President-Elect

Damon Suede

Damon Suede

Damon has earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter. Beyond romance fiction, Damon has been a full-time creator for print, stage, and screen for almost three decades. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year.

Member of RWA since:2010
Are you published in romantic fiction:Yes
Year first published:2011
PAN Member:Yes
Honor Roll:No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify):Nonfiction, Screenplays (film/TV), Comics, Theatre
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017- 2
2018- 0
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Dreamspinner Press
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member:N/A
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): Dramatists Guild
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own?No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author?No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do youown or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc.No

Why have you chosen to run for the position of President-Elect? 

I’ve now served four and a half years and we have so much more to accomplish! To be frank, I can’t imagine walking away from the challenges we face as an institution, because I’ve spent these years down in the engines with my sleeves rolled up and my arms sweaty. LOL During my tenure on the board, both my career, my skills, and my understanding of the organization have deepened dramatically, often in tandem. I've loved serving our community and genuinely believe in the power of cooperative transformation. The Board's work is critical and complex and serving with these brilliant women has been one of the great privileges of my life. I believe in RWA as a force and an institution, and more importantly I believe in its future as something dynamic and responsive, respectful of tradition but mindful of the need for canny evolution. On a personal note, I represent a different slice of the membership than is often seated in “the room where it happens,” and speak directly to issues of inclusion and diversity, indie publishing, intellectual property, transmedia access, and market development in a way that broadens RWA’s strength, stability, and access to new markets. Because of flukes in my career, I have a deep and broad knowledge of the entertainment industry which have proved useful and practical when tackling board business. I always say that Romance is the literature of hope, and by continuing to serve on the board, I can serve, nurture, and guard the talented folks who create that hope. Romance should be a lighthouse on a dark shore, and at its best RWA keeps the beacon blazing even in the darkest weather.
What chapters and/or other organizations have you served as President or in a leadership capacity? 
Served Rainbow Romance Writers as Vice-President (2012) and then President (2013) as well as chairing committees for the chapter. 
And going back a long while...
President for three years of the CGLA, Columbia University's LGBT organization... which raised and donated over $250k to LGBT organizations internationally in that time period. 
What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member?
I come to fiction from a lifetime working in film and theatre. Joining the "guild" is simply expected in showbiz, so initially I didn't think twice about it; that's just what you do. Of course once I'd actually become an RWA member and participated in programs and joined chapters, I realized how much stronger and more supportive RWA was as a community and as a market force than any writer's organization I'd ever witnessed. I’ve made some of my closest friends and my best business contacts in this organization.

I believe in RWA as a promise and a path to the future of publishing. RWA protects me professionally and personally. Despite the cataclysmic upheavals in publishing and showbusiness as a whole, RWA continues to be a warm, generous, expansive organization that levels the playing field for all romance authors.

I am regularly blown away by the strength and passion RWA shows, and by the small, steady accretion of net positives that help its members daily, often invisibly. I don't think RWA gets enough credit for the ways it advocates for us, and I know that the only way to protect something I care about is to actively participate in its efforts. When I talk to writers I know from earlier stages of my career in film, TV, and theatre, I feel a little guilty because I know how little they expect (and receive) from their groups. RWA is something special and it's transformed my life.
Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
* served Rainbow Romance Writers as Vice-President (2012) and then President (2013) as well as chairing committees for the chapter.
* appointed 2016 Director at Large on the RWA National Board, then elected to continue 2017-2019.
* served as the Board liaison to the RWA University committee 2019
*served as the Board liaison to the workshop committee in both 2017 & 2018
*chaired the 2016 RITA ceremony committee and oversaw the presentation in San Diego that July.
*chaired and served on task forces covering a range of issues: the RITA award, pitches, diversity and inclusion, online communities,

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
I'm a born networker and bridgebuilder, and all of my success in life has come through the healthy relationships I cultivate. Those connections give me access to a wide range of perspectives and a deep trough of inside intel that contribute greatly to a clear picture of our industry and membership. My range of contacts and my love of schmoozing give me access to rooms across our industry in ways that help me track trends and right wrongs.

I'm an instinctive promoter and advocate. Because I'm an extrovert with a background in show business, I'm often plonked in front of cameras or microphones to discuss romance as a force and a phenomenon. I've worked in showbiz marketing for most of my life. I’m always looking for opportunities to champion our genre articulately and publically. My media training and academic background allow me to advocate for our industry with solid messaging and a keen sense of history.

I've been a fundraiser and community leader for almost 30 years, so I'm comfortable asking hard questions and rallying the troops for unpleasant chores. Because I've organized large events and corralled unruly mobs for much of my life, the scale of RWA and its possibilities get me revved up. Event production, personality management, and public outreach are seriously my jam.

I grew up in Texas but I've lived in the heart of New York CIty for over 20 years, so I know how different life experiences can effect decisions and strategies in one's career. That also means that I have access to publishing pros on a daily basis, but I also know how vast that gap can seem when you're just starting out in the business. And because of my 25+ year history in showbiz, I tend to tackle problems with a wide and wacky bag of uncommon tricks from my time in the entertainment trenches.

I'm also a teacher with 29 years experience. Currently. I teach literature a few hours a week in a private school for gifted kids in NYC and I've been teaching and coaching writers at every level in a crazy matrix of genres for over two decades. At least two weekends a month, I teach at local chapters all over the world which helps me keep tabs on local concerns, as well as a sense of the issues members face on a day to day level.

Art is a hard dollar and I understand how much work, and faith, and trust, and lunacy goes into a satisfying career...as well as the hard knocks that get us there. Our entire genre is predicated on the belief that relationships are more powerful than isolation, so I know that we are stronger and smarter working together.

I'm fiercely loyal and relentlessly enthusiastic about the things I love. I BELIEVE in romance the way many people believe in the Superbowl or Sweeps week. I research our industry, participate in conferences, and campaign with vendors to keep ALL Romance in the spotlight. My goal is always to celebrate the creators across the subgenre spectrum because I believe that by writing hope into existence, together we are inventing a better future for the world.

What issues do you feel are important for the Board of Directors to address in the next two years and why?
RWA must be more strategic about industry evolution and professional development. As our industry mutates and evolves, I think outreach, education, and genre advocacy in the larger entertainment industry are critical tasks for RWA.

OUTREACH: RWA has always been defined by its power to bring professional romance writers together for mutual benefit, and yet, the upheavals in our industry have left most authors feeling isolated and anxious about their future in romance publishing. The old solutions have begun to falter; nostalgia and insularity keep us from moving towards healthy, profitable, and inspiring possibilities as artists and small business owners. I want RWA to cultivate new venues, formats, and points of access which open doors to writers of every stripe at every stage of their careers. We can do better.

EDUCATION: Our members and the industry mutate daily, and RWA needs to take proactive measures, looking ahead rather than constantly glancing over our shoulder at the recent (or not-so-recent) past of publishing. In every moment, we are either learning or decaying. The era of one-size-fits-all solutions has gone the way of the dodo and RWA can help all romance writers level up and claim their turf within the new publishing economy. The modern world is ravenous and fickle, and up-to-date insights help our members steer their careers and give publishers/vendors/media a handle on global trends. The history of romance is powerful and instructive, but this business moves at a frantic pace. Likewise, we are uniquely positioned to gather hard data and use that data to educate the mass market in ways that transform how people find the stories that inspire them.

ADVOCACY: Literacy programs, media education, intelligent marketing could all help push our members into untapped blue oceans and attract new readers to Romance. Popular stereotypes of romance in the media are often 40 years out of date and the general anxiety still constrains readership because of outdated stigma and widespread misperceptions. Promoting the genre as it actually exists today would make a huge difference to our member’s careers...not to mention improving the ROI for our programming, shoring up marketshare, and expanding opportunities in other entertainment vectors.

By embracing the future, boosting skills, diversifying our readership, and taking our place at the table within entertainment as a market force we can expand the breadth and depth of HEAs available for our members and the romance audience worldwide.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
* Offering a concrete Return on Investment to members at every stage of their careers. We need fresh solutions for the challenges of discoverability, education, and industry access. The old models and perks are showing their sell-by date, and no wise artists rest on their laurels. The myth of the one-size-fits-all career, the golden ticket, the One True Path can (and should) no longer exist…if they ever existed at all. With the rise of self-pub and e-pub, I worry that newer authors don't find value in an organization so bound up in the traditions of romance. Blinkered nostalgia will be the death of us. The incredible history we carry must be matched by a keen eye on the horizon. By the same token, I worry that we aren't offering an ROI for the superstars of our genre which risks alienating the authors who are literally moving the market needle for our industry. We are strongest when we operate as a coherent, imaginative community and RWA can facilitate that with programming, support, and targeted advocacy.

* Embracing the reality of the market and our membership. Diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t buzzwords but markers of a core belief in human optimism that has always set RWA apart: people deserve hope and we are only a community when we connect. Every member of RWA deserves an equal shot at success, and every member of RWA has a stake in that heroic effort. We are a genre predicated on the ideas that relationships are more powerful than isolation. Anything that sidesteps meaningful change, derails positive transformation, or seats writers at the back of the bus has no place in this organization. Every single one of our members has a right to feel championed and celebrated as a professional author of the greatest (and coolest) genre on this Earth.

* Drilling down with data collection so that we understand the way the Romance industry shifts on the fly, so that we can respond effectively and advocate properly. I think that research and education based on relevant research is the simplest way for us to advocate for career-focused romance authors. We must cultivate rigorous industry modeling that extends beyond self-reporting and anecdotal surveys. Hard facts and clear trends make credible journalism and promotion exponentially easier...which in turn promotes the genre and builds our audience exponentially. Algorithms and metrics drive the new economy, and we lag at our peril.

