Tribe (n): a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
I remember the first time I went to a writers meeting. It was in the fall, circa 2007, at a sweet little restaurant about an hour from my house.
I was terrified. Sick-to-my-stomach, close-to-hyperventilating, certain-I-was-going-to-make-an-ass-of-myself, TERRIFIED. These women were writers. Real, honest-to-goodness writers. I was just a wannabe, with one not-so-good book under my belt. I wasn’t published, had yet to have even query an agent, and knew nothing about the industry. Or even how to properly format a manuscript. Certainly, I had no business being there.
But I screwed up my courage and went to a monthly MMRWA meeting, because I desperately wanted to be a writer.
They welcomed me with open arms. And when I say open, I mean it. Pretty sure I got a hug that day.
Discovering other people heard voices in their heads—which meant I wasn’t alone in my particular brand of crazy—was a gift and a miracle.
I found my tribe.
Now, over a decade later, that tribe meets once a year for a special Retreat From Harsh Reality. I’ve attended every year but one (when I was in Paris for a romance festival—they forgave me, lol). From 2008 when I was six months pregnant, to 2009 when my baby wasn’t even a year old and I had to cart around a breast pump all weekend, to 2014 when my first book came out and I received a plaque from the group in celebration, to 2015 when I received an Angel Award for service to the chapter, to this very weekend. April 2018.
The Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America chapter is my home away from home. My tribe. A small “social division” of romance writers in Michigan, who are part of a larger “traditional society consisting of [a] communit[y]” of worldwide romance writers.
We come from all walks of life and are at all stages of our careers. Some of us are pre-pubbed, some are querying. Some have self-pubbed their tenth book, some have sold their first. We write contemporary, historical, suspense, cozy mystery, sci-fi romance, and everything else you can think of.
Everyone is welcome. Everyone is appreciated.
And there are a ton of laughs.
This year, our speaker was the incomparable Jennifer Probst. She’s funny, brilliantly intelligent, a wonderful writer, and slipped right into our tribe as if she belonged there. I picked up her craft book, WRITE NAKED, and then a romance novel, SEARCHING FOR DISASTER, because I simply couldn’t resist.
My roommate was a long time friend and critique partner, my fav-fav-fav Tracy Brogan, who I have known since those way back pre-pub years. We brainstormed current books, laughed over (fixed) plot holes in HIGHLAND SURRENDER and (fixed) character problems in A DANCE WITH SEDUCTION, snickered into wine glasses, and ate Doritos. (She politely shared the nacho cheese flavor. I hoarded and ate an entire bag of cool ranch flavor…Is that even a real flavor?!)
Meika Usher, my almost-weekly coffee shop compadre, received a first book plaque for SOMETHING SO SWEET, and we celebrated the May 2 release of her second book. I knew a few weeks in advance she would be receiving it, and it was the hardest thing to keep secret.
The Angel Award nominee was Diana Stout, who is professor, friend, don’t-forget-to-write heckler, cookbook author, chapter website guru, and all around deserved of the award.
Words abounded in the write-ins. Craft was discussed in depth during Jennifer’s presentation on WRITE NAKED. Raffles were won and lost and won again. Ideas were exchanged during the industry talk.
And many, many laughs happened around bowls of chocolate, glasses of wine, mugs of coffee, and pads of paper.
Sometimes life gifts you with a place you can belong without working at it. A place that sees you, in all your crazy glory. A place that pulls you up when you’re falling down, lifts you higher when you’re already on cloud nine, and most importantly, speaks your language.
MMRWA is my tribe.