So today, in my final RWA post for the week (but I’m sure not ever), I want to talk about what the RWA does and does not do, and how I think and feel about it. And stuff. Actually, I just woke up and my mind is still a little fuzzy, but we’re going out today and I don’t know when we’ll be back, so I want to get this in before we go. (Plus, I have had a pork roast in the oven since last night, slow roasting, and it smells so good and I can’t wait for dinner, but it means that when I get home I’ll be chopping potatoes and parsnips to roast and making gravy and all that stuff. So busy. But I’ll have time to read and reply to comments.)
Smart Bitches posted today about the RWA again, and the good things they do. It’s quite an interesting post, and the comments trail is even more so (it’s all here for your reading pleasure).
I have some thoughts on why it is that RWA, an organization run by and largely peopled with women, seems to worry so much more about inclusion and who’s in and who’s out than, say, the SFWA which seems to be largely a male organization. (Just from what I see, don’t kill me if I’m wrong please.) Writer Sandra K. Moore has an excellent post about the RWA, inclusion, and gender here; it’s definitely worth a read, as is the post she links to in the beginning.
But my issue at the moment is more on the RWA as a professional organization, specifically as the only one for writers which allows unpublished writers to join. (Again, the post Moore links to is about that subject; she says it better than I could.)
The thing is, as I said before, I really get nothing from my RWA membership. I don’t go to conventions (and if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have to be a member to attend.) I don’t have a local chapter whose meetings I attend. I’m not really a joiner (big shock) anyway, so even when I did have a local chapter I never bothered to go. So perhaps I am not one to be making a judgment–but then, I’m exactly the right one, too.
Because none of this stuff ever seemed to have any real value to me, and that’s why I didn’t go. I didn’t bother because I didn’t see any value in bothering. Networking is all well and good, I guess, but ultimately there are only so many lectures you can hear or articles on writing good queries before it all becomes gibberish.
That I didn’t get involved is my fault, but that RWA didn’t make me want to get involved is theirs. I’d been told that RWA was invaluable to the unpublished writer; maybe at one point it was, but with the advent of the internet, that value is dissipating. I can learn more about publishing from the blogs I link to than from an issue of the Romance Writer’s Report.
So RWA needs to change its focus. I keep hearing it does so much for romance writers…but aside from its recent serving of a cease-and-desist order on copyright theft site eSnips, I haven’t seen much of it. I think once or twice they’ve stepped into a publishing dispute and done something about it (like sponsoring audits or putting pressure on publishers to change a particular clause in a contract, or whatever).
Compare that to The Authors Guild. Check that website out, seriously. They offer health insurance plans. They offer contract advice and legal services. They even offer web design services.
Tell me which one is more worth joining?
My point isn’t that RWA isn’t any good. They are. But they should be better. They could concern themselves less with helping newbies–not that it’s not important–and more with helping published authors. I’d be willing to pay an extra $50 a year to get some of the services offered by the Author’s Guild (although they charge less.) (By the way, see the difference between that website and RWA’s homepage. Seriously.)
See, again, so many people seem to imbue the RWA with some kind of authority, and frankly, it’s a waste of time and energy. So you write m/m and the current RWA environment doesn’t care for m/m? (Although I think that’s more to do with the old regime than the new.) So what? Why does it matter to you? Is your work less valid because the RWA doesn’t recognize your publisher? Who cares? Why do you care? Why do you need to set up this straw dog to fight, instead of just working as hard as you can, as best as you can, and making your own way?
Seriously. Do you care about being a good writer, or do you care what RWA thinks?
And it’s this kind of silly argument that keeps the RWA from being everything it could and should be. Why don’t we worry less about why RWA doesn’t like books with ass-fucking in them, and more about why RWA isn’t organizing some kind of health plan for its published members? Less accusing them of being mean because they don’t recognize a start-up publisher without seeing some proof that they can actually help a writer’s career, and more of demanding they provide free contract help so unagented writers aren’t being fucked in the ass themselves?
Maybe, if we want to know why our genre doesn’t get the respect we think it deserves, it’s because our professional organization seems to be largely devoted to self-esteem issues instead of being a real help to its members.
Standards for publishers grow and change, editorial needs and trends come and go…but an organization that offers its members nothing to help them grow as professionals offers nothing at all, and will become irrelevent and die.