* Promoting our genre and partnering with other players within publishing and the entertainment complex so that our members can access the best of available technology and create fresh audiences. The explosion of e-publishing has altered the landscape and yet readership is relatively low compared to other forms of entertainment. The popular perceptions of romance continues to lag behind the reality. Thoughtful marketing and outreach could be game changers for our members and their professional development…as creators of books and developers of robust intellectual property for a variety of other lucrative media. Time for us to stand in the light.

 

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Secretary


Donna Alward

Donna Alward

Donna Alward is a NYT bestselling author of over fifty romances and has served as the PAN Advisor to the RWA Board for the past two years. She is a past RITA™ finalist and a two time winner of both the Bookseller’s Best Award and the Colorado Award of Excellence. She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she’s currently working on her next story.

Member of RWA since: 2007
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2007
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Nonfiction
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 5
2018- 2
2019- 4
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self and Harlequin
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): Writers Union of Canada
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. Yes, I freelance edit on a part time basis. 

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
Writing is a solitary endeavor. Back in the early 2000’s, I had been a member of the Harlequin message boards for a long time, but I was missing that face-to-face community. I joined the local chapter in Calgary in 2007, and it was so affirming! Monthly meetings with people who spoke the same language!

But over the years my reasons for remaining with RWA have shifted to include so much more. My face-to-face community expanded when I attended my first conference in 2009. I was able to network with other authors and industry professionals, which has had a profound effect on my career. With the changes in the industry over the past few years, I’ve been ever so grateful to realize that RWA has my back. I count on the organization to advocate for the rights of authors like me. RWA is my anchor, providing me with my community; it is also the source I rely on for information and advocacy. I consider that alone worth my dues and then some.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Secretary? 
I have loved being on the board for the past two years. It’s not an easy job, and as an organization we’re facing some big challenges. I want to be a part of that solution as we keep moving forward. I’m also very organized and detail oriented, which are qualities needed in the Secretary position. A bonus is always working closer with RWA staff, because They. Are. Amazing.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
Goodness…I suppose I started with individual chapter committees, as newsletter editor, and then as VP and Programming Chair for my local chapter. I moved on to volunteering at conference, then as a member of the PAN Steering Committee. I became Assistant Chair and then Chair of that committee, and into board service in 2017 as the PAN Advisor.

As far as my personal contributions…I suppose with my previous service, I’ve proved to be good at organizing stuff. But I think my biggest contributions are of a personal nature. I’m a warm, welcoming person – no one should feel alone and outside. I am always willing to listen to members and to facilitate help when I can. PAN members (or any member) know they can always shoot me an email if they have questions or need assistance, and I’ll help as best I can. The opposite of listening is speaking…and people who know me know that I have no trouble in that regard! I am not afraid to speak up at the table. I also try very hard to step back and look at the big picture and all sides of an issue before weighing in. I get plenty of “arts degree” jokes, but seriously, I came away with critical thinking skills that have proved so very useful!

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
This is an excellent question! As a board, we really need to think strategically. I have to admit, I loved when we formed this plan (and I’m big on personal strategic planning, so this jazzes me up). Strategies, tasks, action items…the organizational side of me loves that structure and guidance. A strategic plan also needs revisiting so it’s not rigid but a working document; again, this is something that I’m excited to work with to keep us on task and getting results to benefit the membership. I’ve been doing my own business/strategic plan for years and know how beneficial that kind of focus can be.

One of my favourite strategies in our plan is to restore a culture of trust among our members. I think the only way to do that is through open and honest discussion (we’re not there yet). I try to be really approachable and open, so members feel comfortable sharing their concerns. Progress doesn’t work if there isn’t that level of trust.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what issues do you feel are important for the RWA Board to address in the next two years and why?
First of all, EVERYONE needs a seat at the table. That’s non-negotiable. Until we have that within our organization, we are not serving our membership. I’m thrilled that we’ve hired an outside consultant to help us navigate our initiatives moving forward. In addition, we need to work with industry players to ensure that level playing field exists outside of RWA.

Secondly, we need to look at membership needs and how they can best be served. That may mean changing programs and introducing new ones. It means examining how we gather information and making sure it’s accessible to everyone. It definitely means keeping a focus on advocacy issues and using our resources to work on behalf of our members and their rights. Honestly, I’d like that saying of “RWA has my back” to be the reason why our members stay and new members join.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention our staff. The board makes policy, but the staff digs in and does the work. I know I said it before, but our staff is incredible. (Thank you, staff!)

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
I think we need to do something that’s become a bit of a touchstone for me personally: we need to Stand in Our Truth. Looking to the past and what things used to be like means we’re not moving forward. The industry has changed. Everything has changed. That’s what we need to work with. We don’t have a crystal ball but we must set ourselves up to be nimble so we can navigate what’s ahead – that’s how we stay relevant. That may mean tough decisions, but if I could have one wish, it would be for RWA to provide significant ROI to everyone. An organization is only as healthy as its membership. I know it’s hokey to say a rising tide floats all boats, but I want our members to see greater success across the board.

 

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Patti O'Manne

Patti O'Manne

I am a single mother of three and love to write. My first book was a self-bound book about adoption for a co-worker who was adopting. Since I was adopted myself I thought the book hit on all the things the child would experience. My only regret was this was printed on a word-processor and not on a computer. My passion now is writing inspirational suspense and my second book is almost ready to submit to an agent or publisher.

Member of RWA since: 2003, 2013
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2016
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 0
2018- 0
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Soul Mate Publishing
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW); Kiss of Death (KOD); Central New York Romance Writers (CNYRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I wanted to learn how to write the stories I read. My experience in RWA and my chapters has been very beneficial. I had one book published but had the rights returned in the beginning of 2019.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Secretary? 
I like taking notes on meetings I attend, whether I'm the secretary or not. My term as a chapter president is coming to an end and I'd like to get more involved in the national portion of the organization.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
CNYRW Secretary, CNYRW President, LCRW secretary

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
NA

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what issues do you feel are important for the RWA Board to address in the next two years and why?
Inclusion and diversity are important issues and will need to be continually addressed in the upcoming years. I see no quick solutions coming any time soon because you have to deal with personal biases.
With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
I think giving beginning authors more tools to be ready for publishing would be tremendously helpful. My book was published with very little input from my editor. The book was published with terrible errors which I saw when I got my rights reverted.

 

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Directors-at-Large


Anna Alexander

Anna Alexander

Award-winning author Anna Alexander is the author of the Heroes of Saturn and the Sprawling A Ranch series. With Hugh Jackman’s abs and Christopher Reeve’s blue eyes as inspiration, she loves spinning tales of superheroes finding love. Anna also loves to give back and has served on the board for the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America as chapter president, and is the co-founder of the Seattle UnCon and Passport to Romance Readers Event.

Member of RWA since: 2009
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2014
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Graphic Novel
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 2
2018- 2
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self and Ellora's Cave
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Greater Seattle RWA (GSRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do youown or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
Every year when it's time to renew my membership I question why I continue to be a member after 10 years, especially when the words aren't coming and I doubt my talent as a writer. My reasons are simple- RWA has been there for me as an author. Everything I've learned about being a published author has come from RWA and its members. When I've reached an obstacle and don't know where to begin, I know I can always go to RWA. Their continued advocacy on behalf of its members, even when the odds seem impossible, is why I continue to be a part of the organization.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
With my experience as a chapter board member, workshop presenter, conference organizer, and published author, I have the skills to see both the bigger picture and tiny details. I've had the pleasure of meeting a large portion of our membership and hearing what they are focused on regarding their careers. I also have the temperament to be gracious while also cutting through the blather to get to the heart of an issue. A director needs to have patience, much like I have cultivated with years of working with the general public, while also staying focused on the goal without becoming distracted by the "but we've always done it this way," or "that person won't like it." New ideas are needed, and I bring with me the experience of years of service and publication.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I served for five years on the board of Greater Seattle RWA, including two years as chapter president. As president I began programs to engage our membership with the community and by reaching out to RWA members who resided long distance or out of state, including participating in local writer's events and offering our workshops online.

For ten years I've worked on the Emerald City Writers Conference in various capacities, and for the last five years have organized the reader event that brings in 300+ voracious readers to meet new-to-them authors.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
As a published author I've shared the a lot of the same experiences as most of our membership. I've self-published and been with a house that went down in flames. I've won awards and stared for hours at a blank page. I understand the struggle.

As a chapter president I've seen the struggle for chapters big and small to stay viable and provide value to their local members. I worked to make every author feel welcomed and included and to provide education and opportunities to assist them with their goal of publication.

As a co-founder of the Seattle UnCon I have worked with multi-published authors in creating a dialogue to provide education with the latest in marketing and content creation as well as general author motivation and well-being. Having spoken with so many authors, I understand their worries and challenges in the ever-changing landscape of publishing.

In my day job I work as a public servant. The community I work in is one of the most diverse in the state, which is why we attend quarterly meetings regarding inclusion. Through these workshops I have learned how to recognize bias of both my own and from others. It is a conscious decision to be aware of them every day.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
The board has two main issues that need to be addressed. The first is inclusion. There has always been a division within RWA. In the past the separation was more surface level of genre against genre and traditionally published versus self-published. Over the last few years it has become unavoidable that for ages there has been a darker, more ugly divisiveness of racism and bigotry against authors of color and those who identify as non-heterosexual.

