Mission and History
Southern California Romance Writers (SoCalRW) is a not-for-profit organization that promotes excellence in romantic fiction, helps writers become published and establish careers in their writing field, and provides continuing support for writers within the romance publishing industry as well as benefits literacy. The organization offers members a vehicle for exchanging industry news, information, writing tips, support, and encouragement—necessary tools to learn, grow and thrive.
Originally organized in 1982, the San Diego chapter of Romantic Writers of America disaffiliated from Romance Writers of America® in 2021, and is now known as Southern California Romance Writers.
RWA San Diego History
by Teresa Carpenter
Romance Writers of America San Diego Chapter was formed in 1982, a short two years after the formation of RWA National. Notable founding members included Marian Jones and Diane Dunaway two prominent visionaries in the San Diego writing community. Marian Jones was a well-respected teacher of romantic fiction who taught many chapter members through the years, helping a good portion to reach their goal of publication. Diane Dunaway helped found the popular SDSU Writers Conference that continues to this day.
Another founding, or very early member of RWASD, was Barbara Faith. Barbara was published with Harlequin books and married to a bull fighter. The unpublished members looked on her with awe, mostly for being published, but this was San Diego, so having the courageous, majestic, romantic figure of a bull fighter for a husband didn’t hurt either. Barbara wasn’t into public speaking. Her oral version of writing a sex scene was, “It felt good. It got better. And then it was over.” But Barbara supported the chapter and all its members in her quiet way. Always there with words of wisdom and encouragement when needed. When she passed in the early 2,000’s, an award was created in her honor. The recipient would be a member who supported other writers in the chapter by giving of her/his time, wisdom, and encouragement. Marian Jones was the first recipient of the award.
I joined the chapter in 1986. Carolyn Grossberg was the president at that time. She was a lovely woman, giving of her time and talents. She was a somewhat reluctant leader, a bit disorganized, but she had stick-to-itiveness something RWASD desperately needed. Presidents before her had fallen down on their duties, either dropping out of the chapter or moving away. Carolyn was our glue when we needed it most. Without her RWASD would have failed in the first decade. Carolyn persevered and behind her followed leaders with visions and drive. Betty Duran moved us from the library we were meeting at to a restaurant and from a partial day to a full day meeting with a workshop, a lunch, and a program.
We grew steadily after 1986, our membership swelling to over a hundred and then a hundred and twenty and more. Our 100th member was Terry Blain. We’ve always been lucky to have a mix of published and unpublished members who worked well together to help each dynamic grow. Shortly after National created PAN, RWASD created PALS, Published Authors Lounge Session, named such because they had to meet in the lounge area outside our meeting room at the hotel.
Subsequent boards added a contest and reached beyond our local boarders for speakers such as Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Linda Howard, Debbie Macomber, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and more recently Darynda Jones, all power houses in the publishing world. We hosted a few successful conferences along the way, leading to our participation in the Southern California collation of chapters that hosted California Dreamin’, three highly successful conferences that rivaled RWA National quality for networking and workshops. As we grew so did our member benefits, along with our monthly meetings, we offered quality online classes. And president HelenKay Dimon, intent on helping unpublished members finish their manuscripts, developed the annual April Book Challenge, where members became accountable to each other for words written and many got to write “The End” for the first time.
Since those early years, chapter members have stepped up to volunteer again and again on a chapter level and beyond. Marian Jones led the way again as a regional director, a member of the National board. Several other members volunteered at the National level as committee or task force members, and as National board members. Jill Limber and HelenKay Dimon, former RWASD presidents went on to be RWA National presidents.
The chapter has always been community involved. We’ve participated by signing and speaking at local festivals, library panels, and local bookstores. Our biggest contribution has been to adult literacy financed by our annual Literacy event which started out as a local author and special guest author book signing at a local bookstore and more recently has evolved into a big raffle and special guest speaker at the November meeting. We received an award from READ San Diego for our donations to their organization.
In 2020 the Pandemic and an in-house and nationwide diversity crisis brought RWASD into a new era. We had to go from meeting in person to meeting online. RWA National lost a lot of members, which meant RWASD lost a lot of members. But, once again, we persevered. We met monthly with a guest speaker, and we continued to learn and to support each other. We embraced Zoom both as a meeting place and in a new version of online classes.
As we look to the future I remind all members, we are our best resource and as long as we work together, maintain our friendly professionalism and continue to focus on romance while welcoming all writers, we will continue to thrive.