Romance Melt-down

The fun doesn’t stop over at the Romance Writers of America, where the leadership seems to delight in making a joke of their organization with one embarrassing, bone-head  screw-up after another. This time, though, their utter cluelessness has managed to alienate one of their Gods… Nora Roberts, who was supposed to host the RWA awards. But shortly before the ceremony, Nora read her script and refused to participate.  Here’s the scoop form Nora Roberts herself:

As Ms. Quinn refused to read my statement, as agreed, before the
awards ceremony in Reno, then again reneged on her agreement to read
it after the awards, I will write it here.

"Nora Roberts declines to host tonight’s awards ceremony as she feels
the content is inappropriate and believes the focus should be on the
nominees and the organization."

Oddly, I wasn’t given a script by Ms. Quinn. One was provided by a
member of the production team when I requested it on Friday afternoon
in Reno. The only significant change I was able to implement, though
I argued and debated with Ms. Quinn, Laura Hayden and Diana Pershing,
was the deletion of the video containing the fall of the Twin Towers
and the Oklahoma City bombing. How painful those images would have
been to the many editors in attendance who lived though 9/11.

Instead of a celebration, a night of fun and anticipation for the
nominees, and an entertaining and sparkling event, the audience was
treated to a three-plus hour world history lesson, heavy on disaster,
death, politics, war and tragedy–in one memorable moment, Don’t
Worry, Be Happy
was played over those images.

I can’t comprehend how such tragic events and images had a place at a
ceremony meant to showcase the nominees and the organization. Nor can
I understand how it was thought proper to juxtapose those with
presenters being driven on stage in a limo, walking to the podium to
Joan Riveresque commentary in a format that gave more play to the
presenters than those who were lucky enough to take home a Golden
Heart or a Rita.

The emcee’s place in all this seemed to be to recite
endless dry facts and figures of RWA dues, conference fees and sites
over the last quarter of a century, instead of relating the heart of
our organization.
It was tempting to resign my membership. But it wasn’t RWA that
pushed this agenda. It was a handful of individuals. RWA has, as
always, my respect, affection and gratitude. The current president
has none of those.

Nora Roberts

UPDATE: Author Brenda Coulter doesn’t get what the hoo-ha is all about.

I didn’t see it as as a debacle but merely a series of
unfortunate calls by the organizers and a program that was best
forgiven and forgotten.

Silly me. I should have known the blogosphere would be abuzz with this subject because that’s what RWA members do when they’re not writing books — complain about the current RWA leadership and what those volunteers are doing to ruin the lives of romance writers and screw up the entire romance industry…

…As for the big stink about Nora Roberts refusing at the last minute to
emcee the program because she objected to its content, I understand why
she bowed out, but she should have stuck with her original statement.
That last bit about supporting RWA but not the current president didn’t
come off as particularly classy.

UPDATE 8-6-05:The Intrepid Alison Kent has posted on her blog, in its entirety, RWA president Tara Taylor Quinn’s long-winded and utterly unconvincing defense of the awards debacle and Nora Robert’s far more credible reply.  Even if you take Quinn at her word, her  fumbling, clueless, and irresponsible approach towards her presidential duties is  rather astonishing.
Alison also reports that several members of the  RWA board have issued a statement apologizing  for the misguided and widely criticized awards ceremony. You can read it on the jump:


The following members of the RWA Board of Directors wish to
apologize for the disappointing direction of the Awards Ceremony during the 2005
conference. What should have been a celebration, not only of our finalists and
award winners, but also of the growth and success of RWA, was not. Members of
the board were repeatedly assured by the Awards Ceremony Board Liaison
(TTQ) that the planning of the program was progressing
appropriately. It was not until it was too late that we discovered that the
focus of the ceremony had strayed from the theme we’d been given.

We thank those members who stepped in at the last moment to try to fix the
script. We also apologize sincerely to our award winners, our finalists, and our
members that the program was not appropriate to celebrate RWA’s success, as well
as theirs. We apologize especially to Nora Roberts, who was not only put in an
untenable position, but whose statement as to her reasons for not appearing was
not read.

