Monday, June 5, 2017

When It's Time to Say Goodbye by Alison Henderson

No, not to you, my fellow Roses. Never to you. I cherish the camaraderie and support of this group and look forward to many more years together.

No, last month I did something I've thought long and hard about for the past three years. I let my membership in Romance Writers of America lapse. I didn't simply forget to pay my dues--I made the conscious decision that after many years together, we're going in different directions and no longer have much to offer each other.

This was not an easy decision. My membership was measured in decades rather than years. I first joined the organization after LaVyrle Spencer, one of the original grande dames of romance, gave me the contact information for the Minneapolis chapter in 1990. I had written my first manuscript but had no idea what I was doing. RWA taught me my craft. Over the years, I belonged to two chapters in two states and attended four national conventions. I met so many wonderful writers and made (I hope) lifelong friends. 

So why give it up? Change. I've changed. My writing has changed. The publishing industry has changed. And I think RWA has changed, too. 

When I sold my first book to a small, non-advance-paying press in 2010, I was thrilled. However, RWA was less impressed. I was not eligible to become a member of the Published Authors Network. I understood their position regarding the money and still do, but that doesn't soothe the sting of being considered "second class." 

After three books with my original publisher, I decided I wanted to try going indie. Other writers were doing it, and it looked fun--perfect for someone who wants to be in control of every aspect of the process. It works for me, but once again, RWA withheld their seal of approval. I have made enough money now to qualify, but I no longer care.

To be fair, the organization has made a number of changes and concessions over the past couple of years, but for me, they've come too late. I have no interest in attending self-publishing workshops at nationals. After three books, I'm past that point. I've figured this thing out. 

Even then, I probably would have continued my membership if I still had a local chapter available. Nothing beats sitting down with other writers and sharing the ups and downs of this crazy business. Unfortunately, the closest local chapter is now an hour-and-a-half drive from me. Fortunately, I've met a couple of compatible local (non-romance) writers, and online sources and opportunities to network with other writers abound. When I realized I didn't miss RWA at all, the split became inevitable.

For those of you who are active members, I'm happy for you. I hope the organization continues to serve and inspire you. That's how it should be. For me, it's been a very amicable divorce.

Alison
www.alisonhenderson.com

23 comments:

Leah St. James said...

I made the split about two years ago, Alison, for many of the reasons you mentioned. My only hesitation was losing the contact with my local chapter. But "local" meant a 90-mile drive for me across the most heavily congested highway in my area, and I rarely attended meetings. I do miss that group, but not RWA. Like you, I'm happy for those who are finding it a beneficial connection, but I'm not sorry I said goodbye.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Looks like there's three of us, so far, this morning who have similar stories. I split last year as well. I think the membership fee is too steep with no payback for me anymore. I enjoyed the local chapter meetings when I lived in MN. When I moved to AZ, I had a 2 hour drive to meetings and they were in the evenings. Dinner was part of the meeting so add gas, dinner, and the local chapter fees. Just not economical. I never attended the local meetings, but I did meet many great ladies at bigger events that I will miss. RWA wouldn't give me PAN status either back then, Alison, but I'm not so forgiving. And after judging the contests, I'm appalled at the lack of guidelines and feel they are a sham. I've now joined Sisters in Crime. I'll try it for a couple of years. So far...not real impressed but the financial outlay is considerably less.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I belonged to the same state chapter as Leah for 3 or 4 years and because of distance never attended a single meeting. I ended my membership there, but have hung onto my RWA since I'm PAN, but I never have time to read the magazines and rarely take an online seminar anymore. I justify the cost by saying it's a tax write off and my accountant keeps telling me I need more. But...I could spend that large chunk on advertising or swag items. I can certainly understand why you stepped back. I think of doing it every year.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

PLUS, I find a great deal of snobbery there. I attended an RWA convention in NYC, eager to meet other authors. I did get to meet those I'd made friends with online, but total strangers were "oh look at how great I am" in their attitude. Granted they were younger and hadn't aged like fine wine yet. The workshops were geared more to first time writers in my opinion for I didn't learn a thing. And, believe me, I don't know all that much. I often feel I need heavy duty training.

Andrea Downing said...

I feel much as you guys. In fact, I never joined a local chapter because either it would be the NYC one and I'm rarely there, or it would be one on LI about 85 miles away so not likely to attend. When I started writing someone told me I had better join RWA because if I wanted an agent they would look for that. Not necessarily so! It strikes me that I'm paying $100 a year just in order to read the RWR and that hasn't been of much interest lately.

Alison Henderson said...

Leah, I'm still in touch with my friends from my old Minnesota chapter through FB--our own JL and Brenda, included. Other than the monthly face-to-face, I don't miss anything about RWA.

Alison Henderson said...

Brenda, the money outlay didn't annoy me as much as the attitude. I entered and judged numerous contests along the road, and I have to admit, some of the feedback from those contests kept me going when I was getting pretty discouraged. However, once I finally reached my first big goal, it felt like they'd changed the rules and I still wasn't good enough.

Alison Henderson said...

