A Wrinkle of Timing

Well, here’s a new one I hadn’t thought of. From about 2003 to mid-2014, I was a member of Romance Writers of America, the industry group to be in if your writing has anything to do with romance, which mine does. I was also a member of various subchapters, including my local one, Rose City Romance Writers, and some online collectives, like the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, and Kiss of Death, for those of us with a mystery/suspense bent.

One of the benefits of all these memberships is that most chapters offer some kind of annual writing contest. First round is usually judged by published or almost-published chapter members, and the final round by “industry professionals” (agents, acquiring editors, etc., from well-known agencies and publishing houses). It’s a FANTASTIC way to get feedback on your writing, and hopefully, get it read by somebody who might want to rep it or buy it.

So every few months, I would enter a contest or two. I won several, and placed 2nd or 3rd in others. It never led to anything though (I might win based on my writing, but the editor or agent still didn’t think the manuscript would sell). In fact, a few years ago, DEBRIEFING THE DEAD won the Golden Rose, my local RCRW chapter contest. (I don’t even remember who the “uninterested” final judge(s) were, but to them I now say “phlbbbtthh!”  ;))

Anyway, in 2014 I finally decided that my books weren’t “traditional romance” enough for contests affiliated with an organization whose sole overarching focus is Romance. This is not to diss RWA or its chapters in any form. It’s just an acknowledgment that some of my writing doesn’t fit neatly into the romance category, even when there is a LOT of romance in it.

So, I discontinued my memberships (which can add up, financially), and therefore became ineligible to enter contests (no big loss there, since the benefit exists more for early writers who need feedback from, hopefully, objective readers; not so much for experienced writers who are comfortable in their writing skins, and able to query agents and editors with confidence, if not success, on their own  :)). During my three years away, I obviously kept writing, honed my craft even more, and obviously, garnered my first sale. (Squee!!! It never gets old, saying that….  :))

Skip ahead to this month. After I got my contract offer, I rejoined RWA and a few sub-chapters (my local RCRW, of course, and the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter, to start). I feel like the industry has shifted somewhat, and is more open to cross-genre, romance-heavy-but-not-necessarily-traditional-romance books like mine. As part of my member benefits, I’m also on the RWA PRO list (for nearly-pubbed authors — soon to be on PAN, for published authors, when I make enough sales to qualify — SQUEE!!!), so I get announcements of, you guessed it, chapter contests.

Now, DEBRIEFING THE DEAD has sold. But I have other completed manuscripts, as well as ALOS, which is almost finished. There was an announcement yesterday for a contest that’s low on entries (read: it’s easier to final, and therefore get your manuscript read by — in this case — an agent, a print editor, AND an e-pub editor). I thought, hmm, maybe I could test the waters with ALOS. So I clicked the link for the contest details. Entry fee reasonable? Check! Categories work for my book? Check!! Entry requirements doable? Check!!! Just when I started to think, WTH, I might as well give it a go…

…I reread the part where it said “Open to all writers unpublished in novel or novella format as of…November 6, 2017.”

Now, it’s unlikely my book will be out that soon. But it gave me a sudden pause, where I realized I’m not really an “unpublished” author any more. I had a similar moment at my Equity Leadership Team retreat on Friday, when we filled out one of those “getting to know you” worksheets, and one of the boxes was “Aspirations.” Ordinarily, I’d put “sell a book” in that box. That’s what I’ve put for YEARS, basically for as long as I can remember. But now it’s not an “aspiration,” it’s a REALITY, and I suddenly thought, OMG, I need a new aspiration! (Maybe, learn five new languages. Or sell five more books!  ;))

And as far as the contest goes, I’m not going to enter. Whether I finalled or not, the benefit to me in my current writer skin would be slim-to-none. I know how to write a query, and I know how to research an agent/editor/what-have-you. And by the time I’m ready to query ALOS, in the author bio paragraph, I’ll be able to say I’m “published with The Wild Rose Press.” (Of course the rest of the DEAD series will go to TWRP first. But ALOS is different, and I’m not sure it would be right for them. Just in case you’re wondering why I’m still talking about querying, when I have a publisher!  :))

Anyway! It was just one of those weird moments, where decades of habit came smack up against the realization of a dream come true, forcing me to shift my thinking:

Wow — I’m no longer an aspiring, unpublished writer. I’m an author.

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