Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 1, 2019

Remembering Sharla Rae

by the WITS Founders

One of our founding members, Sharla Rae, recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was pivotal in all of our lives here at Writers In the Storm. Fae, Laura and Jenny have shared memories of her below, as well as photos of our great times together.

Jenny ~ Ah, that Charla. She could always make me laugh and she sure did know how to sexy up a boring scene. Her heroes were alpha and her heroines were feisty. She was an Iowa girl, married to a Chinese man from Singapore, and she could cook Chinese food better than any restaurant I've visited.

I miss you and your sweet smile, Char. I know you're organizing a glorious party in heaven right now that includes great food and fun, with your beloved son as your co-host.

Laura ~ In 2008, I was a newbie to RWA (Romance Writers of America), having belonged to a local chapter in Orange County, CA for about six months. I was hungry. I wanted an agent and a New York contract. But I knew I needed input on my manuscript (embarrassed to admit I'd titled my WIP, A Fawn in Winter, which became my second book, Her Road Home. Yeah, newbie). Someone in the chapter said that a long-standing crit group had lost a member and was looking for a new one. Score!

I got up the courage to approach Charla Chin (a published author!), and she told me in a no-nonsense tone that I would need to submit a sample of my writing, then attend a crit session so they could judge if I were a good fit. Yikes! I submitted, and went to the group, palms sweating. It was the most important interview of my writing career to date, and I needed this! There was Char and Jenny, and to my horror, I was told there was another applicant (Fae). She'd "interviewed" the night before, and they told me her stuff was good! I was toast. All was lost. But the next day Char and Jenny told us they decided to take us both on—alleviating my need to hate Fae Rowen forever—which is good, because she's about my best friend now.

Char was an integral part of starting this blog, but that's a story for someone else to tell. I'm just proud that Sharla Rae allowed me to use her name for my main character in my first published book, my RITA winner, The Sweet Spot.

Thank you Char for all you've given me. Sweet dreams.

Fae ~ I first met Charla Chin the night of my "interview" to become a "Slick Chick." The name of their four-member critique group was The OC Slick Chicks, which, of course, provided us with a lot of laughs.

I knew the member who had moved, Theresa, and the group wanted a replacement. I sent them my chapter, they each sent me theirs. I showed up for our meeting, copies of my critiques of their work in hand.

After I finished explaining my comments, they shared their individual thoughts on my chapter. I'd been in two critique groups before health and moves blew them up, so I was used to people reading my words and making comments like, "But what are they feeling?" or "Real people don't do that."

Charla, Jenny, and Deb gave me good feedback, but even better, at the end of that evening, they told me they had one more person to interview, but they wanted me to become part of the group.

I drove home happy, sure that I'd found my "forever home" in the writing community.

A couple of nights later, Char called to let me know that they'd decided to invite the woman who'd met with them the next night—Laura Drake—to join, too. I knew who Laura was from OCC meetings, but, I have to admit, a bit of my sparkle and glitter dimmed, knowing that I hadn't gotten "the nod" by myself.

Best turn of luck, ever! Funny how the Universe does that for you.

Charla was a great critique partner. She was multi-New York published and she could write sexy! Sometimes I wasn't happy with her comments of "You need to sex this scene up, Fae." But she had great suggestions about how to do that, so it ended well.

Soon after Laura and I joined the group, the fifth member, Deb, took a writing hiatus. We were down to four.

On one of the rare nights that we met at someone's home (for some reason we had dinner at Charla's that night), we talked about getting into the social media age as a writing group by having everyone join Facebook. Jenny showed us how to do that, and we all left with Facebook accounts, including one for our group. I have to admit, I did nothing with mine for at least a year.

We also came up with the idea for this blog site. We threw out different names and nothing stuck, until I semi-channeled The Doors and suggested Writers in the Storm. Laura and I have the same musical sensibility, so she jumped on the name, looking for pictures for a banner. Jenny talked about administration of the site and volunteered to get it up and running and shepherd it through the first three months as long as we all wrote one blog a month and learned how to post it, as well as comment on the other posts.

This was a new time-sump for all of us. We asked every writer we knew to blog for us. The technology wasn't easy for us to master, so we bothered Jenny. A lot.

Unfortunately, Char's son was diagnosed with cancer. She was very involved with his treatment and semi-moved to Texas to be with him. When his treatment was over and it appeared he was cancer-free, we celebrated with her. But then, his cancer returned. After his death, she was diagnosed with cancer and chose to remain in Texas for treatment. During this time we prayed for her, e-mailed her, talked on the phone with her.

She, too, was declared cancer-free and sent home. But the drug protocols had been brutal and taken a toll on her. She tried to get back up to speed with her writing, critiquing, and Writers in the Storm, but eventually decided to concentrate on her family. Her rights were reverting to her on her first three books, and she was going to revise them for self-pubbing.

I wish she'd had time to finish that task.

I miss our rides to our WITS critique sessions. I miss hearing about what was going on in her life. I miss her excitement when she added a doll to her collection. I'm sorry we all lost her so early.

Some links to her most popular posts:

If you'd like to share a memory about Sharla Rae, we'd love to hear your story.

39 comments on “Remembering Sharla Rae”

  1. So sorry to hear about this. I remember Sharla from my early days here at WITS. May her spirit live on through her dear friends and this community.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to someone who sounds like an extraordinary soul. I'm so sorry for the loss of her, but what an impact it sounds like she made in the time she had.

    1. Thanks, Tiffany. You're absolutely right. All my sex scenes would have been off-screen, that's for sure.

  3. I didn't know Sharla's cancer had come back. I'm so sorry to hear this. I remember seeing her at OCC meetings and her wonderful bright smile. She was a very special woman and will be missed. Hugs to you all and blessings to her family.

  4. Wow, I have tears in my eyes and I never even met her. What a fantastic lady. I wish I'd had the honor. Wishing peace and comfort to everyone who knew and loved her.

  5. I'm sorry for your loss... so glad she help started this site. I've learned so much from reading the articles written here. Just a side note - say how sorry I was to her family. Btw, I'm from Singapore too.

    1. Every year, Sharla went with her husband to Singapore to visit his family. His nieces lived with Sharla and her husband for a while to improve their English and, well, to experience life in the United States. Sharla planned trips and excursions to take them to see things she thought they should see here.

    1. Laura had a picture of Charla and Charlotte Lobb. It made us too sad to include it.

  6. I agree with ms McCaffrey; wish I had known her. I'm sorry for your loss.

  7. So sorry to hear of Charla's passing. What a beautiful tribute for a beautiful woman. I had the privilege of volunteering with her on several conferences and committees in Phoenix Desert Rose RWA. She was an absolute delight! We will miss her so.

    1. From Fae:

      Thanks for commenting, Jeanne. She always spoke so highly of her time and friendship from her Phoenix Chapter. She did try to get us all to go to your conference! We may get there yet.

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