What is RWA and how can it help you?


3 pm, August 11, 2018, 3 pm (Willow Park)
featuring Alyssa Linn Palmer, Jenna Howard, Shelly Kassian, and Jilly Jaxx
moderated by M. Jane Colette

Thank you for spending some time with us to learn about the Romance Writers of America, its local and online chapters, and how RWA, CaRWA and other organizations can help you develop your career. Our bios and contact information for each panelist are all included at the end of this reference page–please feel free to contact any of us with your questions.


Let’s get those acronyms straight, ok?

Here’s a bunch of us CaRWA people goofing off at
the RWA National Conference in Denver, July 2018

WHAT IS RWA? (The Official Story)

Romance Writers of America® (RWA) is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness of the romance genre. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements their main income.

RWA is:

  • a non-profit membership association based in Houston, Texas
  • dedicated to advancing the interests of career-focused romance writers
  • more than 35 years old (founded in 1980)
  • an association of more than 9,000 members
  • home to 120 local, international, and online chapters
  • host of an annual meeting with more than 2,100 attendees

Members include:

  • published and unpublished romance fiction writers
  • writers interested in learning about a career in romance fiction writing
  • publishing industry professionals
  • librarians and booksellers who support the romance genre

What RWA stands for:

  • Romance writers have the right to reasonable remuneration and preservation of authorial and intellectual property rights.
  • Literacy is individually and culturally vital.
  • Storytelling is fundamental to human experience: romance fiction explores issues of universal and eternal human interest.
  • United, romance writers are a powerful community.

RWA’s internal core values:

  • RWA belongs to its members.
  • RWA fosters an environment of creative and professional growth.
  • RWA thrives through the free exchange of ideas, knowledge, and diverse career experiences.

Source: https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=504
please note, RWA is redesigning its website right now and links may disappear


CaRWA is an official chapter of the RWA. The purpose of the Calgary Association of the Romance Writers of America® is to help members become published and establish and build careers in romantic fiction. We provide continuing support for members both individually and in the romance publishing industry. We also promote excellence in romantic fiction.

Membership includes

  • attendance at chapter-sponsored events
  • discounted workshop registration
  • email loop
  • Facebook Secret Group for “water cooler discussions”
  • Facebook Page for promoting our books
  • Newsletter

Source: https://www.calgaryrwa.com/about/

CaRWA membership fluctuates between 35-45 members each year. Most of our membership is local, but we also support members throughout Alberta (south and FAR FAR north), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Montana. We also currently have two members in Japan! (Former Calgarians.)

We usually meet every third Tuesday of the month at the Highland Park Community Centre (3716 2 Street NW, Calgary). Interested members are welcome to attend two meetings for free before committing to a membership. We also now hold one annual meeting in Edmonton. And, we put on two fabulous workshops a year that are open to the public. More about these down below!


Our next meeting is on September 8, 2018 — in Edmonton! Because we only play in Edmonton once a day, this is a full-day meeting-workshop-networking event that takes place from 11 am to 4 pm at the Strathcona Community League.

Our fall workshop is on October 20, 2018, in Calgary, at our usual location, with special guest Sarah Johnson from Owl’s Nest Books talking about relationship building with indie bookstores, events, launches, and much more.

And on November 24, we have our fantabulous Christmas Party, hosted this year by the Danish Canadian Club.


Not yet. The WiFi at the Community Centre where we meet is not awesome. But, we now record the workshop/presentations part of most of our Tuesday night meetings and make them available to our members.

If you are out of town member who’d like to watch one of these recorded meetings–email us at president@carwa.com. We’ll figure out a way to make this happen.


I know. One of us should have picked a different acronym. ARWA is the Alberta Romance Writers Association. (M. Jane Colette calls it Alberta We-Support-All-Genres-But-It’s-a-PITA-To-Change-Our-Name Writers Association–with much love, as she is a member.) Several CaRWA members are also ARWA members. So what’s the difference?

To be a member of CaRWA, you have to be a paid-up member of RWA.

To be a member of ARWA… you just have to be a member of ARWA.

