Q & A With Chapter President Casey Clipper
Our very own president is running for a director and large position, so we took advantage of having access to her and asking some questions we thought were important in making the decision on who to vote for the board.
Casey gladly answered and we’re excited to present our Q&A to you.
How has being a member of RWA impacted your writing career?
When I first joined RWA, I knew absolutely nothing about the business of producing a novel. RWA, and more specifically the chapters’ workshops, helped lead me in the right direction about the industry and how to self-publish the correct way. But being a member of RWA has also significantly impacted my writing. Taking the fabulous workshops offered by chapters has tightened my craft and helped me find my writing voice. It’s also provided excellent research workshops for writing the romantic suspense novels that I so enjoy torturing my readers with. Lol. When I say I find my RWA membership invaluable, I truly mean those words.
Please tell us about your involvement in the organization.
My involvement has been pretty significant over the past few years. I started by serving as vice president of my local chapter, the Three Rivers Romance Writers. At the time, the chapter had one VP to handle the duties. While serving that board position, I wanted to see the chapter grow financially and increase membership. It’s such a great local chapter and offers fantastic speakers at its monthly meetings and really does offer value to an RWA membership at a local level. I spearheaded the addition of a workshop program for the chapter and held a membership drive. Both were quite successful. With those additions, the chapter was able to add a second vice president position to the board and has utilized the additional income to give back to the chapter members.
As for the national organization, here’s where I believe some improvement can be made. I have tried numerous times to volunteer for different committees but unfortunately, there is a lack of communication at the national chair level when it comes to committees. Many RWA members have complained about this issue of trying to volunteer, essentially to hear crickets. Three years ago, at the chapter leadership breakfast, they asked all the chapter leaders to volunteer for national committees and I wanted to step up to the plate. I did exactly as asked but heard nothing, not even a “thank you” for reaching out. If it’s difficult for me, who has a volunteer resume that is pretty significant, then it makes me wonder who else is volunteering their time only to hear silence. Could it be the next president of RWA? Or the next voice of diversity? Or someone with an idea that transforms a committee into something spectacular? That flaw in the system needs to change. RWA is a volunteer organization. It cannot ask members to volunteer and then not recognize when they’ve raised their hand. I hope that if I become a DAL, that is something that I can help change. It may be small but it is significant. Communication is vital to RWA’s large membership.
What motivated you to become president of the Contemporary Romance Writers Chapter?
The Contemporary Romance Writers had the need for a Vice President of Communications and I volunteered for that board position. I found that the position needed to become what members expected – someone who communicates current events within the chapter, RWA, and the industry. At the end of the term, the position of president needed to be filled and I happily ran for the office with a single objective in mind – to make the chapter beneficial for all members. It’s been two years that I’ve proudly served as the president of Contemporary Romance Writers. I’ve been honored that the membership trusted me to lead their chapter.
As president, you’ve accomplished so much. What are you most proud of?
This is extremely difficult. Like in my RWA director at large Q&A, I don’t like tooting my own horn. With a chapter board, it’s not one individual running the show. It’s a team venture and the five of us have spent countless hours working hard on making the chapter better for its membership.
But, if I have to choose one thing to be most proud of, it would be that we kept the chapter from folding two years ago when I had taken over the presidency and the rest of the board took their positions. We hadn’t realized the damage that occurred to the chapter until we had taken our offices. The internal infrastructure of the chapter had been broken and financially the chapter was in disarray. The chapter did not have long before it would collapse and be forced to close. We went into emergency mode to try and get the business of the chapter under control. I had the board meet every month for the first five or six months and then every other month for the first year. I am so grateful for the ladies on the board (Mel, Kat, Katie, and at the time, Louise), who took on the same mindset that I did – we did not want to see a chapter that had been around for so long (originally the Chick-Lit chapter) fold. We did not want CRW members to suffer because of the actions of a couple previous board members. CRW members needed someone to fight for their chapter and membership. I took that fight seriously. So we dug in and got to work. It wasn’t easy and it took a full year to finally see the results of our battle but we managed to turn the chapter around. Today, the chapter is financially stable and in great shape.
Some of the items we addressed after we managed to get our feet under us:
- We reinstituted the Stiletto Contest, which had been allowed to fall off the contest map.
- Added the Stiletto Party at nationals.
- We revamped the workshops program and started offering “members only” workshops as part of a CRW membership.
- We’ve added a end-of-year celebration for those who’ve either completed a manuscript or published a novel.
- We’d added a monthly newsletter for communication of upcoming events and activities within the chapter.
- We revamped the CRW private Facebook group, it being far more active than ever.
- We expanded the CRW board to help provide more for the membership.
- We formed online chapter meetings with guest speakers.
- This year we offered a Contemporary Romance Writers retreat at RWA18 free for our members and have booked a trial writing retreat.
- We created the CRW chapter service award to recognize those members who’ve gone above and beyond to help the chapter and the members.
- Many programs have been added with more to come.
What do you hope the chapter will look like five years from now?
I’m hoping the chapter membership will be even larger than it is now, which will make adding more programs and opportunities for the chapter membership easier. I’d love to see a Contemporary Romance Writers yearly conference. That’s an enormous undertaking both financially and with volunteers but I think it can be done if the chapter keeps moving forward. And with the growth of the chapter, I’d love to see the growth of the board. We’ve already expanded, adding committee chairs. I think the addition of these chairs only benefits membership. And I’ll help in any way I can. I don’t want to be one of those presidents who serves her time and disappears. I want to continue to give back to this fantastic chapter with a terrific membership.
