Category Archives: RWA


Laura’s note: To frame what Nora discusses here, please refer to this post on All About Romance. The author does an excellent job of laying out the timeline to the current situation.

To clarify: I’m not on Twitter. I haven’t been a member of Romance Writers Of America for several years. Those are both personal and professional decisions.

Even so, it’s been impossible not to be aware of the horrendous situation involving RWA, its leadership and Courtney Milan which, as it escalated, brought to light a long-standing and systemic marginalization of authors of color, of LGBTQ authors, by the organization.

I’m not going to comment on the Milan/RWA situation, but on what–through that–has come to light.

What I write here is my opinion. Some will agree, some won’t, some will be angry, some won’t. That’s how opinions work.

Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America, is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.


What follows is the viewpoint of a long-time member.

I joined RWA in 1980 (wow!). I attended the first conference in 1981 just a couple months after my first book came out. It was wonderful. I met my dearest pal Ruth Langan at that conference, and many others who’ve remained friends all these years.

RWA gave me a community, and though I have never been active in its leadership (nor did I want to be!) I attended every conference save two for decades. The organization was formed to provide support, education, networking opportunities, to stand as advocates for writers, published and unpublished.

I’m grateful for the community, the friendships, the opportunities.

Was the organization perfect? Of course not, but I felt, certainly in those early years, it tried very hard to support, educate, advocate and offer networking opportunities. I didn’t see marginalization–and fully admit I may have been blind to it–until many years in when the leadership crafted a statement defining romance as one man/one woman.

For me anyway, this came out of the blue. Who decided this was our statement? It sure as hell wasn’t mine, and surely we’d all evolved by–what was it–abut 2005.

A great many members were outraged by it–as they should have been. I certainly was, and took the rare for me step of writing a letter expressing same to the editor of the Romance Writers’ Report. We do NOT discriminate. I would not be a part of this kind of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Jesus, it’s fine to have a character fall in love with a freaking vampire, but not someone of the same sex? Bullshit. Just bullshit.

Offensive, bigoted, homophobic bullshit.

I received an email from the then president urging me to be quiet, basically, explaining to me–and I am not kidding–I didn’t understand that the lesbians would take over RWA. Jeez, those terrifying lesbians!

After my brain stopped exploding, I emailed back telling her they could publish my letter–as written–or I would take out a full page ad to publish it.

If memory serves, it appeared as a letter to the editor in the next issue of the RWR.

That was a real crack in the wall for me, and left me disappointed and angry with the organization.

It was during this leadership era I began to see some pretty deep problems within RWA. This same president was in office during the Reno nightmare. I’m not going to go into all that here, just Google it, but I withdrew as MC of the awards banquet and again wrote a long, detailed letter. I think–not sure–this time I did take it as an ad.

I’ll say all of that put longer, wider cracks in the foundation for me. I nearly resigned my membership then, but decided to keep it. I went to conference, but now almost exclusively to be with friends, to see people I only saw once a year, to attend the kick-ass Harlequin party and attend the brilliant Literacy Signing.

But I thought, I believed, with leadership change, the organization was doing better, trying harder. I didn’t see the marginalization, and I regret that. I could have been a voice, and I wasn’t.

For several years our family foundation sponsored the Literacy Signing. Literacy is one of our foundation’s primary goals. My daughter-in-law, the amazing Kat, worked with the committee in charge to help enhance efficiency, and put a lot of her time and effort into it.

The Literacy Signing was the annual conference’s big kick-off, drawing many, many authors who signed their books, publishers who donated those books, many, many readers who bought books–and the proceeds went to Literacy.

This night was a source of pride–RWA was making a difference.

Bookending this week of workshops, hang out at the bar time, meetings, parties, networking was Awards Night. The last night, always a big celebration–published and unpublished. The Golden Heart Awards for the unpublished, the Rita for the published. And the Lifetime Achievement Award to a member who’d earned it.

