Once upon a time, in a southern state during the last half of the last century, there were women who loved to write and read. But what they loved to write, and read, were books that supposedly most of the reading and writing world did not consider “real” books. They wrote and read romance, or Romance.
So since there was no organization for them (as most of the other writer organizations were composed, for the greater part, of men and men did not take Romance as a genre seriously), these women writers (some published but many not) decided to join together. They created some small groups of writers and when that was made known, more women who wrote and read Romance decided to create their own small groups. And eventually these small groups banded together under one “national” organization.
After a few years they also decided to have an organization inside the big one for writers who were “published.” Rules were devised for this subgroup:
Books written for a flat fee? No, you were not published.
Ebook published? No, you were not published.
Indie published? Horrors! No, you definitely were not published.
Some of those rules changed over the years as the industry changed.
But what stayed the same was most of the membership (from published to non-published) welcomed new members and taught them the ropes of being a writer. Most of that support and teaching occurred at the “chapter” level, some were very small organizations where every member strived for the holy grail of being “published.” There were big Regional conferences and a National conference but if you didn’t live in the conference area, travel and hotel costs were expensive, not to mention the cost of the conference itself.
So most of the women writers depended on their home chapters and the members for support. Many of those chapters were small, with less than thirty members—some of whom had been in various chapter board positions off and on for many years.
Now that may change. New rules will take effect in a year. These rules will change who can be a voting member and who can be a member of a chapter board.
Will the smaller chapters have to disband?
Will overall membership in the organization drop?
Will there be another organization that will welcome new writers and teach them the skills they need?
And that’s the shame.