Romance Writers of America

Romance Writers of America

Romance Writers of America (RWA) is a national non-profit genre writers association. It provides networking and support to individuals seriously pursuing a career in romance fiction and supports top authors such as Nora Roberts and Judith McNaught.


Founded in 1980 in Houston, Texascite web| url =| title = The History of Northwest Houston RWA | publisher = North West Houston Romance Writers of America| accessdate =2007-08-13] by 37 authors in the romance genre the RWA has long been an advocacy group for their published members. It has persuaded Harlequin books to register copyrights for authors' works and to allow writers to own their own pseudonyms. Previously, authors were forced to leave their pseudonym behind if they switched publishing houses, making it more difficult for their fans to follow.citation|last=Danford|first=Natalie|title=Embraced by Romance|newspaper=Publishers Weekly|date=November 21, 2005|accessdate=2007-08-13] Many members were surprised, therefore, when in 2000 the RWA chose to rewrite their mission statement. The new mission statement eliminated previous provisions promoting mutual support among members and providing assistance for members seeking to become published. Its first draft also neglected to include the word "romance." After feedback from members, the final draft of the revised mission statement indicated that the purpose of the RWA is to "advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy."cite web|title=RWA National 2000: Contrasting Passions|url=|date=2003|last=Ward|first=Jean Marie|accessdate=2007-08-13]

In 2000, the RWA had an operating budget over over $1 million, the largest of any professional genre writers' organization. As of 2007, the organization had over 9,000 members and over 150 chapters. These include local chapters arranged geographically as well as special-interest chapters that focus on themes such as medical romance. Approximately 2,000 of the members have had books published.cite web| date= August 11, 2000| url =| title = Writing From the Heart | publisher =CNN| accessdate =2007-06-22]


RWA offers two programs. The Published Author Network (PAN) consists of published authors. The PRO network is for authors who have completed a manuscript and can prove they've queried an editor or agent about submitting it. Approximately 2000 RWA members have joined the PRO program. Once a PRO member, they are able to view online workshops and booklets about the business of publishing.

RWA's chapters allow members to come together for support and to learn more about the industry. They provide writers with the opportunity to meet, either in person or online, in order to critique. With this practice, "romance writers are the only authors who train their own competition and pride themselves on sharing what they know." [citation|last=Toth|first=Emily|title=The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History|editor=Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Mink, Marysa Navarro, Barbara Smith, and Gloria Steinem|publisher=Houghton Mifflin Company|location=Boston, Massachusetts|date=1998|isbn=0395671736|page=519]


General Membership in RWA is open to those actively pursuing a career in romance fiction regardless of publishing status. A writer does not need to be published to join but must be working toward that goal. Associate membership is available to publishers, editors, agents and other industry professionals who work in the romance publishing field. Associate members do not have the right to vote and are ineligible to hold office. Affiliate membership is available to librarians and booksellers.

The Romance Writers of America was formed to assist authors of romance novels. According to the RWA, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."citation| last = Zaitchik | first = Alexander | title = The Romance Writers of America convention is just super | newspaper =New York Press | date = July 22, 2003 | url =| accessdate = 2007-04-30] cite web | title = Romance Novels--What Are They? | publisher = Romance Writers of America | url = | accessdate = 2007-04-16]

Some romance novel authors and readers believe the genre has additional restrictions, from plot considerations such as the protagonists meeting early on in the story, to avoiding themes such as adultery. Disagreements have centered on the firm requirement for a happy ending, or the place of same-sex relationships within the genre. Some readers admit stories without a happy ending, if the focus of the story is on the romantic love between the two main characters (e.g. Romeo and Juliet). Others believe the definition should be more strictly worded to include only heterosexual pairing. While the majority of romance novels meet the stricter criteria, there are also many books that are widely considered to be romance novels that deviate from these rules. Therefore, the general definition, as embraced by the RWA and publishers, includes only the focus on a developing romantic relationship and an optimistic ending. Citation | first =Jennifer | last =Crusie | author-link =Jennifer Crusie | contribution =I Know What It Is When I Read It: Defining the Romance Genre | contribution-url = | title =Romance Writer's Report | year =March 2000 | publisher =PAN ] cite web | title = Submission Guidelines | publisher = Dorchester Publishing | url =| accessdate = 2007-04-30]

As long as a romance novel meets that twin criteria, it can be set in any time period and in any location. There are no specific restrictions on what can or cannot be included in a romance novel. Even very controversial subjects are addressed in romance novels, including topics such as date rape, domestic violence, addiction, and disability.citation | last = White | first = Pamela | title = Romancing Society | newspaper = Boulder Weekly | date =August 15, 2002 | url = | accessdate = 2007-04-23] The combination of time frame, location, and plot elements does, however, help a novel to fit into one of several romance subgenres. Despite the numerous possibilities this framework allows, many people in the mainstream press claim that "all [romance novels] seem to read alike."cite web | last = Gold | first = Laurie | title = Laurie's News and Views - Issue #30 | publisher = All About Romance Novels | date = July 30, 1997 | url = | accessdate = 2007-04-23]

