Monday, June 06, 2005

With Friends Like That, I Don't Need Enemies

Well, with all of the uproar about the RWA's latest attempt at censorship summed up so nicely on Holly Lisle's site (and really, I think it all boils down to that precise definition), I for one would like to thank the group. See, in doing what they've done, they've helped me with a decision I've had hanging over my head ever since I decided to try writing professionally.

Last year I determined to fork over my dues and join RWA. I looked around to find my nearest RWA chapter, estimated what it would take in negotiating to make sure the hubby was around for kid-duty two Monday nights a month, and worried about those first few months when I would know absolutely no one at the meetings, be a complete outsider, and feel horribly awkward, like I was some big fat faker writer wannabe. But, I figured, it would all be worth it. I'd make some new writer friends. I'd (hopefully) find a group of serious romance-novel writers who would help me hone my craft by offering feedback. I'd be able to start entering contests and attending conferences. I'd make connections. I'd be networking.

In short, I figured that in joining RWA, I'd validate myself in some way. I'd be announcing to the world (and to myself) that I was a serious writer because I was now a member of a professional organization.

But being the procrastinator that I am, I kept forgetting to fill out my application and send in my dues. I had planned on attending the two free meetings the nearest RWA chapter offered but never managed to clear my calendar enough to actually go. I did cruise by their website a couple of times and sadly, wasn't terribly impressed. No matter. These are writers, not web designers.

Too, I put off joining RWA because I didn't have a finished manuscript that I was ready to share. I figured jumping in with both feet was a bit premature, and I guess like the Jewish superstition that it's bad luck to buy things for a baby until after it's born, I didn't want to jinx myself. I needed to be official before seeking out a larger group to confirm the fact.

Now all of this has changed, and as I have at other points in my life, I'm thanking whatever gods are out there that I waited. Because I think if I found myself part of an organization who is engaging in something I pretty much abhor with every cell in my being, I'd be more than a little pissed.

I'm sure that RWA offers new, unpublished writers some doorways into the industry that are closed to non-members. I'm sure that there are many very nice, level-headed people who belong to the organization - the voice of the leaders does not always reflect the sentiments of the majority, as demonstrated so well by pretty much every minute of George Bush's presidency. To condemn the entire organization's population because of the decisions made by a small few is, well, ignorance at it's zenith.

But I have enough hurdles to cross as it is.

I certainly don't need the "guidelines" that I would be required to live under if I wanted to be graced by RWA's *support* after *letting* me pay money to join such an illustrious group. I don't need the additional worry of having a website that must pass muster or if my covers slip over the big red line of acceptability.

It's bad enough that I will have to face the scorn, ridicule, and general bad-attitude of the non-romance novel reading population since I've chosen to write in a genre saddled with stereotypes and a major image problem.

Now I learn that not only will these outsiders be turning up their noses at my work, but the very organization created to give romance novel writers some legitimacy is going to be giving me the stink-eye as well if I choose to write anything beyond what they've deemed acceptable.

I wonder if the RWA realizes how far back it has sent the entire genre by this edict? For all intents and purposes, the Romance Writers of America is publically calling the works of its own members - romance novels - nothing short of porn that needs to be kept from the genteel public. (And no, I don't advocate in any way minors being permitted to having access to material inappropriate to those under age 18.) Not only is the RWA not standing strong to form a united front in the face of all those detractors of the romance genre, it's shoving a healthy portion of its own membership out into the snow. Sorry guys, you're on your own.

In fact, we don't even know you.

Wow. That's really some great benefits I'd be receiving. Not.

So, I have to say thank you to the RWA policy-makers because they've made my decision not to join the RWA a very easy one.

Until they've shown me that the RWA is an open-minded, accepting organization dedicated to helping ALL romance genre writers rather than penalizing certain "undesirables", I have no desire to align myself with it.

Because I certainly don't need validation from such a group as the one RWA is proving to be.

WooHoo. Now I have an extra $125 in my pocket. Maybe I'll go for that Queer As Folk Season 4 DVD set I've been eyeing for a while now. I can guarantee it'd never receive RWA's golden stamp of approval. Thank God.


Caro said...

Good points. I'm actually considering re-uping my membership after a four-year lapse because I'm in a position to do so, but this whole situation is playing a part in all of that decision.

Previously, I didn't have a chapter that I could get to; I'm now in a position where I can with relatively little stress. But I also think I'm going to check them out and see how they stand on all of this before I make any commitments. I'm also very curious to see what happens at the annual meeting.

Lynn M said...

Caro, you've brought up a good point. I wonder how each of the individual chapters is handling this situation? I mean, I suppose it could be the case that certain chapters are appalled and/or frustrated. I think it would be much easier to remain and/or become a member of RWA if I felt my entire chapter was in agreement and supported its fellow members.

But in the end, if the group as a national entity imposes unacceptable rules on everyone, it matters not a thing what the local chapter thinks.

I'm going to just watch and see what happens. Perhaps this is a giant kick in the pants to instigate some major changes. Perhaps a split in the RWA itself into two factions - a more conservative versus a more liberal faction, and individuals can choose which one they'd prefer.

Becca Furrow said...

My thoughts or RWA are very similar to yours. I don't live near a chapter, either, but have considered an online group. I'm in a holding pattern for now.