If you’re a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), you’ve probably heard lots of discussion lately about General membership status and the right to vote (and thus direct RWA’s future). Because RWA is designed (both by intention and for tax purposes) to promote the common interests of published writers and those seeking a career in publication (rather than writing as a hobby), RWA recently implemented new guidelines that determine your membership status. You can qualify as a General (voting) member if:
- You qualify for PRO or PAN designation within RWA. PRO designation is for those who can show proof that they’ve submitted a completed manuscript to an agent or editor for consideration. PAN designation is for published authors.
- You can provide a verifiable ISBN/ASIN number for a work/works of fiction 20,000 words or greater.
- You submit a new, completed draft of a work of fiction 20,000 words or greater every three years.
I got into a discussion about this status with the president of my local chapter regarding the right to vote. I told her that at my stage of the game, early on in my career, I didn’t see that voting was all that important. She pointed out to me that in my chapter, Desert Rose, that may indeed be the case, but our chapter is large, with over 150 members. There are many other chapters that are smaller, and any writers who lack the right to vote also lack the ability to serve on the Board of Directors for their chapter, which puts their chapters at a distinct disadvantage, because there are other rules about how long one can serve on the Board, how long one must be a member before they can serve on the Board, etc.
As I got to think about it more, though, I realized that the right to vote in an organization that is designed to protect your interests is actually quite important, particularly because RWA is such a generous professional organization. We do not limit membership to published authors, as many other writing organizations do. We offer classes all the time (often free!) for published and unpublished authors, and there are really only a few things “off limits” for unpublished authors (mostly related to PAN and PRO).
Because RWA is so generous to unpublished authors, I need to be able to vote in order to protect that. If the only people who can vote are those who are published, how can I be sure they’re going to remember what it was like when they were just driveling, wannabe writers like me? Will they remember what they hadn’t yet learned? What they didn’t know? What RWA gave them and taught them so they were savvy about the business when lightening finally did strike?
If nothing else, RWA’s new guidelines strike a fire under my butt. I want to protect my ability to vote. 20,000 words every three years? I can do that. If you’re an unpublished member of RWA as I am, I hope you can, too.