It all started in 1979, when a group of romance writers and an editor (Vivian Stephens) met at a writer's conference at the University of Houston. At the time, writers groups and conferences largely ignored the romance genre, and these writers and editor recognized the need for an organization dedicated to the needs of romance writers in the rapidly growing American romance fiction market.
By December 1980, this original group of five writers (Rita Clay Estrada, Rita Gallagher, Parris Afton Bonds, Sondra Stanford, and Peggy Cleaves) had grown to 37, and they held the first official meeting of Romance Writers of America® (RWA) in Houston, Texas. The first board of directors was elected, and they quickly set about recruiting members for Romance Writers of America and organizing a writers conference focused specifically on the romance genre.
The 1st Annual Romance Writers of America Conference was held in June 1981 in The Woodlands (a city to the north of Houston, Texas). The response to the conference was overwhelming and exceeded everyone's expectations. To this day, RWA hosts a conference each summer in a different U.S. city.
The membership of the association took off, and, soon, chapters developed around the world (and, eventually, online). Today, RWA has more than 10,000 members and 145-plus chapter dedicated to advancing the professional interests of career focused romance writers.
RWA's founders instilled in the organization the value of sharing of knowledge and openness and encouragement that romance writers are hard-pressed to find elsewhere.