Keli Gwyn
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Benefits of Joining Romance Writers of America

My 2008 RWA Conference Badge

Because I’m an inspirational romance writer who is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers as well as Romance Writers of America®, I’ve been asked a number of times why I belong to both organizations. Other inspy romance writers who are considering joining RWA® are curious what I see as the benefits.

Here’s my answer in a nutshell. Okay, make that a good-sized coconut shell. =)

RWA is one of the most organized and highly respected writer organizations in the publishing world. The over 10,000 members include published and unpublished writers as well as industry professionals.

There are 145 local, online, and special-interest chapters. I’m a member of the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter in northern California. This is the only romance writers group in my area. There are other writers groups, but I can’t get the genre-specific instruction from them I get at our SVR meetings. I enjoy the face-to-face contact with others who are writing romance. They’re quite supportive and share in my joy when I receive good news.

Keli with Sacrament Valley Rose chapter mate Brenda Novak

Because I write inspirational romance, I’m a member of the Faith, Hope and Love chapter, which is comprised of others writing in the sub-genre. We have an online loop where we interact. We get to meet in person at the RWA conference when the FH&L chapter holds its annual meeting, and we enjoy a special time of fellowship.

Keli with FH&L members and Seekers Sandra Leesmith, Myra Johnson, Janet Dean, Ruth Logan Herne, and Missy Tippens

The conference is amazing. Over 2,000 writers and industry professionals gather for instruction from some of the top names in romance. At Nationals this year, to be held in New York City, we will be able to choose from over 100 workshops.

One of the much-anticipated events at Nationals is the Literacy Autographing. Over 400 authors fill hundreds of tables, signing copies of their books for eager fans. This two-hour event is open to the public, and the proceeds are donated to various literacy organizations.

Keli with Deeanne Gist at the 2008 Literacy Autographing

The culmination of the conference is the Awards Ceremony, which has been likened to the Oscars. As is the case at the ACFW conference, we gather in our finery for the presentation of the awards. RWA has two annual contests, the RITA for published romance authors and the Golden Heart for unpublished writers. Each contest has around 1,200 entrants in 10 categories. A final in the RITA is a boost to one’s career, and a final in the Golden Heart can open doors for the finalists.

Keli with Anne Barton, her awesome critique partner and treasured friend at the 2010 Awards Ceremony.

There are a number of smaller contests sponsored by RWA chapters, which give published and unpublished romance novelists opportunities to see how their work fares against their peers. Most of the unpublished contests provide feedback from the preliminary round judges, which can help the entrants learn what their strengths and weaknesses are. If an entry makes it to the final round, the writer’s work will be seen by the agents and editors who volunteer their time to serve as judges. If they see a promising entry, they might request a partial or a full, which have led to some offers of representations and first sales.

At this point, those who are members of ACFW might be wondering what the difference is. After all, ACFW has a number of chapters, holds an annual conference, offers high caliber-instruction, and sponsors the prestigious Carol Awards contest for published fiction authors and Genesis for unpublished writers.

While ACFW began as an organization of inspirational romance writers, it now includes  fiction writers in all genres, so the instruction is not geared primarily to those writing romance. Much still applies, but the focus at RWA Nationals is on romance alone.

Some ACFW chapters have begun to sponsor contests, but there aren’t nearly as many as are sponsored by RWA chapters at this point. Since my offer of representation came as a result of an RWA chapter-sponsored contest, this was an important factor for me.

The editors who attend the ACFW conference are generally there representing houses that  produce books for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market. For those authors  considering expanding from the CBA market to the broader market of the ABA (American Booksellers Association), the RWA conference will offer them opportunities to meet ABA editors, whereas they’ll have fewer opportunities at the ACFW conference.

I’ve listed a number of benefits for being a member of RWA. One of the most important to me are the people. I was a member of RWA long before I knew about ACFW. I’ve made hundreds of friends in RWA. Many don’t share my faith or write for the inspirational market as I do, but they are some of the most generous and talented people I know who accept me readily and have blessed me in many ways.

I’m a member of RWA who is grateful to the organization and the wonderful people who make it what it is. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Is it for you? That’s for you to decide, but I’m a member who plans to remain one for a long time to come.

Keli Gwyn


  • Keli, this is great information and I enjoyed looking at your pics and seeing how much fun you had at the conference! I am not a member of RWA at present, but have been considering it. Thanks!

  • Wendy says:

    Big time considering it now that they have a women’s fiction chapter.

    Seeing all those smiling pictures of you makes me that much more excited to see you in Sept.!
    ~ Wendy

  • Superb blog for our RWA organization. No one could have said it better, Keli!

  • Thank you Keli! You’ve answered ALL the questions I had about RWA! 🙂 I’m going to pray about it a little longer, but have a feeling I will be joining—sounds like lots of great benefits. ~ Thanks again for taking time to explain. ~ Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  • Tana Adams says:

    I love how you encourage us to try new things. I think joining anything is a big commitment. I’m going to look into them. =)

  • Was a member of RWA for MANY years, Keli, then had to let my membership lapse due to a number of reasons, but re-joined again within the last two years, and I’m so glad I did! I”m also a member of the ACFW, and I’d like to check into the Faith, Hope, and Love Chapter with RWA, as well! Writers organizations are such a great support system; I can’t imagine going this course without them! I so hope that I’m able to attend a national RWA convention in the future. Fantastic post today with lots of tidbits! Thank you!

  • Funny timing. I was just thinking yesterday about jumping into the RWA pool. You’ve made a very convincing case here. 🙂

  • roelyons says:

    Great blog. I’m looking into finding a chapter in Florida.

  • Beth Vogt says:

    I just asked Rachelle about this–and she said to ask my writing friends about joining RWA.
    Thanks for all the terrific insights!

  • I was a member of RWA and now that I’ve read this I seriously need to consider rejoining. Thanks for sharing, Keli!

  • This has been something I’ve been mulling over lately. I’m not yet a member, but leaning toward it. Thanks for the insight, Keli!