Yes, this spot is usually a giveaway. It was meant to be mine, but someone missed her deadline, leaving this big hole here. I promise we’ll take care of you during the birthday bash in a week. In the meantime, here’s something else I’ve been doing.
Today I’m interviewing the board of the Rainbow Romance Writers, also known as RRW. Since I’m one of the officers, a few of them are going to interview me right back. First up is Vice President/President-Elect Damon Suede.
What is RRW?
The Rainbow Romance writers is a special interest chapter of the Romance Writers of America providing advocacy and support for career-focused authors of LGBT romance. The RWA pushes for professionalism and education around romance fiction, and for me, the RRW is my personal team…the only organization that is making sure that our genre gets the respect and the attention it deserves.
Why did you volunteer to be an officer?
Because president-elect Heidi Cullinan wrestled me into a headlock at GayRomLit in New Orleans. I’m only half-joking. The reason I finally said yes to Heidi is because the more we talked about the RRW, the more I realized that we shared this nutty, passionate belief in the future of the genre. We’re both like activists for gay romance, and I loved that feeling of enthusiastic solidarity. See…for the last six months, I’ve gotten this really clear sense that M/M has evolved beyond its roots in fanfiction, and the narrow ghetto of pulp erotica; I think the more writers can embrace the professional strengths and resources of the Romance Writers of America, the more we will take our place as a strong subgenre within the romance fiction community. If we want the changes to happen, then we need to make them. I figured it was time to get off my ass and put some of my ideas into action.
Why should m/m authors and want-to-be authors join RRW?
Because they want to get better at writing LGBT romance. Because they want to reach new audiences and network with fellow professionals. Because they want their writing recognized by higher profile reviewers and media outlets. Because they see the power of a national presence and participation at romance industry events. Because they want their stories ranked correctly and promoted properly by publishers, distributors, and vendors. Because they believe that their books are more than porn, or pulp, or landfill. Hell, pick ONE of those and you’ve got a good reason. Anyone who wants to be a professional writer and takes their career seriously needs to work together. “Become the change” and all that.
What is it you plan to do as vice-president/president-elect?
I want to work with the board to help get things moving within our chapter by thinking outside the box. Curently, our books exist in a ghetto, and that’s craze-balls. I’m psyched to work with our board and our committee heads. I’m a doer by nature, loud and pushy as hell, as y’all know. LOL. My goal is to start the ball rolling on some of the strategies that could help LGBT romance evolve and expand. We have work to do. Changes are coming and I want to help midwife them as much as I can…collaborating so that a year from now we’re a few steps closer to where we want to be as a genre.
Next under the spotlight is Secretary Amberly Smith.
You want to interview me? Serious? For reals?
For reals I do. Why did you volunteer to be an officer?
I wanted the opportunity to work with some amazing people. Mission accomplished.
What does RRW/RWA give to you? Why was it important to you to join?
Initially I joined to support a new fledgling chapter that stood for something I believed strongly in. That GLBT ligature should receive the same opportunities and support as traditional romance does. But I have also gained access to information about publishers and a cheering committee for my success and an online family that doesn’t mind that I’m the quiet one that lurks in the corner.
What are you looking forward to in RRW?
Living in the light. We are growing as a chapter and as a genre and I’m along for the ride.
Now we come to Treasurer Lara Brukz.Why did you volunteer to be an officer?
Utilizing my 15 years of experience in accounting, I’m hoping to be an asset to RRW and help the Chapter grow further.
And thank god for you. I could not do your job. What are the challenges/rewards of being a treasurer?
The challenge of being treasurer will be to keep RRW within the boundaries of a nonprofit organization. Hoping to increase our funds through fundraiser’s and promote RRW awareness. My reward as treasurer is to watch our membership grow with some of the best LGBT authors.
How has being a member of RRW helped you as an emerging author?
Being a very new author- first story to be published in April. I felt that the experience and knowledge from my fellow RRW members could help me further and grow my new writing career. I am excited to be apart of RRW with so many great members eager to help if you need it.
Now it’s my turn in the hotseat. First a question from Lara: Serving as RRW President, what are your goals for this chapter?
My goals as president are two-fold: I have my own personal visions and goals for the genre and the chapter, but as an officer it’s my job to weigh and measure my personal dreams against that of the whole chapter and the good of the chapter. When it’s just you and your armchair, it’s easy to see the way to what you want, but when you’re driving the bus, there are people inside, and you proceed carefully and respectfully.
