RWA Heartbreak ⋆ Candice Gilmer, Author of Fantastic Romance

I’m tired, hurt, and unsure about the future.

As I imagine some of you out there are as well. The RWA implosion has left me heartbroken, because I needed to know that this organization had my back, and every other romance author’s back.

It seems it doesn’t. Not really.

Most of the time, when I start a blog post, I usually know exactly what I’m going to talk about and what I have in mind to say.

Today, however, I’m not so sure.

I feel like I want to start at the beginning. Well, the beginning of my publishing trip, anyway

Approximately 2006 or so, I finished my first novel. I started doing research, and learning where I needed to go, and how to market it. I’d been a reader for years, and found myself in love with the idea of writing romance novels. They were fun and light, and made me laugh. I wanted to write my own, because I wanted to make people laugh, cry, and gasp, just like I did when I read them. At the time, the indy market wasn’t really a thing yet, unless you paid a vanity press to publish your book.

So I researched. And I studied. And I wrote.

I joined Romance Writers of America, when I finally learned about them in 2007–mostly so I could go to their national convention that year and I was going to be able to attend, and not have the expense of a hotel.

I inhaled the knowledge.

I remember sitting in a chair, and looking over my shoulder and seeing Jayne Ann Krentz in the same class as me–I’d been reading a lot of her books at the time–absolutely dumbfounded. I was sitting near a celebrity. That a celebrity writer (and I was too shy to tell her this) was learning stuff too.

And I remember thinking that RWA was the greatest thing ever. Everyone was so warm and loving. I met some amazing authors and agents. I learned so much about the publishing industry and fell in love with a ton of books.

I decided to stay in RWA. And I did, for a while.

After a ton of rejections from countless editors and agents, I widened my search to smaller publishing houses–even though RWA didn’t acknowledge places like Samhain Publishing and Lyrical Press at first–I found homes in these companies.

And I got my first real frustration at RWA. I felt like, if I, as a writer, had books published by a publisher (2, as a matter of fact) that I received royalties for, I should have been able to be a member of PAN (Published Author’s Network) but RWA had a minimum dollar requirement to join, and I didn’t hit that mark at the time. (And they still do to this day, FYI).

It seemed at the time like their rules needed to be updated.

There were a few other things I didn’t care for–like how they looked down on smaller presses, and when I questioned the PAN thing, it was spouted to me that the rule was to “protect authors” and make sure they were publishing with “legitimate publishers.”

So I left.

They weren’t going to miss me anyway. Not then.

Fast-forward to the last couple of years.

Now that the indy community has become a strong and viable option for so many authors, I had looked to RWA to provide a strong basis for the indy romance community to connect in, and to create a place of knowledge, and occasionally protection, for the community.

With copyright infringement, publishers not paying due royalties, and issues of ludicrous trademark filings, I expected the RWA to be in the middle of that stuff, throwing the weight of the organization that’s been around for decades to bring problems to resolution.

I was about ready to go back. To see if RWA was learning and moving forward. With people like Courtney Milan helping the board with better inclusion practices, especially after last year’s RITA issues, (See #ritassowhite on Twitter if you want details about all of that) I was seriously considering it.

And then, right before Christmas, Courtney Milan was suspended from RWA for allegedly harassing another author online and causing damage to said writer’s career. This started months before, with Sue Grimshaw (see below for reference twitter thread), and slowly built into this explosion. There’s so much to explain, I won’t get into it, other than racist behavior was called out online, which prompted rebuttals, and people sticking their nose into things, and on and on it went, a spiral of accusations and fighting that exploded in Courtney’s suspension. (Though what she did wasn’t wrong, IMHO. She merely pointed out an older book by a particular person had racist language in it. She was blunt about it, because she’s blunt. But it didn’t need to go this far. Yet it did.)

(For the full, daily account of the details, check out Claire Ryan’s Blog. And bless her, for making such a detailed, factual record of this. I think I’m going to buy some of her books, just because, my god, she deserves something for this — Her Amazon Page here)

A second short, twitter timeline was posted by MostlyBree, (Kit Rocha) here to read as well (updated 1/12/2020)

And boy-howdy, has it been a ride since. Twitter has been a horrible roller coaster of discussion–and when I say “horrible” I mean about the awful things marginalized groups and POCs have revealed that they have had to deal with in the RWA. Horrible things.

Awful things.

Things that literally make me want to cry.

It breaks my heart so much because the RWA was supposed to be a super hero in publishing. Standing up for the little gal writing her romance novels. Making it legit. Giving her a resource if she needs help. Telling the boys to shut the hell up, we women were legit, and we were just as real as the guy writing space ships or spaghetti westerns.

I supported the idea of the Romance Writers of America, and the idea that all romance writers were legitimate writers. I was going to go back this spring. Maybe go to some local cons. Take some classes. Grow and get better.

It seems, regardless of what RWA says in their mission statements, that they currently are more interested in the troubles not of all groups, but just white women.

I am a white woman. Have I benefitted from the RWA? Yes. I’m sure I have. Even in ways I probably don’t recognize or know. But that’s how privilege works. It benefits you just because you’re you. Not because you need it. Or asked for it.

And that’s the shitty thing. Because there’s so many people that need it. People who aren’t white women. And they’re not getting what they need from an organization that claims to be diversified and beneficial for all kinds of romance.

Guess what.

They’re not really.

The “old way” of doing things has brought out so much ingrain member bias against anything that’s not a white M/F Happily Ever After, it’s gobsmacking.

Judges who refuse to read or mark down a story because the main characters are POC, gay, trans, or disabled because they “cannot relate” yet go gaga over books about vampires, werewolves, and aliens seems outright stupid.

Love is love.

See the wonderful Nora Robert’s blog post on this.

Having not been in the organization for years, I didn’t see this stuff. I don’t enter contests, even the RITAs, because I think they’re all popularity contests, and judging is never consistent. (Go figure. Maybe I was on to something way back in the day… Hmmm)

Have I stumbled in the past? Probably. I will be going through all my books this year to double check for any kind of unintentional, inappropriate language, and those changes will be addressed asap.

My future books I vow to do better.

My eyes are open and I want to be better.

I hope the RWA does too.

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