The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (ARWA) is a non-profit society dedicated to helping our members learn the craft of writing in an open and non-judgemental environment. We offer information, workshops, critique opportunities, networking, and support for published and unpublished writers in all genres.
In 1986 the Calgary Library offered a course for romance writing with well-known author Judith Duncan (nineteen published novels) as the instructor. The six-week course was open to twenty-five people. Over three hundred people applied, and a team sorted through submitted manuscripts and culled the numbers. Judith made the final selections. For most of us, although we did write, we knew nothing about the actual craft needed to improve our writing. We were about to learn.
After the course, we founded the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (ARWA). We launched our mandate on education, support and encouragement for writers. The literary world at that time would not support ‘commercial’ fiction groups. Over the years, we raised our money with workshops and conferences. Thirty-five years later, in 2022, ARWA was one of the longest-running, self-supporting, craft-oriented writers’ groups in Alberta, perhaps even in Western Canada. We started as romance writers dedicated to supporting and educating romance writers and, over the years, added writers in other genres. We’re still here and going strong. We must be doing something right.
Judith Duncan encouraged us to learn by teaching. We need to remember that in the ‘80s and ‘90s there was no online information. And there were no popular genre writers’ groups so there was nowhere to learn writing information. ARWA was the first Alberta group to teach writing for commercial books.
At that time our only resources were books. If we were lucky, we found one or two to buy in the bookstores. If not, it was off to the library. Judith provided amazing support and information, but one person can only do so much. We had to do it ourselves. We divided up writing-craft topics and dug in. Under her direction, we researched, analyzed, and synthesized the information we found. At each monthly meeting, one of us took the floor and shared. The first workshops were sharing what we’d dug up. But as we wrote our books, we added our own experiences to the presentation and reformatted the material in new ways. Learning to write is a lifelong endeavour.
And, by golly, our instructor was right. We learned more by teaching than we did through simple research and reading.
That learning translated into hundreds of books and articles published by over 400 writers who passed through the group. Some members have remained with the group for decades. The accumulative expertise within the membership is astronomical.
We have run conferences and brought in top-name writers from across North America. We offer learning opportunities to writers in all genres. In recent years, we joined with the now expanded writing community, the Calgary-based When Words Collide Conference. We still offer continued learning and support within the group.
The group meets one Saturday per month to share knowledge and friendships. In 2020 through to 2022, these meetings transferred on online venues, and current members live in a wide variety of areas. We’ve also added a YouTube channel making the workshops available on an ongoing basis.
The Alberta Romance Writers’ Association offers feedback and support in a non-judgemental manner. Providing craft skills and support are still at the core of our workshops. Information is available to assist in submitting for traditional publication or for self-publishing. ARWA members, past and present, include top-selling authors, founders of other genre groups, and successful writers in various areas of fiction and non-fiction.
In 2022, we turned a year’s worth of workshops into articles and compiling an anthology. We’re paying it forward. Welcome to the marvelous world of writing. We hope you will join us.