ARWA meets on the fourth Thursday and second Saturday of each month, except for July, August and December. Through ARWA, members have access to the Connections newsletter, an online support group, critique opportunities, meetings, workshops, discounts on conferences/seminars that are open to the public and social events to support published and unpublished writers. All members should receive the Connections newsletter digitally via email.

Both organizations support published and unpublished authors in both the indie and traditional publishing streams.

Which organization is right for you? Those of us with dual memberships think CaRWA is more business development focused, while ARWA retains a focus on craft development. But there are ARWA members who are very business/career focused too! For most members, it comes to, simply… $$$$.


An annual membership in RWA costs $99US (About $129 Canadian at current rates).

An annual membership in CaRWA is $60.

An annual membership in ARWA is $60.


Obviously, we all think RWA is worth it. But joining a local chapter may NOT be the right choice for you. There are other ways to get support. RWA has dozens of special interest chapters, including

  • Erotic Romance
  • LGBTQ+
  • Paranormal
  • Historical
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Contemporary
  • Inspirational
  • Romantic Suspense

… the list goes on. Currently, RWA has 115 chapters, including 5 in Canada.

Check out the online RWA chapters here: OnLine Chapters



Each year, RWA hosts a national conference that brings together two to three thousand romance authors and the big wigs in the publishing industry. It’s an incredible place to network with peers, agents, and publishers… and fangirl over your favourite authors.

If you are actively submitting or looking for an agent, the conference offers you lots of opportunities to avoid the slush pile. The conference takes place each year in July, and rotates around the country. The next conference will be held in New York, July 24–27, 2019.

There are also smaller regional conferences. The one nearest Calgary is held each October in Seattle–The Emerald City Writers Conference.

(You don’t have to be an RWA member to attend the National convention. But registration does open up first for members, and tends to sell out quickly. You don’t have to be a member to attend the Emerald City Writers Conference, and registration is still open.)

In addition to RWA University, many chapter offer courses online as well.

A whole slew of us went to RWA Nationals this year, and we had a blast. I think all of us got requests for submissions–at least one of these happened as a result of a casual elevator encounter.


Clearly, as WWC afficionados, we are big conference fans. Here are some other romance author / reader cons to check out:

Romancing the Capital – held the first weekend in August in Ottawa

Shameless Book Con – hosted by Entangled Press in October

BookLovers Conference – taking over from the mega-RT conference; the first BLCon takes place in May 2019 in New Orleans!

Romance Author Mastermind – Skye Warren’s brainchild– a high level boot camp for serious authors. Sold out for 2018, but stay tuned for 2019

Dirty Discourse – On-line community with meet-ups and conferences

Indie Romance Convention – small, intimate. In October, in Lebanon, TN (near Nashville)

Oh! We held our own Romance Fest last June in Eau Claire in Calgary! Check it out:

+ Romance Refined Blog has a fairly exhaustive list of conferences (that includes When Words Collide, woo-hoo) and is heavily focused on Romance Cons: List of Romance Conventions and Confereces


The biggest benefit of joining RWA is RWA University. Members have access to decades of accumulated knowledge about the publishing industry–craft, business development, marketing. There are articles, webinars, audiofiles, online courses–many of them included in the cost of membership, and the paid ones are usually offered at nominal costs of $2-$25, with the average cost for a webinar or multi-week online course being $5.

The most useful advice we can give you: if you join RWA, MINE its educational offerings. It’s an MBA in Romance.


We might be a little biased, but we think romance has been at the cutting edge of every single development in publishing. Since, like, before the mass market paperback. We do everything first. (Don’t take our word for it. The Economist says so too.)

You can learn from us. Or you can watch us outsell you while you moan that nobody reads or sells books any more.

Nobody understands the business side of writing like romance authors.



CaRWA (and RWA) supports all tracks to publishing and success. Our members include authors who are only traditionally published, only indie published, and a good chunk who do both. Of your panelists, three were indie–one of those with a title in play at a traditional house–and two were hybrid. In addition to their indie titles, Alyssa’s published with Bold Strokes Books and M. Jane Colette with Harper Collins’ Mischief line / Avon. We have members published with various lines of Harlequin, Grand Central, Soul Mate Publishing, Dreamspinner Press, BWL and various others, including non-romance houses.

