heard, but in this new world of social media, the writer herself is on stage as much as her books. In ARWA you are encouraged to learn to give presentations, to experiment with technology, to participate in conferences in the knowledge that the other members are there to support and cheer you on.
It’s the ‘R’ for Romance in our name that tends to put people off joining our group, but over the years/decades, ARWA has become a writers’ group that is about much much more than writing romance. We teach the craft of writing – everything you need to know about getting your book from a spark of an idea to seeing it for sale in the bookstore. Yes, we still have workshops on romance, but out of the 20+ workshops we offer a year, only two are geared specifically at the romance market. Whether you are writing sci-fi, or historical, or thriller, you need to know about character, motivation, plotting, conflict, active versus passive voice, point of view, etc, etc, and that’s what we teach.
Covid forced us from our public meeting room into the privacy of our homes, but ironically lockdown has opened us up to the world. We now have members from all over Canada, as well as the States, joining us for our online Zoom meetings. And if you miss a meeting, members can access recordings of our workshops on the members’ only section of our website. All for $60Cdn per year!
No matter what you write, if you are looking for a supportive, friendly and progressive writing group, why don’t you check us out? www.albertaromancewriters.com
And if you do, I hope it brings the richness to your life that is has to mine.