There is lots to be done regarding outreach and inclusion in making all authors feel welcome, but it starts with every member, especially those on the board, to stand firm and say no more. When bigotry raises its head, it is on all of us to put a stop to the action and say that hate speech of any kind is not tolerated.

The second issue is keeping RWA relevant. It is said all the time how publishing is a constant changing landscape, and over the last few years that landscape has gotten smaller and smaller. Publishers are going away and our readership is distracted. How can the organization helps its members in a timely fashion when a new obstacle appears almost every day?

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
At times the organization seems more focused on membership numbers than addressing the needs of their membership. The board needs to listen to its members and forecast issues that involve the membership as a whole. In order for them to do so, there needs to be more done to assist the local chapters in creating an environment that allows for smaller membership with authors that are active instead of "punishing" them by forcing them to close.

The local chapters are vital in maintaining the health of the general membership, which is why I purpose a task force and restructuring of the local chapters to assist them in providing resources and value to the local members. Smaller communities should not have to fold because they have fewer members. It is more likely for a member to go to their local, or local as can be, chapter for inspiration, instruction, and guidance than attend a national conference. When the local chapters have become a strong, inclusive environment, the organization as whole will grow.

RWA members also need to let go of the old model of publishing and education. Traditional publishing is dying. For now. Grand conferences and chapter contests are becoming a thing of the past. Change must occur, and if there are members who are unwilling to accept those changes for the betterment of the organization, then RWA needs to be okay with having a smaller membership base.

 

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Kelly Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the Rockton romantic suspense series. Past works include the Cainsville modern gothic series, Otherworld urban fantasy series, the Darkest Powers & Darkness Rising teen paranormal trilogies, the Age of Legends fantasy YA series and the Nadia Stafford crime trilogy. Armstrong lives in Ontario, Canada with her family.

Member of RWA since: 2005
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2001
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: Yes
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): most of my work is cross-genre, crossing romance with fantasy and/or mystery, also young adult, middle-grade, also short fiction & graphic novels
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 2
2018- 2
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Macmillan (Minotaur imprint), Penguin Random House (Doubleday, Crown & Puffin imprints), Subterranean Press, Self-pub
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: N/A
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): MWA, HWA, SinC, Ninc, Authors Guild
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
As soon as my first book was published, I joined several organizations (not RWA) and leapt in, eager to learn from the pros and share my limited experience with new writers. To my disappointment, I found very little opportunity for either. I wanted community, and instead I got mostly empty forums, meetings that were more social than professional, and a monthly newsletter with little practical information. Someone suggested I try TRW (the Toronto chapter for RWA.) There, I found a community of writers who happily shared their knowledge, celebrated successes and commiserated over failures. I continue to be a member because RWA continues to serve my needs better than any other organization. It provides community and information and support for my career and allows me to give back the same. As a cross-genre writer, I am very aware of what other genre-based organizations exist, and RWA is the one membership I keep renewing.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I ran for my first-term because I wanted to give back and dig deeper. Now that I’ve served two years on the board, I considered stepping aside, but what I learned in my second year is that the longer I serve, the deeper I can dig and the more I can give back. The board is dealing with many complex issues. Now that I have a firm grasp of them, I want to continue the vital work that the board has undertaken.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
On the board, I’m serving on the Public Relations Task Force and the Public Policy Task Force.

Before that, I served as PAN liaison for the Toronto chapter. At the time that I was liaison, we were just seeing the first crop of indie authors, and the PAN didn’t allow most of them to join. I believe very strongly that we all have a place at the table. While I couldn’t change the PAN rules, I was able to create a separate in-chapter group for all published authors, giving everyone access to a forum for information sharing and access to in-chapter opportunities previously restricted to PAN.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
I’m an old dog in this business. My first book came out just after my youngest was born…and he’s now an adult. I’ve been a full-time writer his entire life.

I’ve written for adults, teens and kids. I write romance, mystery, fantasy and horror…sometimes within the same book. I’ve written for four of the five NY publishers plus smaller publishers plus indie. I’ve written novels, novellas, short stories, graphic novels and app-based stories. I’ve had a series turned into a TV show. I teach writing at the University of Toronto…and I continue being a student of writing, eagerly learning whatever I can to improve my craft. I’ve organized twelve city multi-author tours and small reader-focused conventions.

When it comes to writing, I’m a jack of all trades and that gives me a huge breadth of experience. I’ve been in this job a very long time, and I intend to be in it for a whole lot longer. I absolutely love what I do, and along with my experience, I also bring the sheer joy and enthusiasm I have for this career we’re all pursuing.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
Diversity and inclusion continues to be a challenge, and my time on the board has shown me that RWA is genuinely committed to addressing this complex issue. This table is big enough to seat everyone, and no one should feel excluded. I also strongly believe in helping our membership with matters of policy. Issues like copyright and public lending rights are important to every author. RWA has the power to fight for the issues that authors agree need fighting and, when authors may have differing opinion, RWA can break down these complex legal issues and provide authors with the information they need to make the decision that is right for their career.

I also want to see RWA continue to address issues of fairness with major retailers. This is more challenging than we’d like, but even small change is a victory when dealing with giant corporations. Half the battle here is not surrendering—keep pushing the retailers on these issues and make slow but steady progress toward a level playing field for all authors.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
Keeping abreast of policy issues is critical. Whether we are indie or traditionally published, authors need to understand the larger changes in the industry that affect us all. RWA can represent authors where appropriate and explain the issues to authors so they can make informed choices.

Longterm career planning is also a personal platform issue of mine. I’ve been writing full-time for over eighteen years, and I know exactly how difficult that is. I would like to see more resources available, both for longterm planning and for guiding authors through career changes and downturns.

 

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Denny S Bryce

Denny S. Bryce

Denny writes historical fiction and urban fantasy. Her debut novel, WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES, is coming from Kensington in 2021. A PR/marketing professional, she spent 25 years running her event marketing and PR firm. For 10 of those years, she wrote Buffy/Spike fan fiction. A RWA Golden Heart® finalist in 2018 and 2016, she won in 2014. Now, in addition to writing novels, she writes book reviews for NPR Books, and the occasional feature for FROLIC Media, (recaps of OUTLANDER on Starz). She also recently completed a fellowship with Tin House in Portland.

Member of RWA since: 2006
Are you published in romantic fiction:
Yes
Year first published:
2021
PAN Member:
Yes
Honor Roll:
No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017-  0
2018- 0
2019- 0
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Kensington Publishing (release date scheduled for 2021)
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Washington Romance Writers (WRW); Maryland Romance Writers (MRW); Philadelphia Romance Writers (PHILLY); Cultural, Interracial, Multicultural (CIMR);  Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP), Kiss of Death (KOD); The Golden Network (TGN)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): Historical Novel Society, Women's Fiction Writers Association, Author's Guild
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author?
No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc.
No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member?
Thirteen years ago (I can't believe that much time has passed), I was writing fan fiction (Buffy/Spike), and a friend (RWA member Alicia Rasley) suggested I join her at an RWA conference (in Atlanta). I've been hooked on romance and the romance industry ever since. At the time, however, my marketing and event management firm took up all my time. I didn't begin writing romance regularly until 2013. Although I believe I've attended every RWA conference since 2006 (I love a good conference!).

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I am passionate about RWA. After serving two years as PRO Advisor, I hope to continue my service by becoming a Director and a voting member of the RWA board. The organization has inspired my love for writing through the people and programs I've had the pleasure of meeting and learning from. I also believe in RWA's role in keeping its members abreast of issues that impact our ability to succeed in a tough industry. The current publishing marketplace is challenging and faces significant change (almost weekly). The RWA Board must consistently fight the good fight on-behalf its membership. That often means presenting our story on a public platform. I believe my experience in marketing and public relations and corporate communications can be of value to the RWA Board and its members.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
Here are some of the volunteer activities and positions I’ve held during my years as a member of RWA:
RWA PRO Advisor (2017-2019)
Baltimore Book Festival Chair for Maryland Romance Writers (2016)
Maryland Romance Writers Silent Auction Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator (2017 and 2018)
Washington Romance Writers Marlene Contest Judge Coordinator (2014-2017)
Washington Romance Writers Programs Chair (2013-2016)

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
As a public relations and marketing professional, I have had extensive experience in corporate communications, crisis management, event planning, and press relations. The strategic plan is a well-thought-out document that needs more proactive action. A core element of the RWA strategic plan is establishing (further) RWA as an “informational hub” for its members and industry professionals. I believe RWA can be more aggressive in marketing its key messages. We must also be more diligent about gathering and vetting the information that matters most to our members and putting that information in front of them. We must also ensure that members know we are listening to their concerns and addressing them. My communication skills and marketing experience can help in this area.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
Advocacy must take center stage. RWA also should continue to commit to providing a welcoming environment for current and future members. Recruitment and retention will become critical areas of focus, as they usually do when an industry is going through dramatic shifts. RWA should be more aggressive in correcting misinformation with media and the general public (including readers) about romance novelists and our stories. Fabio no longer is the image of the modern romance novel or the romance writer. Also, love is love, and therefore, diversity and inclusion is key to what this organization is about--it's not politics. It's about the stories that readers want to read, and writers want to write. We also need to create high profile programs designed to help unpublished authors achieve their publication goals.
Furthermore, the RITAs should be recognized widely for being the premier award for romance novels and romance authors not only within RWA but outside RWA as well. These are some of the key issues I believe should be addressed on top of the list in the next two years.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?

This list is not in any order. It reflects some ideas I believe will help RWA continue to be relevant to its members and the romance industry for years to come.

