Friday, April 06, 2007

What have you done for me lately?

So today, in my final RWA post for the week (but I'm sure not ever), I want to talk about what the RWA does and does not do, and how I think and feel about it. And stuff. Actually, I just woke up and my mind is still a little fuzzy, but we're going out today and I don't know when we'll be back, so I want to get this in before we go. (Plus, I have had a pork roast in the oven since last night, slow roasting, and it smells so good and I can't wait for dinner, but it means that when I get home I'll be chopping potatoes and parsnips to roast and making gravy and all that stuff. So busy. But I'll have time to read and reply to comments.)


Smart Bitches posted today about the RWA again, and the good things they do. It's quite an interesting post, and the comments trail is even more so (it's all here for your reading pleasure).

I have some thoughts on why it is that RWA, an organization run by and largely peopled with women, seems to worry so much more about inclusion and who's in and who's out than, say, the SFWA which seems to be largely a male organization. (Just from what I see, don't kill me if I'm wrong please.) Writer Sandra K. Moore has an excellent post about the RWA, inclusion, and gender here; it's definitely worth a read, as is the post she links to in the beginning.

But my issue at the moment is more on the RWA as a professional organization, specifically as the only one for writers which allows unpublished writers to join. (Again, the post Moore links to is about that subject; she says it better than I could.)

The thing is, as I said before, I really get nothing from my RWA membership. I don't go to conventions (and if I wanted to, I wouldn't have to be a member to attend.) I don't have a local chapter whose meetings I attend. I'm not really a joiner (big shock) anyway, so even when I did have a local chapter I never bothered to go. So perhaps I am not one to be making a judgment--but then, I'm exactly the right one, too.

Because none of this stuff ever seemed to have any real value to me, and that's why I didn't go. I didn't bother because I didn't see any value in bothering. Networking is all well and good, I guess, but ultimately there are only so many lectures you can hear or articles on writing good queries before it all becomes gibberish.

That I didn't get involved is my fault, but that RWA didn't make me want to get involved is theirs. I'd been told that RWA was invaluable to the unpublished writer; maybe at one point it was, but with the advent of the internet, that value is dissipating. I can learn more about publishing from the blogs I link to than from an issue of the Romance Writer's Report.

So RWA needs to change its focus. I keep hearing it does so much for romance writers...but aside from its recent serving of a cease-and-desist order on copyright theft site eSnips, I haven't seen much of it. I think once or twice they've stepped into a publishing dispute and done something about it (like sponsoring audits or putting pressure on publishers to change a particular clause in a contract, or whatever).

Compare that to The Authors Guild. Check that website out, seriously. They offer health insurance plans. They offer contract advice and legal services. They even offer web design services.

Tell me which one is more worth joining?

My point isn't that RWA isn't any good. They are. But they should be better. They could concern themselves less with helping newbies--not that it's not important--and more with helping published authors. I'd be willing to pay an extra $50 a year to get some of the services offered by the Author's Guild (although they charge less.) (By the way, see the difference between that website and RWA's homepage. Seriously.)

See, again, so many people seem to imbue the RWA with some kind of authority, and frankly, it's a waste of time and energy. So you write m/m and the current RWA environment doesn't care for m/m? (Although I think that's more to do with the old regime than the new.) So what? Why does it matter to you? Is your work less valid because the RWA doesn't recognize your publisher? Who cares? Why do you care? Why do you need to set up this straw dog to fight, instead of just working as hard as you can, as best as you can, and making your own way?

Seriously. Do you care about being a good writer, or do you care what RWA thinks?

And it's this kind of silly argument that keeps the RWA from being everything it could and should be. Why don't we worry less about why RWA doesn't like books with ass-fucking in them, and more about why RWA isn't organizing some kind of health plan for its published members? Less accusing them of being mean because they don't recognize a start-up publisher without seeing some proof that they can actually help a writer's career, and more of demanding they provide free contract help so unagented writers aren't being fucked in the ass themselves?

Maybe, if we want to know why our genre doesn't get the respect we think it deserves, it's because our professional organization seems to be largely devoted to self-esteem issues instead of being a real help to its members.

Standards for publishers grow and change, editorial needs and trends come and go...but an organization that offers its members nothing to help them grow as professionals offers nothing at all, and will become irrelevent and die.


Sonya said...

You're absolutely right, December. Though I don't belong to RWA (no romance, no membership, eh?) it's easy to see that they've refused to change with the times.

And why don't they actually do anything concrete to help allay the stigma romance writers face in publishing, anyway? I'd think that should be one of their main goals... instead, they always seem to be whining "we don't get no respect" without offering reasons why they should be respected.

Sheesh. :-)

Teddy Pig said...

Very Nice!

Bernita said...

More excellent thoughts, December.
I sometimes get the impression that the RWA is into the One True Way method of business.
But then, I'm not much of a joiner.

BernardL said...

I belong to one Automotive trade organization iATN (International Automotive Technicians), and only because they have a troubleshooting database second to none for professionals. The rest, and there are many, are window dressing, making claims they raise standards, help or hurt legislation, etc. The only thing I see they do is collect dues. I'm not much of a joiner either. I thought perhaps the RWA offered more in the way of name recognition for authors and their books; which in itself would be a big help, but it doesn't seem they do much of that.

littlebirdblue said...


I'm a current member of the RWA, and was originally very excited to be supportive of what I saw as a group with intense focus on women's business and women writers' perspectives.

It has become apparent to me that 1) I do not, and probably NEVER WILL write the kind of fiction that mainstream RWA accepts as 'romance' or even 'good'.

