Oh no, consequences
June 14, 2024 10:36 AM   Subscribe

That framing of 'disputes concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion issues between some members of a prior RWA board and others in the larger romance writing community' is like a masterclass in obfuscating what, exactly, happened and who was responsible for it. It's right up there with 'police-involved shooting incident' for specificity and apportioning of blame.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:48 AM on June 14 [20 favorites]

I did not know about Romancing the Vote - what a fabulous thing.

I was curious about who they're donating to, and was pleased to see their press kit page says,
All funds raised through our project will go to voting organizations. (In 2024: Fair Fight and VoteRiders)
I'm dismayed to see an organization of writers be so ... dumb, but I am delighted to have learned about Milan's (and Rocha's) efforts to get out the vote.

Thanks for this update, bq, and for all the great links!
posted by kristi at 11:03 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]

By pure coincidence, I'm currently wearing a Kit Rocha pendant I got through Romancing the Vote.
posted by humbug at 11:15 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]

There is not enough popcorn in the world for this ongoing saga.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:16 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]

jacquilynne: that is pure right-wing dogwhistle. They're blaming DEI for absolutely everything now. It's up there with "groomers."
posted by Countess Elena at 11:22 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]

Thanks for posting. Adding the Smart Bitches post about this: RWA has Filed for Bankruptcy, And You’ll Never Guess “Why”. Milan's newsletter is great - I'm not much of a tea drinker, but she writes so well, it's a lovely thing dropping into one's inbox.
posted by paduasoy at 11:24 AM on June 14 [10 favorites]

Thanks for SB link!
posted by bq at 11:56 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

Romance is not my usual genre but I am intrigued by Milan's tea writing and have subscribed to her newsletter.

Paduasoy's Smart Bitches link makes the excellent point that the Bankruptcy Court does not care about organizational drama and they could have filed without mentioning the old dispute. But it sounds like RWA does not have the best writers or lawyers at their disposal at this time. (Or the 'larger romance writing community' for that matter.)
posted by mersen at 11:59 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]

The last paragraph of the article is very good and a direct response to the "because DEI" narrative:

As the RWA has struggled, other romance organizations that explicitly prioritize diversity have grown. The Steamy Lit conference, first held in 2023, focuses on creating a welcoming environment for romance readers and writers of color, founder Melissa Saavedra said. An estimated 1,900 people are expected to attend its August conference this year.

posted by signal at 12:30 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]

Contrary to the link that Mersen notes, Chapter 11 debtors are required to file a declaration (here!) providing an explanation for the debtor's decline into insolvency. If organizational drama was material, it's right in.

Confessing the personal interest that I work with her regularly, the RWA has a fine bankruptcy lawyer working for it.
posted by MattD at 1:35 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

Oh good, the article mentions the award winning Native American genocide novel, showing that they hadn't learned from the award winning Nazi novel. Stay classy RWA.
posted by Spike Glee at 1:43 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]

as a casual drive-by gawker this is positively dizzying
posted by elkevelvet at 1:55 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

I'm a book editor; I work mostly in romance. The implosion of the RWA has been a slow-moving shitshow since the news of the sanctions against Courtney broke right at the end of 2019. And even then we knew that the hotel contracts would be the thing that finally bankrupted the national org. Covid allowed them to wriggle around for a few more years, but yep, those contracts finally caught up with them.

I...have a lot to say about RWA, but also they've taken up enough of my brain space already. What I will say is that it it's a legitimate tragedy that romance, which sells millions upon millions of books, now has no effective industry organization. Back in the day when they had a huge membership, the good part of RWA's existence meant they could call Amazon to the carpet when needed. Hell, they could call Amazon on the phone and reach someone to clear up some issue or problematic policy. They published a code of ethics for agents and publishers, and forced them to sign on if they wanted to be officially recognized. RWA was astoundingly far from perfect, but at times these guidelines, safeguards, and the power they were able to wield were used for good.

I'm a fan of the Steamy Lit conference so far; last year was its first, and I attended. I do think that's a bad title for what they're doing—they have a strong focus on DEI, and that's separate from any particular book's steam level. I'll be attending again this year.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:52 PM on June 14 [27 favorites]

I might never forget my December 2019 introduction to Courtney Milan and romance author Twitter when the corner of sci-fi author Twitter I followed blew up with "HELL NO" and "I can't feel sorry for the evisceration that's about to happen" and then a wall of retweets of Milan disassembling the RWA with incisive precision. She is impressive and it's probably time for me to pick up a couple more of her books.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:08 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]

Well, I didn't know any of this, and here they go calling me a professor of literature. This and the linked pieces were a total rabbit hole for me when I was stuck in the office yesterday afternoon. Wow. Thanks for this. I'm not in any way a "feelings person", so romance has never interested me, but I'm not going to yuck anyone else's yum.

My only actual comment here is that I often teach texts that come from developing or postcolonial cultures, and sometimes students (white AND black) raised in America get a little whiny about "not understanding the references" or somesuch, and my go-to answer is that "if it's even a halfway decently written book, the references will either be explained or won't really matter". I don't truly know enough about romance to say for sure that it would apply to romance novels by black writers, but I'll bet it does.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 5:04 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]

A lot of romance novels by diverse authors do take the route of explaining cultural references and foreign language phrases that are sprinkled in, but I tend to like books more when they don't explain all the cultural references. They feel more ... natural, I guess, especially given that romance novels tend to have such strong POV characters. A Latina character wouldn't define quinceanera in her head when she had a thought containing the word, in the same way a WASPy character wouldn't define Sweet Sixteen to herself. Not having those little definitional asides as part of a sentence that is clearly supposed to reflect the character's perspective feels more accurate.

I don't mind doing the work of looking something up myself if I don't understand it if it frees authors up to write as if for an audience that is already familiar with their cultural references, the same way white authors do without thinking about it. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola was a good example of that for me.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:21 AM on June 15 [9 favorites]

What I will say is that it it's a legitimate tragedy that romance, which sells millions upon millions of books, now has no effective industry organization.
The more I think about it, the more I think that it would probably not be possible, in the context of the US in 2024, to have an effective industry organization for romance novelists. As everyone likes to point out, romance is a really big tent, and right now the relevant point is that it encompasses both authors who write books with depictions of sex, including depictions of queer sex, and authors who are part of a political movement to outlaw (or at least limit the distribution of) depictions of sex, especially queer sex. In the past, it was possible to focus on places where everyone agreed, in part because the industry marginalized everyone who wasn't straight, white, and Christian. But that isn't going to fly anymore, both because it's no longer feasible to ignore queer, PoC, or non-Christian authors and readers and because censorship is an active threat that people in the industry can't conveniently ignore.

The RWA people are awful, and it's total bullshit to blame Courtney Milan. They couldn't have handled that situation worse if they tried. But I think that the implosion was probably inevitable. If it hadn't happened then, it would be happening now.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:26 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

romancing the vote fundraiser auction is now live (and Courtney Milan’s items are $$$$).
posted by bq at 1:40 PM on July 4

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