In 1980 a group of women frustrated that writing conferences failed to meet the needs of romance writers banded together at the Southwest Writers Conference in Houston and founded Romance Writers of America©. Some of these women were from Houston, some from other places.
Following that conference, Rita Clay Estrada called the romance writers in the Houston area together. Houston was divided into four sections to be called chapters: Northwest, West, Bay Area and Southwest (now disbanded). Those areas became the names for Houston’s Romance Writers of America chapters. Through the years, Northwest Houston chapter members have personalized our chapter name to be the Lone Star Chapter.
Our first Northwest Houston Chapter meeting took place at the Cypress Creek Library with our chapter member, Rita Clay Estrada, as the first speaker. Pam Zolman was elected first chapter advisor. Nita Craft, one of those original members, says she still remembers the air of excitement and discovery surrounding everyone there.
Those first meetings frequently ran well after the library’s nine p.m. closing. Moving the meetings to the parking lot proved unacceptable so Nita secured a room in the Wimbledon Racquet Club where the chapter met for two years. Meeting locations have changed as the chapter membership grew. Currently, we meet at the Spring Creek Oaks Clubhouse at 17111 Misty Creek, Spring, Texas 77379.
By 1983, members drafted the first chapter by-laws and, in 1985, Nita Craft filed all the paperwork for incorporation in the state of Texas as our registered agent. Northwest Houston Chapter became chapter #27 of what was a growing RWA organization.
NWHRWA’s first chapter conference was held in 1983 with Dwight Swain, author of “Techniques of a Selling Writer,” as guest speaker. The Lone Star Writers Conference became an annual event during which the chapter contest winners are announced. The Lone Star Writer’s Conference draws top-name speakers from published authors, major publishing houses, and top literary agents. Because it is an open conference, we draw attendees—published, unpublished, and wannabees—from all writing genres.
A chapter contest was designed to help our members prepare their manuscripts for the RWA national level Golden Heart contest. The first Lone Star Writing Competition was held in March of 1993 and opened to all RWA members. Being one of the few chapter contests in RWA at the time, our first contest coordinator Mica Kelch/Stone had a busy job. In honor of Mica’s hard work in establishing our contest, all 1st Place category winners receive the Mica Award.
In 2003, the Mica Award certificates for contest winners became Mica fountain pens handcrafted from Texas mesquite trees. Beginning in 2006, the Mica Award became a silver pin crafted in the shape of our original chapter logo—a Lone Star outline with a fountain pen—designed by chapter member Jamie Bevans in 2003. The Lone Star Writing Competition serves as the primary source of chapter funding. Many consider the Lone Star contest one of the top RWA chapter contests because both published and unpublished can enter, which provides the entrants with an environment like publishing’s real world. The contest is also well known for providing constructive feedback from trained and published judges.
The chapter newsletter, The Lone Star Galley, began in the eighties. Sheila Polansky is our current editor preceded by Karen Hankins, Ruth Kenjura, Nita Craft, Leah Fortney, Roxanne Chapman, and Francyne Anderson. Each month the newsletter is filled with chapter news, industry news, member book reviews, and informative craft articles. Distribution became electronic in 2004 although members can request to have printed copies mailed.
In May 2001, a NWHRWA Yahoo Group was set up to provide members with a communication network. Sales and rejections, book signings, contest finals and wins, and other industry news are quickly transmitted using our loop. Our group can offer immediate support for one another as well as technical and research assistance. All members have access to the email loop, but can chose not to belong.
In 2002, Colleen Thompson created our NWHRWA chapter website and served as our web mistress until Kim Ungar took over in 2005. A new website updated with more features was placed on-line in May 2006 when Jami Bevans took over as the new web mistress. In 2010 Karen Hankins set up a new website and it was again revamped in 2012 by Diane Holmes. Missy Ohnoutka served as the chapter webmistress for three years until 2013. Currently Jennifer Bray-Weber serves the position.