1. Build relations with industries that are looking to romance novels for film and cable television story ideas.
2. Reevaluate and relaunch the RITAs as the premier award of excellence in the romance industry.
3. Create a media campaign with positive messaging (that also corrects misconceptions about romance novels and its authors) (Start by adding a press kit to the website).
4. Encourage a stronger connection between RWA National and its chapters by creating a national program that will support local visibility for chapters and thus help with recruitment and retention.
5. Survey RWA Members and evaluate results to document challenges, success stories, demographics, etc. This offers RWA a more solid foundation (going back to the strategic plan’s statement about RWA as an information hub) -- and contributes to RWA establishing itself as the knowledge center for romance novels and romance authors.
6. Continue to provide chapters and members with tools and information to address Diversity and Inclusion issues in a meaningful, straight forward manner that focuses on building greater understanding.

 

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Manda Collins

Manda Collins

Manda Collins is the author of fifteen historical romance novels that blend the wit of Jane Austen with the crime of Agatha Christie. She's been a member of RWA since a she was first introduced to the organization in a course on “How To Write a Romance Novel” in college and has never regretted it. A former academic librarian, Manda lives on the Gulf Coast with two spoiled cats, an even more spoiled dog, and more books than strictly necessary.

Member of RWA since: 1994
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2011
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017- 2
2018- 2
2019- 0
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": St. Martin's Press and Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: N/A
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member?
I joined in 1994 as a college student writing my first traditional Regency. What I found was a supportive organization where new writers mingled with multipublished authors and a myriad of ways for writers to learn and grow. Twenty five years and fifteen books later I still find RWA to be a great organization for writers to learn and grow. And as a published author I also know it's a strong trade organization that fights for its members when necessary. I don't exaggerate when I say joining RWA was one of the best decisions of my life.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
Since I've been around in the organization for a long time, I've been through the growing pains that changes in the industry (and progress) have wrought on both the membership. And I never considered running for the board because I never felt confident enough. I was always too new. Or too unpublished. Well, I'm no longer new or unpublished. I know that the next board will be facing some daunting challenges, and I feel that as a disabled woman, as someone who knows what it's like to sell books and lost contracts, and someone with a commitment to inclusion, I have a unique perspective to bring to the table.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I was President of the Gulf Coast Chapter from 2010-2012

Served on the Publications Committee from 2018-2019

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
As a reference and electronic resources librarian for nine years, I'm able to organize and understand a lot of information, so I would be good at dealing with data from the surveys and demographic information gathering. My library work also makes me adept and finding different ways of classify, so I think I would be good at identifying communities of practice and brainstorming the best ways to organize different constituencies within the membership.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
The RITA issue is very important. With a history of effectively shutting out African Americans from nomination it can't stand as it is. And though I appreciate the work previous boards have done to raise the prestige of the contest I still don't think it's viewed with any particular respect by non-romance community members. I also think we need to address the issues arising from the flaws in Amazon's self publishing platform. It's far too easy for scammers and plagiarizers to game the best seller lists there as we've seen with the recent scandals.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
I think RWA has done a good job of adapting from serving traditionally published only, to digitally published to self published, to all three. We need to do a better job of creating a sense of ownership in the organization for those who see the value of the trade organization but feel alienated by encounters with membership. The local chapter system can be problematic for POC. We need to rebrand maybe with an emphasis that romance is a genre for everyone.

 

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Chris Cox

Chris Cox, also writing as Connie Cox, was a 2007 Golden Heart finalist. That book sold to Avalon and was later acquired by Montlake. Chris is also published by Harlequin and has stuck a toe into self-publishing with plans to do a deep dive in soon. After a hiatus from steady writing, Chris is now retired from the day job and living the dream of being a full time writer.

Member of RWA since: 1989
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2007
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017- 0
2018- 0
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published, Harlequin and Avalon/Montlake
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Austin RWA (ARWA); San Antonio RWA (SARA)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): NINC, Writers' League of Texas, Sisters in Crime including local chapter
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I joined RWA because I wanted to write novels but didn't know how. Not only did the members of my local chapter generously share their knowledge, they welcomed me in. I found my tribe. That is why I continue to be a member of RWA. Us writers, we are often unique folks. Having community and support is worth the price of membership, many times over.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I believe in paying it forward. Belonging to RWA has added great value and joy and accomplishment to my life. I wouldn't be who I am now without having the friendship, support, sharing of knowledge and networking that RWA has made possible. Since I am retired from the day job, I now have the time and energy to give to the members of RWA as so many RWA members have given to me.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I have served in various positions through the years for my local chapters, both board positions and committee positions. I also served on the national conference committee. I am currently the PAN liaison for my local chapter. My most important contribution is as a general member of RWA. I believe that is the most important contribution any member can have. The support and encouragement and sharing of experience and teaching of skills is what makes RWA the organization that we all need. Without membership sharing and caring, there is no RWA.
Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
The 2018-2021 Strategic Plan is ambitious and detailed and will take planning and diligent follow-through. I am retired as an engineering manager and project engineer. During my engineering career, I have had both training and experience in project development and implementation, from short range, emergency projects to long range five and ten year projects. I have worked with the famed McKinsey Group when reorganizing the structure of one of the largest power utilities in the US. Not only am I part of the LGBT family, I have also had professional diversity training as part of my overall development in my previous positions.

I’ve pursued my writing career since joining RWA in 1998 and have seen quick, and often complex, industry changes in the last two decades. I am both traditionally published and self published and have lived the struggles and successes of both. I have the time and energy and passion to serve whole-heartedly.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
What makes RWA work is our members, working together to encourage success and share the ways to obtain that success. Our mission statement, “The mission of Romance Writers of America is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.” is as valid today as it was at RWA’s inception. We must acknowledge the value of each member and what each writer brings to the table so that we may all benefit from learning of each other’s experiences and knowledge and values. As an organization, we need to support each and every RWA member so that member may succeed. As a whole, we are stronger than we are as individuals. We need to use our strength to interact more strongly with our industry. As an organization, we must advocate for all of our authors that we each receive professional treatment, including consideration for our work, honest accounting procedures and faithful fulfillment of their contracts.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
To stay on top of the constant changes in both the traditional and self-publishing industries, RWA Board and staff must keep up a continuous fact finding mission. Statistics on acquired manuscripts, sales and trends of romance novels from publishers and self-publishing distributors would help an author make informed decisions on the health of the publishing entity, what contracts to accept or reject, and the mathematical odds of selling their manuscripts.

Explaining contract language in the RWR, both in traditional contracts and in self-publication contracts (ie Audible’s Romance Package) will help authors to negotiate up front and demand accountability at royalty time.

RWA as an organization can liaison with publishers and distributors and book sellers to get real time information on how we can promote the sale of our books.

The more information we have, the better decisions we can make.

 

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Amie Denman

Amie Denman

Amie Denman is the author of nine Harlequin romances and more than twenty self-published novels and novellas. She writes contemporary romances, but she loves reading historicals, mysteries, and anything with a happy ending. Amie taught high school English and social studies for twenty-four years and is now the Director of Technology for a school district. She loves working with people to solve problems creatively, and in her heart she's always thinking about roller coasters, wedding cake, and falling in love. Amie lives in Ohio with her husband, two sons, and two happy cats.

Member of RWA since: 2009
Are you published in romantic fiction:
Yes
Year first published:
2011
PAN Member:
Yes
Honor Roll:
No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): 
N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017-

2018-
10
2019-  6
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Harlequin and Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: N/A
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? Yes. My sister (May Williams) and I created an LLC called Lakeshore limited Publishing to publish only our works. We do not publish any other authors. 
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. Yes. Lakeshore Limited Publishing (mentioned above) is an LLC owned by my sister (May Williams) and myself to publish only our works. 

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member?
I joined in 2009 because I wanted to learn and grow as a professional romance writer. I continue to be a member because of the quality information presented on the website, the excellent RWR magazine, and the very beneficial annual conference.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I want to give back to an organization that has been so helpful to me. I have learned about the craft of writing, the business of romance publishing, and the power of combining our voices through my membership in RWA.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I have not yet served the organization, but I want to.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
The goal of being an informational hub is particularly interesting to me because I work in education and technology. I'm the Director of Technology for a large school system, and my strongest experiences in that job are infrastructure, communication, inclusion, and vision. I also feel strongly about building the community because that is what has consistently drawn me back to RWA over the past ten years. I value the viewpoints of others and truly enjoy working together to solve problems and create solutions. As a hybrid author with Harlequin titles and many self-published ones, I hope to share my experience with both traditional and indie routes to publication.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
RWA is already doing excellent work reaching out to both traditional and indie writers and marginalized writers, but the focus on inclusion and building trust within the membership should be an important goal in the next two years. A united membership has more ability to help itself and advocate for the romance writing profession.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
Knowledge is power, and an organization with open ears is most likely to remain relevant by listening to its membership. As an educator, I strongly believe RWA's relevance also lies in the excellent programming offered and the powerful national conference. Where else can authors go for a trusted source of information regarding the craft and business of romance writing? I believe the strategic goal of being an informational hub is a giant step toward keeping RWA in the hearts and minds of its members.

 

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Dianne Farb

Dianne Farb

Dianne Farb is an award-winning, bestselling hybrid author of nine contemporary romance novels under the name Rebecca Heflin. Dianne earned a B.A. in Literature summa cum laude from the University of North Florida and received the Award for Excellence in Literary Scholarship in 1997. She graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law with honors in 2000. When not passionately pursuing romance writing, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a major research university. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in (mostly) sunny Florida.