We pledge to move forward from this and to make the Awards Ceremony in
Atlanta exactly what it should always be–a night on which we embrace the joys of
romance writing and recognize the finalists and wnners of our most cherished

Gayle Wilson President-Elect
Kathy Carmichael Secretary
Connie Newman
Nicole Burnham Region 1 Director
Lisa Kamps Region 1
Dorien Kelly Region 2 Director
Peggy Emard Region 2
Linda Howard Region 3 Director
Linda Winstead Jones Region 3
Karen Fox Region 4 Director
Sherry Lewis Region 4
Geralyn Dawson Region 5 Director
Jill Limber Region 6
Jennifer Crump PRO Liaison
Teresa Carpenter Chapter Liaison

27 thoughts on “Romance Melt-down”

  1. It’s not just the RWA going through these controversies. Right now, a debate rages over whether that was turkey served for the Anthony banquet last year at Bouchercon. As I was in a bar with Ken Bruen drinking Molson Canadian and Jameson by the gallon, I’ve been asked to chime in as an expert.
    It’s goin’ south, I tells yas.

  2. Just when I thought Western Writers of America was taking all the prizes (such as converting itself from a professional authors guild to open membership, so that now there are about ten people in it who make a living by writing), the RWA tops it. But then, what can one expect from an organization devoted to manufacturing erotica? Time to GET SERIOUS at the awards ceremonies.

  3. *SIGH* What a disaster. I’m glad that Nora took a stand on this, simply because if there is anyone in romance who can create a change, it would be her. I worked in the romance industry for a long time, and never had a great deal of respect for RWA simply because it was such a political organization and because membership was so easy to obtain. I attended the RITA’s a year or two ago (I had a couple of books that I was the editor of up for awards) and the ceremony was very nice, apolitical, etc. I would have lost it if I had attended this one.

  4. Jim, I can understand the Jamieson’s, but Molson Canadian? No one up here drinks that. Next time you’re in Toronto, if ever, let me introduce you to some of the finer brews made north of the 49th parallel.

  5. Figures. The Canadians ship all the wank stuff southward and keep the good stuff to themselves.
    Howard, does your opinion include Moosehead? A six of that knocks me on my ass like little else other than a 2×4 to the back of the head.

  6. “They’re just taking their cue from Hollywood who seems to think that awards ceremonies are times to be series and present political messages.”
    Movies and books are about sending political messages.

  7. True, movies and books (and poetry, and macaroni paintings, and whatever else you want to try) can certainly be as political as their creator wants them to be. I can’t tell from the post if you’re in favor of award ceremonies as political venues or against it, so I’ll just add my opinion, which is that an awards ceremony should be about presenting deserving people with recognition of their work and, if they’re televised, giving free advertising to clothing designers. Anything else is just silly.
    (Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I want to try and express this in macrame. I hope I have enough green.)

  8. Hey, what did you do with the not-so-flattering word that linked to Sherry Lewis’s picture? That was really, really classy to do to such a wonderful lady. Really. Classy. Don’t know if you actually pulled your head from your ass or if someone who reads this blog (boredom, maybe?) advised you not to use it, but for whatever reason, I’m glad to see it removed NOW.
    Brenda Coulter is a wise woman. You should listen to her, or to someone that was actually THERE for the ceremony. (By the way, you seem to have some jealous-like hostilities. Speak to your therapist ASAP). And do the rest of us a favor: Don’t procreate.
    Richard Wheeler: “Manufacturing erotica”? That’s so far off reality. Do you speak such ignorance because you hang out with the likes of Goldberg, perhaps? Liked minds and all that jazz. Perhaps you automatically mentally connect romance to erotica because you’re not getting any and your brain functions appear severely limited as it is, unable to process information in a correct manner, or even an appropriate one for that matter. Hmm. Orgasm with something other than your own hand: cure for the bitter, angry man.

