Back in November, I explained the concept of NaNoWriMo to my five-year-old daughter, who stared blankly at me for a moment and then declared, “I can do that!” and started drawing pictures on paper, begging me to staple them together, and then dictating the words to me.
Readers, she has written no less than 50 short books about two characters named Stick and Pinecone (TM to come) in a little over two months. The best part is, however, after all of her dictation, as well as her growing comfort with reading and writing sentences on her own, she now writes her own books start to finish, and we are both so proud.
Now, while I barely wrote 20,000 words during the month of November – and not very much since then – I can’t help but be inspired by my daughter’s tenacity, drive, and creativity. But cut to the recent events surrounding RWA, it’s questionable current and former leadership, the unfair takedown of Courtney Milan, and the countless writers who have come forward with their own unjust and malicious treatment by the organization, it’s HARD out here for aspiring authors to find the motivation to continue. And for marginalized writers – one of which I happen to be – it’s even harder to keep that momentum going.
Let’s be clear and honest here, publishing has a long way to go (see tweets from Melissa Blue and Rebekah Wetherspoon and their timelines for more insight and responses they’ve retweeted), RWA’s future is in question, and the field, as it always has been, is crowded. But that doesn’t mean the field can’t grow, writers’ organizations can become truly inclusive, and publishers can’t change and support all authors with the same gusto they repeatedly put behind the already many times over bestsellers. This won’t be an immediate change and it will be stressful, hurtful, and uncomfortable for all parties involved – but again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
Late last year (actually, right before 12/23/19, the day the #RWAShitShow went public), I was complaining out loud about not writing and not knowing what to write, but still needing to write, and my daughter said, “Mama, just write a book!” I’m sure I gave her an epic side-eye glance because she said, “No, not that book on your computer, write a little book like mine.” She stapled some paper together for me and wrote “MAMA” in big, bold, purple letters. “Write a story all about you. It’s easy!”
And you know what? I did. It was fun, it was EASY, and when I read it to her later on, she proclaimed it was her favorite book (until she wrote a book all about herself, and that became her favorite book. And then she continued to write a book every day and those books become her favorites. She’s five, you know?). But here’s the thing – she knew I was feeling down about my writing and she not only made a workshop-worthy suggestion, but she also lifted me up. Of course, I’m biased because I’m her mother, but I was profoundly moved, and I’m wishing and hoping that everyone going through everything right now had someone in their corner like my kid. That’s what RWA and publishers should be doing – lifting authors up.
(Brainstorming session at Starbucks, of course!)
As the editorial manager of Fresh Fiction, I am definitely in a position to lift authors up, as well as a position that may or may not be subject to criticism. My goal is to be more like my five-year-old, but I can’t be the only one. There’s a seismic shift happening in Romancelandia and publishing, and one day when I’m ready to share my book with the world, I’ll need someone to lift me up, and so will that writer over there, and that one over there, too…
I don’t know the correct path to making things better, nor do I know the exact steps I’m going to take in the aftermath of this debacle. But I do know that when I see someone doing the work, I’m going to lift them up – let them know they are appreciated and supported. And as this shift continues to change and take unknown turns, remember, in the words of a very smart girl: “I can do that!” and “Just write a book!”
For a decent overview of the situation from mainstream media outlets, please see these articles: https://ew.com/books/2020/01/06/romance-writers-of-america-cancels-rita-awards-contest-racism-controversy/
Romance Sparks Joy has practically up to the minute updates on everything going on (and I mean EVERYTHING): https://twitter.com/sparkjoyromance
Author Claire Ryan has a very comprehensive timeline, and she continues to update and ask questions on Twitter, as well: https://www.claireryanauthor.com/blog/2019/12/27/the-implosion-of-the-rwa; https://twitter.com/aetherlev
Follow the #RWAShitShow hashtag, lift up the authors who are making statements, and continue to do so, even when things have quieted down: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23RWAshitshow
Fresh Fiction Editorial Manager Danielle Dresser is an avid reader, lackluster-yet-mighty crafter, and accomplished TV binge-watcher. Once upon a time, she was a publisher publicist and continues to cultivate her love of books and reading by chatting with the best authors in the business. She lives in Chicagoland with her very own romance hero husband, darling daughter, and two tempestuous cats. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @dj_dresser.