Member of RWA since: 2010
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2011
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017- 3
2018- 1
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Soul Mate Publishing, LLC and Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Florida Romance Writers (FRW); Contemporary Romance Writers (CRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): Florida Writers Association
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I joined RWA in 2010 after completing my first manuscript, but before it was published a year later. As a new author hoping to publish my first book, I needed the guidance, training, and support of an organization. I didn't know when I began writing that such an organization existed, but when I discovered RWA and learned that the upcoming meeting was only two hours from my home, I knew I had to join and take advantage of all that it offered. It was the best decision I made for my writing career, and I've made so many wonderful friends, and learned, and continue to learn, so much about the craft and the business of writing since that time.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
Two reasons: 1. I want to give back to the organization that has given so much to me. 2. I want to help shape it for current and future romance writers.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
My small community does not have a local RWA chapter, so I cannot claim any experience as a local chapter member or officer, however, I have been active in the online communities and chapters, including PRO and PAN. I have also volunteered in a variety of capacities at annual RWA conferences. After gaining experience in the publishing industry, I believe I now have something to offer to RWA, the board, and the romance writing community.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
I am a lawyer by training and served for many years in the general counsel's office at a large research university. I believe my analytical skills and critical thinking as a lawyer are perfectly suited to the implementation of the RWA strategic plan. In my previous role as associate university counsel, I participated in strategic planning for university boards and committees and served on various university task forces.

In my current employment capacity, I serve as a full time Vice Chair for two of the university's Institutional Review Boards (IRB), which review human subjects research conducted by the university, and in that capacity have run board meetings, drafted board policies and procedures, and assisted in investigations of non-compliance. I also serve on the IRB Executive Committee, whose responsibility it is to develop and implement board policies, and to address issues involving the complex world of human subjects research.

I also have several years of experience serving on various other boards and committees. I currently serve as an executive director for the non-profit foundation my husband and I created in 2003, and organized and ran board meetings for many years. As executive director, I also serve on the foundation's strategic planning committee, participating in the drafting and implementation of our sequential five-year plans. Lastly, I have served for the last few years on the steering committee of a program at a local college that honors women for their philanthropy and community service.

All of the above experience gives me a variety of perspectives in the non-profit sector. Moreover, being a hybrid author, I bring experience in both the small publishing and indie publishing worlds.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
Two issues are uppermost in my mind, one, diversity and inclusivity, not only in ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, but in career tracks; and two, the RITAs. The two are not mutually exclusive.

With regard to diversity, what can RWA do to not only increase the diversity of membership, but the diversity of the romance genre? What can RWA do to assist diverse authors in reaching their goals? How can RWA break some of the industry barriers for these writers? I don't have the answers, but I have some ideas. One suggestion is a mentor program, where successful authors of color, indie authors, or LGBTQ authors could mentor those authors new in their careers.

As for the RITAs, I know many authors who do not enter the contest because they feel they have no hope of making it to the finals, much less winning, either because they are authors of color, or are not traditionally-published. Inclusivity is vital to the relevance of the RITAs to the industry as a whole. Many of the authors who win each year are my favorite authors, and their books deserve the recognition. The question is how do we broaden that recognition so that more diverse, and up and coming authors are given the same opportunities? Again, I certainly don't have the answers, but I'd like to tackle the problem.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
While many authors are traditionally-published, many, like me have chosen either the hybrid route or the indie route. I want to ensure that RWA is inclusive of the different tracks authors may take in their careers, and that RWA continues to provide, or even increases, the resources these authors need to be successful in an ever-changing industry. This could include such things as featuring an Indie Track for the annual conference workshops.

RWA is a large organization, and based on my 18-plus years of experience at a large research university, steering such organizations in a different direction is often difficult, and requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach. With the speed at which the industry is changing, RWA needs to be more nimble in response to these changes, which I see this is one of the items on the 2018–2021 strategic plan.

In addition to PRO and PAN, and local and genre chapters, I would suggest the creation of an Indie chapter or online community where those just dipping their toes in the indie pool can learn from those with years of experience. I would suggest the same for other interest areas including LGBTQ and authors of color, not as a means to isolate members of those groups, but rather as a platform for members of those groups to learn and share their experiences, while also remaining involved with the larger communities.

 

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Seressia Glass

Seressia Glass

Seressia Glass has been a member of RWA since 1997. A 2016 RITA finalist, she’s won a Maggie Award of Excellence, an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and an Emma. She has published more than 25 works in contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance and urban fantasy with publishers including Berkley, Harlequin, Pocket, St. Martin’s Press, and Knaur in Germany. In additional to her writing career, she is an instructional designer for a Fortune 500 company. She lives south of Atlanta with her husband, son, and two attack poodles.

Member of RWA since: 1997
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2000
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Urban Fantasy
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in:
2017- 0
2018- 4, in Germany
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Berkeley
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Cultural Interracial and Multicultural (CIMRW); Georgia Romance Writers (GARW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I learned about RWA through Georgia Romance Writers holding a booksigning at the Waldenbooks where I worked part time. I always wanted to be a writer and learning that writers were actual people and in my neighborhood and actually met and talked shop was incredible. I learned so much from those wonderful authors and I learned more in the national organization. I continue to be a member because our organization is a great resource and a wonderful networking hub, with the promise to grow and be even better.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
Because I firmly believe in "Be the change you want to see in the world." RWA is a great organization, but it can be better. Our membership is diverse, our needs and career goals are diverse, and we should strive to celebrate and support that diversity. I want to do my part to help the organization grow by recruiting a more diverse membership and ensuring that everyone can have a seat at the romance publishing table.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
Other than completing the remainder of this current board term, I have mostly served at the chapter level. I have been a workshop coordinator, a contest coordinator, and have judged in numerous Rita contests.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
In my other career, I am an instructional designer. I identify needs and performance gaps, analyze resources, then design, develop and implement solutions. I have worked with performance support, compliance, diversity and service initiatives. I believe I can use these skills to help create initiatives that can help chapters reset, grow, and flourish; help members discover and develop the tools they need; and help develop our educational hub.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
1. Diversity, equality, and inclusion is a top priority for me. DEI touches upon every facet of our purposes and goals as an organization. It will require us to encourage and nurture the diversity of thought, experience and career goals of our membership to become a shining beacon in the industry that current and potential members can look to. We also need to create an award that truly recognizes exemplary stories that reflect the multifaceted tapestry that is love.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
We need to find a way to be proactive, rather than reactive. It's a tough hill to climb in this rapidly changing industry. We need to deepen our relationships with sister organizations and those companies that impact our members careers--social media outlets, merchants, service and publishing channels.

 

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Toni Jackson

Toni Jackson

A member of RWA since 2013, Toni Jackson is an Indie author. She is a multipublished with several titles in contemporary, suspense, and SciFi and Fantasy romance. She has a dual degree in English and Communications with a minor in Business Administration. She is pursuing her Masters in Cloud Computing Architecture. A member of PAN, she loves combining her love of writing and technology. A member of the WRW, CIMWRA, Passionate Ink, and the FF&P, Toni has served as a volunteer, a contest judge and loves being a sounding board for authors.

Member of RWA since: 2013
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2015
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Science Fiction
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 1
2018- 2
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Washington Romance Writers (WRW); Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP); Passionate Ink (PIRWA); Cultural Interracial and Multicultural (CIMRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): Maryland Writers Associate
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
When I started writing my first romance story, I began searching for different groups where I could speak with other like-minded writers. RWA offered a place to learn and connect with other people who knew what I was talking about. My first conference, in Atlanta, helped me know I made the right decision. For the most part, I found the people helpful and welcoming. But I'm not naive. As happy as I was to meet people who would understand what I was talking about, there were also people who looked at me like I didn't belong.

How did I not? Wasn't I just like the others, wanting to tell a story with a happy ending?

Although some of the things happening have been discouraging as an author of color, I believe that there is still hope. Hope of opening people's minds to the idea that everyone deserves love and in turn, everyone deserves to write about love.

I continue to be a member of RWA because of the support I and others, receive here. The organization has shown that it wants to change and move to the next level. I want to be a part of that change.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I believe that I have so much to offer the board. Coming from the position as an African American author, I understand the challenges that are faced not only by AOC's, but any author who has faced the problem of receiving the recognition their work deserves.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
Although I have only served once in a volunteer capacity at Nationals, I like to think that I have contributed to my fellow authors in other ways. While not an award winning author, I have still tried to support and help other authors by helping them with readings, edit support, and even helping them to format their documents for publication.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
My biggest skills are empathy, organization, and the ability to listen. Thanks to a mild case of OCD, I love to organize and structure processes and events. I like to think of myself as someone people can come to with problems. I can't always solve them, and sometimes people are not looking for someone to solve problems. Sometimes they just want a person to listen to them with no judgement.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
The first issue is a hybrid of two ongoing issues. We still are not at the level we should be supporting Indie diversity. Every day I see and read talented authors who have shunned joining RWA because they feel it will not help them. Many of them are diverse authors, especially authors of color who feel they will never be accepted. We need to pull these authors into our fold and help them.

Mentorship. There is so much talent within RWA. It has warmed my heart that I see so many more groups of authors pairing to create anthologies. But we still have a long way to go.

As a part of bringing the community together, we can find someone who would like to mentor a newbie. I’m not a USA Today or a New York Times bestseller, but I feel that I have skills and traits that would help newbies find their footing.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
In the six years that I've belonged to RWA, I believe that a lot of beneficial changes have occurred. In the last few years, the increase in support for AOC and LGBTQ has been great. However, it's important to understand what makes RWA lose authors to other organizations. Is it the perceived support they receive from other groups that they don't feel the receive from RWA?

