By Tina Gayle
This may sound like a strange topic for a person over forty, but if you think about it, we all want to fit in one way or another.
Some of us go to a job outside our homes where we have to get along with a grumpy receptionist, or deal with a nit-picking boss. We shares our woes of our imperfect job with a friend, someone who makes us feel that weâ€™re not alone on those days when we feel out of sync with our co-workers.
In that respect, I donâ€™t have to worry. You see I write. Thereâ€™s no one around when I write. Itâ€™s a solitary endeavor, which would make one think Iâ€™m home free, in paradise, away from the annoying people of the outside world.
Wrong! I get lonely. I have this insatiable desire to talk, and talk, and talk some more. Itâ€™s a terrible habit I canâ€™t seem to break.
And what do I want to talk about?
Writing, itâ€™s kind of a passion for me.
Yeah? Well, what about your family? Theyâ€™re interested, right?
Not when you are a romance writer and a mother of two teenage boys. World of War Craft and video games, karate and fencing moves; these are the topics of choice in my house.
So where are my comrades, the people to whom I can connect?
Lost, I thought, in a world of their own design, stuck behind their desk, in their office, on a street far, far away in another galaxy.
So I prepared myself for the journey and scouted out my local library. A critique group was forming of local writers. I joined right in, ready to share my heart. My enthusiasm dimmed quickly when I discovered that the other writers didnâ€™t exactly share my passion for romantic novels.
Still I went; searching for other places my compatriots might be hiding. A local community class was an alternative I looked into. And it worked for a short time but again, with a wide range of interests and different genres, I didnâ€™t feel at home. But I was lucky enough to be given a name of a group that seemed to be what I wanted.
Romance Writers of America had a local chapter not far from my house, and they met once a month. They didnâ€™t require a secret handshake to join, but I must say when I walked into that first meeting, I was leery.
Would this be the right place for me? Would I be accepted?
The lady that took my money at the door, smiled at me, was even friendly. But then again, that was her job, she wanted my money. She suggested I attend the ask-an-author session being held across the hall.
The published author would answer any question I had, she said.
Right, I thought, like theyâ€™re going to talk to me, an unpublished nobody.
To my surprise, they did.
Then they walked into the RWA meeting with me, sat down in the same room with me, and treated me like an equal. To my happy surprise, no one called me out for being a wanna-be, a bad pretender, a no name author.
Well, as you can guess, I found my home. The ladies and men in the group welcomed me each time I attended a meeting. They didnâ€™t scoff at my stupid questions, but instead told me things I needed to know. They supported my passion with cheers of encouragement.
I made friends. I became involved.
Now, after two years, Iâ€™m the lady youâ€™ll see if you attend an Orange County Chapter meeting. Iâ€™m the Membership Director of a group that has given me more than I will ever be able to repay.
Theyâ€™re my friends, my colleagues, my family. And they even let me talk about my romance novel.
Finally, Iâ€™ve found a place were I fit in.
OCC/RWA Membership Director
I feel the same way. I don’t remember all the names of those who made me feel welcome that first day because *everyone* made me feel welcome. So I’ll just thank the whole chapter.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Tina. It’s so true for so many of us–no matter where we are on our publishing path, OCC is our support system, our Community. No matter how much our families and “regular” friends may wish us success in our writing, it is our fellow chapter members who “get” us, who understand the disappointment of a rejection letter, who celebrate our baby steps like entering a contest or attaining PRO status.
If not for my dear friends at OCC, I would have given up countless times. But they always kept me going, kept my spirit up. They believe in me when I don’t have the ability to believe in myself. I only hope I do the same for them.
Sometimes when I have serious doubts of selling another book after all these years, I like to think that my participation in our chapter is, in a small way, helping someone else attain that goal. Every volunteer is, in his or her own way, contributing to the success of our members, even if is not directly.
My thanks go out to people like MARY COOLMAN for donating raffle baskets that add fun to our meetings and revenue for Ways and Means. Thanks to JULIE NELSON for our coffee service every month, keeping us alert and making a little profit to offset the costs.
I invite anyone who comes to our monthly chapter meetings to give kudos to someone who has helped in their own way. Give them a public pat on the back! Let them know that their time, their work, their smile has made a difference in your life, has made OCC the great supportive chapter that it is.
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I remember my first meeting and thinking, “this is what it must feel like when you’re an amnesiac and everyone seems to know you but you don’t know them.”
When I miss a meeting, I feel like something is missing from my month.
Tina–You may not remember this, but you were the first person I met when I walked into the meeting. Before I even made it inside the room, you made me feel welcome (Ger was the second!). I’ll always remember that. Thank you! 🙂
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