Romance writers association calls off annual awards

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Romance Writers of America has called off its annual awards as the organization remains in turmoil over allegations that it has failed to address criticism for lack of diversity.

In announcing the cancellation of the RITA Awards, the RWA noted that numerous authors and judges had dropped out. The Texas-based trade association has thousands of members.

“The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre,” according to a note posted this week on the RWA website. “For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances.”

Romance author Racheline Maltese tweeted that the RWA had made a “good, responsible decision,” but added “Let’s be clear — the reason the RITAs would not have reflected the breadth and diversity of the genre is not due to marginalized authors withdrawing but due to actions by RWA that rendered such choices necessary.”

During the holiday season, the RWA infuriated many in the romance community by initially reprimanding author Courtney Milan for tweeting that Kathryn Lynn Davis’ 1999 book “Somewhere Lies the Moon” was an “(expletive) racist mess.” The association reversed its decision, but not in time to prevent an uproar that led to the resignation of President Carolyn Jewell and several board members.

“We have lost the trust of our membership and the romance community and we must find a way to rebuild that,” the organization said in a statement last month. “We will strive to uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do.”

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