The annual email reminding me to renew my RWA membership arrived sometime in March and I promptly forgot all about it. RWA is persistent, however, so a reminder arrived in the beginning of April, and then the next week, and again the next week. The last reminder listed all the benefits I’d be losing out on if I neglected to renew.
And yet . . . my membership remains un-renewed.
I joined RWA a number of years ago, around the time of the McDaniel writing program. I was thrilled to have finally found what felt like “my team.” I’d previously completed a graduate writing program that scoffed at all genre-fiction, especially romance fiction, so I was happy to find an organization that supported, embraced and celebrated romance writers.
The early years were filled with conferences, workshops, and connecting with other writers. Over time however, that initial excitement seems to have faded. While I still enjoy the conferences as a great way to spend time with other writers and connect with people I don’t frequently get a chance to see, I’ve found fewer workshops that catch my interest or fit with where I currently am with my writing.
The monthly magazines from RWA are piling up – largely unread – and I’ve cut way back on the RWA online forums that I follow. Looking at the RWA organization, especially in light of the recent discussions about the Golden Hart, the RITAs, and diversity, I’m starting to really question the value of remaining a member.
In the recent discussion threads on the RWA PRO loop, there has been a lot back and forth about what the role of National RWA versus the role of the RWA chapters. The consensus seems to be that the local chapters are where new and/or unpublished writers really get the most value and that the local chapter contests are the best source for feedback. While you have to be a national RWA member to join a chapter, non-members can attend chapter meetings (for a slightly higher fee – generally $10) and participate in chapter contests (also for a slightly higher fee – generally $10). With the money I would save by not renewing my RWA membership, I could participate in 9 to 10 chapter meetings/contests. While the money isn’t really the issue, it is a consideration.
The biggest reason for my current indecisiveness is concern over the direction and vision of RWA itself. The writing industry has changed tremendously during the time I’ve been an RWA member. Back at the beginning, at that first RWA conference I attended in New York, there were no self-published writers in the RITA contest, editor/agent appointments were serious business, and the talk was all about publishing contracts. Fast forward to last year’s conference and it was a completely different environment and experience. The options that have been floated from the RWA’s brainstorming sessions around the replacement for the unpublished Golden Heart contest (pitch contest anyone?) make it feel like they are clinging to the past, rather than helping members navigate the current realities of publishing. I hope I’m wrong about that, but it has given me pause.
So, what do you think? Do you see continued value in the RWA organization or are their other writing organizations that you would suggest?