I received a letter, through Laura, from the Board between the last conference I attended, in San Diego, and the next–can’t remember where it was slated to be held. Wait–Orlando, I think.

They’d voted to change the set up for conference week, and claimed to want my input–though they’d already voted and intended to announce the changes in about 24 hours. The Literacy signing would now be at the end of the conference–on a Saturday afternoon. The RITAs would be in the middle of the week, and the Golden Hearts presented at a lunch.

I get change, I understand change, but I felt–still do–this was stupid. And worse, imo, the Golden Hearts, the unpublished, were being tossed aside. Not right, not fair, not equitable. Why do this? And WHY make the unpublished feel they didn’t really count? The Rita/Golden Heart Banquet was our send off, our night to celebrate each other and the books we write. The Literacy Signing, always held on the evening before the conference officially started, drew huge crowds, and brought in impressive amounts for Literacy.
The unpublished members deserved their night to shine.

As the sponsor of the Literacy Signing, we should have had a little more warning of the decision, but we didn’t.

And in response to my response, it was basically: Done deal. We’ve decided the conference should be more reader-centric rather that author-centric.

And that did it. Romance WRITERS of America, not readers. We love our readers, we value our readers, but this was the professional organization for writers. Published and unpublished.

I resigned my membership. We pulled out as sponsor.

In the time since then and now, I haven’t paid too much attention to what’s going on with RWA or its membership. I’m not especially active on social media, so a lot would go over my head anyway.

This latest issue hasn’t.

Again, I regret all the years I didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things that are now coming to light.

I hope that light continues to shine, and by doing so may change RWA for the good, may remind those in leadership positions what the purpose was all those years ago. To support and advocate for romance writers. Not specific kinds of romance writers.

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career, the couple hundred books I’ve written, I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I hope I’ve learned along the way. I intend to continue to learn and do better.


The Week That Was

First came the packing. A week away, especially a professional week away requires a lot of shoes. Then there’s the clothes that go with the shoes. As I had a big weekend–TTP’s anniversary signing on Saturday and the Fall Into The Story brunch on Sunday, I had to pack early.

I opted for Thursday packing so I could get it off my head and focus on writing all day Friday. Lots of events at RWA, so many decisions to be made. Past experience tells me no matter what the city or the temperature outside, it’s going to be really cold inside the hotel. (Despite Laura’s claims to the contrary.) So this requires jackets and/or sweaters for every outfit.

It’s a lot.

But with that out of the way, I can give the current book my full attention for one last day.

Saturday’s signing is now a blur, but I remember lots of happy faces. I know for most attending–and waiting in line–it was hot. For me, perfect weather. I just bask in high summer. But many thanks to all who aren’t me and braved the heat.

Still, again for me, the highlight was our youngest author. At twelve, Gage Shepherd has written two books. The kid’s talented, charming, professional and just all-out adorable. I’m pleased to say he told his equally charming mom the TTP signing was the highlight of his career. I suspect he’s going to have a long and successful one.

Sunday’s reader brunch was lovely in every way. It affords a quieter, less fraught atmosphere with plenty of opportunities to just hang. And thanks to the fabulous staff at Vesta, great food and cheerful service. So happy to have had a couple of hours to just hang out and chat with readers.

And Monday it begins. Load up the car–my luggage, Laura’s and Kat’s for the drive to the airport where we meet up with Janeen, TTP’s marvelous manager.

And we’re off to San Diego via Michigan where we pick up our beloved Ruth Ryan Langan. Having a week with Ruth is always one of the biggest perks of RWA, and we start it off at 41,000 feet with champagne. I hate to fly, but you gotta get there, and having my circle of women–and that champagne–make the long flight easier.

San Diego’s beautiful, and the weather’s just amazing. The hotel’s huge and airy with fabulous views and the huge advantage of generous and lovely outdoor spaces.

We dump our bags and have lunch by the pool. And the weirdness of travel fades a bit. It fades more when we head up to our suite. It’s huge–rooms all connecting so while we’ll all be in that wonderful space, we have our own areas, too. And the view from the balcony is just awesome. The marina with all its pretty boats, the bay with more boats skimming along, and beyond to the Pacific.

