You don't have to be a romance novelist to join the Mount Baker Romance Writers of America. You do, however, need to have a love affair with writing and an urge to tell compelling stories.
Bellingham writers Penny Page, Pam Beason and Kathy Brown talked about the new group, which will hold its fourth monthly meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Bellingham Yacht Club. The group meets the second Wednesday each month at the club.
Brown is also the new president of Whatcom Writers and Publishers, a professional organization for a wide variety of people working in media. She operates a website, Chanticleer Book Review and Media.
Question: What led you to form this new group?
Page: We are working toward becoming an official chapter of the Romance Writers of America by November. The national organization has 10,250 members and 145 chapters. The closest chapters are in Everett, Vancouver, B.C., and Issaquah.
Beason: We were getting tired of the long trips to meetings, especially after we spent four hours in this horrible traffic jam. So much time in another chapter was focused on writing erotica, and we want to have a broad focus. We welcome writers in all genres. Nonfiction writers are welcome, as well, although most of our members are primarily interested in writing fiction.
Q: "Romance" has a broad definition, right?
Beason: You name it, just about every genre - mystery, science fiction, paranormal, suspense, women's fiction - usually involves aspects of romance.
Q: Pam, how did you find yourself recently published by a corporate publisher of fiction for the first time at age 59?
Beason: In the 1990s I published how-to books on tech writing and computer programs (while working at Microsoft). Much more recently I self-published four novels ("Wild," "Shaken," "The Only Witness" and "Call of the Jaguar").
I was excited when my agent called me to tell me "Wild" had been "picked up" by two publishers. I went with Berkley Prime Crime (a paperback imprint of Penguin) and retitled "Wild" as "Endangered." It's the story of an Internet reporter, Summer Westin, searching for a child in the Utah wilderness.
Q: Is this part of a series?
Beason: Yes. The second novel, "Bear Bait," will be published in October, followed by the third, "Undercurrents," next year. They're all finished. I've been at this for a long time!
Page: This is a big part of the fun for all of us; encouraging the success of our members. We're thrilled to see Pam published.
Q: Are you seeking new members?
Brown: We welcome everyone who wants to write. We have a dozen members now. We need 25 to achieve official status with the RWA. Regardless, we plan to keep meeting, no matter what.
Page: We have guest speakers, and we'll be covering topics such as character crafting, author platforms, the use of social media, story and plot work, pitching to an agent, goal setting and much more.
Brown: A typical meeting is 11/2 hours, but there's always the meeting after the meeting!
Q: Penny, what's your first novel about?
A: I just finished my first draft of "Bayview Cemetery" and received an offer to send 50 pages to an agent. It's set in Bellingham and it's a paranormal romance thriller. The story deals with a recent Washington State graduate who inherits a house across from Bayview Cemetery, meets a handsome police officer and a mysterious stranger. She reconnects with her childhood ability to communicate with spirits and sets out to solve her stepfather's murder.
For details about Mount Baker Romance Writers of America, contact Kathy Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or Penny Page at email@example.com. Meetings are the second Wednesday of each month at 6:45 p.m. at Bellingham Yacht Club.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.