Running a blog like Romance University comes with a variety of benefits, but one of the biggest is a built-in excuse to network (i.e. an opportunity to chase people down at the national conference). We like to seek out unsuspecting victims visiting professors at every available turn. Today’s VP, Cynthia D’Alba, is well known to some of you as she’s served as the Romance Writers of America PRO liaison for the past year. She’s here to chat about the benefits of the PRO designation. Welcome, Cyndi!
One of the great aspects of attending the RWA® National Conference is meeting new and fascinating people. Such was my luck this year when I twisted Amy Atwell’s arm into taking me along to the cocktail party hosted by the Romance University Co-Founders Adrienne Giordano, Kelsey Browning and Tracey Devlyn. What an incredible group of women. (Thanks again for an awesome party!)
After I returned home, I got an email from Kelsey following up on a conversation we’d had during the party about me posting a blog on RU. My reaction? I agreed to do a blog? Man! I drank more wine than I thought.
But since the topic I’d agreed to talk about is one near and dear to my heart (RWA® PRO), I was glad Kelsey had remembered and contacted me.
To explain RWA® PRO, I need to first lay some groundwork. RWA® (i.e. Romance Writers of America®) has over 10,000 members. Most are classified as “General Members” or “Associate Members.” General membership is comprised of authors who are actively seeking publication and a career in romance writing. Associate members are individuals who support romance authors and the romance genre but who themselves are not pursuing a writing career (e.g. agents, editors, book reviewers, etc.) For the discussion of RWA® PRO, we are talking only about members within the General Membership category.
Provided they meet admission criteria, general RWA® members may join one of two Communities of Practice (i.e. CoP.) A CoP is a group of people who share a common interest in a craft and/or profession who join together to share information and experiences in an effort to learn from each other and develop themselves personally and professionally. Within RWA®, there is the PAN CoP (Published Authors Network) and the PRO CoP.
The PRO CoP is made up of general RWA® members who have (at minimum) completed a 40k work of romantic fiction AND have submitted that work to a non-vanity/non-subsidy publisher or an RWA® eligible agent. Some believe that to join the PRO CoP, an RWA® member must have a rejection letter, thus PRO is made up of rejected authors. Not true! It is the submission of your work that gains your entrance to PRO. So how did this “rejection club” reputation get started?
To join PRO, you must have proof of submission. Before email submissions became as commonplace as they are now, many writers mailed off their query and waited for a response, which in many cases was a rejection letter. This letter served as their evidence of submission. While they could have included a postcard to be returned to them as submission proof, most did not. Today, many RWA® members join the PRO CoP with an email response from the publisher or agent confirming receipt of materials. That email confirmation mailed along with the completed romantic novel (of at least 40k) and the PRO application will open the doors to the PRO CoP.
But why would anyone want to be in PRO? What’s hidden behind those magical doors? Well, that’s why I’m here today…to tell you WHY you’d want to be PRO and then how to move from PRO to PAN when it’s time.
When you are accepted into PRO…
- You get a PRO pin from RWA® National. That in itself is cool but wearing it at regional and national conferences helps identify you not only as an RWA® member but one who has achieved a certain level of success. Plus these pins help you identify other PRO members who may be at the same conference. It’s possible you’ll make connections, friendships or even find the critique partner you’ve been looking for. Not exactly a “secret handshake” but definitely alerting you that you both belong to the same RWA® CoP.
- Access to official PRO Loops. We currently have three:
- PRO-org, which is the main PRO loop. This is our discussion loop for PRO members.
- PRO-Class is where we hold periodic online classes (affectionately called “boot camps.”) We may host 3-5 classes per year on topics pertaining to the period of a writer’s life after submission. Topics can range from website construction, to social media, to contract law, to how to build a book trailer. The only topic that is consistent year to year is the Prep for National Conference, which occurs the month before RWA® National. Not all PRO members are on this loop. Only those who wish to subscribe.
- Chapter PRO Liaison is a Yahoo loop just for those individuals who serve as PRO Liaisons for their chapters. Most of the discussions there are about job duties.
- Access to PRO News. Right now, PRO News comes as a newsletter delivered to your email box. The PRO Steering Committee has spent the past year looking at all our programs and will possibly be making a recommendation for some changes in how PRO News is delivered. Cleaner. More efficient. But you’ll have to be part of PRO in 2011 to get that!
