Monday, June 8, 2009

June Column

From the June issue of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter newsletter, Heart of the Bay.
From The President

At a recent luncheon, I had a conversation with a writer who works in a subgenre that is flourishing in online publishing, but she worried that she might not be accepted by a mainstream romance writing group. It is, in fact, a fairly risqué subgenre.

I assured this writer that she’d find community and welcome at SFRWA, but I have to admit I had my (virtual) fingers crossed, hoping I wasn’t making a promise I couldn’t keep. Um, did I mention that the subject matter is a bit extra-extra-spicy?

I mulled it over on the drive home, and by the time I pulled into my driveway I had decided there was nothing to worry about. One of the things I love about our chapter is our climate of respect. It never fails to impress me to see writers at different ends of various spectra finding conversational common ground, whether it’s writing-related or not.

Why do you suppose that is? Maybe all of our mamas raised us right. Maybe we all realize that we can learn even from those outside our area of expertise. Maybe we’re just curious about what everyone else is up to over in their corner of the pasture.

Or maybe, as I suspect, we are a bunch of ladies who have realized that Nice Matters.

In our chapter, we have talked about the importance of welcoming newcomers. We make guests and new writers feel at home at our meetings. There’s no such thing as a “published-only” table around the SF-RWA ranch. Besides, the unfamiliar person who sits down next to you might just end up being your next critique partner. She may know about a new market, an agent looking for submissions, or even a great place to get a cupcake or an oil change. You’ll never know until you say hello.

I have an admission to make. I’m actually shy. No one ever believes me, but I’m the person who’s constantly worried that I’ll say or do the wrong thing, and I’d be far more comfortable sitting in a corner by myself than in a party full of new faces.

Too often, I think, shyness is mistaken for aloofness or unfriendliness. You may believe someone has slighted you when, in fact, they may have been overcome by a bout of tongue-tied uncertainty. So on behalf of the timorous, I encourage everyone to take a chance on an unfamiliar face, even if they aren’t exactly putting out warm and fuzzy vibes. If it doesn’t go swimmingly, try again next time. You’re not allowed to write someone off until you’ve engaged them in conversation several times. In fact, even then you might consider giving them the benefit of the doubt.

What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like people are going to give you a hard time about it:

Editor: We came really close with that last submission, but word on the street is that author is just incorrigibly friendly, and the committee balked.

Agent: I was afraid of that. Frankly, it’s becoming a real problem. I’m thinking of cutting her loose, actually. But hey, I’ve got another client who’s a real b----. Heck, she’s offended half our office. You’ll love her…

There’s a reason that industry professionals call RWA the best place for new writers. Let’s keep that door open.

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