Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, July 11, 2014

Giving Up on a Long Journey with a Writers Group

"Setting Sun" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Once upon a time long ago I read a newspaper article about romance novels being a new "cottage industry". I was intrigued. I was hooked. I could write one of those books.

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.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm sorry! Shame the restrictions are so rigid. Sounds like your artwork is more important now though. Our interests do change.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

The artwork is more important now. However, I have a long journey involved with romance novels!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Do you have to give up your membership even though you don't currently go to meetings? It seems like you are torn, and maybe you don't need to choose one or the other.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks, Karen! I am torn!

Murees Dupé said...

I am sorry that you are faced with this. I know this won't be much help, but do what feels right to and for you. In your subconscious you already know what you want and it is unfair to have you leave the writing group you had helped set up. But you can still write wonderful romance novels on your own as well. I hope you find a solution to your problem. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Mary, I know that was a hard decision to make. Ironically, I just made a similar one this week. Eight years ago I'd founded a writer's group on the social site Deviant Art. I'd stepped down as the admin years ago, but this week I deleted my DA account and severed all ties. I have the email of the current admin though, so I can keep in touch.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Murres, thank you for your support! Sometimes you just have to let go, I've decided.

Diane, thank you for sharing your story!

Crystal Collier said...

You should hi-jack the group and establish your own private group. That's my opinion. Granted, the ideal doesn't always work out. I often look at seasons of change as opportunities, even if they feel like setbacks. Who knows what a departure would mean for you? Maybe it will turn into something amazing you never could have managed otherwise.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

You have to do what you have to do, Mary. What is the best for you and only you know what is best for you. You still going to be a member of CBW, I assume?
I know I have a romance novella done I need to edit for another publisher, but been doing horror novels more though one is a YA paranormal romance), stories that been published, and a fifth nonfiction ghost book.
I am seriously thinking of joining Horror Writers of America and they even have a local chapter. I like RWA, or the local chapter, but my reuppance doesn't come until end of January 2015--see if have money then.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Crystal. I agree that change can bring new opportunities.

Pam, I plan to continue with CBW at least. I also want to be more involved in the art community, a place that most beckons me. Thanks for commenting!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mary - sounds like art is taking over for now - but there's no reason not to stay in contact with the VRW group ... even if you do nothing ..

Or sling them as some have suggested ...

Happy decision .. I think you stay, but just for the info for the time being til slinging is in order, or until you go back to writing romance ..

Cheers Hilary

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Hilary, thanks so much for your advice. I'm still considering, but I think focus might be most important at this point and where I choose to focus.