The RWA Demolition Derby

It’s fun, in a way, to watch the ongoing demolition derby over at the Romance Writers of America. First their Board tries to institute "graphical standards" and  for book covers and member websites (banning certain images and words). That brilliant move went down in flames. Having not learned a thing from that embarrassing debacle, now they want to strictly define "romance" so they can presumably squeeze out writers and content the antiquated Board members (have you seen their hair?) find offensive, or don’t read, or  simply don’t like.

Romance writer Alison Kent reports that the RWA sent out a survey to its members asking them to choose from their two arbitrary definitions of romance (which, like their "graphical standards," they probably devised without any input from their membership):

“Romantic Fiction” or “Romance” means a story in which a predominant
part of the story line focuses on the romantic relationship that
develops between CHOICE #1 one man and one woman / CHOICE #2 two people
on more than a physical level. Although other elements and subplots may
also be components of the story line, by the book’s conclusion the
romantic relationship has been resolved in an emotionally satisfying

Hard to believe this is an organization of WRITERS isn’t it? I’ve never seen a writing organization so eager to alienate its membership and destroy its credibility in the professional writing community at large. Why would any romance writer want to be associated with the RWA? You’re better off joining the John Birch Society instead.

14 thoughts on “The RWA Demolition Derby”

  1. Interesting..
    I’ve always wondered how to categorize my novel, as it has so many elements – historical, romantic, violent, sensual, etc. etc.
    I think, speaking as a writer, that you when you really write passionately about your story, you unconsciously blend all these elements together as you get involved in the lives of your characters and make them seem real to you and your story. I dislike categorization, which is more or less a marketing trick for selling your work.
    Anyway, my journey has just begun and I hope my publisher doesn’t give me hell, as I’m just about to sign a contract.

  2. Isn’t this the point at which an alternate organization is created to cater to what turns out to be a large percentage of the membership (American League) that then scares hell out of the alienating organization (National League) and the two merge into a weird mishmash of conjoined and often contradictory rules (DH)?

  3. Exactly what I thought, as a romance writer. The backlash against the RWA is just incredible. So many people are ready to just leave in disgust.
    And actually, we’re in the process of creating the RBA (Romantic Bitches Association) that will serve as a haven for romance writers, readers, and publishers of every stripe. There isn’t going to be any weird conjoining with the RWA in our future though. We’ve got naughty mouths and the RWA doesn’t like that.

  4. The RWA is going to alienate readers and publishers by polticizing, moralizing, and polarizing romance. It’s not divide and conqueor, it’s divide and lose sales.
    I’ve kept mum on their last few scandels, but no more.

  5. Can you imagine the board of the Mystery Writers of America trying to pull this kind of nonsense? Or the Western Writers of America? Or the International Thriller Writers’ Organization? Their own memberships would poison them, lynch them, or throw them from a plummeting helicopter without a parachute.
    Romance gets little enough respect as it is. It doesn’t need its own board confirming the worst pink, fluffy stereotypes.
    Be writers, for god’s sake.

  6. I was never embarrassed to read romance. I was never embarrassed to write romance. Ladies and gentlemen, I am now mortified (professionally) to the tip of my perfectly polished toenails.

  7. I’m with you, Keith. I can’t imagine the uproar of the MWA ever tried to impose “graphical standards,” dictate language, or narrowly define the various stories that make up crime and mystery novels. It seems to me like the real motivation behind the RWA board’s actions is to squeeze out writers of novels they find objectionable (using guidelines written in 1951). Next thing the RWA is going to do come out with a statement decrying communists in the publishing industry.

  8. X, I feel you there. This is humiliation on a massively public scale. If the board is trying to win respect with these bonehead moves… well, I just have to wonder. Whose respect, exactly, are we trying to earn?
    The readers who drop wads of cash every day to purchase romantic fiction by the truckload? Um… I’m pretty sure they respect us.
    The publishers who acquire our manuscripts, publish them, market them, and get a hefty chunk of the aforementioned wad of cash? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they respect the hell out of us, especially when the quarterly earnings reports come out.
    And so, RWA board, I must ask you. Who else matters?

  9. Just a note–this is not a religious issue. I am a Christian novelist who does NOT support the actions of the RWA. Since I left the group in January, I can only voice my opinion and not my vote.

  10. I think what’s interesting is they’re trying to get a vote on a definition that already exists within the organization. (Probably because the original encompasses ALL types of romance books without exclusion.)

  11. I write gay romance, and I’m appalled by the RWA’s vote on narrowing the definition to exclude my work. I emailed all twenty board members to protest, and am just getting responses back–if you’re interested, I’m posting the gist of them on my website (click my name).


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