Do you write romance? If so, you probably don’t need to be told that romance is big business. It’s ultra-competitive and, like most areas of the publishing industry, it’s labyrinthine to an almost mythic degree. Well, help is at hand, and I guarantee it’ll be more use than a ball of string or a handful of breadcrumbs.

The Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) is a professional organisation devoted to, well, romance writing. RWA was formed in 1991 initially to promote romance writing in Australia and to help aspiring authors. Today it boasts over 800 members from all over Australia and internationally. The RWA provides a network for like-minded writing professionals, at all stages of their careers. They also offer mentoring programs, contests and awards, conferences, writing bootcamps, a constant stream of industry news and writing opportunities…

I could go on, but I won’t. There’s no point listening to me blather on when Nikki Logan, romance writer and president of RWA, is waiting to tell us all about it.

Speakeasy: Can you tell us a little about the goals and/or aims of the Romance Writers of Australia?

Nikki Logan (NL): Formally, RWA exists to promote excellence in romantic fiction, to help writers become published and maintain strong careers and to provide continuing support and development to our writer members. Less formally, we are absolutely committed to fostering the significant talent of Australian romance writers, forming strong relationships with publishers and industry and generally advancing the understanding and appreciation of romance as the world’s most popular fiction genre.

Speakeasy: What benefits do RWA members enjoy?

NL: When you join RWA, you become a part of an extensive network (800+ members) that offers personal and professional support at each stage of your writing career, through:

  • Education on the craft or business of writing – through workshops that we run online and in person, mentor programs offered online or in person, and critique partner programs. We run multiple contests every year for the yet-to-be published which gives everyone access to affordable, diverse critical feedback from judges, and we publish Hearts Talk, the RWA monthly journal, which includes interviews, craft topics, industry news and achievements.
  • Networking and fellowship with other romance writers. There’s nothing quite like finding the people that ‘get’ you and your work. RWA brings those people together through e-loops, forums and by facilitating the establishment of face-to-face critique groups around the country. We also host an annual conference which brings 300 members together with industry professionals from around Australia and the world to learn from each other and cement the bonds of fellowship.
  • Funding: RWA offers annual grants to its face-to-face critique groups to hold events or retreats and it helps those members most in need of financial support to access its services through grants and subsidies.

Speakeasy: Who is eligible to join RWA and how do they go about joining up?

NL: Membership is open to anyone who writes – or wants to write – romance (in any subgenre), who supports and adheres to the purposes of RWA and who is over 18. New members can join online and pay by paypal, or print out the form and send it with a cheque or credit card details. (For full membership details please visit the RWA website.)

Speakeasy: What are the best things about being part of the Australian Romance community?

NL: International guests to our conferences comment, every year, on the strong camaraderie between our members and the open and accepting environment despite all being at different stages of our careers and despite, sometimes, being competitors in the same marketplace. You only have to hear the rousing cheer as finalists or winners are announced at our major awards to know how genuine the excitement for each other is. It’s inclusive, it’s exciting and – boy! – is it motivating. Everyone wants to be up on that stage the next year picking up an award.

So that fellowship is a big part of what makes our organisation what it is.

Being a part of the biggest revolution in publishing is very exciting. This is an amazing time to be a writer (particularly of romance), and so to surround yourself with 800 like-minded writers all firmly focused on the same goal… Awesome.

Speakeasy: What support does the RWA offer emerging writers when they’re dealing with the business end of Romance writing/publishing?

NL: Everyone learns differently and everyone feels a different degree of comfort in seeking information when they’re new. For those who aren’t backward in coming forward, we offer them a direct voice to ask their questions on the RomAus loop, where any number of published authors can reply offering the benefit of their experience.

If the public approach isn’t your bag, we offer a forum where topics are posted and answered by a range of different members to offer an archived collection of perspectives, and also a monthly newsletter which includes industry related information. The email loop is also great for lurkers; many members post links to articles of interest that they’ve found relating to market and industry. There’s a real culture of paying-it-forward and knowledge-sharing in our organisation and people are super generous with their findings.

We also offer the Romance Resource Centre (RRC) which is a searchable, online archive of the best craft, business and industry articles from our HeartsTalk magazine going back a decade. A quick search of the RRC archives will bring up dozens of articles useful for those trying to get a handle on any aspect of the business side of their profession: e.g., managing revisions under publisher pressure; understanding contracts; foreign translations and why they’re necessary; how to apply for an ITIN; why you can’t give up the day job straight away; interviews with editors and agents outlining what they want to see in submissions; tips for authors writing on the road, etc.

And finally there’s the formal workshop environment, be it online or face-to-face at a conference, where emerging writers can soak up the knowledge presented by a range of experts in their field.

So RWA doesn’t advocate for emerging writers, per se, but we offer something infinitely better – access to professionals who’ve trodden the exact same path before and who are generous with their experience or who can point them to someone who can assist. That helps our members be as informed as possible in making their own business choices.

Speakeasy: Are there any exciting upcoming RWA events or opportunities you might like to mention?

NL: Yes! For the first time, our national conference is truly going national by taking place on the west coast of Australia. In August 2013, RWA’s conference will happen in historic Fremantle. It’s called Riding the waves – Writing romance in tempestuous times, and will bring together speakers and editors/agents from around the world for a weekend of education, networking and fellowship. Registration for this will open in early 2013, but we have details of our core speakers at the conference website. This is open to non-members and is a great chance for writers to see what we have to offer.

Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.

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