RWA and discrimination

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a lot of discussion happening right now about Romance Writers Ink, a Tulsa-based chapter of RWA, which runs a contest called More than Magic. Among the guidelines for the contest is one disturbing note: “Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.” (Here are the rules.) This, despite the fact that an LGBT book (More by Sloan Parker) won first place in the First Book category last year.

Heidi Cullinan’s post on the issue is great and you should read it: RWA Shouldn’t Be in the Business of Discrimination.

I joined RWA about a year ago. I know some of the members of my local chapter through my participation in National Novel Writing Month and they’d been bugging me to join for a long time. I’ll be honest; it wasn’t clear to me at first what my dues money was going to. I wound up not being able to attend most of last year’s convention, even though it was right here in New York last year, but I thought, if anything, it was a way to connect to other romance writers. The New York City chapter has been very supportive of me when I ask for it, and I’ve written articles for their newsletter and guest posts on their blog. One thing I like about them is that they are totally open to all kinds of romance writers: erotica, LGBT, Christian, contemporary, paranormal, you name it, it’s all represented.

At the beginning of this year, I joined Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance special interest chapter of RWA. I feel like I’ve found my people. This is such a fantastic group of writers. They’ve been a real force behind making it known that RWA’s wishy-washy response to discrimination is unacceptable and spreading the word about the situation. One of the missions of the chapter is to bring more attention to LGBT romance and advocate for it. “Take it mainstream,” is how Damon Suede put it when we had dinner together last fall. These are writers who take their craft seriously, who care about the genre, who want to put out good books. (Writers, please consider joining! It’s a great group!)

On a personal note, it’s been an interesting journey into the land of romance writing. I held off on joining RWA because, when I first found out about it, I was still writing overwrought “literary” fiction, which is what too many creative writing classes will do to you, I guess. But then, maybe five years ago, I listened to an episode of This American Life about RWA, and that somehow was the push I needed to give romance writing a try (or to admit that most of what I was writing was pretty much romance anyway). It took me a while to accept that romance was my calling (and I’ve loved genre fiction, romance and mysteries especially, since I was a kid, so I don’t know why I held out so long). And I love m/m, I still really enjoy writing (and reading!) it, so there’s that, too. It’s been a real joy for me to connect with other writers and readers over the last year, because I love to talk about books and writing and I WILL talk at length if you let me.

So it’s a shame that RWA, which has the potential to do so much good for a genre that—let’s face it—is often maligned, can’t see the forest for the trees.

Edited to add: Best course of action for now seems to be to email RWA National to let them know we won’t tolerate discrimination, and also to spread the word. Maybe a critical mass of people will persuade RWA to change their policy. See also Kari Gregg.