 

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Tracey Livesay

Tracey Livesay

A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a former criminal defense attorney, Tracey Livesay is the award-winning author of contemporary, interracial romances with Avon and Entangled. She's served on the board of Virginia Romance Writers for seven years, including two as President, volunteered on several national committees and is a member of PAN. Tracey lives in Virginia with her husband-who she met on the very first day of law school--and their three children. In her spare time—Ha!—she watches planner videos on YouTube and daydreams about her next designer purse purchase.

Member of RWA since: 2002; 2010
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2014
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 1
2018- 1
2019- 1
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Avon and Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Virginia Romance Writers (VARW); Washington Romance Writers (WRW); Contemporary Romance Writers (CRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I joined RWA to learn all I could about the business of being a romance author. I loved the idea of being around people like me--my tribe--and the opportunity to meet and network with people in the industry, like agents and editors. I remain a member, despite some of its issues, because I truly believe it's an invaluable resource for writers. I wouldn't be where I am today, as a writer, without it.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I've chosen to run for the Board because I want to give back. I found a community and learned all about this industry because of RWA. RWA has given me so much, I want to do my part to contribute. Also, it's an organization comprised of many different people and experiences and I think the Board should reflect that.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
Most of my time in RWA, I've spent volunteering. As a member of Virginia Romance Writers, I've served as contest coordinator for the Fool for Love, President-Elect, President and Secretary. On the national level, I've served on the PAN retreat committee and the RWA-U committee, of which I spent the last year as Chair.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
The strategic plan lays out a vision of RWA that is ambitious but doable. It'll require people who are passionate about RWA; people who communicate well, are creative and who understand the importance of delegation to the empowerment of others. These are traits and abilities I possess and hope to employ to benefit RWA and its members.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
It's important that RWA continue to communicate that the organization represents "all" of its members. Swiftly responding to members and their concerns should be a top priority. That doesn't mean always ruling by popular opinion, but its crucial that the Board keep members apprised of what went into their decision-making process. That's how we remain strong as an organization. And that strength will allow us to address the issues, like our authors' relationship with Amazon, the constant fluctuation of the publishing business and helping our members navigate their many options.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
To remain relevant, RWA needs to continue listening to its members. Romance writers have always been at the forefront of new trends in publishing, marketing and technology. RWA should listen, learn and adapt, e.g. if people aren't reading important email messages from the Board, try videos. Additionally, as our notions of what behavior is acceptable evolves, we must incorporate those standards into our RWA community.

 

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Adrienne Mishel

Adrienne Mishel

A member of RWA since 2010, Adrienne Mishel is completing her first term as Director at Large. She has served as RWA Chapter Advisor for the national board and has held various leadership and support positions within Carolina Romance Writers, CIMRWA and FF&P Special Interest online chapters. She has also served on several national committees and task forces. A PRO member, Adrienne turned her love for things that go bump in the night into steamy paranormal romance novels. She is currently querying. Adrienne lives in North Carolina with her husband, kids, and two 100-pound lap dogs.

Member of RWA since: 2010
Are you published in romantic fiction: No
Year first published: N/A
PAN Member: No
Honor Roll: No
If not yet published, are you a member of PRO? Yes
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 0
2018- 0
2019- 0
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": N/A
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Carolina Romance Writers (CRWA); Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP); Cultural Interracial and Multicultural (CIMRW)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
In June of 2010, I shared my love of writing with a friend and she recommended that I check out RWA’s local chapter in Charlotte, NC. I was hooked after the first meeting and I joined RWA as soon as I got home. Ever since that day RWA and its members continue to inspire me to be the best writer that I can be. RWA has provided opportunities for education and networking that I would never have access to on my own. Now, nine years later, I’m the person recommending RWA to anyone who is interested in mastering their writing skills.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I would like the opportunity to continue the work we've started over the last two years. This includes addressing bias with in our organization, increasing advocacy for our members and continued development of programs and initiatives that increase membership ROI.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
At the local level I have served as Chapter President for Carolina Romance Writers. At the national level I have served on multiple committees and task forces. I have also had the honor to serve as Chapter Advisor and I am currently near the end of my first term as a Director at Large. I feel my most important contributions have centered around leveraging my experience with local and online chapter governance and as well as providing the unpublished author perspective with board discussions.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
If given the chance to serve on the National Board again, I will continue to leverage my professional training as an IT project manager to assist the board with meeting strategic objectives. I will encourage and support deliberate and focused discussions, while pushing hard to increase organizational transparency with our members. I also believe I represent RWA’s strive toward inclusivity as an unpublished author of color and a member of a marginalized group. I have and would like to continue to provide perspectives from both areas as the board moves forward in their efforts.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
Over the next two years, RWA must continue to expand our member advocacy platform while also finding new and innovative ways to increase membership ROI. During this current term, the board made great strides in advocacy that included collaborating with other writing organizations. No one wants new issues like Cockeygate to arise, but we need to establish processes and procedures that keep our organization nimble and flexible to allow for swift engagement for when the next issue does occur.

RWA must also continue to create innovative educational programming for our members. Examples of past successes include the introduction of master classes at the start of the annual conference and new, topic-centric online forums. There is so much more that we can do for our members to provide support for an industry that is in constant flux. RWA’s goal must be to provide members with the tools to navigate change.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
RWA must continue to be the “go-to” resource to provide members with education and advocacy for the constantly changing publishing landscape. We’ve already taken the first step with the development of a task force that works specifically to track industry impacting policy issues outside of RWA. It’s a vital step in the right direction to keep members informed and provide timely and accurate information on issues that may directly or indirectly affect them. This is type of work is strategic and provides a significant ROI to members which in turn, helps keep RWA relevant to our members and industry professionals.

 

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Priscilla Oliveras

Priscilla Oliveras

Priscilla Oliveras is a USA Today best-selling author & 2018 RWA® RITA® double finalist who writes contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. She and her novels have earned praise from the Washington Post, New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Redbook, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, amongst others. Currently, she serves on RWA’s Board of Directors and, since earning her Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, she works as adjunct faculty in the program and teaches the ed2go on-line course “Romance Writing.”

Member of RWA since: 1992
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2017
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 1
2018- 4
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published, Kensington Publishing, and Tule Publishing
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: First Coast Romance Writers (FCRW); Cultural Interracial and Multicultural (CIMRW); Washington Romance Writers (WRW); Maryland Romance Writers (MRW); The Golden Network (TGN)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): The Author's Guild
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I learned about RWA from my first romance writing how-to book purchased over twenty-five years ago after I finished writing my first book. Back then, I was a young college student, military spouse, and new mom forced to take a fall semester off school after a surprise military move. An avid romance reader and English major, I decided to spend that semester writing a novel. Needless to say, I quickly realized I had much to learn about craft and the business of publishing.

Joining RWA was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Over the years, much of my professional growth can be attributed to the education, industry insights, and support RWA offers. Equally as important, the friends and mentors I’ve made through RWA have added and continue to add immense value to my life.

Honestly, I’ve never questioned whether or not to renew my membership. Personally and professionally, my life continues to be enriched both by my active participation in RWA and the relationships I have built with fellow members, industry professionals, and others associated with the organization.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
I spent a number of years serving at the chapter level, gaining experience I believe prepared me to serve at the national level. In my four years on the RWA board, first as PRO Advisor and now Director-at-Large, I’ve done my best to listen to our members’ needs, follow industry changes to learn how they affect us and our livelihoods, and be a voice calling for all romance authors to be heard and given equal opportunity.

There’s much work still to be done in all these areas. However, I am confident in my ability to listen to our members’ various perspectives, make fiscally sound and responsible decisions, and shoulder the necessary tasks to put those decisions in action. It’s not easy, but few worthwhile, life-changing endeavors are. RWA has played a huge role in my life—professionally and personally. To me, it’s important that I do my best to give back to the organization and people who’ve given so much to me.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
My RWA service includes:
Current RWA National Director-at-Large; RWA PRO Advisor (2015-2017); Chapter: President, Vice President, Secretary, Membership Chair, Education/Program Chair, contest category coordinator; contest judge (chapter and national level); Golden Network retreat committee member; RWA national conference volunteer.  

Whether chairing a Board task force, organizing the National PRO Retreat, working on rewriting chapter by-laws and policies & procedures manuals, welcoming new members and presenting at chapter and national events, my goal has always been to offer any information, personal experience, time, and knowledge/insight that would benefit others and make a difference.

The variety of roles I’ve held in our organization on both the chapter and national level have given me a well-rounded leadership experience that are an asset as a Director-at-Large. During my time on the board, I’ve worked hard to help raise awareness and bring about positive change for our members. Progress has been made, but I recognize that more work is needed. I’m dedicated and determined to be part of that positive movement, for the benefit of all RWA members.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
Part of RWA’s strategic plan includes efforts focused on creating a premier community that advocates for positive change within our industry and organization, welcoming and supporting a diverse, inclusive membership. These aspects of our plan align with my personal outlook.

The combination of the knowledge gained from my Master of Public Administration focused in leadership and non-profits, the insight gleaned through my years of RWA service at the chapter and national levels, and my belief in the value of servant leadership constantly guide me. I understand the importance of listening to and respecting different perspectives, and I don’t shy away from offering the time and effort required to bring our strategic plan to fruition.

