What Happens in Georgia
Well y’all, it’s official. As one of my fellow Georgia Romance Writers recently tweeted, “There’s something in the water down here!”
Now, on the surface, Georgia may seem like a fairly laidback place. We have Spanish moss, of course, and we all know that stuff won’t grow on anything too pretentious. We do have a few antebellum mansions, but they mostly charge an outrageous admission fee to view some lead-based paint peeling off the walls and a few rooms’ worth of not-quite-period furnishings. We have Atlanta, a southern city that thinks it’s a northern city, but which has such a half-assed public transportation system you can basically only go in two directions. Atlanta is also boastfully the home of two professional sports teams named after nothing so dangerous as birds… and the most manly of those teams (Atlanta Falcons football) is named after a female bird at that.
But we do get some things right, and one thing Georgia does well is nurture writers. We are, after all, the home of Margaret Mitchell, the author who wrote Gone with the Wind. I have been writing seriously since 2009 and one of the best things I did on this journey was discover Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), a Georgia-based chapter of Romance Writers of America. GRW is a group of ~ 200 women who get together about once a month and encourage each other to write. They also host a wonderful annual conference known as Moonlight and Magnolias that gives fledgling writers a chance to learn from workshops and hone their elevator pitches on an entire table’s worth of editors and agents. I have long known GRW has helped me grow as a writer, but over the past few weeks I have begun to see how much their encouragement is paying off for others, too.
It started on March 26th, 2012, the day the Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced their annual finalists in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest for unpublished writers and the RITAs® for published writers. There was a collective intake of breath that morning as the announcements and phone calls started rolling in. I was thrilled to get a call telling me my historical romance “A Private Affair” was a finalist in the Golden Heart®. But then I learned my two Georgia-based critique partners, Romily Bernard and Sally Kilpatrick had also finaled. That intake of breath I had been holding whooshed into a full-fledged scream of excitement when I realized I got to share this incredible moment with them. And then MORE good news rolled in. Nicki Salcedo, our former GRW president, had also finaled in the Golden Heart®, as had GRW chapter member Jean Willet. But wait, we weren’t done! Two of our published authors, Tanya Michaels and Jacquie D’Allesandro, had also been announced as finalists for RITAs®.
Seven. Count em, people. Seven of those sought-after slots are held by GRW members! And then came good news on the publishing front… My amazing critique partner Romily Bernard signed with Harper Collins/Harper Teen in a 3-book pre-empt on April 11th with her Young Adult book Find Me, and I signed with Harper Collins/Avon in a 3-book deal at auction on April 17th with my historical What Happens in Scotland. And even better, our first books will come out in Spring 2013, just in time for RWA’s national conference and our first book-signing, which will be held in… wait for it… ATLANTA.
Holy. Smokes. What is in the water? I am not quite sure if it is fate, or karma, or plain good luck, but right now Georgia feels ripe with literary possibilities. Thinking of writing a book? Toss back a glass of that yummy Lake Lanier reservoir water and come to a GRW meeting to see what it’s all about. Have you written a 500,000 word novel but now are just staring at your precious child, wondering if it is any good? Umm… you might want to come and show it to two or twelve of us. And trim some of those extra words… chances are we’ll have some good advice. Have you been told your literary effort rivals Hemingway’s and now want to get it published? GRW can help you learn the proper steps (and these days, those steps can be anything from an agent hunt to jumping head-first into self-publishing).
What do you have to lose? The only thing holding you back is yourself.
Well, and maybe North Carolina. I’ve heard their water isn’t nearly as good.