Vonnie, you're not missing anything by not finding time to read RWR these days. It's become less and less useful the past few years. OG always wants me to look for tax write-offs, too, but I'm hoping he'll forgive me for giving this one up. As for the national convention, I'm not a life-of-the-party kind of girl, especially not among thousands of amped-up strangers. I thought about going last year when it was in San Diego, but I listened to what my friends had on their schedules and realized I'd be lucky to connect with them for a few minutes here and there.

Alison Henderson said...

Andi, I went to the national conventions with the main goal of finding an agent, and those appointments were some of the worst professional experiences of my life (and I worked in insurance for 37 years!) Most of the agents hate doing them and make that abundantly clear. As for paying $99 to read the RWR, lately I've found I just skimmed it in a few minutes. It became clear that the organization and I had become irrelevant to each other.

Jannine Gallant said...

I never joined RWA. I'm thrifty and expect to earn back every penny I spend in some form. That didn't seem like it would happen through RWA membership. There's a local group of authors down in Reno (an hour from me) who aren't affiliated--i.e. no fees! Most are indie authors, but we rarely meet. Everyone is busy, and I work weekends at the paycheck job, so I find it difficult when they do arrange something. I've never attended a conference because they cost so dang much, and I didn't see the point in workshops that (not bragging here) I could probably teach. I'm strongly considering RT 2018 simply because it's in Reno. Also, Kensington always has a strong presence there, and I'll have my first mass market paperback out by then. I feel like I need to show my publisher I'm a contender for their marketing efforts and dollars...and I won't have to pay for airfare or a hotel! Sounds like you made the right decision for you, Alison.

Alison Henderson said...

Going to RT next year is a good decision for all the reasons you mentioned. I first joined RWA in the pre-Internet era, when the organization was much more important for providing education and support for writers. Now, we can find each other and learn what we need to know much more easily on our own.

Diane Burton said...

I can easily understand your reasoning, Alison. My local chapter (Margo's, too) alternates locations so almost everyone has a meeting near them three times a year. The rest of the time, it's sometimes a 2-hour trip to the meeting plus it wipes out an entire Saturday. I value my membership there. RWA, not as much now. When I joined in 1993, we had no internet so RWA was a great help. At one of the national conferences I met an agent--one who did nothing for me for over three years. What a mistake. All in all, I did get a lot from RWA. I value the online chapters I belong to (FF&P and KOD). But it's becoming a financial burden that isn't giving me as much as I need now. As you say, times change, we change. Last year, I considered dropping my membership but stayed because of the chapters. It's the people, esp the local ones, who've given me more of what I need. Good luck.

Alison Henderson said...

Diane, the local chapters were always the most valuable to me, too. Without them, there just wasn't much left.

Kathryn Cottrell said...

I have found the entire discussion quite interesting--eye opening in fact. That sudden "Gee I'm not alone in my feelings [about RWA] anymore". Where have you been all my life?
Around here, where RWA chapters abound, the argument that for $99.00 all I'm getting is a glossy magazine which is rather elitist [IMO] is met with stakes and crosses, followed by accusations of heresy.
Gee, reading today's post has been like a breath of fresh air.
Thank you all so much.
Kat Henry Doran

Alison Henderson said...

Kat, I think a lot of us have been feeling this way for quite some time. Welcome to the crowd!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Great discussion. Way back in the day, RWA was the much needed breath of fresh air. Most other writing groups were snobbish and exclusive. Tired of driving a hundred miles each way to Detroit for meetings that ended at 10 PM, I founded the local chapter Diane mentioned. At that time, potential members - some now still friends - came out of the woodwork. Since then, the national organization has changed and, IMO not for the better for the reasons cited here. The value for me is the local group.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I do wonder, every year, if I'm smart to keep my RWA membership. My 'local' chapter is on line. But I do love the PAN loop on line....I learn so much from them! My career sounds like Alison's...Wild Rose has two of my books (one Amazon Encore); all the rest are Indie. Tough to know how to have all we need, isn't it?

Liz Flaherty said...

I haven't given it up yet, but I imagine this is my last year. I think I've aged out. Not of writing or of publishing, but of RWA itself. If anyone develops a Senior Romance Writers of America, I'm there!

Alison Henderson said...

Margo, I couldn't agree more. When I first joined RWA it inspired and energized me. That hasn't been the case for several years, so it's time to move on.

Alison Henderson said...

Rolynn, if you're getting a lot from the PAN online group, I'd say it's well worth your while.

Alison Henderson said...

Oh, Liz, I'm with you. Senior Romance Writers of America, here we come!

Nan said...

I'm with Liz--we need Senior RWA desperately! I'd be so in! I'm still in my local chapter, but probably for the last year and maybe RWA for the last year as well. It just doesn't seem to be serving my writing career in any way and I'm certainly not serving the organization at all either.

Alicia Dean said...

I completely feel you on RWA. Some of their rules and restrictions and their mindset is a little discouraging. I am limited on what capacity I can serve in, since I'm an acquiring editor for TWRP. I have been a member of RWA since around 2004, and I loved it in the beginning, but now, I only stay in for my local chapter, which I adore and DO attend meetings, and can't seem to give up (not to mention, I'm either the official/unofficial IDA chair/webmistress/programs person... :)) Great post!