After two weeks of turmoil over a decision by the board of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) that brought allegations of racism and noninclusiveness out in the open, the board of RWA has announced that the RITA Awards, the “Oscars” of the romance industry, has been cancelled this year.
The controversy that has been raging through the 10,000 member writers’ organization was ignited on December 23rd, when RWA sent Courtney Milan, a NY Times best-selling author and one of their former board members, a formal notice informing her that she had been unanimously censured and suspended from the organization for a lengthy back and forth on Twitter this summer involving a small publisher and two of their editors whom Milan had called out for racism. This was surprising because Milan had previously been on the RWA board and worked to make changes in the organization regarding racism. She had also been one of the creators of the RWA Ethics Committee, the same Committee who just censured her. The next day RWA announced via tweet that they had had an emergency meeting on Christmas Eve and had decided to rescind the previous decision while awaiting legal review.
As a result nine members of the RWA board of directors quit, including the President, leaving the organization to be headed by the President-Elect, with whom many members voiced their dissatisfaction with on Twitter. Due to bylaws and legal advice, the remaining board members, President-Elect and staff have not been forthcoming to the membership about how these decisions were reached, and calls for the resignation of the entire remaining board and staff were bandied about. Members orchestrated a petition to recall the president and hold a new election. More than 1,000 signatures were received and sent to the RWA board, who acknowledged receipt on January 6 and announced that a recall election will be held in the near future.
Author Claire Ryan has been keeping a daily update of what she has titled “The Implosion of RWA” on her blog, so we refer you there for the day-to-day details as they unfold.
In addition to thousands of daily tweets about this fiasco, mainstream media has also covered it in The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vulture and The Mary Sue, among others. Needless to say that the annual RITA awards have never ever received this much attention.