Elizabeth: RWA 2.0?

As we talked about here and here, the Romance Writers of America trade organization had an implosion at the end of 2019 and its 2020 has thus far been no better.  The last of the remaining Board members resigned on February 12th and the organization is currently on life-support, being kept alive through the efforts of the Leslie Scantlebury, the interim Executive Director (who seems to be doing a bang-up job).

A few days ago, the independent auditors, who were hired to investigate specific issues within the organization, released their report (accessible to RWA members only).  The results were not good – citing missteps, flaws in understanding, and gaps between policy/procedures and actions.  The report should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following along since December.  There were numerous recommendations regarding what RWA could do next, including the excerpted bit below which seemed to say that “there wouldn’t have been such a problem if people had just kept things secret.”

The publicity surrounding the handling of the ethics complaints against Ms. Milan has harmed the organization, created concerns among Ethics Committee members and candidates about participating in the process, and magnified the negative attention and reputational harm experienced by Ms. Tisdale and Ms. Davis.

I’m hoping that wasn’t really the intention of that bit, but I’ve read a lot of posts and comments by others who had that same interpretation.

So, what happens now? 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

Jilly: Five Great Writing Craft Resources

What are your go-to references for improving your chosen skill–creative, mechanical, sporting, whatever’s important to you?

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t spend any more money on writing craft—no books, workshops, courses or conferences—unless I come across something exceptional. It’s not that my writing is so good I don’t need it, but that I already have a great collection of resources at my fingertips and I’ve only scratched the surface of most of them.

Even if I write for another 20 years (and I intend to), I bet I could find the answers to 99.9% of my craft problems on my current bookshelf or the internet. My challenge is to digest all that great advice, evaluate it, select the bits that I need most in order to power up my strengths, bolster my weaknesses, and widen my skill-set, and apply those lessons until they become second nature.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this post that I was surprised to discover how much I’ve absorbed about the process of self-publishing. I’ve also learned that some craft resources hit the spot for me, while other famous names slide through my brain and out again, leaving no trace. I had fun choosing my favorite indie publishing resources, so I decided to play the same game with the writing craft references. I found it surprisingly easy to pick the ones I believe will support my writing journey all the way to the pearly gates.

Your mileage may vary (I’d love to know!), but here are my choices: Continue reading

Jilly: Ten Great Indie Publishing Resources

One of the most interesting changes at this year’s RWA National conference was the increased focus on indie publishing. For me, the timing was excellent.

Four years ago, when I attended my first Nationals, I was only vaguely aware of self-publishing. I fully intended to pursue a traditional publishing career and I found plenty of workshops to help me understand the role of agent and editor, to perfect my pitch, and to polish my query letter.

As I started submitting to agents and entering contests with my dream industry judges, I also began to seek out sources of information to educate myself about the industry I was planning to join. To my amazement I found a freely available treasure trove of solid, actionable information and over the last couple of years I’ve gradually come to believe that independent publishing will be a better match for my personal priorities, timelines and ambitions.

I attended a number of the indie-focused workshops in Orlando, and I was surprised to discover how much I already knew. So instead of recapping my learnings from the conference, I thought perhaps I should share the online resources I find most valuable: Continue reading

Jilly: When is a Bestseller Not a Bestseller?

 BestsellerDoes the description Bestselling Author positively influence your book-buying decisions? Especially New York Times Bestselling Author?

I ask the question because as a non-American I’m trying to get my head around the furore over the recent decision by the New York Times to eliminate a number of categories, including mass-market paperbacks and e-books, from its bestseller lists. Click here for Publishers’ Weekly’s report on the changes. As far as I can tell, going forward only one list (Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction) will include novels in e-book format.

Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Sisters In Crime and Novelists, Inc. have released a joint statement condemning the decision and describing it as a “tremendous mistake.” Click here to read the full statement.

I have to say it seems rather counter-intuitive. Continue reading

Jilly: A Very Important Kiss

A Very Important KissDo you agree that in the right circumstances a single kiss could be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending to the first book of a fantasy paranormal romance series?

No prizes for guessing which particular fantasy paranormal romance series I’m talking about 😉 .

This week, in between birthday and Christmas partying, I’ve been tweaking the first 50 pages of my WIP for entry into the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

This story is very different from anything I’ve written before, and I want to make sure I don’t trip myself up on the GH deal-breakers.

In addition to assigning an overall score, first-round GH judges are asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

If three judges answer ‘no’ to either question, the entry is disqualified. Which would be hugely disappointing, to say the least. Continue reading