In our series of Chapter posts we are joined today by Kate Johnson, helping us to dispel the myths and conquer the fear of online groups. Kate, together with Catherine Jones, is the is co-administrator of ROMNA, the online chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association.
How long has ROMNA been running?
Since 2000, which is well before I joined the RNA. I believe before the Yahoo group it was a ListServ, back before forums had really got off the ground.
Who decided there was a need for a cyber chapter?
It was set up by Anna Jacobs and Shirley Wells; by common consensus I think since even in those heady early days of the Internet everyone could see its value.
What can new members expect from the online forum?
It's a pretty lively forum for debate. We encourage members to ask anything about writing, the industry, and the RNA, and to respond likewise. Our members range from authors who have been publishing longer than I've been alive, to new writers still working on their first manuscripts, and quite literally everything in between, so it's quite a varied forum. It can seem intimidating to begin with but if you ease yourself in gently and read a few comment threads you'll soon get the hang of it. Don't be shy!
What's lovely is you can get anything from a research query to industry advice, and far beyond. For instance, I remain very grateful to the respondents who helped me pick out a reading for my grandmother's funeral. People are very friendly and there is a lot of support for all levels of the industry.
How many members do you have and are many of them active?
We have over 400 members. It's hard to say how many are active: by my estimation about a quarter are fairly regular, with a small core even more eager than that; probably about two thirds post every now and then. Some are more readers than respondents, but every now and then we hear from someone in 'deep lurk' who has something to say. Of course, just because not everyone posts doesn't mean they're not listening, and you can get a lot from the forum just by reading along.
Can NWS members join?
Yes, absolutely. I think ROMNA is incredibly valuable to NWS members. I learned a huge amount from it when I was a new member.
ROMNA is run through Yahoo. Are there any plans to change this as we now have private Facebook groups that are so much more user friendly?
Not so far. For one thing, not all our members are on Facebook and migrating over could be more trouble than it's worth. We'll keep an eye on this though as things do change.
Do you have set days/dates for topics?
No, anybody can post any topic on any day. The exception is promotional posts, which we only allow on Sundays.
ROMNA by its very nature is different from other RNA Chapters. What in your opinion makes it so special?
I think it's the absolute inclusivity. Not just in terms of experience, but in geographical diversity it's really wonderful. Not everyone can reach a local chapter, or have the time and means to do so, but interaction with other authors is absolutely invaluable. Plus, it's a continuous, rolling loop, so questions get answered quite quickly and conversations evolve all the time.
Do the administrators ever get together like the Chapters or do you meet in cyber space?
Mostly cyber space! We email and of course we usually see each other at RNA events.
Is ROMNA open to non-members of the RNA?
No, just current members. We politely request ex members to leave, and it's not open to people who have never been members. This keeps things confidential to the membership.
Are there any popular topics on ROMNA?
We return perennially to subjects like preparing submissions, the need for an agent, and advice on self-publishing. Of course since the industry changes all the time, so does the advice, and so does the membership so these things pop up quite frequently. Quite often someone will have a research query, usually historical or geographical. We do of course encourage people to look things up for themselves, but sometimes the easiest route is to ask "What do 13 year old girls read these days?" for instance, or "How much of this dialect should I use?" Usually someone will know, or know someone who does!
Who is the contact for new members?
Many thanks, Kate, for a very helpful and informative post
The Blogging Team
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