In the late 1980's and early 1990's I started writing mystery books. I loved Grafton, Christie, Gilman, Francis. Mysteries were all I read and I devoured every book in the library when I discovered a mystery writer I liked.
After reading several of Sue Grafton's books, I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. I worked on it for a couple of years, writing after the kids went off to school and banging away on an old typewriter I'd scrounged up. Then a relative died and left me some money. Not much but it was enough to buy a "home" computer. I started inputting my story into the computer and when I finished I did what I'd read in the Writer's Digest, go to the library and get their book on agents and editors. I spent hours combing through that tome to find agents to send my manuscript to because I'd tried to contact the mystery organizations to join to learn more about writing mysteries, but they wouldn't allow anyone in unless they had already published a book. How was I to learn what I needed?
I made one of may newbie mistakes. I had an agent write back to me. I was so excited!! He said if I sent him X amount of dollars he'd see if my book was worth representing. Not having anyone to tell me different I thought this was how it was done. I sent the money and the manuscript. He wrote back saying some good things about the ms but told me mystery books weren't written in first person. I was gobsmacked! I was reading Sue Grafton and it was all in first person. But he was the agent and he would know. I rewrote the whole ms in third person and resent it. All this time I was working on the second book in the series. He replied no I didn't have what it took to be a mystery writer. I was crushed because mystery was what I wanted to write.
But...I'd taken enough community ed and college level writing classes to know I could write in an entertaining fashion. I'd read several Nora Roberts and LaVyrle Spencer books and an article about how romance books were the biggest selling genre. I hadn't read much romance until those two authors, but I decided to try my hand at historical western romance. I wrote the first book. It was about a mountain man in the Blue Mountains and a woman who came by wagon train and was left at the Whitman Mission when she no longer had a husband or belongings left. Anyway, I still hadn't connected with any other writing groups that worked. I'd tried a local group but they were mostly poets and turned their noses up at my attempt at romance.
I heard about Fish Trap. It's a large literary week that is held at Wallowa Lake, my stomping grounds, every year. I could stay with my parents and attend a class or two. I signed up for a class with a New York editor. We all gathered for the class. I looked around the conference table and smiled at the other people. They nodded, some smiled back. The editor asked us to each read the first two pages of our work(that we'd been asked to bring). The first person read. It was pretty, flowing prose that painted a picture. Nice! The second person read. I didn't understand what they were saying with the long words and staccato sentences. The next person had a story all about a rock. I was getting more and more nervous. These people were all reading literary writing. I had a historical western romance. It was my turn. I started reading and about half way everyone started physically drawing away from me. The editor stopped me and asked if I'd ever heard of RWA. I said no. She told me to see her after the class.
Afterwards, she explained to me about Romance Writers of America. How they help a writer hone their craft, learn the business of writing, and help them succeed in a writing career. She gave me their website.
|Janet(the tall woman) who saved me at my first RWA conference brought groupies to a RCRW Reader's Luncheon|
In the RWR were listed contests held by the various RWA chapters across the U.S., Canada, and in Australia. I sent the love scene of my first romance book to one of the contests. It was a finalist in the contest! I was so excited. I'd found the genre I was supposed to write.
|Winning the EPPIE with Salem Chapter members Jim Ciaramitaro, Chis Young, Genene Valleau, and Barbara Ray|
|A book signing with other RWA members- Lisa Hendrix and Minnette Meador|
|Book signing at Powell's Books Portland OR with Karen Duvall and Vanessa Gilfoy|
I've been published now since 2006, eight years after I joined RWA and nine manuscripts later. Yes, it was my ninth manuscript that I wrote that finally had all the right elements to become published. Since 2006 I've published 20 books. None of this would have been possible without the editor at Fish Trap all those years ago telling me about RWA.
And that is why it is hard to say good-bye to the organization, but I have to use my money and time wisely. I've joined groups specific to the books I write; historical westerns and mystery. Those are my two favorites genres to write and where I need to focus.
|One of my favorite events hosted by Rose City RWA the Reader's Luncheon|
So long, RWA, you were exactly what this writer needed for seventeen years!