Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas (FWCA)
The Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas (FWCA) incorporated in 1989 as a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of local writers and assistance in helping them get published.
The group got its start in the spring of 1984 when Petei Engleby, owner of a secondhand bookstore in Little Rock (Pulaski County), posted a sign in her store inviting anyone interested in writing romances to meet with her. Engleby and three other women—Chrissy (Leister) Willis, Mary Watson, and Cathy Johnson—met and organized as the Central Arkansas Romance Authors.
The group grew in size and, at the beginning of 1986, applied to become a chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) but was advised that local chapters had to incorporate, that all local members also had to join the Romance Writers of America, and that the local group had to maintain a minimum membership of twenty-five. Because the group had neither the money to incorporate nor nearly that many members, it decided not to become an official chapter and, in March 1986, changed its name to Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas (FWCA).
The real growth came in the fall of 1986 when Harlequin Romance, then the major producer of romance novels, asked Engleby whether the group could provide meeting space for a workshop and host two of Harlequin’s editors who were making a cross-country tour to meet romance novel writers. Engleby agreed and said the group would handle registration for the workshop. More than 200 people attended, resulting in the group doubling in size to more than twenty members.
Originally, members’ manuscripts were critiqued during the regular meetings, but as membership grew, it became necessary to form subgroups (critique groups were first organized in 1996). The time spent on critiquing was replaced by programs, ranging from “Tax Accounting for Writers” to “How to Get Your First Story Published.” Usually, once a year, an all-day writers’ workshop would replace the regular meeting.
In 2001, Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas began meeting one Saturday morning each month in dining room No. 3 at the Baptist Medical Center. The meetings were three hours long, consisting of one hour for business, one hour for sharing time, and one hour for the program. In addition to fiction writers, nonfiction writers, poets, and screenwriters began attending. FWCA dues were set at $15 per year.
In February 2006, FWCA had fifty-three members. Besides Peggy Vining, poet laureate of Arkansas, the membership list included two popular authors: western writer Dusty Richards and romance writer Laura Parker Castoro, both members of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. In addition, many local authors who had articles or only one or two published books to their credit were members.
By 2023, the group had ceased operating.
For additional information:
Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas Archives. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
James W. Bell
Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas
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