Thursday, August 16, 2012

Howdy! RWA Style

 by Susanne Dietze

One of the best things about attending the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Anaheim, California, this July was meeting people. I met people I already know but have never seen face-to-face like our Anita Mae Draper and Suzie Johnson (sweet ladies!), and I met a whole bunch of other writers. From all genres! Inspirational (like me), paranormal, suspense, you name it.

Right away, I learned the first question you ask at these things is, “What do you write?”

from wikipedia
It’s a natural question at a writer’s conference, and it gets the conversation going better than “where are you from” or “what do you do when you’re not writing,” etc.

But I also learned this type of question can label you very quickly. Or at least, I felt it labeled me. When a suspense writer tells you what she writes, there’s still a bit of mystery about her as far as theology goes. But when I told new acquaintances I write inspirational, it automatically communicated my beliefs as well as the type of story I write.

This is a good thing. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. But I did find that my label of inspirational author (aka Christian) met with one of the two reactions that I usually receive in real life: acceptance (me too! or that’s nice) or discomfort (huh, nervous laughter, or goodbye.).

eBay Image 1 envious T-shirt: Original NOOMA Film Prop
Back of an actor in Nooma 018, from worthpoint
Feeling "labeled" reminded me of something I’ve seen in the mall, on a Dr. Pepper commercial, on “Glee,” and in a “Nooma” video. The concept is that we secretly—and not-so-secretly—label ourselves and/or allow others to label us. In this exercise, people wear t-shirts emblazoned with a single word that they feel describes them or describes how others perceive them. Words like “HIV+,” “nerd,” “addict,” “snob,” etc. Hard words, but the idea is that once they’re out, they aren’t as shameful. (In the Nooma version, the end result is a great visual illustration of who we are in God.)

So there I was at RWA, immediately sharing my identity as a Christian every time someone asked me, “What do you write?” I tried to be mindful to well-represent my genre and my God. But an encounter with a woman who laughed at the inspirational genre had left me a bit weary and self-conscious.

Soon after, I was standing in a long line, and the lady in front of me—a member of the Published Author Network—smiled at me. So I extended my hand, introduced myself, and asked, “So what do you write?”

She grinned. “Erotica! How about you?”

I was almost afraid to answer. Not because I was ashamed of my Christianity or what I write. But at that moment, I was raw and feeling judged. Surely this author would do the same and wouldn’t bother talking to me once she knew what I believe. She would judge me as someone who would condemn her chosen genre. Or condemn her for writing it.

Instead of frowning, she beamed. “Super! I see you’re a first-timer. What do you think of the conference? Have you pitched yet? Who did you pitch to? What’s your story about?”

Talk about irony—I was the judgmental one! I’d expected her to disapprove of me, but instead, she showed me kindness. The line we were in was long, so we talked about a lot of stuff. I asked about her writing journey. She offered me advice and encouragement as a first-timer. Then she gave me her card and wished me well.

There’s networking, and then there’s friendliness. This woman was simply friendly.

Our encounter left me thinking about how quick I am to judge others. While I was wallowing in how others have labeled me, I labeled other people. I let my own hurtful experiences shape my expectations. In doing so, I limit God when I assume a type of person won’t be responsive to His message or one of His children.

I also realized someone might not know Jesus if no Christians bother to start a conversation with them.

Jesus started—and finished—conversations with every sort of person. People from within and without his culture. People whom others ignored. People with power; people with nothing. Am I open to every person God brings my way? Am I afraid of being rejected by certain types of people, and if so, what does that matter in light of God’s ability to accomplish all things?

There’s no one beyond God’s saving grace. Therefore, there’s no one we shouldn’t try to love. Even in a brief moment when we can perhaps plant a seed with a kind word, a smile, or word of thanks.

It's not about me. It's about Him.I’ll try to keep it in mind next time I say hello and extend my hand to a new acquaintance.


Are there certain types of people you fear approaching because you might be rejected? How has God helped you overcome these fears?


Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,


  1. Susie this is a fabulous post! Thanks for your transparency. I can certainly relate to the weariness you describe. And the ease with which we can then view everyone through the jaundiced eye of past rejection. I needed this reminder to let myself be vulnerable.

  2. lovely post, Susie. You always bring a thought-provoker like this and I appreciate this.

    Ir reminds me of the path we walk on Facebook- sharing our relationship with Christ and also our own particular quirks and likes and interests. When I sometimes want to tell someone how wrong they are (tee her) I need to remember that I might be 'in that conversation' just to show the gospel (God loves us and shows us ultimate grace by giving His son to wipe away what would have kept us from an eternity of that love)

    I can totally empathize with your reactions. Your 'judgement' of that woman was really just such a defensive reaction yet how amazing that the Lord gave you those two reactions as a loving lesson...which you've shared with us. Thank you!

    I tell people I write historical romantic suspense for the inspirational market...that sometimes seems a bit gothic and bv then they've lost interest or their eyes widen before their next question.

    Hey, I saw you on the Seeker blog recently in RWA photos! I'm sure you, Suzie and Anita Mae represented us and Christian fiction well!

  3. The minute that scenario in the line happened, Lisa, I was convicted and humbled. I do not like feeling judged--none of us do--yet there I was, judging. A defense mechanism, perhaps, but one God didn't want me to have. I lost my focus. (This happens regularly, btw!) Thanks, Lisa!