  9. I am always amazed by the intelligence of people like Brenda Bradshaw. Let’s see: Lee links to a letter from Nora Roberts which lists in fine detail the reasons she didn’t end up hosting an awards ceremony that, it appears, a great many people found tastelss. Okay. Then, Lee links to a post by Brenda Coulter which says that she also found it a series of unfortunate events, though less so than many others in blogland. Okay. Lee also provided a few links to RWA acting like the thought and morality police which, as memory serves, resulted in such widespread mockery that the fine folks at RWA back peddled like a defensive back. In response, Ms. Bradshaw feels that Lee shouldn’t procreate and that Richard Wheeler and others need to beat off less and have sex with animate objects more. Orgasm is indeed the cure for bitter and angry men and I suspect one or two for Brenda Bradshaw wouldn’t be a bad turn of events, either, and I suspect the vibrations from her righteous anger just might be stimulation enough. What I wonder is: Just what are you mad about, Brenda? That Nora Roberts thought it was objectionable and Brenda Coulter thought it was less objectionable and that other people, like, say, me, find the RWA to be a fountain of fucktards? Please do explain. I’ll be waiting here with the Jergens.

  10. I’m beginning to think that the RWA might be like one of those “Pro-Communist” front organizations that the CIA set-up back in the 50s to undermine The Movement. Who’s really behind this group, anyway, the Anti-Romance Writers of America? Because they sure are doing a good job of making the whole genre look silly and inconsequential.

  11. Well, you did make me smile, so congrats for that. The last time I was reading this particular page, I wasn’t smiling in the least. How sweet of you to wait for me like that. So gentlemanly, I’m almost shocked.
    What astounds me with this situation is the speculation of so many people that weren’t even there to witness it, yet have such strong opinions on what happened. I understand that the world is a great place filled with gossip, all juicy and wet and pointing to others, but in that gossip there’s a lack of credibility. I’m huge on credibility. Those that spread gossip without first hand knowledge lack credibility. Period. It’s petty and makes one look like a high school kid all giggly and pointing at the faults of another without looking at their own faults instead.
    I’ve seen really obnoxious and inaccurate accounts of the event on several blogs, and I simply ignored them and pitied them for their ignorance on this particular situation, but I didn’t overlook this one, mainly because of the use of Sherry Lewis’s picture, which has STILL not been explained as to why she was used in such a negative light. Then to hear Wheeler describe the organization in such a blatantly WRONG light was too much. Between the two, I felt I had to reply to be true to myself. It was WRONG to use the picture of Sherry Lewis like he did. Wrong. Period. There’s no way around that. And even though he has since removed it, I’ve seen it, others have seen it, and it makes him look really, really bad. I’m STILL waiting an explanation.
    It was WRONG to put a blanket comment on what romance is with Wheeler’s erotica comment. Not surprising, since so few men understand the fundamental difference between romance and erotica, but still …really lame and so typical MALE that I’m surprised the other men that frequent here didn’t call him on it, too. I’ll refrain from listing all the billions of books and authors of RWA that disapprove his statement. And I only said Wheeler. Not others, as you mentioned. Those are your words. I singled out HIM, no one else, not “and others”. This is the exact problem I have issues with: Taking what someone says and expounding on it in a way the original writer never intended. Bad, bad. LEARN from previous experience and either reiterate exactly what someone has said, or shut the hell up about it. Don’t say something that wasn’t said. That’s wrong.
    As for Nora, I totally get why she withdrew and why she had issues with it, and respect her decision for doing so. However, and what was grossly ignored in this post, were all the great, talented and generous women that rushed in and attempted to fix all the problems that the video and script had in it. Why isn’t THAT mentioned? Oh wait…I remember: Because Lee would rather shine a bright, glaring light on anything BAD about RWA and not show one remotely GOOD thing at all. Right. Got it. He’s like a freakin’ tabloid bent on exploiting, not facts. I can get behind someone that shows something bad that happens and also shows a rounded, more accurate picture by showing the good of it too. Why didn’t he mention Linda Howard’s award, or any of the fabulous finalist, or sales from the finalists? Why does he only insist on showing the NEGATIVE (through gossip and others, not his own eye-witness accounts)? I just don’t GET that, and it makes me unhappy. It’s just so unfortunate and makes him appear to be this bitter person that has to point out faults and faults alone. It’s hugely unattractive. And when it strikes at something I know about, well, I strike back.
    What I still don’t get (aside from the picture of Sherry Lewis) is why Lee cares one bit about RWA to the point that he continues to target them? I don’t GET it. Explain, if you can. Why does he CARE?
    As for my orgasms, they’re great, thank you, and daily. Intense, blood-boiling, screaming and writhing moments of pure sensation. I highly recommend them. They help an individual see the whole picture, not the pent-up one-sided frustration of inaccuracy. The only reason I mentioned sex at all was to help Wheeler and his “romance is erotica” mentality, giving him something he would understand to…hmm…grasp onto, if you will.
    As for your Jergens, I highly recommend adding rock salt. No, I’m not kidding. Try it and get back to me. I promise intriguing results.

