Anyone who follows romance novels–and many who don’t–are likely well aware that the Romance Writers of America has imploded in recent weeks. Just before Christmas, RWA sanctioned Chinee American author Courtney Milan for pointing out the racism in another author’s book. The romance writing community exploded in fury, saying this was the last straw for them with RWA. Even though RWA nixed the sanctions against Milan, things devolved, with the group’s governing board, executive director, and president resigning (following a recall petition). It’s been unsettling to watch.
And while an organization falling apart because its values didn’t align with the values of its members isn’t anything new, it is frustrating. It is frustrating because this organization was created for a reason. For several reasons, actually. Primarily, it was created as a place where romance writers could join together and get fellowship, advice, support, and education. It became a place where writers met other writers and formed lasting friendships. It became a place where people could learn from the best, or learn the pitfalls to watch out for on their writing journeys. It became a place that would rally behind writers and help them. Just two years ago, RWA joined forces with the Authors Guild to help defeat attempts to trademark the word “cocky” so other romance writers could not use it in their book titles.
Even now, the RWA is missing in action when writers need their help. RWA had been negotiating to help authors contracted to a company that authors said wasn’t paying royalties due and is currently in the midst of a financial restructuring. Those authors could use an advocate with a wider voice, and they don’t have one. That’s what saddens me. While RWA isn’t a union, it is an organization that pools the resources and voices of the many to provide robust support for all when needed.
And now that seems to be gone, as the RWA tries to figure out if it can convince its members that it is an organization they want to belong to. Now, I’m not saying writers should go back to RWA just so they can have the support of a writer’s organization. For too many members, RWA has shown it doesn’t value them and it has to deal with those consequences.
What I am saying is, I hope that some organization can form (and I’ve heard about the Romance Alliance) that will do for romance writers what RWA set out to do, and do it in a way that embraces and includes people, rather than pushes them away.