We think the future is hybrid.


Mentorship–the experienced members really go all out to help our fleglings hit their PRO and PAN milestones and get published.

Accountability–we hold each other accountable. Each of our meetings includes an accountability circle. We also share our monthly and annual goals with each other on our Facebook Group, and check in with each other monthly to keep each other encouraged and on track.

Education–because we share information with each other freely, we none of us have to be experts in everything! We really leverage off each other’s strengths and passions.

Encouragement–We’re there to say “Yes, you can do that” when you’re struggling.

Critique–We’re also there to say “This sucks, you need to work on it somewhere”… with love, of course.

Socialization–Even introverts need friends. Especially friends who understand why the voices in our heads are more interesting than the real people in the room…

(Parenthetically, romance writers throw really great parties. If you ever have a chance to go to one–DO IT. Just saying.)

Pajama Twister Game at the CaRWA Pajama Party at WWC17


We’re almost-famous in RWA as the chapter that writes together. CaRWA members have participated in three ambitious group projects:

Bandit Creek–When e-publishing was brand new, CaRWA members jumped in to test the waters with both feet (and no life jacket), with more than twenty authors writing and releasing stand-alone novels under the “Bandit Creek” banner.

Thurston Hotel Series–in 2016, CaRWA veteran (and author of more than 20 books) Brenda Sinclair coordinated the efforts of 10 authors to produce and release 12 novels that were both stand-alones AND part of a year-long series arc.

Women of Stampede–and this year, Shelley Kassian and former CaRWA member Katie O’Connor wrangled seven authors to produce the Women of Stampede series: seven authors, seven stand-alone novels–one theme and one kick-ass marketing opportunity.

If you have any questions about WoS, ask Shelley!


RWA is in the throes of some much-needed self-reflection and growth, finally grappling with its institutionalized racism, homophobia, and tendency to lag, rather than lead, on key social issues.

This is very exciting. To catch up on some of these developments, we encourage you to check out:

  • Suzanne Brockman’s speech as she accepted the RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and called out Romancelandia on its sins of the past (and silent complicity in the sins of the present), and
  • Sonali Dev’s keynote address at the Librarians’ Luncheon, at which she threw down a gauntlet I hope every librarian in the Western World will pick up
  • author Nicki Salcedo’s response to Suzanne Brockman, which is THE answer to why we’re talking about this in the land of happy endings–and why Romancelandia MUST lead on diversity and inclusion

(If you have A LOT of time, you can watch the entire RITA ceremony video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1fO_1rLDsA. The RITAs are RWA’s Oscars. Big deal. Fraught with politics. The speeches and the ceremony, though, are very… educational)

On the ground in Calgary, CaRWA recognizes that while we think of ourselves as a friendly and welcoming group, it is a group of overwhelmingly white, cis-gendered, straight and older women. The woman thing–well, that’s representative of romance authors and readers in general. Everything else? We don’t … look what Calgary looks like now. So, we’re trying to do better.

We are one of the first chapters in RWA to actively take on diversity and inclusion by creating the position of diversity liaison (one of her first acts is to tell us we need to change the name) and to actively educate our membership on key issues, including unconscious bias, institutional racism, and unexamined barriers.

We recognize that cost can be a barrier to RWA and CaRWA membership, and we are figuring out how to address that.

Our membership grows passively–that is, people COME to us. We don’t really LOOK for them or actively tell them what we offer. We plan to engage in outreach activities targeting writers across Calgary’s fab demographic.

Are you one of them? Let’s talk.

(and how to follow up with them)

ALYSSA LINN PALMER writes romantic noir, lesbian romance, and a variety of short stories. Her novel Betting on Love was a finalist for a Rainbow Award in 2015, and in 2016, her novel Midnight at the Orpheus won a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fiction. She’s also the author of the Chat Rouge noir romance series, a frequent contributor to anthologies, and she’s one of the authors in the 2018 Women of Stampede series. She also serves as CaRWA’s Diversity Liaison.