In 2003/2004, a committee updated and revised the original chapter by-laws written back in 1983. The final revisions received RWA approval and became effective in February 2004. In 2006, a committee began the yearly review and update of the by-laws. In 2007, and again in 2012, the by-laws were again updated to standardize with the national by-laws.
The first NWHRWA Policy and Procedure manual was created in 2004 and, after board approval, became effective January 1, 2005. Revisions and updates are on-going.
A chapter service award recognizing individual contributions to the NWHRWA Chapter was established in 2002. JoAnn Banker for her work as a contest chairperson received the first chapter service award. The award went to Ruth Kenjura in 2003 for her work as Chapter President for two years. In 2005, Judythe Hixson received the award for her service as chapter president. In 2007 Jami Bevans, for her work on the chapter website, and Rhonda Acy, for her publicity work for the chapter, received service awards. Since, several more outstanding volunteers were recognized, including Stacey Purcell, Sheila Polansky, Ann James, Jan Nash, Patti MacDonald, and Rob Costelloe in 2011.
In 2004, the chapter STAR Awards (now called The Write Path) program began. Designed to promote and encourage writing careers in the romance genre, all chapter members earn points using a credit chart for activities done during the year to advance their romance writing careers. Every year the three members accumulating the highest number of points are awarded gift cards or cash. In addition, the chapter offers an incentive award for members to enter the RWA Rita and Golden Heart Contest each year.
Our published members are acknowledged yearly. The event might be to a special luncheon or a “wine and cheese” book signing. The venue of this an annual event varies, but every year the chapter honors our published authors for all they give back to our chapter through mentoring and speaking.
No one person or board achieves the history and success of an organization like NWHRWA. Countless individuals have given untold hours to this chapter over the years. To all of those who have served on boards and committees, we say thank you. We appreciate your toils.
A special thank you to those who have led Northwest Houston Lone Star chapter as advisors/chapter president since its creation.
Year – Chapter President
1982 – Pam Zollman
1983 – Pam Zollman
1984 – Pam Zollman
1985 – Nita Craft
1986 – Nita Craft
1987 – Anna Phlegy
1988 – Anna Phlegy
1989 – Pam Patterson
1990 – Ginna Gray
1991 – Janece Hudson
1992 – Laura Powell
1993 – Laura Powell
1994 – Char Woodard
1995 – Char Woodard
1996 – Francyne Anderson
1997 – Francyne Anderson
1998 – Leah Fortney
1999 – Leah Fortney
2000 – Sondra Keller
2001 – Kathy Bogs
2002 – Ruth Kenjura
2003 – Ruth Kenjura
2004 – Judythe Hixson
2005 – Judythe Hixson
2006 – Terri Dunham
2007 – Cheri Jetton
2008 – Cheri Jetton
2009 – William Simon
2010 – Jennifer Bray-Weber
2011 – Jennifer Bray-Weber
2012 – Jennifer Bray-Weber
2013 – Susan Muller
2014 – Susan Muller
2015 – Patti MacDonald
Today NWHRWA members continue to exhibit the enthusiasm of those original members. The excitement grows every year as more and more of our members become published, final and win in chapter contests and the Golden Heart and Rita, and receive top awards and recognitions for their published work.
Over the years, our membership has included best-sellers Christina Dodd, Ginna Gray, Alison Kent, Sharon Sala, and of course, Rita Clay Estrada. Our current membership includes authors published by RWA recognized publishers as well as several members published by other publishing media and/or e-publishers. Besides our wealth of published members, RWA PRO members comprise a large percent of our membership. You’ll find no one is ever too busy to help and encourage a beginning writer and one another.
The vision began twenty-six years ago by those Houston romance writers continues to expand and NW Houston RWA Chapter #27, the Lone Star chapter, invites you to join us on the journey.
This history has been complied primarily from the memories of original/long time chapter members because, through the years, many of our chapter records have been misplaced. If there are errors or omissions, please contact one of our current chapter board members. We’ll welcome the corrections/updates.