2) I have been horribly--I was going to say repulsed, but let's call it disappointed--by the novels I've read by RWA 'stars'.

3)for the most part, my values and simple aesthetics are so vastly out of whack with the majority of RWA members' (from what I can tell), I simply don't feel comfortable around those people. I thought I'd never have to see their ilk after high school when I moved away from suburban conservative Texas Republican Bullsh*t.

And hello....

Anyway. One of my best friends is a long-time active member, and she is one of Jenny Rappoport's clients. Also, I'm a full member of Broad Universe (another women's writing organization--this one spec.fic.), and there is lots of member-crossover between the two.

I can't imagine renewing my membership this year.

Did you know there's a HUGE dust-up going on over at the SFWA? Seriously. Sh*t's going down.

Sherrill Quinn said...

"Maybe, if we want to know why our genre doesn't get the respect we think it deserves, it's because our professional organization seems to be largely devoted to self-esteem issues instead of being a real help to its members."

It's a fair statement (and you've already made it) that many writers (most?) get more out of their local chapters than they do National.

Sometimes the group overall seems too much like a girls-club instead of a professional organization.

December Quinn said...

Sonya, every once in a while they'll claim to be doing something to improve the image of romance--it's usually Junior League type stuff like writing letters to Mrs. Bush or unveiling a new slogan ("Romance--have we got a story for you!") was the last one I recall. It's not really much at all, really, and I've never understood why they don't elicit suggestions and get everyone more involved.

December Quinn said...

Wow, thanks Teddy Pig! And welcome--I've seen you around before!

Excellent way to put it, Bernita--the One True Way of business. That is very true, and I think it's a shame. Sometimes it feels more like RWA is being controlled and heavily influenced by publishers, instead of advocating for authors and making sure NOT to be run by publishers.

No, Bernard, they really don't. They don't contract with a national PR firm to recommend to authors or anything like that, either...all of which are things I thing would be solid benefits to writers.

December Quinn said...

What's going on at SFWA, lbl? I always thought they were the Smooth Sailing Club over there, share share share!!

Exactly. I keep my membership because of Passionate Ink, and because every once in a while the RWR had an article I want to read. Aside from that...nothin'.

I do think tastes on the whole are changing and the group will change with them. Slowly,and we do need to keep including members whose tastes don't gel, but I think that Bad Year was just that--a Bad Year.

December Quinn said...

Exactly, Sherrill. It does feel just like that, and I think that's one reason why we're still treated as red-headed stepchildren--silly stepchildren--in the Big Writing World.

Membership in National does nothing for me, and never has.

littlebirdblue said...

SFWA is a huggy lovefest all the time.--John Scalzi

A good place to start would be reading this post by John Scalzi (and its 350-comment thread). It ramps up from there, with some Big Name participation.

SFWA has been making some serious effort to address some of the recently-aired concerns about the organization, and Will Shetterly (s-f author and husband to the fabulous Emma Bull) has an interesting post (called, "Why I am a SFWAn") about SFWA and GriefCom (which was invaluable to them when Emma was injured), and he's started up a SFWA LJ, where anybody can comment.

Like I said; total dust-up.

December Quinn said...

Very interesting, lbl, thanks!

Anonymous said...

What? You can do conventions without being a member?? I thought I had to up the dues before I could go to one??

Rebecca said...

Hi December -

Living down under I'm really out of the loop with the whole RWA thing - and , like Bernita, I'm really not a joiner.

It would mean absolutely nothing to me if the RWA failed to recognise my books, or forbid me play at their parties, but this is really just a result of ignorance (huh? RWA who?) rather than informed choice.

Anyway - from what I gather from blogs and stuff it all sounds so bitchy and school-girlish that it is quite a turn off.

Jules Jones said...

[grin] It's a small world -- Scalzi's "huggy lovefest" comment was in response to my snarking about RWA...

The election platform "blog" set up on the newsgroups had what appeared to be the Mother of All Flamewars, but apparently that was but a pale shadow of the bitchfest going on in the private SFWA newsgroup. There is commentary all over the sf blogosphere, often with popcorn munching.

One of the differences when you look at SFWA political infighting is that there are a lot of people quite willing to say *exactly* what they think of other people, so you get more open vitriol and less of the passive-aggressive stuff. And John Scalzi's run for president has started debate about a lot of stuff that people think needs to be looked at but had been more or less ignoring because it was Too Hard. So there's a hellish amount of navel-gazing go on right now.

December Quinn said...

Seeley, the RWA site is down at the moment (see, I link to them and they feel the fear!) so I can't confirm 100%, but yeah, I'm pretty sure non-members can go. You have to pay a little more, but you can go.

Rebecca, informed choice doesn't make RWA membership all that much more attractive, really. Once I get off my butt and join PAN it might--I'll let you knwo--but like I said, I only keep my membership so I can stay in Passionate Ink, really. That's worth it--national membership isn't.

December Quinn said...

Hi there Jules!

Hey, at least the SFWA people are starting to have a real debate about what their organization should be doing, in concrete terms, for them, instead of endless roundabout discussions about whether bare breasts should be seen in the RWR magazine or if we should let manlove books count as romance, you know? It's like being recognized becomes some sort of holy grail, but nobody thinks about the fact that recognition changes nothing.

Arin Rhys said...

I love my romance writing fellows, but really, if the RWA cant handle the hot girl-on-girl action that I'm bringing to the table then I'm not going to cry about. Romance gets very little respect, and the RWA doesn't help matters. My suggestion: Join Romance Divas to get romance-related writing help and join the Author's Guild to get the health care and etc. But, I'm a contrary lass. :P