We have arrived!

Unpack–need to make our nests, make this space our own–then just sit on the balcony and absorb.20160711_180228

More friends come by–hugs and kisses!–and we do a quiet and casual dinner in before we East Coast girls fall into bed.

Tuesday is for acclimating and shopping. But first a little more basking on the balcony–something that becomes a daily ritual for our happy group. After Kat and I workout to Shaun T. Kat introduced me to Cize at the spa. I’m now a big fan. So we work it out, sweat it up, (laugh a lot) feel righteous. And shower it all off before heading out.

We walk in this fabulous weather, find fun little shops. Pack ‘O Girls shopping is ridiculous fun. We break for a little lunch, shop some more. Kat and Janine break off to hit a market for supplies–sodas, water, amazing fruit and so on.20160712_123115

Much more basking on the balcony, watching the boats, relaxing before we take another nice walk to dinner.

Ruth’s feet were cold!

Wednesday, our basking, our workout, and it’s time to get a little more professional. The hotel’s filling up–more writers than the baseball fans who’d come in for the All Star game.

20160713_130816Which reminds me. Sitting on the balcony, the game comes up. My beautiful Kat says: What’s the All Star game? (I wept a little.) And Janine says: It’s the Super Bowl of baseball. And there both Laura and I wept and laughed our asses off. And eventually explained what it actually is.

Sarah Morgan and Tiffany Snow, working hard by the pool.

We orient ourselves, as the hotel is really big, run into friends, wander out to the pool area for margaritas. Mmmm. Time to gear it up for the Literacy Signing. It’s a busy, noisy couple of hours, another chance to connect with readers, with other writers, and to raise money for literacy. It’s my favorite event of the week.

After we need food, and our tradition is to go for red meat. Dinner at Morton’s steakhouse. We’ve connected with our pal Mary Blayney so all toast another successful event. Ruth and I split a steak and still can’t finish it–but there’s souffle! As is girl tradition we order a couple of desserts to pass around. If you ever have a chance to sample Morton’s lemon souffle, don’t pass it up.

Then we waddle and moan our way home. I couldn’t so much as think about food for nearly twenty-four hours.

Thursday’s not too busy. Except for Janeen who has a whole business day. The rest of us? Bask, workout, clean up, and we decide we’d hang outside, open the Tequila Bar. Big comfy chairs, shade–and breezes cool enough Ruth and I were all about lighting the big firepit. It’s a perfect way to hang out, to again connect with industry friends who chose the same venue. My editor and publishing team are arriving today. It’s great to see them, spend some time.

I have a meeting–and how nice to be able to hold it in the suite with those lovely views.

There’s pizza when I finally want food again. Nothing’s more perfect than pizza.

Friday’s packed. After the morning routine–more boats on the water now as the weekend approaches–I have my Chat With session. It’s always fun, easy, and I hope interesting for the attendees. We have lunch with the St. Martin’s team, also easy and fun. I already feel at home.

Time to get our fancy on for party night. St. Martin’s is on property and filled with happy faces. Cocktails and pretty finger food, and for those who want it, a great patio to enjoy the sunshine.

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Off to the Harlequin party–for that we need a car and driver. The very short drive becomes long as the Padres have a game, and traffic is amazing. Still we get there early enough to snag a table near the dance floor. Tonight is all about kicking off your shoes and shaking that thing.

We shook those things a lot. It’s no small deal to have a couple hundred women (maybe more) rocking it out. So much energy and spirit. We have a few men sprinkled in, but this party really is all about girls just wanting to have fun.

We really, really do.

