Photo copyright Marilyn Rodwell
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, romance novelists can belong to a professional writing organisation called The Romantic Novelists’ Association. The RNA gives support and encouragement to writers, organises really useful conferences, a chance to network and holds fabulous parties.
R N A menu for Gala Dinner
In between getting together on a national basis, the RNA has a number of regional groups or chapters. The word chapter amuses me as it always reminds me of Hell’s Angels.
And trust me, quite a few romance writers embrace leather, tattoos and motorbikes!
Each chapter organises itself differently. Some meet, on a monthly basis, for lunch, writerly chat and advice. Some groups meet in the evenings or hold marketing training sessions, some invite guest speakers.
Lots and lots of lovely books!
My home group is the Marcher Chapter. It has grown in size recently and we regularly have at least fifteen attend. This is quite some achievement as it serves a sparsely populated, rural area. Most are local but we also have writers coming from as far afield as South Wales, Telford and Warwick. We are a friendly, supportive bunch who meet in an arts centre in Hereford about six or seven times a year. We share news, advice and celebrate one another’s achievements.
Then we stop for lunch (always excellent) and gossip (even better)
Our writing workshops have been a recent and very welcome development. We’ve just held our fourth. Funded by the RNA, we keep them to a fairly simple structure. I think they are invaluable.
Ladies attending the latest Marcher Chapter meeting
They work like this:
Several months before the date of the workshop, we email a submission to the group’s co-ordinator. The piece can be anything: a short story, a draft of an idea, a first chapter – as long as it isn’t longer than ten pages in twelve-point Times Roman! We read them all and make notes to talk through on the day. The writing is submitted anonymously, with only the co-ordinator knowing the authors’ identities.
All comments must be positively worded, using a marking system of three stars and a wish – that is, the positive comments must outnumber the criticisms three to one
We then spend a day taking it turns to feedback, offering constructive criticism and advice. The workshops have become so popular that we’ve had to limit places to ten. Even then, it’s a struggle to fit everything in. So far, so unoriginal. I’m sure many of you are reading and wondering why I think the workshops are so special.
They work so effectively because they have evolved through us getting to know one another during the group meetings
An atmosphere of mutual trust and respect has developed. We do not seek to point score or compete against one another. That isn’t the reason we hold the workshops or why so many of us get so much out of them. We look to support and encourage. Writing and getting published is difficult enough without casual bitchery and backbiting added in!
It’s supremely satisfying to see pieces brought to workshop and then later developed into a complete short story or re-worked into a full-length novel – and published. The opening chapter of While I Was Waiting is just one example.