My goal as a Director-at-Large and RWA member is general is simple: Do all I can to help our organization and our members to the absolute best of my ability.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
Our industry has been in flux, with many changes in recent years. Publishers closing, inclusion and equity issues, outreach and advocacy with entities like Amazon and Facebook, plagiarism, pirating, copy right laws…these are all concerns that affect our members and their careers in drastic ways. It’s important that RWA continue striving to remain a respected, vocal organization, working independently and in conjunction with other entities advocating for and educating our members.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
The RWA Board is tasked with the fiscal responsibility of making decisions that align with the organization’s official mission. In order to better “advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers,” we need to focus on continuing to advocate for our genre and our members, providing business and craft knowledge at both the national and chapter levels, and taking active measures that see all aspects of our strategic plan come to fruition.

Yes, the changes in publishing avenues have led to changes in member needs, but one constant among our members is the desire to work for a successful writing career. RWA’s ultimate goal also remains constant: To do what we can to provide opportunities, information, and advocacy to better enable our members to achieve success.

 

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Erica Ridley

Erica Ridley

Erica Ridley is the New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty-five romances and a past president of Novelists, Inc. After securing a degree in international business and marketing, she spent years working on promotion, websites, and infrastructure for companies big and small. Becoming a full-time romance author is a dream come true. Erica lives on a macadamia farm in the rainforests of Costa Rica along with too many animals to count. (Did she just lump her husband in with sloths and spider monkeys? Maybe.)

Member of RWA since: 2004
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2010
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: Yes
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 3
2018- 6
2019- 8
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published, Kensington, and RWA (Premiere Anthology)
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: N/A
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): NINC (Novelists, Inc)
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I joined RWA as an unpublished writer because it was and continues to be the best organization for educating and empowering aspiring authors. RWA provided me with an invaluable foundation of knowledge, friendships, and connections that enabled me to build the career I love today. I continue to be a member in order to pay it forward to fellow members both published and unpublished, as well as constantly educate myself on the changes, challenges, and opportunities in our industry.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of Board of Directors?
This organization is what its members make it, and I want to do everything I can to bring about as much positive change as possible, both on an individual level and in the industry as a whole. I have experience in running a writers organization, experience in marketing and technology, experience in both traditional publishing and self-publishing, experience as an AoC in a not-always-welcoming environment, experience with hitting crazy highs and devastating lows, experience with being a mentor and also being the one who reaches out for help. RWA helped make me the author I am today. I want to be part of the team helping to build RWA’s future.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I served as webmistress for the Tampa Area Romance Authors. In addition to giving workshops at various chapters, I passionately believe a rising tide lifts all boats, and dedicate time to helping other members one-on-one however I can.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
More than twenty years in the web and marketing industry (from local writing chapters to Fortune 100 companies) affords me rich personal experience with developing and maintaining highly trafficked informational hubs, like RWA is trying to build. As a prior board member of a Costa Rican not-for-profit organization as well as a past president of NINC (Novelists, Inc), I have firsthand experience with many of the behind-the-scenes elements that go into running a successful writing organization. Because I have been both traditionally published and self-published, I can also understand the challenges and perspectives of both paths, including the increasing numbers of hybrid authors, and the constant need for education and advocacy.

What issues do you feel are important for the board to address in the next two years and why?
I am passionate about ensuring RWA becomes and stays a fair, inclusive, diverse, and healthy organization, from the interpersonal level to the RITA awards, so that our organization can truly represent the best of romance as RWA grows and matures. In addition to addressing inclusion and diversity in and out of RWA, challenges with big tech and an ever-changing publishing landscape will make fighting on behalf of writers and romance a matter of constant vigilance, reactive support, and proactive steps forward.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
Educating our members and advocating for all authors, not just with vendors, publishing houses, agents, industry professionals, the media, and legal issues, but also at the chapter and member level. More than just being “heard,” authors want to know their voices make a difference and that RWA is continually taking positive action on their behalf.

 

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PAN Advisor

Mary Karlik

Mary Karlik

Mary is an active member of RWA, serves on a national committee, and formerly served as the VP of Programs and President of YARWA. She is a Registered Nurse, holds a B.S. degree from Texas A & M University, a MFA from Seton Hill University, and is currently earning a degree in Scotts Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye. She loves Texas, Scotland, good gin and old scotch.

Member of RWA since: 1996
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2013
PAN Member: Yes
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): N/A
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 1
2018- 1
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published and Ink Monster Publishing LLC
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Young Adult RWA (YARWA); Dallas (DARA); North Texas RWA (NTRWA); Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I always wanted to be a writer and wrote in secret most of my life. But my career plans took me in another direction. When a childhood friend mentioned RWA, I knew I had to learn more. In the mid 90s, the conference was in Dallas. I met my friend at the literacy signing and was hooked. I joined RWA and my local chapters DARA and NTRWA. I had never felt so welcomed by an organization. I learned to write through workshops and made life-long friends who got me through the darkest days of my life. My road to publication took 17 years. Without the support and education from RWA, I would still be waiting for "the call." I continue to be a member because it keeps me current with the ever-changing and fickle publishing industry. Because it advocates for author's rights. Because it's a place where pre-published are as welcomed as published. I continue to be a member because it's my family, my tribe.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of PAN Advisor?
I have chosen to run because I want to give back to the organization that has given me so much. I'm running for the position of PAN Advisor because I have an empathetic ear to the needs of PAN members-no matter where they are on their career journey-and I am passionate about bringing the PAN community concerns to the board.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
I serve on a national committee. I have volunteered to be a contest category coordinator for YARWA, the VP of Programs for YARWA, and the President of YARWA. My most important contribution, would be to serve as President of YARWA. As President I worked to get the chapter in compliance with the national bylaws and to improve communications within the chapter. I was one of the charter members of this chapter and to be able to serve as president was really an honor.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
With a background in Quality and Customer Satisfaction, I have the skills to help determine if the goals of the strategic plan are relevant to the vision and mission and if so, whether the goals are being met. I believe there is a place for everybody in RWA and feel I could help determine areas where members'/communities' needs are not being met and assist in developing a strategic plan to rectify the situation.

What issues do you feel are important for the PAN Advisor to address in the next two years and why?
When RWA gets behind an issue it is a mighty force to be reckoned with. It gets things done. The most important issue we face is the lack of inclusion. We say there is room for everybody, now it’s time to put those words into action. I can't speak as a member of the marginalized community, but I can listen to their concerns and as PAN Advisor ensure the board hears them too. Secondly, as the industry continues to evolve, we must evolve too. We not only have to continue to address issues such as piracy, copyright infringement, and unfair practices, we have to be prepared for what's coming next. With houses closing and the e-market becoming saturated, authors are facing new challenges. As PAN Advisor I would make sure all published authors have a voice at the board table.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
To stay relevant we need an open line of communication with authors, publishers, and agents. We need to listen to the concerns of all parties. We need to be savvy about the market, we need to be ready for change, and as proactive as possible.

 

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Barbara Wallace

Barbara Wallace

Barbara Wallace sold her first novel to Harlequin/Mills & Boon, two years after winning RWA’s Golden Heart Award. Since then she’s gone on to publish nearly two dozen romance and mystery novels, both traditionally and independently. She is a three time Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice finalist, and has won the Booksellers Best and New England Readers’ Choice awards. In 2019, she received an RWA Service Award in recognition of her 24 years of regional and national RWA service.

Member of RWA since: 1995
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2009
PAN Member: Yes
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Mystery, and Self-Published
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 1
2018- 1
2019- 2
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published, Entangled and Harlequin/Mills & Boon
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: New England Chapter (NEC); Connecticut Romance Writers of America(CTRWA)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
I joined RWA over 20 years ago because I wanted to connect with other romance authors. What I discovered was not only a network of writers, but a valuable source of professional (and personal) enrichment. Membership helps me stay current in terms of industry trends and tools. It also helped me grow and become a better writer.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of PAN Advisor?
The definition of published author has changed a lot over the past 8 years. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is that the number of PAN members - both traditionally published and independently published - who are struggling to maintain their footing in the industry. I understand their struggle, because I am one of them. I decided to run for PAN Advisor because I believe it's important this wide segment of our membership has a voice and to make sure that RWA continues to provide quality craft AND business education authors need.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
On a local level, I'm proud of my many years of service to the New England Chapter. I served in so many capacities, it’s hard to single out one or two contributions. One thing I am proud of was being one of several members who were instrumental in growing our regional conference. I sat on 7 conference committees. I’m also proud of my three terms on the chapter board. Each term came at a different point in our chapter’s (not to mention our industry’s) life, and each came with unique challenges. I’d like to think my input as a board member help keep NECRWA healthy and focused on our members’ needs.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
I think that I will bring to the table both a historical perspective of RWA as well as a willingness to change. That is, I know that RWA must change if our organization is to continue be a relevant force in today's publishing industry. At the same time, having been a member for 20 plus years, I recognize the importance many of our old traditions hold and why some change might be difficult to embrace. Being able to see all sides of an issue is vital if we are to create an organization that is of value to all our members. I also think that my years of public relations and corporate communications experience can help the board when it comes to communicating information to members and prospective members.

What issues do you feel are important for the PAN Advisor to address in the next two years and why?
First and foremost, I believe the PAN advisor should work with RWA staff and leadership to ensure that authors have access to as much craft and business information as possible so that they may make smart career decisions. We cannot guarantee any member career success. However, we can make sure they have all the tools necessary to try.

I also want to push for more basic business education. As we are pushed to be small businesses, we need to provide our members with more than workshops on various marketing tools. We need to make sure they have a solid understanding of ROI, basic economics and business management.

Second, we must continue to protect the genre from plagiarists, pirates, book stuffers and others who seek to game the system to the detriment of our members. Again, I will advocate for better education in terms of knowing how authors can protect themselves.

