Sunday, January 07, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight...

For right now at least, after long consideration and an even longer time in the organization, I'm cancelling my membership in Romance Writers of America.

 For them, this won’t be a biggie. I’m one of 9,500, and they barely know I’m here. But for me, this is a big deal. And it’s not coming without a lot of soul-searching. But I got my renewal notice in the mail a few weeks ago, and I’ve pitched it. 

 Now some people, in light of fairly recent events, will probably figure it’s because I can’t “take the heat” anymore (in more ways than one). They saw me get bitch-slapped over my letter in the RWR, they cheered and ridiculed and threw the mud, and they’ve probably been hoping for just such an action from the likes of me. Heck, if any of them knows how to pray (ain’t gonna go there), they may have even been praying to the god of their choice for just such an outcome. 

 But this isn’t an answer to anyone’s prayers. At least not in that sense. And the reasons for this decision, while undeniably connected to some very ugly stuff in the recent past, go back way farther than the summer of 2006. 

 I used to joke about being in RWA longer than dirt, citing as evidence the fact that I have a 4-digit membership number...when most of the people I know have six or seven digits in theirs. Part of that, of course, is a renumbering system; but part of it, it cannot be escaped, has to do with simply being a member of something for a long, long time.

Since 1988, to be exact. 

 So if there’s more to this than the fabled summer and fall of 2006, what else is there to it? Why would I jump from an organization I've been in for so long? Have I stopped writing romances? 

"Probably not" is the best answer I can give to this one! Whether or not I wrote *romances,* as in the generic form of the word and strict sense of the genre, is still up for debate. I never published a romance with a major romance publisher; my book is considered inspirational romance in most circles, but it wasn't taken up by the Harlequin/Silhouette end of the world when it was pitched to them. So the jury's still out on whether I even wrote romance in the first place. 

Do I need to cut back on the number of groups and commitments I have? Not a relevant question to this case.

My commitment to RWA takes a lot less time lately than it did years ago, when I was a board member of Chicago-North, Manuscript chairperson, helped to redefine some guidelines and rules of procedure, worked in various volunteer capacities, and ran the Fire and Ice Contest. (Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that I actually did that, for reasons we may get into later...another story, for another blog.) I did tally up at one time that out of the first seven years I belonged to my local chapter, five and a half of them were as a Board member.

So I did a lot of service, both on the local and national level (working the AGM at the National Conference several years running, to the point where I could almost supervise other people). But since I moved out of my home state, and even before that, I had scaled down my participation in RWA events considerably, due once again to several extra-writing reasons.

So, while cutting back on extracurriculars is never a bad idea if it enables one to put more time into writing, that's not exactly the reason, either. 

So what reason can I have for making this move? 

The reason is, quite frankly, I don’t trust RWA anymore. Haven’t trusted them for some time, in fact. Haven’t respected them for some time. And it's come to the point now where I realize I can no longer sign my name to an organization that is hell-bent on going ways and directions I don’t want to go. 

Is this because of “defining romance,” then? Well, again, not exactly.

It must be said, as it has been before, that I didn’t start the famous RWR/defining romance fight. RWA did, itself, by sending out the survey to the membership. That action drew howls of protest from many “big names” in the business—and now, some people in RWA claim that it withdrew the survey because of that protest. Discontinued it. Told us not to bother. 

Only problem was…it didn’t tell us. Not one word. Anywhere. Not even when asked, point-blank, directly, about said survey. 

Instead, RWA allowed some of us to stick our necks out, to cause a ruckus, and to incur some really abusive treatment. They could have prevented all this from happening, but they didn’t. Which means they were either really, really stupid; really, really bad communicators; or they played some of their membership for the sake of getting a “good fight” going in the pages of RWR…and thereby making sure more people read the magazine.

No matter which of these motives you want to attribute to them, it’s not good. 

While this situation is unfortunate, what’s worse is that it is part of a consistent pattern RWA has had over more than a decade in which they have neglected to tell many of us many things. Or have told us things which have then been proven embarrassingly wrong in the light of reality.

So what have they done when this happens? 

Ordinary honest people, if caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, are mature enough to say so. They right the wrong, and they apologize. Has RWA ever done this? 


RWA chooses to “spin” the results instead, until by the time you get done reading their version of what happened, you wonder what alternate reality you’ve just stepped into.

I have to give them points on this aspect of their conduct; some of those spins were downright creative. But given the choice between that kind of creativity and integrity in my professional organization, I know what I need to choose. 

I will miss the chapter meetings; when I could get to them, I enjoyed the fellowship and the craft involved. I will miss a lot of the people who I’ve met through RWA. I regret leaving an organization that enabled me to make many dreams come true—but I have better things to do with my money than pay dues to an organization I basically don’t trust anymore. 

 If things change, I’ll be happy to come back. 

But I ain’t holding my breath.



Donna Alice said...

Guess now I'm glad I never joined the RWA! Sounds like they like aren't very trustworthy---you'll probably be glad in time to be out.

Termagant 2 said...

RWA has shot itself in the foot on many occasions. If ever I drop out, it will be because of the praise they heap on material I identify as soft (or worse) pornography.

RWA cannot realize they're losing you, and that's a shame, because you always had something thoughtful to offer. I'm richer for having met you through RWA.