Mother Nature loves to play little tricks on us every year right about this time in the form of a final snowstorm. This year was no exception. Hello, Spring Mini-blizzard 2019.
But the flip side of this little prank is that it means we've probably seen our last snow for the season, and the extra moisture is soooo good for all the flowers and greenery that are fixing to bloom, though not so great for the crocuses, daffodils, and trees that have already budded. Believe me, in an area that averages about 17 inches of rainfall a year--on a good year--we'll just take it and grin.
On to my main topic.
On Friday, Donna posted an excellent blog about the controversy surrounding this year's RWA RITA Award finalists. Apparently, an historic problem with the contest still persists, even into 2019! Click this link if you want to catch up: RITA has a So-White Moment
The unveiling of this year's award finalists led to a huge outcry in various authors groups and on social media due to the lack of authors and characters of color and LGBTQ+ authors and characters, and for once, the RWA board seemed to listen.
Others argued that the peer-judged contest just isn't working and voiced their support of a reader-based contest, but others felt that wouldn't be a solution, either.
I have to admit I'm a bit buffaloed on how to make the RITA a level playing field. I understand the pros and cons of all the various ideas and suggestions that were offered, and I see the massive dilemma that RWA simply must grapple with. Because I do agree, emphatically, that something major has to be done and I support any changes that will move the RITA forward and make it a fair contest for all.
So that said...
Even though I don't have solid suggestions about how to make these critical changes to the overall judging, I did key in on one phrase that got my wheels turning. In a statement posted on the RWA site from the president, she stated (emphasis mine):
"While we work through this process and the large-scale change to RITA judging and other issues in the contest, we ask that members contact us with their comments, suggestions and concerns."
Why, yes. I do have "other issues in the contest" where I can clearly articulate a suggested change, and this will help level the playing field for everyone who submits to one particular category. While this doesn't directly address the overall inequity issue, it does apply to all authors of the subgenres affected.
Since the RITA requires an overall revamp, this seems like the time to state the problems the organization has with its Historical, Contemporary and Everything Else mindset, and how a large number of authors who don't write Historical or Contemporary (which have two and three categories each, respectively) get dumped into one catch-all category called Paranormal Romance.
I'm going to stick my neck out and share a letter that was compiled jointly with another peer. We drafted the letter from our experience as SFR authors, but I'm sure there are many other Fantasy Romance, Paranormal Romance and authors of other subgenres who may feel the same.
We see this as a chance to suggest fixes for many things that are broken with the RITA Awards--the Paranormal category being just one--and feel this is the time to speak up, because for once, the RWA board seems to be actively listening. We hope that by posting this letter, we inspire you to also speak out on ideas for change in the RITA Awards, if you feel the structure of these awards have impacted you and your work.
I whole-heartedly support changes within the RWA RITA Awards that will level the playing field for authors and characters of color and LGBTQ+ authors and characters. In addition to that, since RWA is looking at a revamp of the entire awards program, I suggest an additional change to make the competition fairer for ALL authors.
In my humble opinion, RWA has an overall challenge with diversity. For many years, as a science fiction romance author, I've felt I was an outlier within the organization. From my perspective, RWA seems to view its membership in three groups--those who write Contemporary Romance, those who write Historical Romance, and those who write "Everything Else." In discussion with my peers, the consensus is that we "EE" authors would also like to receive more equal representation within the organization.
Please consider the structure of the RITA Awards Paranormal category. While Contemporary has three distinct categories based on length, and Historical Romance has two, the Paranormal category is a “conglomerate” of many different subgenres. This category forces paranormal romance, fantasy romance, and science fiction romance (et al) authors to compete against each other in a category that covers a very broad spectrum, with very little cross-over readership between them.
Splitting this enormous generic category into smaller, more subgenre-friendly categories will encourage a greater number of authors to submit knowing their books will be judged against similar works. This would help level the playing field for “EE” authors of diverse romance subgenres.
I'm aware this situation has been broached with RWA by many members over several years, and the answer from RWA has always been that there aren't enough entries to support a divided category. Please reconsider this in comparison to the number of entries received for other small categories, such as Religious/Spiritual Elements and Young Adult. To my knowledge, the conglomerate Paranormal category has always received substantially more entries.
Since the overall structure of the RITA is being examined, I propose breaking the Paranormal category into three distinct subcategories:
· Fantasy Romance (e.g. sorcerers, wizards, faeries, elves, fantasy world building, etc.)
· Paranormal Romance (e.g. vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, angels, demons, mermaids, shapeshifters, etc.)
· Science Fiction Romance (e.g. aliens, space opera, steampunk, futuristic, time travel, dystopian elements, etc.)
And then, if there aren't enough entries to justify one of these as an individual category, combine it with the most appropriate alternate division.
Thank you for your careful attention and consideration of this matter, which affects a large number of "EE" authors within your membership.
As always, comments and discussion are welcome and encouraged, but please be advised our comments are moderated in order to weed out frequent hits from spam bots and may not show up immediately. Likewise, any comments that are hateful in nature or dismissive toward or biased against any group will not be posted.