I kept the fact that I’d written a romance novel secret for thirty years. Rich and the kids knew, but few others. I especially didn’t want to tell my colleagues in the English Department. For goodness sake, they taught the classics. In fact, so did I. To admit I was a romance writer would have been humiliating. I thought. I should have had more trust in my colleagues. Some of whom are now my beta readers.
Even after I’d published Love’s Destiny with Crimson Romance, when people asked what kind of books I wrote, I still had this pesky reluctance to respond, “I write romance novels.” Somehow saying “I write historical romance,” seemed to make it more palatable, especially if I emphasized historical. Like maybe that’s all they heard, so I had more credibility. Because, after all, what serious writer writes romance?
Well, let me tell you. About 1700 serious writers who attended RWA2017 last month do. I met them, mingled with them, and admired them at the annual conference for Romance Writers of America in Orlando. And 1700 was a small percentage of the total membership of RWA. Until I attended this conference, I struggled with embarrassment at being a romance writer. No more.
Being surrounded by women and men—yes, men—who are dedicated to their craft was inspiring. The sessions, all four days of them, were professional, informative, educational, and affirming. I learned about the craft, the marketing trends, the social media maze, and the struggle to balance a writer’s life with life. Writers of other genres who have presented at various conferences I’ve attended often point to RWA as the most beneficial writing organization to belong to, referencing the educational and professional services RWA provides its members.
I realize the source of my embarrassment was my own prejudice. All I know is my image of flighty women parading around in kaftans and big hats with feathers, air kissing each other while looking for someone more important to talk to was blown out of the water at RWA2017. The attendees were serious-minded people spending many days in conference sessions to improve as writers. And the attendees included “big name” authors who were gracious and approachable. I even met and had lunch with Rita Clay Estrada, one of the founders of RWA. She is delightful and very self-effacing. I count my time spent with her as a highlight of the conference for me.
Another highlight for me was meeting the Crimson Romance editors and authors who attended. CR editors Tara Gelsomino, Jess Verdi, and Julie Sturgeon hosted a cocktail meet-up for us authors. It was great to meet everyone in person! Check out these amazing writers:
Plus, I met my editor, Julie Sturgeon, for breakfast. We had a great conversation about life, travel, and the industry. She and Rich connected over photography, and he joined her at the cocktail meet-up and the book signing to shoot photos. Oh, another highlight! Simon and Schuster provided fifty copies of each attending CR author’s books for a massive book signing. People came streaming in, lining up at our tables, and we signed books and chatted with them for an hour. Can it get any better?
Yes. It can. At the end of the day…well, at the end of the conference, I held my head high. I felt a pride that I had never felt before. Throughout the conference, it was clear to me that writers who pursue a career in romance fiction are dedicated and hardworking. As I sat in sessions on writing craft and understood the many facets involved in writing romance I was both energized and daunted. But I wanted to go home and write, because I was mostly inspired.
And this ends Happily Ever After because I’m proud to say, “I’m a romance writer.”