Saturday’s not too busy. This week contrasted nicely with my packed schedule of last year. We bask–several boats have left their slips, and the bay’s full of action. Sail boats, motor boats, jet skis, kayaks. Work out–with a nice yoga session to top it off. Wandering, outdoor time, reconnections. There’s a Hamilton Sing-Along scheduled, and Kat (a major fan) is so excited. She, my theater girl, is determined to find herself a costume. And being Kat, she finds one in a thrift store (boots included) and picks up some pillow cases to make a cravat and cuffs. She’s the Amazing Kat Hamilton.

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She’s the hit of the event–and the one who pulled people up, got them involved. Don’t just sit there! It’s my opinion she made the event.

We have to tidy up for my annual Champagne Celebration pre awards ceremony. And since my gown for tonight has deep wrinkles that didn’t hang out, the whole team works on pressing and steaming them out. I love girls.

The hotel staff has been marvelous throughout the week. Special shout out to Gwen, our delightful in every way housekeeper. The catering department is no less marvelous. We have a beautiful spread of fun food, loads of bubbly, and this gorgeous space. Laura has to sweep guests off the balcony in shifts to give others a turn. Everyone has their finery on, and looks just fabulous.

I’m presenting the last award of the evening, and my favorite. Best First Book. Imagine the thrill of having your very first book honored and recognized by your peers, and holding that Rita.

Back to the room and into pjs! Yay. Hit the food as there’s just no time to eat at your own party. Hang with pals. Leslie, my editor, is heading back to NY first thing in the morning, and our well-loved Brit, Sarah Morgan, is flying back to England. We have to say good-bye.

We start our last day as we’ve started all the others. On the balcony sighing over the view. A shorter workout–it’s been a busy week!–and clean up to head to Coronado Island for the day. What a perfect last day. A delicious lunch at the Del, bellinis, sea breezes and sunshine. Followed by (we’re girls) shopping. None of us walked out empty handed. Kat ran down to the beach to get her toes in the Pacific, and our happy, satisfied group traveled home again.20160717_154643 20160717_115742 20160717_155124 (2)

Packing to be done, dinner to consider. Take-out works just right. And we’re all really happy we decided to eat in as we’re sitting or standing on the balcony, wondering what might be going on at this pavilion down below (a wedding earlier in the week, a concert.)

It’s another concert–but not just any concert. It’s Diana Ross. Diana Ross is in concert right THERE. We can hear every note from our balcony. What a way to end the week. That iconic voice, the moon over the water, the sparkle of lights from boats that moored in to listen. We dance, sing along, cheer–and if you’re me whistle.

Diana Ross is on that stage!

We head off to bed tired and delighted.

Last minute packing and organizing Monday morning. My suitcases are heavier than they were when I flew west. A last bask, a final goodbye to our home for the week. Somehow the clever bellman got all our suitcases and bags of books and shopping bags in the car. Off to the airport–a little GPS snafu–but we get there. A pretty smooth flight back to Michigan where we have to say goodbye to our Ruth. Hugs, hugs, giant hugs.

Packed into the car
Packed into the car

In the air again, and on the ground in Maryland in an hour. Now it’s goodbye to Janine, and the drive to my place. Goodbye to Laura and to my amazing Kat–but I’ll see them both on Saturday when they come to help me prep for my annual summer party on Sunday. (Can’t think too much about that yet!)

Hello to BW and dogs. A little catching up, and I was out for the count by ten o’clock.

A great week, start to finish, a million memories banked.

And now I really want to get back to the book!


Field Report 2: RWA in San Diego

Before you read any further, please know that when I set up the blog all photos are right side up. I’m doing my best to figure out why they translate sideways on mobile devices.  Laura

We started off Wednesday with movement. While Nora and Kat did a dvd workout in the suite, I walked up to the Midway.  Loved this huge statue just by the water.

20160713_071607The day was free until the fabulous Literacy signing.  Nora and I went down to see exactly where she’d sit and we ran into Mary Rhoades — the first person in line.  The Marriott staff got her a chair so she’d be comfortable, then I offered to snap her photo with Nora, along with the second person in line, Amy who flew in from North Carolina (and if that’s the wrong name, please let me know!).