  12. Hi David! Great question. Of course, having this inaccurate and one-sided view, let me assure you that we do pay high dues and expect and hope for great results. To that end, there are a slew of people investigating what all happened with this event. For the entire week I was there, the conference was simply…amazing. The best I’ve seen. Unforunately, all that’s being focused on is the one bad moment, not how great everything else was, down to the smallest detail like our food, which was actually GOOD for once.
    No one sets out to look like a fool. I’m sure Lee didn’t mean to, or Wheeler, but there you have it. With this event, what happened, as I understand it, was a breakdown of communication between the committee and the production company. And because it was so far behind schedule, there was no reason to think there was a problem because RWA had used this production company tons of times, all with brilliant results. Things that were given to the production company were cut, without explanation. What’s being looked into now is where that chain got broken, and more importantly, what we can do to prevent such a thing from happening again. THAT is where energy should be placed: On what’s next, not what’s already passed. And being that I do put my money where my mouth is, I’ve volunteered my time to represent my region for that particular committee for next year. It won’t happen again. Period.
    As for items like the graphical standards, once again, only part of the real issue has been addressed. What started it were ads that were being sent into the RWR that showed explicit body parts for the BACK of the magazine that would, of course, have the potential of not only violating USPS standards but also potentially exposing minors to the pictures. As a mother of four, I understand that need to keep it as controlled as we can while at the same promoting the books and the authors. Because the National Conference was quickly coming up at the same time, there was concern about the Literacy Signing, which, for those that don’t know, is openned to the public each year, and in which children DO attend. So the board made a rash decision based on a time issue, and then withdrew it because they then realized the problems that would arise.
    Unfortunately, some issues cannot be left up to “common sense” judgement. Although anyone at the Literacy Signing should have the understanding that minors would be there, they may, in their zest to promote their book that may have a revealing cover on it, put up a board, or books, or whatever, exposing our children to stuff that they shouldn’t be exposed to. MOST people would have that common courtesy, I truly believe, but you just cannot bank on that, as I’m sure you understand. Thus, the need for the standards. But, as I said, that has become a non-issue.
    Please always keep in mind that the board members are VOLUNTEERS that devote literally hours and hours and days for no pay, and more heartache than reward. No one sets out to become a target, I don’t think. But, trust me, things like the graphic standards and things like the video and script of the awards ceremony ARE being discussed at length. Friendships are being destroyed because of “things that have been said or heard”. It’s bad enough within the family, truly, to not have to read about what’s being promoted OUTSIDE of it…some of it just flat-out rumor and hugely inaccurate.
    I truly have no issue with anyone expressing themselves in whatever why they see fit. My only concern is that whatever is said is said without malice, and with a bit of insight as to what the writer REALLY understands or knows of first hand, not based off of rumor or speculation.

  13. I do like rock salt on a baked potato, so that does sound compelling. I do have an answer about Lee’s whys — though of course I only can speak for the genetic link we have that illuminates my understanding:
    Because it is so absurd. You don’t have to be a member of RWA or a reader of romances to appreciate the ineptness of this organization, as best exemplified by the many lapses they’ve had recently. And after reading enough eyewitness accounts of the awards show — and, well, isn’t Nora Roberts’ enough? — I feel fairly confident when I say that it’s only getting worse. It’s not rumor and innuendo when there’s 5000 first person accounts of the shittastic awards ceremony floating around online. Likewise, I’d venture to say Lee didn’t write about Linda Howard because he doesn’t care.

