By Liz Everly
I’ve been a professional writer for about 30 years. By definition, I mean someone who gets paid for their writing on a regular basis. I’m a relatively new fiction writer in some regards, in that I’ve only started getting paid for my fiction, oh, let’s say, in the past five years. Much of that money has come from my mystery series. Not from my romances—but we’ll get to that later.
I’ve been to MANY writer’s conferences and, in my opinion, the best, both in terms of money and opportunities, is the one held by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). This is an outfit that you have to meet strict criteria to even join. But when you go to their conference, all are treated equally. Every person can go to every session. Every person has a choice of what to do with the time for which they have paid. Let me repeat this: Even if you are not a member, you can go to all of the sessions.
Not so at the RWA National conference. Did you know that?
Within the conference, there are several “retreats” and chapter events. The chapter events and/or parties usually cost you extra. Upwards of $40. Some of the chapter events I would have gone to had I had the money were the Kiss of Death event and the Passionate Ink party. But I didn’t go—no extra funds for either of those events. This conference is one of the most expensive ones I’ve been to, even without all of the extra places you can plunk down even more money.
Such is life.
A couple of the “retreats” are held within the conference— PRO and PAN retreats. PRO is section of the membership that has just been published, or is close to getting published (with a contract), or has finished a novel, with proof of submission to an editor or agent. In order to qualify for the next level, writers must make $1,000 on ONE BOOK (not a series) of ONLY ROMANCE writing. This is the membership for which I qualify. Because I’ve made under $1,000 on each of my romance books, I don’t qualify for the group I REALLY belong in—which is the PAN group, the published authors network. ($1000 is a lot for a digital-only title to earn.) Of course PAN had their own “retreat” which was full of information I could have used. I looked over the PRO retreat schedule and knew it wasn’t for me at this point in my career.
I am certain that I’m not the only writer the attended the conference who had this special situation. But people were very surprised when they looked at my badge and saw that I wasn’t PAN. I was on a panel. I’ve published 3 romances with Kensington, one with Tirgearr, and an anthology with Harper Impulse. Plus, there is the mystery series, which most people know me by.
It is what it is.
I always said I was very proud of my ASJA membership because I had to work for it. I totally get having different levels of membership. But to have these sessions at a conference that are closed to people who don’t “qualify”? Shouldn’t it be up to the attendee to make up their mind what they are interested in? What would be the most helpful for them at this point in their careers? Everybody is paying the same fee: writers are a smart bunch, why not leave it up to them to choose?