How many times have you sat at the computer, pulling out your hair, struggling to make cranky characters behave, unsure how or why your plot took off for Tahiti, and confounded why you ever thought you could write?
Yeah, me, too. This is insane work. We all know it. It’s lonely, sitting there by yourself for all those hours. It’s not just challenging to have confidence in yourself . . . it’s even harder to believe that your work has the power to make a difference.
But it does. The “power of one” should be a mantra for every writer. If you have trouble believing that, I want to share a story about one writer and her power.
So many RWA writers have freely given their time—working for all of us, without pay and, often enough, without recognition. One of those special people was an incomparable friend of mine.
If you love romantic comedy, you’ve undoubtedly read her. She wrote more than 50 books. Each story was fast paced and fun, filled with delightful characters and zippy dialogue. When you finished one of her books, you had to smile . . . because her voice was so joyful.
She brought that joy to everything she did for us—and that’s an incredibly long list.
The Internet is so much part of our lives today that we forget what it was like without it. When Prodigy showed up as a bulletin board, my writer friend recognized just what we had: an extraordinary chance to join writers and readers together. She formed a readers’ board that began with a handful of readers and ended up with hundreds, posting every day. This group created some of our favorite acronyms from TSTL (too stupid to live, referring to the old gothic heroine who was forever traipsing into the basement in her nightgown in the dead of night) to HSL4 (heroes to lust for). Those acronyms were fun—still are—but she was the one behind the scenes, tirelessly building those connections, not to sell or promote her own books but to support and promote the romance genre by reaching readers across the country.
She also did numerous projects for the original Romantic Times including writing a monthly column devoted to spreading the word about great books and great authors. She always went out of her way to bring up brand new authors who readers hadn’t yet discovered.
I’m hoping you recognize who this is by now . . . but if you don’t, it’s because she did so much work without credit or recognition. The power was building, though. Her power, to make a difference for all of us.
She was one of the authors who contributed an essay in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. (If you haven’t read it, sheesh. Go find it. Read every essay. They’re fantastic.)
In 1995, this author received the RWA National Service Award. She was RWA’s first Library Liaison, and she had a unique role: to make romances familiar to librarians and accepted by libraries. This was no tiny task. Libraries, by then, were accepting westerns and mysteries in paperback form but very few romances. She took this job on for 10 years, reaching out to librarians, one at a time, over and over, changing their view of romances and proving to them that readers wanted and loved our books and deserved to be shelved with every other kind of literature.
She recommended the RWA Board of Directors establish the Librarian of the Year award—another first for RWA. She also developed lists of RITA award winners and nominees (and ARTIES for Romantic Times) to give librarians an easy reference to acclaimed romances. This was a small thing. But no one else was doing it, and this was a writer who took on so many things that no one else “had time for.”
If you don’t know about the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University, you should because it’s about you and me. For the first time, there was a central place for records related to the romance genre to be archived in one place. Yeah, my friend had her joyful mitts on that project, too.
And then there was BookExpo America, an annual event that never used to include romance. It wasn’t until 1995 that RWA had its own booth. In a single year’s time, RWA’s presence doubled—a presence that matters because the convention drew in 42,000 attenders in just that year. As I’m sure you guessed, our writer was in the thick of this, not just bullying and begging and coaxing for goodies to hand out, but, naturally, providing food to tempt attenders into stopping by.
I know, I know. You’re tired of reading this endless list, but I’m sorry, there’s still more. She wrote articles on romance for library publications, pushed for the creation of a Librarians Day event to start off RWA’s annual conference, encouraged RWA’s increased presence at both the American Library Association and Public Library Association conferences, and coaxed authors (through RWA) to donate foreign language editions to our U.S. libraries.
Of course her primary love—and joy—was writing. Not counting all her nonfiction essays and work, she wrote for three publishers (Dell, Harlequin, and St. Martin’s Press) and won coveted awards, from RT’s Storyteller of the Year Award to RT’s Reviewer’s Choice. Her books were nominated for RT’s Love and Laughter Award as well as their Series Author of the Year.
The point of sharing all this isn’t to “toot her horn” . . . it’s to share with you a writer who exemplifies the power of one. The power of one woman to make a difference. The power of one writer to enrich our world. The incredible power of one special person who’s given us an enormous and wonderful legacy. She didn’t do it for money or recognition. She did it for the joy and respect of our genre.
By now, I’m sure you know I’m talking about Cathie Linz.
Someone said it far more eloquently than I could. Cathie was a “writer of humor and grace who believed that every day should be celebrated with laughter and kindness, and who understood that books and storytelling have the power to touch hearts and change the world.”
I’d suggest you lift a glass to toast her, but she was never a wine drinker. So instead, I’ll suggest what Cathie would: Take a moment to indulge in a little chocolate (or a lot), pet a cat (or six), and belt out a Paul McCartney song, whenever you can.
Don’t forget her. And please don’t forget what she taught us all: when you find your joy, you find your power.
Alison Hart (writing as Jennifer Greene) sold her first book in 1980, and since then has sold over 85 books in the contemporary romance genre. She won her first professional writing award from RWA, a “Silver Medallion” in 1984, followed by over 20 nominations and awards —including achieving RWA’s HALL OF FAME status, and the most coveted Nora Roberts LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.
Jennifer has regularly been on a variety of bestseller lists, and has written for Harlequin, Avon, Berkley and Dell. Her books have sold all over the world in over 20 languages. She also accumulated a number of pseudonyms—most recognizably JENNIFER GREENE, but also JEANNE GRANT and JESSICA MASSEY.
She was born in Michigan, started writing stories in 7th grade, and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in English and Psychology. The University honored her with their “Lantern Night Award”, a tradition developed to honor fifty outstanding women graduates each year. Exploring issues and concerns for women today is what first motivated her to write, and she has long been an enthusiastic and active supporter of women’s fiction, which she believes is an unbeatable way to reach out and support other women.
Jennifer lives in Michigan, just a short distance from Lake Michigan, with her husband Lar.