I bet the majority of you have seen the RWA dispute going on these days.
The dispute started over a racism accusation and how the RWA board members handled it. The RWA have now hired lawyers to decide who is to be hold accountable for the costs of the aftermath since the dispute was known.
This has of course caused an uproar in the romance writers’ community, with best-selling novelists speaking out against the Romance Writers of America .
Former members have shared stories about the struggle of being an romance novelist of color.
It all started when a former RWA member , Courtney Milan, who is Chinese-American, reacted with how Kathryn Lynn Davis`s 19th-century Chinese women were described in her book ” Somewhere Lies the Moon ” : With descriptions as “slanted almond eyes” and a character describing them as “demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be.”
The RWA agreed with Kathryn , when she accused Courtney Milan’s comments for being “cyberbullying” and it also cost her a publishing contract.
The RWA’s board of directors decieded that Milan had “engaged in conduct injurious” to the organization, and that she would be suspended from the group for a whole year, and barred for life from holding a leadership position.
This decision made both past and former members to question the RWA for trying to push out/Silence the anti-racist activists of the RWA.
J.R Ward broke her silence on New Years eve , saying how she did not want her silence to be taken as a acceptance of the RWA`s attitude towards authors of color:
“Some of you may be aware of the RWA situation. I’m not going to go into all the particulars here; you can find them online. What I will say is that I have been struggling with what to do about my membership and whether or not I should say something- and this is not the first time. There are important market reasons to stay silent, and I’m not speaking for anybody but myself. In the end, however, I feel the need to put a stake in the ground I’m standing on. In large measure, this is because I don’t want my silence to mean something it doesn’t, and because in situations like this, people need to own their own positions.
A little background. I joined RWA back twenty years ago before I even had an agent. I can remember my first interaction with the organization. I was living in Boston at the time, and the New England chapter was having a conference on the South Shore. My now husband drove down to the hotel to sign me up for a pitch session before the opportunity closed because I was on the Cape and I couldn’t get there in time. I can remember rushing up from Hyannisport to get to the appointment he made me. I then joined the New England chapter, and I met my very best writing friend, Jessica Andersen, there. I can remember those early meetings. I am painfully shy in person and I was totally intimidated.
Eventually, I got an agent and sold my first four books and decided to go to the big conference in the summer. At my first RWA National, I got to sit in a room with Elizabeth Lowell who was hands down my favorite old school romance author. I couldn’t believe I was sitting four rows back from her and got to hear her speak. I also attended a Nora Roberts Q&A and she called on me when I raised my hand to ask a question. I couldn’t believe that, either.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had reinvented myself as J. R. Ward and was attending Nationals under that pseudonym. It was at that 2006 (I think it was 2006) conference, at the Signet signing, that we ran out of copies of Dark Lover because so many people showed up wanting my autograph and the book. I was dumbfounded. I had been let go by my first publisher for failing to sell, so the success was something that didn’t feel real, but that I certainly was grateful for.
At the next Nationals I went to, I got to sit down with Suzanne Brockman, who was (and still is) one of my absolute favorite current romance writers. She brought me an ARC of All Through the Night: A Troubleshooter Christmas, where Jules and Robin get married, and told me she’d love to give me a quote for my BDB books because she liked them. I burst into tears in the hotel lobby. I felt like she was reaching down from her lofty heights and pulling me up. Because she’s like that.
She wasn’t the only fellow-RWA member who did that. Who helped me. Who taught me. Who developed me as a writer, as a person. Christine Feehan. Lisa Gardner. Liz Berry. Jennifer Armentrout. Robin Covington, just this past summer at Nationals in NYC.
I was never able to make every national conference because I don’t do airplanes and am a terrible traveler. I am also not a committee or a board person so I never sought roles of leadership at the local or national level. But RWA helped me so much- and gave me so much in terms of professional contracts and lifelong friends and the sense that I had found a group of people who I had so much in common with. I was also nominated for multiple RITAs, and won three times, and did a lot of panels, and had a really great time.
So that’s my background with RWA. So many happy memories…
And now, here we are, a mere five months from a RITA ceremony in which I won for Best Paranormal to my great shock, and Kennedy Ryan won, and Nisha Sharma won, and M. Malone won… and I’m debating whether or not to drop my membership.
For right now, I’ve decided to stay on the roster so that I have an opportunity to vote my conscience. If I leave, I definitely don’t have a voice in what happens next. A lot of my author friends are doing the same. Whether I’m still a member a year from now? I can’t tea leaf that. There are too many unknowns. And I support the people who are leaving. This is a very personal decision and everyone has a right to choose their own course.
