Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a woman named Tamara. Though she had a huge assortment of shoes, ate double stuffed Oreos by the pound and had plenty of free time to write romances, something was amiss. Her stories were falling flat. Her worlds were boring, her prose choppy and her grammar atrocious.
So she squeezed into her favorite platform Mary-Jane's and pocketed a zip-lock full of black and white cookies and a thermos of milk. She then hoisted her laptop into her arms and made the decision to leave the safety and comfort of her thatch roof cottage in the middle of the woods.
Braving the wide open landscape was a frightening prospect. Could knowledge and inspiration come from such a daunting place? And what if she encountered Big Bad Doubt on her journey? Or worse, what if she ran into the Wicked Pessimist of the West? How could she defeat these villains? How would she survive their influence all alone? Fear nearly forced her to turn back, but taking a deep breath and placing one stiletto in front of the other she continued on despite her insecurities.
Her first encounter with civilization was a small, shining kingdom called Borders. Its bright castle was a treasure trove of the written word, but best of all, there was a tavern inside. Tamara's pulse raced. Had she finally reached Camelot? With a cautious smile, she asked, "Grande decaf, mocha latte, extra whip, please?"
When the friendly barkeep winked and answered, "Coming right up," she felt sure she had found the promise land.
There was so much to see, so many villagers mingling in the bustling tavern. But finding a quiet corner table, settling in a comfy chair and opening her laptop, Tamara decided to get to work. She had come here with a purpose and refused to be distracted from her goal.
For some reason, the kingdom of Borders helped her concentrate. Maybe it was the enticing scent of fresh pastry wafting from the microwave. Or possibly the new release CD playing in the background. Whatever it was, the tavern encouraged her muse. Tamara banged away at the computer keys, prose flowing like rich espresso, heart thundering in joyous time with the nearby coffee grinder. This is Camelot, she thought as she bit into a warm cinnamon scone.
Three witches took seats directly behind her. The ghoulish trio wore flowing rags that billowed on the chilly central air currents. Their cackling voices pierced her concentration. Their obnoxious laughter frightened Tamara's muse into the darkest corners of her mind. Once or twice she turned to give them a scathing glance. But her menacing expression had no affect on the demonic beings.
"Shut up! Stop yapping! Can't you see I'm in the process of writing a romantic best seller you bunch of yammering @#*%@&@'s?"
Tamara wanted to yell these words out loud, but she refrained. After all, she had been raised by fairies and shouting expletives wasn't exactly fairy-like behavior.
Instead she sat there, trying desperately to block out their noise.
Instead she sat there, trying desperately to block out their noise.
She actually started listening to what the hags were saying. How could she not? They were louder than a pack of drunken Hyenas for goodness sake!
In between bursts of macabre laughter, Tamara was able to pick up a word or two. "Character. Hero. Heroine. Love," the witches had said.
Is this possible? Are they talking about...romance writing?
Tamara leaned back in her chair, cocking her head to hear better. She had to be sure. Were there others like her? Unpublished authors battling doubt and pessimism in an attempt to see their work in print?
Her curiosity piqued, Tamara took a deep cleansing breath, wiped the whip cream mustache off her face, clicked her Mary-Jane's together three times for luck and then did the unthinkable. She spun around in her chair and faced the witches head on.
Only they weren't witches at all.
They were women. And they smiled with sincere warmth and introduced themselves. Connie, Pam and Mary.
Their voices had changed from the bleating of crones to the delicate tinkle of bells. "We're writers," they sang as one. "Romance writers and we meet here every Thursday to critique each others work."
Could it be? Is that sunlight breaking through the clouds? Are those happy woodland creatures congregating at my feet?
"I'm a writer too," Tamara said, her scowl dissolving into a giddy smile.
"How wonderful," Connie commented. "That's great," Pam chimed in. "What a coincidence, Kido," Mary intoned.
Tamara bombarded them with questions and to her delight they informed her of a magical world called RWA.
Romance writers of America? Is it for real? Are there really thousands of unpubs, grouping together in support of one another? Are there really published authors willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help...me? Can I truly meet a real life editor and agent?
And were these three women, no... Literary Knights, actually inviting Tamara to be a member of their round writing table?
Three strangers took in a novice and shared a fabulous new world, full of knowledge, wisdom and most importantly, determination.
With their help Tamara realized that what her stories needed were seasoned combatants with a common goal, publication.
Pamela, Warrior of World Building helped her to construct amazing scenes utilizing all of the senses.
Constance, Warrior of Prose guided her novel's rhythm, tightening sentences and dialogue.
And Mary, Warrior of Grammar did the job of making her actually appear literate.
Tamara in turn added something to their novels as well. (Or so she hoped)
Together they have become Novel Knights capable of taming the written word as a team. The foursome roam the imagination, battling insecurity, jousting fear and slaying self-doubt. And with each passing week, as they learn and grow under RWA's wise tutelage the critique group, otherwise known as the Fantastic Fiction Femmes, move closer to pulling the sword from the stone.
The published sword that is, torn from the stone of perseverance.
As Tamara looks back on that fateful day five years ago, she doesn't remember a noisy tavern, a trio of witches, or their unending chatter. What she does recall are three irreplaceable women, Novel Knights, The Triple F's, who smiled warmly, welcomed her into their midst and taught her to believe in her talent.
They still meet each Thursday in the Kingdom of Borders, swilling mochachinos and sweet tea and re-arranging chairs to suit their needs, much to the dismay of management. So if you happen to be there, quietly reading the latest issue of InStyle or immersed in your favorite romance, but are interrupted by a foursome of cackling crones, don't fret. Smile and be thankful, because you might just be sitting next to the best critique group ever.
This fairy tale is dedicated to Connie, Mary and Pam, my dearest friends, my inspirations, my sister Knights. I love you guys.
Happy writing to all.