  4. I confess, I'm a little leery of RWA. During my first exposure to the group this occult erotica lady kept following me around and handing me her book marks and stuff. I think you all know, I'm very open-minded, but that was still too much for me. Was contemplating if I should burn my purse afterward. Yuck.

    But you're right Susie, and you have a great attitude. Although, it does still make me uncomfortable that the erotica ladies are so bold about what they write. Kind of blows my mind.

  5. Oh Susie, this brought tears to my eyes! It's both funny and sad how sensitive we can be to those snubs and snide comments about inspy fiction (I hesitate to say I write FICTION in some Christian circles after some bad experiences). Then we turn around and pass it on to others, whether they write erotica, fantasy, YA, horror, chick-lit... er... "bonnet books." In fact, I'd venture a guess that everyone gets a snub or two from someone no matter what genre they write.
    Thanks for the reminder, dear! I needed it!

  6. Deb, I didn't visit blogs yesterday so I didn't see the Seekerville post. Thanks for the tip! Didn't Debby Giutsi write a great post? Meeting her and Sandy Leesmith was a RWA highlight.

    It seems my journey to be let the Lord work through me is a long and bumpy one. He has a lot to work out in my heart! Someday I hope to truly let Him shine and not get in the way. I suppose that's something all Christians want.

    Chuckling about what you tell people you write and their reactions. I recently told somebody what my story was about: spies! smuggling! romance! and the last one had them squirming and changing the subject. ;)

  7. Occult erotica, Dina? I missed this genre. And I thought I'd seen it all in the goody room, LOL. Goes to show there's a market for everything. Well, as some of us have experienced, maybe not...that's a conversation for another day, though.

    I met a lot of paranormal authors at RWA. More than any other genre. But I will say, that erotica author was one of the kindest women I met at RWA. She knew I wouldn't buy her books but she offered kindness anyway. Humbled me.

  8. Hey Niki, yes, I'm a bit sensitive to being judged--as a person, as a pastor's wife, as a mom, etc. And as a writer. I brace myself for some Christians to judge me for writing romance. I brace myself for non-Christians to judge me for not including sex in my stories. I was ridiculed at my high school reunion for writing sex-free stories and it still makes me sad--not so much that I was laughed at but that people mock each other like that.

    I guess I need to stop bracing myself and let God handle it, huh?

  9. Great thoughts, Susie - thank you!

  10. Susie, you handled yourself with class and dignity at RWA. Such a professional in dress and deportment. I really enjoyed being there with you.

    On my RWA ID badge, I wear the Faith, Hope and Love banner where everyone can see it on my chest. But when I'm asked what I write, I usually say Western Romance or Historical Romance. It's what I've always done. I think it goes along with the reason that I don't preach in my stories - because I want to show God as someone who's always there as a fact of life. Also, since I'm not targeting LIH anymore, my stories are about 80-85% western romance.

    I'm not saying I disagree with you, Susie, I'm just saying that's why I usually answered the way I did.

    I suppose if I were to be picked up by a Christian publishing house I would have a different answer, but at the moment, that doesn't seem likely.

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you. :)

  11. Great post, Susie! I've never been to an RWA conference, but in day-to-day life, when someone asks what I write, I just say "women's fiction" or even the more generic, "fiction." They usually ask more questions and then we dealve deeper. It's fun, and since the other person brought it up, they don't feel pressured if we start talking about faith.

  12. You know, I once came across a person on a message board for writers who claimed to write inspirational erotica, so you never know.

    There's no Christian writing group near me, at least one one that I know of. At first I was disappointed. But I've learned to relate to writers of all different kind of genres and lifestyles, including Wiccans, psychics, and a transvestite. It's really broadened my contacts. I can talk writing with people I'm not nearly close to in any other way. But you never know whether just by not shrieking, shirking or shrinking, if that might have a positive influence on someone for Christ.

  13. Anita, it was a delight to hang out with you at RWA. You taught me so much! I'm glad I handled myself well. (Next time, I'll take your advice and bring a bigger book bag!)

    FHL was on my name tag, too, but most people noticed the big ol' orange tag under my name that read "first-timer" and stopped there, LOL!

    I like how you show God as being part of everyday life in your stories. I hope I do the same.

  14. Good point, Jen. I could answer "Regency" or "Historical." I admit, I was clueless about a few of the non-inspy publishers there.

    I did have one interaction with a woman who's considering writing an inspirational. That was a fun conversation.

  15. <>

    I love that, Barb! My goal is to not shriek, shirk, or shrink. Jesus didn't do any of those things. Instead He treated people with dignity.

  16. Ack, I don't know why the quote didn't copy. It was the "shriek, shirk, or shrink" quote of yours, Barb.

    Ugh. Blogger strikes again.

  17. Great post, Susie. I have to confess I'm still recovering from the experience. I was surprised, too. I don't remember that much erotica from the conference I attended in San Francisco.

    I've been listening to the recordings from last year (while waiting for the ones from this year) and I'm more than a little disgusted by the tone of many of the workshops from last year. Not the subject matter - the language! I'm not going to pretend I've never said a bad word, but as part of workshop conversation at a professional gathering? Yikes!

    I didn't come across any of that type of language in any workshops I attended - thankfully. I'm sure hoping the recordings from this year are better.

    Thank you for being so humble. I wish I could be more like you. :-)

  18. None of the workshops I attended had foul language, either, Suzie. Wow! So weird that it was on the tapes from last year.

    Oh Suzie, I don't know about being humble. But you're so nice to say so. :)

    Let me know if you learn any good stuff from the tapes!


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