Friday, April 21, 2006

PRO-fessional What, Exactly?

There’s been quite a buzz the last few weeks kicked up by a blog post by an outspoken editor. Basically, she chastized the PRO community for waving their pins around like it was supposed to mean something to her. Of course, this sent the PRO loops into a flurry of activity and discussion and even ended up on Ms. Snark’s blog, where she agreed that the designation meant very little to her or anyone else. This opened the floodgates for everyone and anyone to comment on the program.

As a PRO member, I guess I’ve gotten my feelings hurt a little bit by all this. I understand both sides of the story, but it seems like people have gotten unnecessarily ugly about the whole thing. Comments have ranged from the polite – “I think it’s okay to include that someone is a PRO member as long as they aren’t expecting something because of it” to wicked generalizations about how the PRO community, to paraphrase, is a bunch of whiny babies that insisted RWA acknowledge them for their struggles (sob!). Big whoop, they argue – anyone can write a bunch of crap and get rejected just so they can get a pin. Doesn’t strike me as having the same collectible qualities as the kind they trade at DisneyWorld.

There are probably people out there who did throw something together just to get the pin. There are also probably people who think that their PRO designation somehow gets them past the velvet rope into the hip Publishing Club. But I do think these people are in the minority. I believe the majority of PRO members are hardworking writers aspiring to one day publish a book. Acknowledging the accomplishment of completing that first book and the subsequent rejection is a right of passage in this business. Not something to be sneered at or fawned over. Just a milestone to acknowledge.

To me, it means that I’ve had the follow through to complete a book and submit it to an RWA recognized publisher for consideration. That doesn’t mean that my story was in the least bit worthy of publishing. It doesn’t mean that I know everything about the business and people should stand up and take notice. But it does mean that I’m on the right track. I’m finishing books and submitting them – it is harder than it seems. Just look at how many members of RWA are not PRO members – it isn’t as easy as some portray it to be. Am I after a pat on the back? Not really, although it wouldn’t hurt. This business seems more willing to hand out a kick in the teeth.

I guess it all comes down to the attitude. I’m glad I got my PRO pin and I’m grateful for the RWA sponsored resources available to me as a PRO member. If I include it on a query letter, it’s more for lack of other things to list on there – like published books or my twenty years of experience in forensics. It isn’t because I expect preferential treatment. Honestly, I’d be shocked if it earned me anything other than – “Ok, she’s finished at least one book.” I’d really rather they flip the page and get to my writing. That, more than any label will get me where I need to be. I just would hate to think that there are editors out there that balk at the mere mention of it.

What does PRO status mean to you? What’s your take on the controversy? Do you think RWA could or should make changes to the program to improve its reputation in the publishing community?



Rhonda said...

SP, the only thing that matters is what your PRO pin means to YOU. It's an accomplishment that you're proud of, so don't let anyone take that away from you.

Angel said...

I'm very proud of my PRO status, though I don't assume anyone outside RWA knows what it means. I am bothered by the idea that an editor might see it in my query letter and assume I write crap. That possibility had never occurred to me before.

Granted, I don't know a lot of people, but I don't know any PROs that finished a book simply to get a pin. It's too darn hard.

Then there's the whole discussion on the PRO loops about whether or not you should mention it in your query letter. I remember when I had absolutely nothing to put in that bio paragraph besides the fact that I was an English major and member of RWA. That paragraph looked pretty sparse to me, let me tell ya!

I can see the pros and cons of why you would list it as a credential, but the truth is that you have no idea what the biases are of the person who is reading your query letter. I write resumes for a living-a statement I now include in my bio. Well, the person on the receiving end might have had a bad experience with a resume writer and paint me with the same brush. I can't control that! I can only hope they will turn the page and read on in spite of that prejudice.

I include in my bio paragraph things that I, and I alone, think are relevant. The things I would tell that editor if she walked up to me and said, "So tell me about your previous writing experience." That's all I can do. Let's not make this harder than it already is by obsessing over whether we should or should not include this important milestone in our bio paragraphs.

Problem Child said...

PRO has good benefits within RWA, and Jenny Crusie said very nice things to me when she saw my PRO ribbon at nationals...but outside of RWA, it doesn't mean much.

It's kinda like Scouts...anybody can join, and you can get all kinds of merit badges that mean stuff to other scouts, but nobody really cares unless you make Eagle Scout--then it's important.

But while I'm proud of my PRO membership, I can't wait to be kicked out!


Instigator said...

I'm with you PC! I'm looking forward to that boot print on my butt.

I'm very proud of my PRO status. But I'm even more pleased with all the things I've learned since I got it and the hard work I've put into achieving my dream. There are definite benefits within RWA for PROs and I take advantage of as many as possible. I think it's an excellent program.

But outside the organization it doesn't mean much. I don't see that changing anytime soon. And I'm not sure that it should.


Playground Monitor said...

PRO is something I'm still working for, so I have a great admiration for the other Playfriends who all have that pin. However, I can understand how it means nothing outside of the organization.

I actually had someone suggest to me that I take an old fanfiction I wrote years ago, change the character names and situations, beef it up to meet minimum word count and submit it JUST so I could get a PRO pin.

My reaction to the suggestion was a shocked stare. Duh! The person you submit it to may be the person you later want to submit a serious work to -- and she's going to go back into the database and find that clunker from before. No thanks! It's difficult enough without shooting yourself in the foot.


Kathy said...

Well said, all!

I'm proud of my PRO status. It's a validation of sorts and allows me to interact with other writers like myself who are struggling to be published.

Though many may look at my pin and grumble, I'm not accepting the negative spin. I've worked too hard, pushed myself and sacrificed my time not because I want quick glory and praise or the right to put my PRO Status in a query letter, which I see nothing wrong in doing but because I love to write and want to succeed. While it may not mean much to some, PRO means I'm halfway to my goal.

Carla Swafford said...

PRO is important to me, and I appreciate RWA for setting up the program as a way to acknowledge my hard work, but PRO isn't important to anyone outside of RWA.

I don't place it on my query letters. The editor could care less. Maybe some romance savvy agents would be interested in it. It's surprising sometimes what they find interesting. ::g::

The editor is only interested in the story, your voice, and if you're an authority on any detail that is included in the book. Such as you're a nurse and the book is set in a hospital environment.

Their time is so valuable, I try to keep my query letters simple and to the point while showing confidence without being presumptuous.

Sabrah said...

SP, as a writer you'll find that no matter what your accomplishments, there will always be someone out there ready to knock the wind out of your sails. You've experienced it with your "Pro" accomplishment, something that those of us in RWA can hardily appreciate, even if others can't. When you become published, there will be those who tell you that writing romance isn't "real" writing and you should be writing "serious" fiction - Oprah comes to mind, here. Some don't consider novels of any kind worthy, insisting that nonfiction offers the only true measure of a good book. My advice? Success is the greatest revenge. One day when that editor is clamouring to sign the multipublished writer you've become -- you can quietly remind her of the insult.