- PRO members get priority access to agent and editor appointments at RWA® National Conference (behind RITA and Golden Heart finalists and winners) giving PRO members the chance to snag that coveted appointment.
- And I saved the best for last. The PRO Retreat at RWA® National Conference. This is a half-day retreat just for PRO members, set up by a PRO member volunteer committee, run by PRO members and attended only by PRO members. Speakers vary year to year but the topics are always industry business related, meaning no craft is taught. This year we had Donald Maass as our Keynote speaker and frankly, I’m a little concerned about topping him in 2011. He was an incredible speaker with valuable insights. We also had Stephanie Feagan (aka Trinity Feagan) speaking on her year-long agent hunt and her insights on what she learned. Then we finished off the retreat with separate agent and editor panels. To top it off, we had a slew of door prizes to give away. If you missed the 2010 PRO Retreat, you really missed one of the highlights of this year’s conference.
Ok. Those were the “official” benefits. Here are my personal benefits.
- For me (and my CPA!), my PRO membership reflects that I take writing professionally.
- I have made friends and found critique partners within the community.
- I am with fellow RWA® members who “get” where I am in my writing career…my highs and lows, my doubts, my confusion and anger as another publisher closes, my suspicions about fly-by-night publishers, etc.
- I like the intimate feeling of the smaller group within a large organization.
The PRO CoP continues to grow. At last count, we were 2460 members (out of the 10K RWA® membership) and always looking to add new members to replace those who get “booted out” to PAN!
To move from PRO to PAN, an author must earn $1000 on a single eligible novel or eligible novella either from a $1000 advance or a combination of advance and royalties. A more detailed explanation can be found at http://www.rwanational.org/cs/pan_membership.
If you have questions about PRO, feel free to ask me here or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who have read this far, I do have books to give away. Both are by Vicki Lewis Thompson, a fellow member of the RWA® Board of Directors and a staunch supporter of the PRO CoP. I have an autographed copy of CLAIMED!, the latest title from her Sons of Chance series for Harlequin Blaze and a Harlequin Showcase with two of her books…TWO IN THE SADDLE and BOONE’S BOUNTY. The Showcase book is not autographed but if the winner wants it signed, I can do that in November when I see Vicki in New York.
To be in the running for either of these books, answer these questions…
- Are you a writer, a reader, or both?
- Are you a member of RWA®?
- Do you belong to either PAN or PRO CoP?
- If you belong to PRO, what is your favorite thing about this CoP?
- If you qualify for PRO but don’t belong, why not?
- Which book would you like to win?
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve learned at least one new thing today.
RU crew, take a minute to answer Cyndi’s questions and you’ll be eligible to win some fantastic books!
Drop by Thursday when Jeannie Ruesch of Will Design for Chocolate gives us some fab tips on friends vs. fans on Facebook.
Cynthia D’Alba (aka Cynthia D. Morgan):
Cynthia started her professional career in the medical field as a nurse, followed by nurse educator, medical researcher, and prenatal coordinator, finishing as a medical administrator. During this time she held a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction and a Master of Business Administration. She left the medical field for academia, serving as Graduate Coordinator for the College of Business at the University of Memphis and then Assistant Dean in the College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2001, she was award a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration.
After seventeen years in the medical field and seven years in higher education administration, she embarked on writing as her third career field. Her first attempts at writing will forever remain unseen by anyone other than the dust elephants who live under her bed.
In 2006, she served as the founding president for Diamond State Romance Authors, the first RWA chapter to be founded in Arkansas. She has also served as newsletter editor, treasurer and occasional presenter for DSRA. (It’s a small chapter so they all get to wear lots of hats.)
In 2007, she entered her first writing contest (Heart of the Rockies) with The Sand Castle and was fortunate to finish first in her category – erotica. The Sand Castle, later renamed The Sand Stalker, was a finalist in five other contests (in the Series Contemporary Category) in 2007 and 2008 before she retired it. For now, the project remains under her bed with the unnamed first writing disaster.
In 2009, she was the winner of the Series Contemporary Category of the Launching the Star contest, where the full manuscript was requested by both the editor and agent judge.
Also in 2009, she was elected to the PRO Liaison position on the RWA National Board of Directors, where she has served for the past year. Her current term ends October 31, 2011. The past year has been one of hard work mixed with periods of joy. The PRO Community of Practice has been open, welcoming, and supportive, and for that, she will always be in debt.
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