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photo by Sean MacEntee

Therese here. The focus of today’s post is change, which we’ve seen a lot of lately. Hello Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster’s self-pub division, a possible merger between Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, an interesting new genre called New Adult Fiction, and this…

Sometimes change hits a little closer to home, as happened to a group I know well recently. Once upon a time, about three years ago, I founded a women’s fiction chapter. Why? Because there is no national organization dedicated to women’s fiction, and I thought maybe I’d found a place the chapter could live, under the umbrella of a large and well-known organization, and beside writers and readers who might appreciate the genre. That’s how the story starts. This past weekend, things for the chapter took a turn. At first glance it seemed the turn was for the worse, but now… Maybe not.

I’m so pleased today’s guest, Laura Drake, is here to tell you a little about that, and how our view of change is sometimes the key ingredient in how we process our new world. And thrive in it.

Change is Not the Enemy

The publishing world is in the midst of a paradigm-shift storm. Whether we’re in a Cat 1 or 5 is somewhat dependent on your location in relation to it. Objectivity is sometimes easier to come by with some distance. I hope to give you some of that by citing a small example.

WU Mama Therese Walsh had a vision in 2009: to create a Chapter under the RWA umbrella that would:

…advance the professional interests of career-focused women’s fiction writers who write stories with strong romantic elements through networking and advocacy . . .” and “. . . to support women’s fiction writers whose work is romance-friendly.”

Meaning, more Bridges of Madison County or Steel Magnolias than Sophie’s Choice.

The group was accepted by RWA, with bylaws agreed upon by both the chapter and RWA, in 2008. Therese led the group–which has grown into a safe haven for a knowledgeable, supportive, group of writers–for over two years. I was elected President for 2012.

It’s been a tumultuous year.

First, at the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, we learned the RITA and Golden Heart contests—contests honoring works by published and unpublished writers respectively—would drop the “Mainstream with Romantic Elements” category, which is the only category appropriate for most of our members. I was assured by a National Board member that this would not affect the chapters themselves or our right to exist under the RWA umbrella.

That has changed. As of now, all chapters will be required to adopt National’s exact bylaw wording:

To advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy . . .”

Not women’s fiction writers. Romance writers, first and foremost. Which many of us are not.

After careful deliberation, and correspondence with the National organization, my Board has decided to disband the Chapter.

I dreaded sending the email to chapter members this morning, not to mention informing Therese that her Baby had been hit by a truck, on my watch. Much to my delight, both Therese and the membership have been very supportive, and the group has decided to stay together under some other umbrella, yet to be determined. We may even come out of it stronger, since we may pick up women’s fiction writers who were previously barred from our group under RWA, because their work contained no romantic elements. In fact, our group is re-energized, committed, and may become more than any of us imagined before this happened.

My takeaways from this experience are broader than the admittedly limited scope of this teapot tempest, and relate not only to writing, but life in general:

    • Change happens. Accepting it is less stressful than the alternative, and takes lots less energy. Not to mention, antacids.
    • Mistakes are okay as you work to find the best course of action. As my husband, Alpha Dog, says, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”
    • New opportunities emerge. When old structures fail, new ones can be built that are stronger than before.
    • Rewards can be reaped with perseverance and a positive attitude. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Look where he ended up.

Change is not the enemy – fear is. Don’t let it win.

I know, I’ve been called a Pollyanna before. But a guy I look up to said, a long time ago, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

Peace out.

Readers, what do you think about all of the change we’ve seen in publishing recently?

You can learn more about Laura Drake and her debut novel, The Sweet Spot (May, 2013), on her website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Write on!