Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Central Florida Romance Writers!

I knew about the Romance Writers of America group, but I didn't think I could join because their website is very clear about what constitutes romance: A man and a woman and an obstacle that they overcome and a wedding at the end.  My novel is not that at all, and who knows if I will ever write that, so I thought this group was not for me.

But no!  My friend Penny went to a meeting, and discovered all types of writers there. Well, all types of women writers. I wonder if a man has ever been a member?

I went, despite being pretty nervous and tremendously intimidated. I felt like I had to, after reading my bloggy cheerleaders' encouragement.  Having someone to walk in with made it easier, even though Penny and I hadn't seen each other for more than a year, and had never seen each other out of a salon context before.  We met when she cut my hair: I mentioned I was a writer, she was too, we hit it off and have been exchanging emails ever since.

CFRW meetings are held on the first Saturday of every month in the same conference room at a Hilton near the airport.  It was a nice room, with rows of long narrow tables set up to write on, and big dispensers of coffee, hot water (they also had tea bags), and ice water.  Someone brought coffee cake and croissants. There were around 20 women there, maybe a half-dozen were non-members (you can go to two meetings before you have to pay to join both the national organization and the local chapter).  They gave us newbies a packet of information and an official Central Florida Romance Writers pen. 

Things got started at 10am, everyone introduced themselves briefly.  Most of the members are published and a few are romance authors, but a lot aren't.  One said she writes science fiction, one women's fiction, one urban paranormal, there were even several women who were published authors of gay erotica. I am aware of the popularity of that genre, but that was still a bit of a surprise. 

Being me, it was a painful moment to have to say one sentence in front of 20 friendly women.  I wonder if people who aren't shy can ever really understand the inescapable, crushing nature of it.  I think I got my little introduction out well enough:  Hi, I'm ellen, I have written one novel, it's chick-lit, and I'm currently working on the second draft.

Then they had announcements. They explained that when you join you are given a charm bracelet and presented with charms when you achieve milestones, like publishing a book. One woman had just had a short story published and everyone applauded for her; one woman had gotten a rejection and was ceremoniously given a packet of tissues and some chocolate. The whole thing was excessively girly, but I loved it.

Then they interviewed a member who has been published multiple times and it was during the ensuing discussions about research, characterization, word counts, and plotting that I really started to feel it.  As a fledgling writer, I've had a lot of support; from my enthusiastic husband, my bloggy writer friends, and from various anonymous people on writer's forums.  But none of that can compare to sitting in a room full of people all talking about the concepts and techniques that are bustling around in my head every day.  Please excuse the cliche, but it really was like they were all speaking my language.


I got a little teary, to be honest. In a weird way, I feel more like a writer now, having connected with a writer's community. Published or not, I have the heart of a writer, and I see that now in a way that I didn't before.

Then one of the gay erotica authors gave a talk about point of view, which I loved.  I remember when I read the first pages of The Hunger Games, I went to Greg enthusing about the immediacy of writing in first person, present tense. It gives the writing such urgency, I said, excited, and it's fairly uncommon. He nodded, knowing what I was talking about, but not really caring, exactly.  A group of people talking about literary elements and style with the same amount of passion felt like a revelation.  The author's discussion about point of view evolved into talk about her books and the genre of gay erotica in general, and it was all just fascinating.

The whole thing lasted from 10am until after 1pm. When it was over and we were leaving, one of the members asked Penny and me if we would like to join their group for lunch.  We said no, having made plans of our own to have lunch together, but it was so nice to be asked.

When I got home, Greg sat me down on the couch and wanted me to tell him everything.  Seriously, if there is anything sweeter than having an exhilirating, fulfilling experience, it's having someone who is genuinely excited to hear all about it afterwards.

I brought the Central Florida Romance Writers pen with me to work, and I keep it on my desk. It makes me happy to look at it during the day. It reminds me that I'm a writer.