Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for October: 10/5 Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll and Ruin 10/12 Alicia Beckman, Blind Faith 10/19 J. Woollcott, A Nice Place To Die 10/26 Carol J. Perry, High Spirits

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Community of Authors

The Lowcountry Romance Writers (LRWA) is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America based in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s one of the first writing groups I joined to learn more about craft and connect with other writers.

Throughout the year, it offers monthly meetings with speakers and a number of online classes. In the summer, it sponsors a beach retreat that provides a fabulous location for exciting programs, engaging fellowship, and enjoying the sand and surf.

Because I live two hours away, I don’t always make the meetings, but I do try to be there in March, when certificates are handed out to celebrate members’ accomplishments. It’s always a great party.

This year, we had a truly decadent chocolate cheesecake topped with raspberries, raspberry syrup, and fluffy whipped cream. Even though the dessert was quite a lure, the focus remained on encouraging each other and cheering each person’s new achievements.

We were lucky to have the perfect speaker in Dorothy McFalls. The mystery community knows her as Dorothy St. James, author of the White House gardener series with plucky protagonist Casey Calhoun. On Amazon, Dorothy McFalls is a top rated Regency romance writer.

Dorothy spoke about her own passion for writing and how it was influenced by the members of LRWA. She remembered one of our founding members, Carolyn Davidson, telling her, “If you want to be a writer, you have to write.” Dorothy took that advice seriously, quitting her job to write fulltime. She found that exploring pieces of yourself on paper can make you very vulnerable. At one point in her process, she wondered, “Why was I born with the desire to write and absolutely no skill?” But, she discovered she had an advantage. As she expressed it, “Luckily, I write well when angry.”

Gradually, she moved beyond the “loser writer” status to be captivated by her characters. She explored publication options, identified the publisher she wanted for her work, and read all the books the publisher released. Eventually, she found an editor who believed in her and became her champion.

After the release of her first novel, she worked on another, but didn’t have it completed when the editor asked for it, so another author got the opportunity. Then, the publisher went out of business.

Dorothy told us, “Stumbling may be the best thing.” If her book had been ready, it might have advanced her career, but she was pregnant at the time, and when she sat typing, her baby’s heart would stop. (I’m very happy to report that Dorothy, her husband, and beautiful daughter Avery are headed for Disney World!) When her book was finished, she found another publisher. In her words, “It’s amazing how each book builds upon the others and that never goes away.

As Dorothy pointed out to us, the definition of passion encompasses love, hate, and suffering. Writers usually experience all of those emotions in pursuing their work.

Dorothy suggested the following five ideas to keep writers focused on their tasks: (1) each person is uniquely qualified to tell a story; (2) craft can be learned and mastered; (3) anything you write can be revised; (4) allow yourself to make mistakes; and (5) always believe in your dreams.

Finally, Dorothy left us with these recommendations for making a writing career. Write every day, if only one page. Search your mind and decide on the novel you need to write. Hope you can always embrace writing as a new author, excited about the adventure.

Part of the great gift of belonging to a writing community is being among people who have been where you are or have gone where you want to go. It’s inspiring to hear how they combatted the lows and achieved the highs. And, it’s a wonderful assurance of your own accomplishments to be able to offer encouragement to others just beginning their journeys.

I’m grateful to be a member of LRWA and appreciate the friendships and support from its members. Congratulations to everyone, for all your accomplishments (from beginning the submission process to lifetime achievement) and best wishes for the future.

What organizations help sustain you in your writing?



Warren Bull said...

Sisters in Crime and the local chapter, Border Crimes plus Guppies have played and continue to play an important role in my writing.

Sasscer Hill said...

Sounds like Dorothy gave an excellent talk at your meeting. I, too, rely on Sisters in Crime, the Guppy sub-group and Mystery Writers of America. These organizations rock!

Jim Jackson said...

I had the pleasure of attending the February LRWA meeting and getting to know a number of the members (and seeing Paula, of course!).

I currently belong to the Sisters in Crime (Guppy and Low Country chapters), but my gratitude will forever be to the folks at the Cincinnati Writers Project, to whom I have dedicated Ant Farm.

~ Jim

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you for this message, Paula. Dorothy McFalls sounds like an excellent speaker.

Your description of the chocolate cheesecake made my mouth water.

Shari Randall said...

The Chessie Sisters in Crime and Guppies are my groups - they keep me going!
Thank you, Dorothy, for your insights. Sounds like you are on a well-deserved vacation. Disney is magical with a little one who believes!
And Paula - now I am dying for some cheesecake ;)

Gloria Alden said...

Dorothy has some good insights. Thank you, Paula, for sharing with us her message.

Sisters-in-Crime, Guppies, my Guppy critique group, my local writers group and my SinC Northeast Ohio chapter have all been important to me.

su kopil said...

As a former member of LRWA, I'm especially pleased to hear of Dorothy's successes. She was always so kind to me. Glad to hear you're still part of the chapter, Paula, and finding such support there.

KM Rockwood said...

A supportive community of authors, whether on line or in person, is so helpful!

Thanks for a great reminder.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Warren, we are having such a good time getting the Palmetto Chapter of SinC started. The Guppies Online group is a tremendous resource.

Sasscer and Jim, I'm so glad that you both have attended LRWA and agreed to be speakers. The organization remains strong from the excellent programs it presents.

Kara and Shari, I have been dreaming of that cheesecake all day!

Gloria, your local groups sound phenomenal. I always enjoy your messages about your adventures together.

Su, it would be great to have you return to LRWA. And to visit us in Columbia for a Palmetto Chapter meeting!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Kathleen, you are right! And, I'm grateful for the community of supportive writers among our blog partners and readers here at WWK!

E. B. Davis said...

I interviewed Dorothy when her first White House book was released. Her series charms readers. Her message was inspiring, Paula. The chapter must be an enlightened group. Beach retreats--count me in!

Cindy B said...

Dorothy's one of the greats at LRWA. She's encouraged me since the very 1st meeting I ever attended. Miss you guys!