My greatest goal for the chapter is to see us always move higher in visibility in the mainstream publishing world but on our terms, not someone else’s. Some of what makes GLBT romances great are because we’ve been able to work quietly in corners and smaller ponds; I don’t want us to compromise any of what makes us us. But I do want the professionalism, the recognition, and oh yes, Virginia, the money of the mainstream to come our way. Not because that’s where the real game is: because we are the real game. More people need to come play in our sandbox. Navigating that is a long, slow, careful process that did not begin with me and will not end. But I’m proud and excited to serve a year’s time doing my best to keep us moving forward.
Now some questions from Damon: What is the primary purpose of the Rainbow Romance Writers?
One of the best things about being an RWA chapter is that this is no book club with tea and cakes: we have by-laws and a charter and the whole mess. Right there in article two, section one it says:
To advance the professional interests of career-focused GLBT romance writers through networking and advocacy, dissemination of information, professional education, publications, and other appropriate activities, and to provide continuing support for writers within the romance publishing industry.
The key words there to me are advance and professional. This is the organization for serious writers. But it’s a community of serious writers. Doesn’t get better than that.
What are the most valuable parts of RRW membership?
I think that will always be individually measured, but community and resources have to be the top two for most people. The Romance Writers of America are a Big Dog in publishing. They regularly take on giants like amazon.com and Harlequin Enterprises, and they often win. They are a big, fat, established organization, and they know publishing. Granted, they are best at the old style, and no one is best at the new style because we’re writing it as we go. But RWA is not a knitting circle. The organization is very, very serious about its members’ interests and they pursue them with alacrity.
That said, it’s true that LGBT romances have not always been welcomed in RWA. Which is exactly why if you’re writing GLBT romances, you want an ally like RRW, an accecpted, established community within a very powerful community. I’m heading to nationals this year (taking Marie, natch) with my sole goal to be to network not on my behalf but on that of RRW. I want the Big Dog to see us and take us seriously, because I know we’re very serious. It’s things like that to me that are what make RRW valuable. Your $25 membership fee buys you a ticket to be a part of that. Every romance writer should be a member of RWA. Every LGBT romance author should be a member of RWA and then RRW. (And you have to be a member of RWA to be a member of RRW, I should point out.)
What are your biggest hopes and fears about being the president of the RRW?
I just got the Will Young song stuck in my head…
My biggest hopes are that I can bring the right energy in at the right time to help propel the organization forward into the light it deserves, that the membership trusts me enough to tell me what it wants and believes I will be able to carry its desires out. I hope also that the world at large is ready for us and welcomes us with more ease than I could even dream of. I hope LGBT authors read this post and see everything we do and sign up to be members by the truckloads. My biggest hope is that we all wake up tomorrow with movie deals for all our novels. But you know.
Biggest fear is that I bring the spark but there’s nothing to light on fire. That everyone waits for someone else to stand up, that people want to join but don’t, wanting to wait and see that we’ll be stars before they sign on instead of signing on to help become stars with us.
Well, and I fear that I’ll screw up, but that’s like every damn day in every damn thing, and it’s nothing new. I buy that fear whiskey for breakfast and tell it to just watch me.
What do you want to accomplish with RRW over the course of the next year?
I want to double our membership. We stand at just around 100 now; I want us to be 200. Hell, I want us to be 2000, but even I know that’s crazy in one year. I want more bodies, more brains, more movers and shakers. I want to populate the committees the board has created and I want them to be so self-sufficient that I and other board members can just come by with clipboards and be amazed and impressed and full of glee. I want to get to as many public events as I can and wear a RRW button and badge and sash and anything else I can and kill a small forest with our business cards. I want people to come up to me at these events because they heard about us and ask how they can join or tell me they just did. I want us to write articles and have workshops and put RRW in front of so many noses people get sick of seeing us.
I want the moon. As usual.
How can members get involved with the RRW initiatives over the next year?
JOIN. Join RRW and then join our committees and email me and Damon and Amberly and Lara and say I HAVE THIS GREAT IDEA!!! and we’ll say, awesome! You’re now head of that committee, and we’re going to help you make your idea a great new thing that other people wish they thought of.
We need people to join and speak up and do. I need established authors and newbie authors and I-wish-I-were authors. And more authors of lesbian romance, and trans romance, and sweet inspirational LGBT romance and every single kind of romance, some that nobody’s named yet. The whole rainbow. Get on over here, and we’ll get you a spot in the parade.
To tell Heidi about your wild and wonderful new idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Do watch the Will Young video. It’s cute as hell.)