You’ve chosen to run for the position of Director at Large. Why does this role suit you?
While serving the different board positions, my focus has always been on what’s good for the chapters and the membership. I have numerous concerns that I’ve always focused on, including what each member wants and needs out of their chapter membership in order to be valuable to them, no matter their membership status. How can we encourage and help our members with their romance manuscripts, writing, and careers? And what ways can we make an online community, with members across the world, feel like a small welcoming community? I want to bring that same mindset to the national level. I want to be one of the voices on the national board that thinks about the entire RWA membership and what each and every member wants and needs.
RWA dues are a significant one-time-a-year out-of-pocket cost and as writers, we evaluate our expenses every year. I want to be sure that each and every member knows their RWA membership is worth every penny. I’d be honored to be a board member who RWA members know is working hard for them. And I absolutely will. As CRW president, I encourage members to approach the board with any suggestions or concerns. I encourage an open and welcoming atmosphere within the chapter and will absolutely bring that openness to the national level, if given the opportunity. I think the national board has come a long way in being approachable with questions and receiving answers but I believe there is much more room to grow in the area of communication and I’d welcome the chance.
If elected, what do you hope to accomplish? Is there one particular issue you feel strongly about?
There are so many items that need to be addressed and I know I’ll miss some and will think about them after this blog is posted. Which will naturally drive me crazy.
Diversity in romance and in the publishing industry is obviously at the forefront of tackling. Replacing the planned closure of the Golden Heart contest with a contest that is equal in stature is so very important to RWA’s unpublished membership. Addressing and fixing the Rita award’s lack of diverse nominees is also a high priority. I know the board put new rules and instructions into place for next year and I hope those new policies will work. But if not, I’d work hard for the published membership to try and come up with new ideas for the Ritas.
My one particular issue that I keep returning to is that I am a firm chapter advocate. I said this in my RWA Q&A and I truly believe this, chapters are the heart and soul of RWA. Some chapters have taken a hit in the past few years with the new policies and guidelines put into place. I fully understand the rules RWA had to implement and appreciate their dilemma in doing so. But I also understand the burden that put on all chapters. I want to be the voice of the chapters at the national level. I want all chapters (online and local) to know that the board isn’t trying to burden them, we’re working with them to see them thrive and excel in being an RWA chapter. That they have support and provide them with the tools they need to maintain their excellent status, or grow larger, or even start up a new chapter. Every year at nationals, we listen to Rita and Golden Heart award winners, or see specific chapter members wearing special buttons, or listen in on conversations between writers, gush over the chapters they love and how much support they received. I absolutely love that about RWA. I want that type of pride bragged over every RWA chapter and RWA itself. I believe support for all chapters to achieve that type of success can be done at a national level.
With the ever-changing face of the publishing industry, how will RWA need to adapt to remain a supportive and valuable resource for writers?
One of the things that will keep RWA a valuable resource is a quick response to issues. It’s difficult with a large membership to move fast but I think because the industry is moving at such rapid speed, it’s necessary to keep up with the pace in order to remain relevant. Also, keeping up-to-date with all members’ needs in this ever-changing world of the publishing industry is vital.
As an elected official, how will you advocate for the romance genre?
This one is easy. I already have. My local community college gladly brought me on to teach a continuing education course, touting my resume as a romance author and president of the Contemporary Romance Writers. They’ve asked me to return numerous times to teach the course again, supporting my choice of writing genre and acknowledging that I could teach their students something valuable. It’s about continuing to place myself out there, in person, able to speak directly to other writers that I will continue to advocate for the genre we love.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself? Do you have any thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
Thank you so much for allowing me answer your questions. I’d also like to thank the Contemporary Romance Writers membership for giving me the honor of serving as your president for the past couple years. I am grateful for the new friends that being a member of CRW has brought into my life. I am extremely thankful for Mel, Kat, Katie, Louise, and Joanna, who’ve been steadfast BOD members and just plain great women throughout this term.
I’m running for the Director at Large position because I truly believe that I can serve the RWA membership with the fairness and listening skills members desire. I’m running for the DAL position because I love to serve RWA and have been happily doing so for years. I don’t take this position lightly and fully understand the time, work, and commitment it takes to be a member of the national board and the challenges that come with the position. I would be honored to serve all of you, for your voice, at the national level.
If you have any questions that you’d like to ask me that maybe the RWA Q&A and the Contemporary Romance Writers Q&A didn’t address, please feel free to reach out to me. I encourage each RWA member to make informed, educated votes on August 31, 2018. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Again, thank you!
Contemporary Romance Writers
Contemporary romantic suspense author Casey Clipper is from Pittsburgh, PA. She is a lover of sports, is slightly addicted to chocolate, and has a minor obsession with penguins. Casey serves as president of the Contemporary Romance Writers of America and has served as vice president of the Three Rivers Romance Writers. She is also an active member of the North Eastern Ohio Romance Writers. She’s taught Self-Publishing 101 for the Westmoreland County Community College Continuing Education Department as well as online workshops for numerous RWA chapters. Casey is the winner of the 2015 JABBIC HBARWA Readers’ Choice Short Contemporary Romance.