Electronic publishing

Of the RWA's 9000 members, approximately 2,000 have seen their novels published in print. An unknown number of other writers have published their books through electronic publishers. Although 8% of all electronic books are romances, the RWA Worries that many of the electronic publishers are vanity publishers who offer little or no editing or promotional help. Because of this, the RWA will not recognize an electronic publisher unless they have sold at least 5,000 copies of one book. Most electronic publishers have not met this criteria, resulting in their authors being unable to achieve RWA recognition as a published author. These authors are ineligible for the RITA Award, and are also prohibited from entering the competition for the Golden Heart, which requires no previous publication.citation|last=Brown|first=Janelle|newspaper=Salon|date=September 29, 1999|accessdate=2007-08-13|url=]

Annual conference

Every summer, the RWA holds a national conference. In 2007, approximately 1900 members attended the conference in Dallas, Texas, participating in workshops and attending lectures designed for both published and unpublished authors. A Librarian's Day started the conference, and, in 2007, over 150 librarians attended presentations by some of the more popular romance authors, including Jayne Ann Krentz, Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts, Shana Abe, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Each year, some of the workshops are business-oriented, focusing on how to pitch a novel or write for multiple publishers. Other workshops focus on creative pursuits, including how to use swords and sword fights in a story line, how to use firefighter lingo, or how to pick the cover art for your book.citation|last=McAndrew|first=Sibohan|title=Romance in the air for writers|newspaper=Reno Gazette-Journal|date=July 27, 2005|accessdate=2007-08-13|url=] The conference also includes an annual literacy signing, where the public is invited to meet over 400 authors and gain autographs. In 2007, the event raised almost $60,000 for literacy charities. The conference ends with the RITA and Golden Heart awards ceremony.citation|last=Fox|first=Bette-Lee|title=Romance Writers of America Meet in Dallas|newspaper=Library Journal|date=July 17, 2007|accessdate=2007-08-13|url=]

The RWA funds several scholarships to enable some financially-strapped members to attend the national conference. The scholarships pay for travel, lodging, and registration fees.cite web|title=RWA National 2000: Contrasting Passions|url=|date=2003|last=Ward|first=Jean Marie|accessdate=2007-08-13]

Future conference sites include San Francisco (2008), Washington D.C. (2009), Nashville (2010), New York City (2011), San Diego (2012), and Atlanta (2013).


Golden Medallion

First awarded in 1982 in four categories, the Golden Medallion award was the most prominent award given throughout the genre of romantic fiction. The categories expanded to six in 1983, and eventually to eight by 1989. In 1990 the Golden Medallion was replaced with the Rita award.

RITA award

The most prominent award given throughout the genre of romantic fiction is the RWA's RITA Award. Named for the RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, the award signifies excellence in one of 13 categories of romantic fiction. Authors and editors submit manuscripts for consideration in the fall. In mid-spring, 100 finalists are announced. The winners are presented with a statuette in a ceremony held on the last day of the RWA National Conference each July.citation|last=Clay|first=Pat|title=Authors earn respect of romance writers|newspaper=Florida Today|date=August 8, 2007|accessdate=2007-08-13
] [citation|last=Bouricius|first=Ann|title=The Romance Readers' Advisory: The Librarian's Guide to Love in the Stacks|publisher=American Library Association|location=Chicago|date=2000|isbn=0838907792|page=69]

Golden Heart award

The RWA also honors unpublished authors. Over 1000 authors each year submit a manuscript to the competition. These are then read and rated by a panel of previously published RWA members.cite web| url =| title = Golden Heart Awards: Overview| publisher =Romance Writers of America| accessdate =2007-08-13] One hundred manuscripts are chosen as finalists. The finalists' manuscripts are then judged by acquiring editors from romance publishing houses. The winners of the competition are announced on the last day of the RWA Annual National Conference. Generally, about 30% of Golden Heart finalists find their work accepted by print publishers.

The award itself is a gold medallion in a heart shape thus giving the award its name.

Hall of Fame

The RWA's Hall of Fame was established as a way of honoring those authors that have won at least three RITA awards in a specific category of romance (For example: Long Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, or Regency Romance). Formerly a novelist had to have won four RITA awards in a specific category to be inducted into the Hall of Fame but the criteria for induction has changed to require only three RITA awards per category. The first RWA Hall of Fame inductee was Nora Roberts. Other authors honored include Jo Beverley and Jennifer Greene.


External links

* [ Romance Writers of America web site]

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