But I will say that my relationship with RWA is forever changed- and that is a good thing.
N.B.: For those of you who don’t want to read about white privilege in action, I’m going to hope you hang with me. If you can’t, that’s your decision, but growth only happens if you’re willing to take a good hard look at things. So I’m hoping you’ll hang in.
You know all those happy, inspiring, wonderful, touching memories I just wrote about? Guess what. All of those happy, inspiring, wonderful touching things were happening as Nora Roberts was fielding a telephone call warning her about “lesbians taking over the organization.” And while authors of color were being denied entry into Golden Heart receptions. And people like Suz Brockman were being told to tone down the gay characters in their books. And a hundred thousand other indignities and discriminations were occurring to people of color and other marginalized groups at every level.
My relationship with RWA was awesome and uncomplicated because I’m white and I’m heterosexual and I’m physically able. I didn’t know any of that other sh*t was going on because I’m white and I’m heterosexual and I’m physically able. I didn’t look any further than my own experience because I’m white and I’m heterosexual and I’m physically able- and all of that means I don’t have to.
And that’s white privilege in action right here. It does not mean I’m a bad person or I did anything wrong. It does mean that if I don’t look at how others were poorly and disrespectfully treated and internalize the awkward, unpleasant emotions that go with all that, then I’m ignoring reality just because I don’t want to feel icky.
Which is bullsh*t.
The thing is, I thought things were getting better. I really did. I put a lot of stock in the RITA ceremony this past summer and it was such a relief to think the organization was evolving. After the last week, however, I’m ashamed to admit I felt like that because I realize that the idea that sh*t was Okay Now meant I didn’t have to recast my own history even though I was aware there had been problems in the past. As a result of everything that’s come out since 12/23 about RWA, every single one of my memories about the organization has permanently changed. Overlaid across my happy-happy, joy-joy are all the things that other authors have said about their own experiences. Of being judged. Of being discriminated against, marginalized, pushed aside, trod over.
And the ruination of my picture perfect illusion is a good thing. It’s the appropriate thing. It’s f*cking reality. I’m staring it in the eye and I am sad and I have regrets and I’m wondering what to do with those three golden statues on my shelves because they sure has hell don’t sparkle like they used to for me.
All of which brings me to another issue that is weighing on my mind. And I have to say, I’ve read Sarah MacLean’s twitter feed on this, and I think what she says is spot on- and I’ve also read Nora Roberts’s statement on this, and I think she is spot on. I am sure over the course of the books I’ve written that there are things that have been microaggressions or been ignorant or offensive. I’m sure I’ve done things that are all of that in personal or correspondence. I want to put a stake in it right here that I am apologizing for any of those mistakes. I’m trying to learn and be better and do better. I am not going to get it right, now or in the future, but I am committed to keep trying and keep learning, and I am so grateful for the POC in my life who are helping me along the way. Your patience, guidance and leadership are making a difference to me and to others. Thank you. And to those authors of color and marginalized authors who are sticking with RWA, thank you. And to those authors of color and marginalized authors who bailed, I do not f*cking blame you.
In the end, I will never presume to know what authors of color or other marginalized authors face, either in their professional lives or their personal lives. What I do know is that white privilege one hundred percent exists, and it’s funny, as a white person, how often it comes back and bites me on the a$$. This situation with RWA, and how it has caused me to recast my own history, is yet another example. Oh, and for those of you who are rolling your eyes at this, I’m not going to rant and rave at you. That is not the purpose of this post. I will say that I believe that taking others into account is not an issue of politics. It’s an issue of humanity. I also believe it costs us nothing to admit wrongdoing- just like the fact that you didn’t mean to do something, doesn’t mean you’re excused from hurting someone. Accidents still do injury to people.
I’m a private person in spite of the J. R. Ward persona. I keep to my own path and go alone, focused on my deadlines. So it feels strange to put all this down in public. But we’re beginning a new decade at 12:00 pm tonight. So I’m going to start as I mean to go on.
And that is why I am owning the ground on which I stand.
Warden has decided to stay a member , for now , so she can have a vote in what happens next. As we all know , Warden have characters of all colors and sexual orientation . She herself have had publishers try to deny her releasing her M/M stories.. Jessica is my favorite author for so many reason. Her answer to this dispute , only made me respect her even more.