In the spring of 2003, I accepted a dare from my late husband to write a romance novel. I soon discovered the challenge was easier said than done. Before then, I knew the romance industry from a reader’s perspective. If I was to be successful at this venture, I needed to understand the industry from a writer’s perspective and research was the only way to do it. For the next three months, I probed every source I could and the acronym RWA popped up over and over and over.
Curious to know more, I dug a little deeper and discovered that an impressive African-American influence had been woven into the fiber of RWA from the beginning. Since 1981, this association has advanced the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. However, the existence of an organization with over 10,000 members today would not have been possible without the vision and of its Founder, Vivian Stephens.
As the editor for Harlequin, Dell (Candlelight Romances) and Bantam, Ms. Stephens launched the careers of authors such as Sandra Brown and Jayne Ann Krentz, but didn’t stop there. Recognizing the importance of getting African-American romance published, Ms. Stephens established Women Writers of Color with the goal of assisting African-Americans who wrote commercial fiction with people of color as the major characters and guiding them to ultimate publication.
Multi-published author, Shirley Hailstock walked through the doors opened twenty-years earlier as the first African-American board member for RWA. In 2002 she became the first African-American president of the largest genre writer’s organization in the world.
The year 2010 ushered in another milestone for RWA. My author colleague and friend, Michelle Monkou was elected President. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to attend the convention in Orlando when Michelle assumed the reins. Congratulations, Michelle!
Thank you is such a simplistic phrase, but it’s the only one I can find to express my heartfelt gratitude for the courage, wisdom and leadership these three pioneers have given to the largest consumer market that’s 1.37 billion dollars strong.
Until next time – stay well and be blessed!