  14. Brenda,
    I don’t know who Sherry Lewis is. I think you’re confusing my blog with my brother Tod’s (, where he posted amusing photos of RWA board members who appparently take a time machine back to 1963 to get their hair done and stay in touch with American culture.
    Oh, and thank you so much for describing your daily orgasms to us. Just don’t try to do it in a romance novel, or the RWA might ban you.

  15. LOL Tod, yeah, I can see that about Linda Howard, although I happen to adore her. She’s a great, great lady and a very talented writer. Of course, my mention of her in particular was in regard to showing not only the negative side, not about HER in particular, as I’m sure you know.
    As for 5,000 first person accounts. Tsk. Exaggeration, darling. Here’s a first person account that shows you another side: the rush to fix the problems, the people concerned and volunteering to fix it, I mean, c’mon. It’s not ALL bad. To hear you guys, though, it seems like it’s nothing but bad. I still don’t see why you guys care so much though.
    But you ARE fun to talk with…so I guess something good came out of the negativity, after all. (Totally serious about the rock salts. Sea salts work well, too.)
    I’m off to gerbil hell…err..I mean to the playplace for the heathens to run free for a bit. Please feel free to email me if you wish to continue this lively discussion. I don’t have this spot bookmarked.

  16. Nope, it was here. I just recently went to Tod’s a bit ago for the first time. But it’s okay, because it’s been taken down now. (And others saw it, which is how I found you in the first place.)
    I merely replied to Tod’s inquiry regarding my orgasms, so that was to him, not you. (Try the rock salt!)

  17. However, and what was grossly ignored in this post, were all the great, talented and generous women that rushed in and attempted to fix all the problems that the video and script had in it.
    Actually, about fixing the script? Anne Marie Winston, who spent that afternoon with Nora, reports Nora herself worked on fixing the script – and her efforts were rejected by TPTB.

  18. Me again.
    What started it were ads that were being sent into the RWR that showed explicit body parts for the BACK of the magazine that would, of course, have the potential of not only violating USPS standards
    This is something I REALLY need explained in detail since my son gets Maxim and FHM here at the house monthly via the USPS, never in a wrapper of any sort, and totally inappropriate according to the graphical standards argument.

  19. I’m back from a delightful book festival and thus missed Miss Bradshaw’s remarkable observations. I don’t quite get the connection between my belief that the romance writers are in the erotica business, and her belief that I’m a bitter and angry man who plays with himself. Perhaps she can explain this to me.
    Neither do I quite understand why she believes romance writers are not producing erotica, but something else.
    As for her former assertion, when I contemplate Miss Bradshaw, I think that playing with myself may be the better alternative.
    If she believes that RWA is not in the erotica business, she really could have no objection to abolishing erotica from the output of Harlequin and other romance houses, because of course, by her assertion, it doesn’t exist. If, for instance, the nation were to restore the standards of the 1940s, the decade when I was a youth, there would be no erotic films or books anywhere in sight, except perhaps some smuggled Henry Miller novels.
    If we were to return to the period when erotica did not exist in American publishing nor in films, then, by Miss Bradshaw’s sage observations, romance fiction would not be affected by censors.
    In those days, the Hayes office forbade the appearance on screen of a man and woman lying side by side in bed, even if they were not touching each other. In many large cities, censors were empowered to guard public morals. When Kathleen Windsor’s early assay into erotic fiction, Forever Amber, appeared, it was promptly banned across the country. A little later when Howard Hughes’s film, The Outlaw, appeared, baring a little too much of Jane Russell’s bosom, it was not shown in many places and roundly condemned by clerics.
    The upshot was, of course, that in the novels of the day, everything that followed a first chaste kiss was represented by a row of asterisks. Either that or the kiss ended a chapter, and it was left to the readers to imagine what went on after the chapter. In Mickey Spillane’s daring novel, I, the Jury, the villainess starts stripping at the last, but the detective, Mike Hammer, shoots her and the novel ends. That was pretty wild stuff.
    Now, what I suspect is that if these 1940s standards, prohibiting erotica, were suddenly imposed on the literature of the Romance Writers of America, contrary to Miss Brandshaw’s assertion a great deal would happen: most romance novels would be gutted or kept off the stands.
    I happen to deplore that sort of censorship, believing that all of life and all of the human experience may properly be told in literature.


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