STAR

STAR romance writers take a break during their Jan. 27 meeting at the West Melbourne Public Library to celebrate Valentine's Day.

BREVARD COUNTY — Store shelves are lined with greeting cards and restaurants are gearing up for romantic dinners, and while a certain amorousness is present with Valentine’s Day this week, love is always in the air for local romance writers.

SpacecoasT Authors of Romance (STAR) is the Brevard County chapter of the national Romance Writers of America, and the group gathers the fourth Saturday of every month at West Melbourne Public Library, 2755 Wingate Blvd.

With nearly 60 members, the group is comprised of writers of all ages and achievement levels, who are pursuing the publication of book-length fiction.

“One of the things that attracted me to STAR was the high level of professionalism of these writers, and many of them have the successes to prove it,” said STAR President Chris Kridler, who lives in Rockledge. “We have writers who’ve made the bestseller lists, and we have writers who are just starting out. All of us have an opportunity to learn craft, publishing and marketing through one another’s experiences and guest speakers.”

Barbara Barrett drives from Celebration to West Melbourne each month, and says traveling is “worth the time and gas,” because of the support she receives.

“I joined STAR nine years ago when I was new to Florida,” Ms. Barrett said. “I had been writing for several years and had finished several novels that were unpublished. I not only was seeking continued information about our craft and the publishing world, but also a place where others understood my ambitions and frustrations. They were there to celebrate with me when my first book was published in 2012.”

Alethea Kontis of Titusville experienced a similar welcoming.

“When I first moved here, I didn’t know anyone,” Ms. Kontis said. “The members of STAR instantly welcomed me and understood how important my career was to me. We brainstorm, share trials and errors, tips and tricks, and support one another as often as we can.”

Each meeting includes a sharing time, discussion of industry trends, brief business meeting, and a guest speaker or workshop.

Naomi Bellina of Cocoa has been a member of STAR since 2011, and cited the benefits of gathering in person versus in a virtual setting.

“We have guest speakers at our meetings, share about writing and publishing, congratulate our successes, and commiserate when things aren’t so great,” Ms. Bellina said. “Virtual groups are good, but there’s something about meeting in person that’s especially enjoyable. And some members like to bake. You can’t eat virtual chocolate. I’ve tried.”

Jennifer Perkins of Palm Bay has been writing on and off for years, but started writing seriously about two years ago. For her, celebrating the accomplishments of other members is fulfilling and inspiring.

“STAR is a group where friendships are made and kept,” Ms. Perkins said.

In order to be a member of STAR, individuals first must become members of the national organization, RWA. Visitors are invited to attend two STAR meetings before they are asked to join.

A list of upcoming meetings and speakers can be found at www.authorsofromance.com.

While every romance novel has a central love story, Ms. Kridler explained that romance comes in many forms.

“Romance is not just one genre,” she said. “It can have mystery, vampires, family drama, seduction, Amish farmers, dukes and duchesses, soldiers, computer hackers, business executives, lawyers, bakers. Technically, anything labeled romance in publishing has a ‘happy ever after’ or ‘happy for now’ ending.”

A cursory glance at Amazon book rankings shows the popularity of romance novels, and a more detailed search into the statistics reveals that this billion-dollar-a-year industry is poised to keep growing.

And with the writers of STAR involved, there will be no shortage of happily ever afters.

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