|"Setting Sun" ©Mary Montague Sikes|
Not long after my "discovery" I attended a conference sponsored by the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. It was following one of the writing panels that a speaker told me about Romance Writers of America. At the time, it was a fairly new organization. I was excited. I was thrilled. I joined.
The group had a magazine, not slick but very informative. I read it each month from cover to cover. I also attended the national conference which was held in Minneapolis/St. Paul that year. It was the first of many national conferences that fed my thirst for learning all I could about romance writing.
That same year, four nationally known romance writers came to Richmond to speak to a crowd of excited readers and wannabee writers. My fantasy grew. I looked at all the people gathered in the tea room of the iconic Miller and Rhoads department store. It was amazing. Why couldn't we have our own romance writers group? I suggested it to the woman seated across from me, and we passed around a signup sheet that was the beginning of Richmond Romance Writers (now Virginia Romance Writers).
Not long after the formation of our chapter, several members got contracts with Harlequin, a major publisher of romance novels. Our little group was thrilled for them, and we were inspired to write more and try harder. Over the years, Virginia Romance Writers has produced many published authors. The chapter has worked hard to present programs to educate and guide members to publication. It has been a major success story.
Each year I looked forward to the summer conference. I loved the settings that included Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, Anaheim, and New York City. I still read the magazine, now quite slick, from cover to cover.
Along the way, I discovered I couldn't write to formula, a requirement for most of the romance series. I wanted an artist for the heroine or a sports figure for the hero. That was not a good thing at the time.
When I did reach publication, it was with a small publisher, not recognized by RWA. I was disappointed. I loved the group, and I was proud of my accomplishment.
In recent years, I have lost interest in attending the national conferences. My VRW chapter meetings are on the same day each month as meetings of the artist organization to which I also belong. I have chosen to attend the art meetings which feature excellent workshops instead of the writing meetings which also feature wonderful programs. I no longer read the magazine.
Things change. My membership comes up for renewal at the end of this month. I have decided not to renew. That means I can no longer be a member of the local chapter of which I am a founder. I am sad about that.
It is really hard to give up on such a long journey that has provided many memories both good and bad. It is difficult to accept change. As I look at the beautiful website of Romance Writers of America, I realize I am still uncertain what to do.
What do you think? Is giving up my membership also giving up a dream? I don't know.