pan rwa

A very wise priest once told me “Emotions are never right or wrong … they just are”.

Ain’t that the truth? We have no control over how we feel about a situation. But we DO have control over how we behave in light of receiving bad news or discovering offensive information. Too many people forget to step back and reassess a situation and their own reaction before pushing forward and steamrolling over someone else’s feelings. There is no need to attack a person/people when in reality it is a situation that is really the root of the problem.

At the end of last week a decision was made by an RWA chapter that caused a firestorm of controversy. I was the unfortunate witness to the degradation of professionalism by writers who chose to make the discussion a personal crusade rather than a discussion about bringing about change. I’m not saying everyone mind you, but I was surprised at how many people lost their focus and allowed emotion to overrule their common sense and understanding of others’ feelings.

Am I saying that we should walk away from controversy? Hell no. I love a lively discussion (what others may consider an argument). I don’t shy from conflict … or stating my opinion. I honestly believe if more people spoke their mind there would be fewer people feeling like they are never understood. Nothing burns my butt more than people asking for ideas and I’m the only one to speak up and the group thinks they have to do something my way because no one else says anything. So no, this isn’t about sharing your opinion or ideas. This is about doing it constructively. When my emotions are tangled in a situation I know it’s important for me to step back and make sure what I am saying is adding something to the solution, not just fueling the controversy. Nothing ever is solved by people fanning an ember of discontent, it creates nothing but a conflagration of mean-spirited finger pointing.

And finger pointing never solved anything.

Fortunately, the RWA chapter in question has backpedalled and solved the problem for themselves. I’m just not sure how long we’ll feel the repercussions of the personal attacks by many who chose not to remain professional. This past weekend has certainly been a sad lesson in human behavior for me.

I’m very excited. I belong to Romance Writers of America. I joined years ago when I first made the decision to become a writer of romance. There is some credibility it gives you when you’re sending manuscripts out to agents and publishing houses. (Caveat: MANY talented and successful romance writers never join RWA.) The biggest reason I wanted to join though was so I could be part of my local writing chapter which has supported me through all my successes and struggles.

Anyway …

There are a lot of things about the organization that rub me the wrong way. (Which is why you’ll see my green ribbon for RWA Change.) One of the biggest being that they don’t seem to know what to do with romance authors published in electronic format despite the fact that the market is EXPLODING thanks to ereaders like the Kindle from Amazon and the Nook from Barnes & Nobel. But I have to say I admired them for the consistency. Last year they followed their own guidelines and actually dumped Harlequin as a recognized publisher because they were opening a self-publishing line and it was tied in with the rest of the business. (RWA does not consider an author published who has paid to have their own work put into print.)

Again, I digress …

There are several levels of membership in the RWA. The PRO level which means you’ve actually finished a manuscript and had it rejected and continue to work toward publication. Then there’s the PAN (published authors network) level. Qualification for being a professional writer meant receiving an advance of at least $1000. But with the number of members publishing in the electronic industry and not receiving up front advances, RWA did come up with a way to recognize e-pubbed authors and consider them “professionals” in their eyes and it was based on $1000 royalties from a book.

Let me just say … I MADE PAN!!!!!!!!! W00T!! W00T!! W00T!!

Yeah, I’m pretty happy about it. Does it really advance my career? Nah. But the title sounds wicked good as they say in my neck of the woods. Though I can now list workshops I’m willing to teach on the RWA website … who knows what will come of that. I’ve missed teaching so perhaps I’ll get to do a little traveling on someone else’s dime and do a little teaching. Yeah, that would be nice.

Anyway, I’m raising a toast to myself. One of my goals for 2010 checked off my list!