Elizabeth: Can RWA be Saved?

When I was growing up one of the women’s magazines my mother got each month had a “can this marriage be saved?” column.  I don’t remember the specific issues that brought each of the couples to such a turning point, but I do remember that the answer to the question was always, “yes it can be saved.”  Probably not a surprise; happy endings mean happy readers who are likely to keep buying magazines.  What I also remember (vaguely) is that saving the marriage more often than not meant that the woman made changes to be more appealing or more attractive or more accommodating.  Or, heaven forbid, not so sensitive.

Sounds a lot like some of the posts I’ve been reading in the RWA forums.

As we’ve been talking about on the blog recently, the RWA is at a crucial turning point after its spectacular implosion at the end of year.  (See last week’s post for details.)  The majority of the board has resigned, sponsors have withdrawn, and contests have been cancelled.  There is an independent audit in progress, trust in the organization has taken a tremendous hit, and it’s hard to see a clear path forward.

Things have definitely reached the “can this organization be saved?” stage. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Goodbye 2019 and RWA?

With the champagne all drunk, the countdown completed, and kisses exchanged, the book has officially closed on 2019.  It was very good year for several of the writers here on the blog who successfully launched books into the hands of eager readers; it was not, however, such a good year for Romance Writers of America.

As Jeanne mentioned in her post yesterday, the implosion of RWA started on Christmas Eve when details about the RWA’s handling of ethics complaints against popular author Courtney Millan were made public.   Following what happened next has been like watching an accident on the side of the road – horrifying, but hard to look away from.

While media coverage has focused on Milan’s comments about the racist elements of a specific book, the chain of events initially began months before with a series of tweets highlighting concerns about the biases of a specific acquisitions editor at a publishing company.  Many twitter followers appear to have weighed in on the subject, sharing their views, and at some point, both the publisher (who hired the acquisitions editor) and the author of the book that was called out filed ethics complaints with RWA.

What ensued was a series of events that I doubt even the most creative fiction writer could have come up with:   Shadow ethics committee.  Re-written policies.  Resignation.  Censure.  Backpedaling.  Mass resignations.  Uproar.  Chapter statements.  Petitions.  Cancellation of the RITAs.  And thousands and thousands of tweets.  If someone was intentionally trying to destroy the organization, I don’t think they could have done a better job.  And RWA has seemed intent on fanning the flames. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Multicultural Stories When Your Background is Monocultural

Colored crayons or beads, lined up.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

All of us Eight Ladies are white ladies.

I think as white writers, it’s difficult for us to understand what it’s like when a largely mono-cultural writer tries to jam in a character from a different culture in order to spice up a book, or attempt to be inclusive.

We can get a tiny taste of it in the Bollywood movie, Bride and Prejudice (2004). I love this movie and have seen it more than once, so I’m not complaining. I’d rec this movie to almost anyone because the writing is fabulous, the cinematography is gorgeous, and if you were moving in society in the 90s and early 2000s, there are universal themes that will resonate with you. (Heck, let’s not be so limited. Being based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, means many of the themes cross cultures and time. Time-tested and highly adaptable.)

However, among the deep characterization and fun interactions, there’s a white guy who reads like he’s a piece of cardboard. He’s a bit whiny and a bit shallow . . . and maybe he’s the white guy a lot of people from India see. He’s somewhat believable, but he’s the only white person in the whole production, and he’s not exactly the hero type.

And when you think about it, that’s really unfortunate because he’s Will Darcy . . . you know, Fitzwilliam-fucking-Darcy. The hero. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Diverse Voices (RWA Conference Wrap-Up)

Last week’s RWA National conference is over and I made it home with twelve books to add to my To-Be-Read pile, some fun memories, pages and pages of notes from the various workshops I attended, and a lot of things to think about.  There will undoubtedly be much cogitating here at the Writing Castle in the weeks to come.

Today, however, I want to start off with a few facts:

  • In its 37-year history (1982-2018) no black author won an RWA RITA award.
  • According to the RWA’s own research, black authors have written less than half of 1 percent of the total number of books considered as RITA finalists.
  • Pew Research survey from 2014 found that the person most likely to read a book of any genre is a college-educated black woman.

Do you see the problem?

If so, you’re not alone. Continue reading

Elizabeth: The RITA© Diversity Problem

Last week the list of finalists came out for this year’s Romance Writers of America RITA and Golden Heart contests.  There was much happiness by those who saw their names on the lists, but there was also an obvious, elephant-in-the-room issue out there that couldn’t be ignored.

For all of the talk and focus in recent years on diversity, there was a distinct lack of it represented on the lists of finalists.

The topic of diversity was front and center at last year’s RWA conference, with a number of the RITA and Golden Heart award winners specifically commenting on the lack of diverse-author representation in their categories.  That same conference also included a Diversity Summit attended industry professionals, RWA staff/Board members, members of RWA’s Diversity Committee, and other leaders within the organization who represent marginalized populations.  According to the RWA website, the purpose was to “share ideas, identify roadblocks, and reaffirm a commitment to fostering a romance genre that represents the wide array of authors and readers that love it.”

And yet . . . it doesn’t feel like much progress has been made yet. Continue reading

Elizabeth: 2018 Diversity Results

I had a different topic that I was going to post on today, but then I saw the latest survey results from the Ripped Bodice bookstore on the state of diversity in romance publishing and I got derailed.

For the past several years there has been an increased emphasis on diversity in romance fiction at writing conferences, on writing blogs (we had a series of posts on it last year), and in the mainstream media.  The issue was even brought front and center by several of the awardees at the most recent RWA conference I attended. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Diversity and the Historical

A while back I wrote a series of posts about diversity romance writing/ publishing which included a discussion about the recent decrease in the number of books published by diverse writers (aka PoC); recommendations for some diverse authors to consider when looking for that next book to read; a perspective about diversity in romance from a diverse reader;  and finally, some things to keep in mind when creating diverse characters in your writing.

I didn’t think I had anything else to say on the topic, but then there was the recent RWA Conference, where diversity and inclusion were in the spotlight – from Suzanne Brockman’s Lifetime Achievement Award speech to Kristan Higgins call-out on the lack of diverse finalists in the RITA awards, to an “invitation only” Diversity Summit where “high level publishing professionals, key contacts at major retailers, and members of the RWA staff and Board” talked about . . . well, something.

All of that got me to thinking, as did Nancy’s insightful More Thoughts on Diversity post earlier this week, and Justine’s blog-post comment below. Continue reading