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We met so many wonderful readers who patiently waited for a chance to meet Nora.  The event brought in over $39,000 which put RWA over the $1 million mark for donations to Literacy over the past two decades.

Thursday was another free day.  Nora and I took a turn around the conference area, then we met Ruth and took advantage of the glorious San Diego weather.  As you can see below, it was cool in the shade so we had the fire pit turned on until Ruth could bask in the sun.  And Nora wore boots.

I did not.20160714_11154820160714_104957

Friday was the busy day — Nora had her chat, then we lunched with the St. Martin’s team, then parties all around.  I’m sure she’ll share more about it, so I’ll share some photos.


Just before Nora’s chat.


The start of the evening.

The yin and the yang.

Kat and Janeen Solberg — roomies.

We danced.

And then we went home.

Saturday was all about the prep for Nora’s champagne reception.  This year we had the fabulous view along with food and wine.  20160713_130824 20160712_151811

We cleaned up pretty well too.

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We spent the final day over on Coronado, lunching at the Hotel Del, browsing through shops and breathing in the sea air.  I’ll share photos when we’re back in Maryland, but for now we have another plane to catch.


Field Report 1: RWA in San Diego

Monday’s trip to San Diego was smooth as could be — the only real adventure was watching our driver figure out the way to pack all of the bags and five women in.  Fortunately we had Kat on stand by to work her car magic just in case.

All the rooms, except Nora’s suite, were ready when we arrived. So did the only sensible thing: head down to eat by the pool. Margaritas, nachos and chips for all!

The continuing thread of the narrative this week will be the epic battle of heat v. cold.  I’m traveling with a group of thin skinned shiverers!  When we walk through any hall, go into any room, all I hear is a chorus complaining about how coooooold it is!   My advice to suck it up is met with great disdain.  But on Monday I was actually chilly in the shade with the stiff breeze.


We disbursed to unpack and settle. Then time to settle in on our balcony nest for the rest of the day.


20160712_151811Bed before 9 for everyone because we’re still on east coast time.

All of us were up early on Tuesday.  I took a walk with Jill Shalvis, while Nora and Kat tackled dvd workouts.  Then it was on to the serious part of the day: shopping.  We found interesting clothing stores, the Nordstrom Café for lunch, then some more shopping before heading back to check in for the conference.

Ruth and Nora

Once we checked in, it was back up to our balcony nest to listen to a concert and watch the water.  A lovely early dinner ended the first full day at conference.


Cranky Publicist updates

Honestly, I’m not that cranky but I thought this was the best way to let you know it’s a Laura update, not a Nora one.

(Nora’s well, but I don’t expect her to collect her thoughts and share a blog post until later this month.)

We’re into Nora’s the busiest week  (non-writing category) of the year.   The Turn the Page Bookstore Anniversary event on Saturday went off well, despite heat and humidity.  Yesterday’s Fall into the Story Brunch was wonderful as always — so much fun to visit with happy readers (who all came to see me, of course!)

The annual FITS brunch panorama

My husband and I joined Nora and family for a few days at the spa and an oasis of down time in late June.  Our little crew of dedicated walkers clocked steps and miles every morning before 10 am while the rest of the group moved at their own pace.  Every day offered activities for the kids, spa treatments for adults, plenty of reading, chatting and eating time.  I took photos that made me happy.

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Extra bonus (for me?):  no scoreboard!  Woo-hoo!  There was a modified competition after we left, but if I’m not in the room when a game is played,  did it really happen?

Now we’re off to RWA for the week.  If you’re in the San Diego area, don’t forget the Literacy Autographing on Wednesday, July 13 from 5:30-7:00. I’ll let Nora tell you a little bit more about it:

I’ve played with designs this spring and have posted quotes from various books on Facebook.  Here are two examples.  If you’d like me to make the quotes and discussion a regular feature here on the blog, please let me know.

“There was nothing like a Saturday blue sweater

Need to shut down the computer and get to the airport.  I promise to share recaps and photos this week, so stay tuned.