Also important is educating our members on the many less visible benefits they receive as members. RWA wields a great deal of influence within the industry. The organization’s advocacy work might not be visible on a day-to-day basis, but it’s making a real impact on writer’s careers. Yet too often we hear members say they “don’t get” a lot from their membership beyond the contests and conference. I would like to explore ways we can better explain the importance of RWA’s advocacy so that members see they are indeed “getting a lot”.

Lastly, we need to continue the inroads we’ve made regarding access to publishing. While it’s wonderful that we are seeing more diversity within romance novels, the bigger issue remains sustaining and mainstreaming diversity – not just on the page but within the industry itself.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
For a long time, RWA had no competition. Now it does. At the same time, writers have less money to spend. Therefore, if we want members to continue spending $100 a year for a membership, we need to make sure we are providing the best return on their investment.

As part of this review – much as people don’t want to hear it – we need to take a long look at things like the Rita and our communities of practice. We should also look at how our members are connecting with one another. I suspect there are ways our chapter structure can be revamped to make them more vibrant and attractive to members. I’d like to the organization continue to embrace new technology as a way of delivering education.

I’d like to see more podcasts, more use of YouTube and other technologies as a way of breaking out of people’s cluttered inbox.

Of course, ultimately, if RWA is to remain relevant, the organization must work to bridge the many divides within our membership. There’s always been divides, but lately those divides have grown wider. The issues connected with the divides cannot be ignored. RWA’s leadership must listen to our members’ complaints and address them.

However, I think part of the solution also lies in returning to RWA’s roots – education, advocacy and connection. For all our differences in race, sexuality, career paths, etc., there is one thing we all have in common: We love writing. RWA can only stay relevant if its members remember that commonality and work to build an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance.

 

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PRO Advisor

Maria Powers

Maria Powers

Maria Powers grew up in Southern California. By day she works in Real Estate wrangling contracts and agreements with several government agencies. By night she writes kickass heroines and tough heroes with sensitive hearts ready to be tamed by the girl next door or beaten into submission by the witch on the corner. She has held several positions on her local chapters’ boards and was President of LARA twice. Maria was a Golden Heart finalist in 2015 and is currently working on a series of contemporary romances set on the Central Coast of California.

Member of RWA since: 2006
Are you published in romantic fiction: No
When did you becoem a PRO member: 06/28/2012
How many manuscripts of more than 20,000 words have you completed: 5
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): Erotic- Self Published
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA); The Golden Network (TGN); Orange County Chapter (OCC)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member?
Education and networking prompted me to join. A friend had joined and was having amazing success with her work. She encouraged me to join.

What keeps me going is the knowledge and networking. RWA has provided so many opportunities to learn and to meet fellow writers.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of PRO Advisor?
I believe that the PRO program is one of the best opportunities with the RWA organization. I understand that the market is changing and the organization needs to change with it to remain a vibrant, relevant group.

I would like to be part of that change to ensure that the needs of the unpublished authors are being met.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions. Please list your experiences in planning retreats:
I was on the PRO committee in 2016 and 2017 and worked with closely with Priscilla Oliveras and the rest of the team to create memorable and exciting retreats. In addition, I ran the PRO Mentor of the Year in 2016 and 2017 to acknowledge the amazing authors who give back to our community through mentor ship.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
In reviewing the strategic plan, I believe that my experience in the business world as a Vice President of a small company will help me review plans, identify possible road blocks and communicate the goals of the organization in a manner that encourages people to buy into the organizational goals.

The buy in of the general membership is how the organization moves forward with its plans to identify leaders in the changing market models, increase the number of associate members and make it worth their while to remain in the organization. This can be accomplished without a significant loss of existing General Members if the buy in to the goals has happened.

What issues do you feel are important for the PRO Advisor to address in the next two years and why?
I believe that the next two years for the PRO community are vital as the organization pivots to meet the new market trends which have less emphasis on traditional publishing.

In this group, focusing on the business aspects of a writing career will help prepare our members for the demands of Independent Publishing as well as the demands now being made by Traditional Publishing as the houses do less and less for the author.

At the same time, quality of product must remain a priority and craft knowledge and skills need to be honed in order to make sure that the product being delivered is the best for each author at their stage on their journey.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
I believe that RWA needs to look at the future of publishing and get out ahead of the needs that will grow with an increasing number of people self-publishing.

It will be important for the organization to help create ways for authors to establish if their work has been infringed upon, and to train it's members on what copyright infringement is, how to protect themselves and what to do when it has occurred. In the past, Publishing Houses have gone after those who stole the work of other authors. This will no longer be the case.

Perhaps creating a legal fund along the lines of a scholarship fund for members. Create a database of copyright attorneys for members to access in their home states.

There are many other issues coming up but protection of the content creators is paramount as we move away from corporations controlling the content and individuals having to protect themselves.

 

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Chapter Advisor

Mellanie Szereto

Mellanie Szereto

Mellanie Szereto is the author of more than twenty-five romance novels, novellas, and short stories. In addition to numerous chapter and national committee responsibilities, she has served on her local chapter’s board in several capacities, including two terms as president and two terms as vice president, and is the current RWA Chapter Advisor. Her service has earned her Indiana RWA’s Chapter Service Award (2013) and the RWA Service Award (2016). Mellanie is a member of the Aged to Perfection-SRW, Contemporary Romance Writers, FF&P, IRWA, and NEORWA chapters.

Member of RWA since: 2009
Are you published in romantic fiction: Yes
Year first published: 2011
PAN Member: Yes
Honor Roll: No
Other genres or forms published in (please specify): E-book and print in novel-, novella-length, and short stories in romance; nonfiction
How many titles of romantic fiction did you release in: 
2017- 3
2018- 3
2019- 3
List Most Recent Publishers with whom you have published, including "self": Self Published and Siren-Bookstrand
List any RWA Chapter of which you are a member: Aged to Perfection SRW; Contemporary Romance Writers (CRW); Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FFP); Indiana RWA (IRWA); Northeast Ohio Romance Writers (NEORWA)
Other Writers' Organizations of which you are a member (please specify): N/A
Have you ever worked for a publishing house or literary agency in a capacity other than as an author? Have you ever owned a literary agency or a publishing house that has published works of fiction other than your own? No
Are you currently employed by a publisher or literary agency in a capacity other than published author? No
Do you currently own a literary agency or a publishing company that produces works of fiction other than your own? Do you own or operate or provided services for authors such as editing, cover design, marketing, etc. No

What prompted you to join RWA, and why do you continue to be a member? 
After reading many romances, I began writing my own stories and discovered RWA through an author bio in a romance novel. The opportunity to connect with other writers and learn about craft and publishing was exactly what I was looking for. I joined RWA and my local chapter, as well as online chapters for my genres. I’ve continued to be an active member because of the education, support, and friendships I gained through the organization. RWA and its chapters continue to provide the support I need as my writing career progresses and grows. I also enjoy helping new members find their way as they begin their writing journeys.

Why have you chosen to run for the position of PAN Advisor?
Chapters are vital for RWA’s strength. Good leadership helps chapters remain viable so they can offer members the benefits they value most. I want to help leaders streamline the day-to-day running of their chapters to make leadership easier and less time-consuming, allowing them to focus more energy on writing and publishing. By creating guidelines, timelines, and templates with the Chapter Leadership Resources Development Committee, I’ve been part of making leadership more manageable and leadership transitions smoother. I’d like to continue working on these areas during a second term as Chapter Advisor.

Please list your RWA service, citing what you feel are your most important contributions:
2010-2013 IRWA PRO Liaison
2010-2013 RWA Golden Heart Contest Judge
2010-2017 RWA Conference Volunteer
2011-2013 IRWA Push-to-PRO Coordinator
2012 IRWA Director-at-large (1 term) 2014-2015 IRWA Vice President (2 terms)
2015-2017 IRWA PAN Liaison
2015-present RWA RITA Contest Judge
2016 Panelist for the Chapter Leadership Breakfast panel discussion 2016-2017 IRWA President (2 terms)
2016-present Member of the RWA Chapter Leadership Development Ad-hoc Committee
2017-present RWA Chapter Advisor

My chapter board service, Uniform Chapter Bylaws and Policy & Procedures Manual knowledge, and PRO and PAN Liaison terms experience gave me a well-rounded leadership background to step into the Chapter Advisor position. My work as Chapter Advisor has given me insight to the needs of chapter leaders, including the many resources created by the Chapter Leadership Resources Development Committee.

Based on your review of the strategic plan, what relevant experience/skills/abilities do you have that would be a benefit to the organization and further RWA’s strategic plan?
My years as a chapter leader, my experience as Chapter Advisor, and my career as a multi-published hybrid author will help me continue to contribute to RWA Board conversations about the needs of chapters and members as RWA focuses on providing the education, information, and advocacy necessary to be a vital resource to romance writers.

What issues do you feel are important for the PAN Advisor to address in the next two years and why?
Bias recognition and diversity, equity, and inclusion training must be a top priority for chapter leaders and the membership of RWA. In addition, more extensive leadership training is needed, which can be addressed with more resources. A Chapter Leadership Handbook and increased training are on my to-do list for making transitions and leadership more efficient and effective.

With the varying challenges romance authors face in this industry today, what suggestions do you have for keeping RWA relevant?
RWA must remain a strong advocate for its members and the romance genre. It must also continue its efforts on working with industry professionals to create fair and equal opportunities for marginalized authors and characters.

Chapter/s for which you served as Chapter President: 
  • Chapter NameIndiana RWA
  • Officer Position heldChapter President
  • Years Served2016 and 2017
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