In a surprise move, yesterday the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors announced the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, “named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.”
Equally surprising, RWA announced that they would be ending their annual RITA Awards, which had been perceived as the Oscars of romance writing, but had recently been tarnished by its non-inclusiveness over its 30 year history. The RITA awards were named after Rita Clay Estrada, RWA's first president.
According to the statement emailed to all RWA members, “The Vivian [is] guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. The contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board's vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission: The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope--because happily ever afters are for everyone.”
The newsletter continued, “RWA Executive Director Leslie Scantlebury and RWA President Alyssa Day had the chance to speak with Ms. Stephens to request the honor of naming this award after her. In their conversations, she was gracious, kind, and hopeful for the future of RWA. They asked if she would share her thoughts with our members, and we’re pleased to relay them to you here:
"I once heard an astrophysicist explain how heavy elements of the Periodic Table forged into the center of stars, later explode, showering the universe and everything in it with its spoils, Stardust. Since we all live in the universe it is well worth remembering that underneath the outer dressing of ethnicity, color, and gender, we are all the same. Showered with the gift of stars.
"Today, as we move forward into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be one group, united by the purity of craft that identifies the organization. Guided by their star shine, moving quietly with confidence in the direction of their purpose, writing wonderful stories. Members must step up and deliver their best. Romance novels are read by people of Every Background throughout the World! They read these novels for entertainment, general information, life-style ideas, encouragement, rules of behavior, fun, a good laugh, hope, and a reminder of how life could be...if only.
"It is the duty of every Romance writer to give every Romance reader that experience. The writer must elevate themselves to be worthy of the craft and bring to it all of the nuances and magic of good storytelling. The reader deserves and expects nothing less."
The Vivian will be a new contest for a new era of RWA, and we can't wait to celebrate the amazing storytellers who elevate our genre.”