Find her works at alyssalinnpalmer.com, and all the usual online retailers. Want to chat? She’s on Instagram and Twitter as @alyslinn, and on Facebook as herself.

JENNA HOWARD, in her own words: My writing dreams truly began one summer on the air mattress of my childhood home. There I tackled my first romance: a truly wretched attempt at a medieval historical. Upon finishing the purple prose laden story of (in my own words) crap, I decided that perhaps the historical genre wasn’t for me and I promptly began to write in a contemporary setting. If only the rest of the journey had been so easy. I tackled category romances (and in my own words) felt like they were crap. I didn’t have the patience for romantic suspense. Really, I just wanted to get to writing the sex. (hint hint, Jenna) My romantic comedies were so traumatic that I stopped writing until one day I got a phone call from a friend who said “We can totally write this.” The genre was erotic romance and it was (in my own words) like coming home. Residing in Calgary, Alberta, I happily write the naughty romances that make my mother sooooo comfortable. Her titles include Yield, Sarah Mine, and Scoring Lacey.

Find out more at jennahoward.com and find her on Twitter as @authorJennaH, and on Instagram and Facebook as @authorJennaHoward.

SHELLEY KASSIAN is the multi-published author of several fictional books, including the Women of Stampede novel, The Half Mile of Baby Blue. She’s passionate about the craft of storytelling and considers herself a genre crosser, given her stories navigate the margins of dark fantasy––romantasy––and romance. A lover of history, she’s traveled to the UK and France, to explore secret gardens and medieval castles, having an avid interest in Anne Boleyn and the Tudor period.

Shelley’s taken creative writing courses, held board positions within professional associations, retains a Professional Editing Certificate, and attends conferences to further her writing career. Drawing on her expertise, an author has mentored novice writers, but her passion comes alive while scribing her own stories into novel-length fiction. Shelley shares her life with her husband, adores her adult children, and lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She’s the former president of the Calgary Association of the Romance Writers of America. Find her–everywhere! Including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

JILLY JAXX grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek (and oh, the horror, loves both). Her sci-fi faves areFarscape, the Lexx, and Firefly though. Since her three fave series are now dead and gone, she decided to make her own sci-fi world. With hot men in kilts from the future. (It’s called Fat Friends and Aliens–check it out.) Because that makes sense, right? She currently serves as CaRWA’s VP Communications/Marketing. In her non-sci-fi romance writing life, she’s a huge data geek, and she knows everything there is to know about Facebook marketing, Amazon ads, and all those other things that make most authors panic. Check out her website at JillyJaxx.com or find her on Facebook.

M. JANE COLETTE writes tragedy for people who like to laugh, comedy for the melancholy, and erotica for men and women who like their fantasies real. She believes rules and hearts were made to be broken; ditto the constraints of genres. She’s the author of the filthy erotic romance Tell Me, the erotic tragedy with a happy ending (she insists this is a thing) Consequences (of defensive adultery), and the award-winning rom-com Cherry Pie Cure. She’s also the mastermind behind all three bestselling YYC Queer Writers anthologies, Screw Chocolate, Screw Chocolate 2, and Queer Christmas in Cowtown. You can find her on all social media as mjanecolette–Instagram is her fave but she’s also on TwitterFacebook, and GoodReads as well. You can also write her at TellMe@mjanecolette.com / mjanecolette@gmail.com.

In addition to the contact info above, Alyssa, Jenna, and M. Jane all have author newsletters, and they cordially invite you to join them (there are bribes–er,  presents–for joining, of course):

See our full member roster at CalgaryRWA.com/Our-Authors


Contact any of our panelists or shoot  current CaRWA president, Win Day, an email at president@calgaryrwa.com.

* * *

Interested in the material from other When Words Collide panels? Also available: The slide deck and speaking notes from ORGANIZED CREATIVE + resources from Kink, BDSM, Consent & Feminism + resources from The REAL Diversity Panel. Email TellMe @ mjanecolette / mjanecolette @ gmail.com for links and passwords.

You: What’s with the passwords?

Jane: I like secrets. And this is my website. Also, some of the content on the Kink panels… I want you to really, really WANT to see it. KWIM?