Changes to the RITA & Golden Heart Awards

I didn’t know what a hot sheet was until I attended the RWA® National Conference, but I learned quickly. The RWA July hot sheet announced changes to the Golden Heart® and RITA® contests.  The discussion kicked off in Anaheim and has not stopped since.

Join the Rubies today as we offer an open forum to debate the rules and criteria for the Golden Heart and the RITA Awards.

The new rules for the Golden Heart and RITA are posted in the public section of the RWA website. If you are an RWA member, you will find the hot sheet on myRWA. I won’t try to duplicate everything here. Instead, I’ll paraphrase the key points.  (Disclaimer: this is my personal summary.  RWA did not assist or approve.  Please visit the RWA website for complete and accurate content.)

Applies to Both Contests

  • A romance is defined as a work with a “central love story” and an “emotionally satisfying or optimistic” ending.
  • Both contests are limited to 1200 entries.
  • 2013 entries must be received at RWA by 5pm CT, January 2, 2013.
  • Future entries will be judged against a “four-tiered scoring system.” The maximum score an entry can earn is 50 points. The Romance element is worth up to 20 points, with the elements of Plot/Story, Characters, and Writing worth up to 10 points each.
  • 10% of the entries in each category (up to 8) may advance. (An entry must earn 40 or more points to advance to the final round. )

Applies to the RITAs

  1. RITA entries will be submitted in print book format.
  2. For the 2013 RITAs, there will be 11 categories.  (We lose three and gain two–a net loss of one from 2012.)
    • The Regency Historical category will be eliminated.  (The Historical Romance category will now include the Regency period.)
    • Contemporary Series: Suspense/Adventure will be eliminated.  (The Romantic Suspense category remains.)
    • Contemporary Series Romance has apparently been separated into two categories by word count. Long Contemporary Series are more than 60K words; Short Contemporary Series are less than 60K.
  3. For the 2014 RITAs, there will be 10 categories.  (We lose one–a net loss of two from 2012.)
    • Novel with Strong Romantic Elements will be eliminated.
  4. The RITAs are open to RWA members and non-members.

Applies to the Golden Heart

  1. Golden Heart entries will be submitted electronically.
    • If contest staff are unable to open any file in a GH entry, the submission is disqualified.
  2. For the 2013 GH, there will be 7 categories. (We lose two–a net loss of two from 2012.)
    • The Regency Historical category will be eliminated.
    • The Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category will be eliminated.
  3. GH entries must not be published while “they are under consideration for the Award.”
  4. Individuals who have novels that “have been offered for sale to the public” are not eligible for the Golden Heart.
  5. Entrants must be RWA members.


That’s my summary of changes to the Golden Heart and RITA contests. Tell us what you think. What are your concerns? In your opinion, which changes improve the contests and which do not?  The Rubies look forward to a lively, civil, productive discussion.

Elizabeth Langston is a 3-time Golden Heart Finalist in YA. Her debut novel, Whisper Falls (Book 1 of the Whisper Falls trilogy), will be released in November 2013 from SpencerHillPress. To learn more, visit her website or blog.

316 Responses to “Changes to the RITA & Golden Heart Awards”

  1. Amanda Brice says:

    Thanks for posting this, Beth!

    One thing you didn’t mention but that is important is that the YA Romance category changed. In the past, it’s allowed for romantic elements stories, but not now.

    Here’s what it used to be:

    Novels with a strong romantic theme geared toward young adult readers. In this category, the love story is an important element of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

    Here’s what it is beginning this year:

    Romance manuscripts geared toward young adult readers. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the manuscript, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

    So the category will only allow for true YA Romance, per se, which means that a great many of the finaling (and winning!) books/manuscripts from the past would not be eligible for the contest going forward. This is a pretty big change, but is consistent with the elimination of the SRE category.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      In 2005, when I entered my first YA, romance had to be the main focus. I think a lot of us complained–because, frankly, as a parent of 2 teen girls, I don’t *want* romance to be their main focus. By 2007, it had changed.

      So, I guess we’re returning to our roots. It’s just unfortunate for the YA category–because there are some many great YAs where the romance is important but not “central”.

      • Amanda Brice says:

        Wow, good to know. I didn’t enter before 2007 (I was also promptly disqualified in 2007 because I forgot to number my syno, but that’s another story), so I didn’t realize that the romance had to be the central focus prior to then.

        Still, it’s a very big change to the current itiration of the YA category, and will eliminate lots of excellent stories. I also think it doesn’t really show an understanding of the market. And was there a several-year stretch there where the YA category couldn’t manage to scrounge up at least 25 entrants in either the GH or the RITA? By disqualifying all the YA Romantic Elements stories (the love story is very important, but not the central focus), there weren’t enough books left to enter.

        • Elizabeth Langston says:

          In 2005, there were only 3 finalists. The 10% rule suggests we only had 30 or so entries :)

    • I’m actually surprised that it still says “geared toward young adult readers,” rather than something more like “a novel of which an integral part is the development of a romantic relationship between young adults.” That’s what I wrote for a YA category description in the Golden Pen this year.

      I don’t think YA is for young adults, at least not exclusively. I think it’s ABOUT young adults.

      • Amanda Brice says:

        You know, that’s a very good point. The type of YA I write (younger-skewing contemporary) is primarily read by tweens and teens, but plenty of YA is actually read by MANY adults. In fact, the biggest audience for some of the older-skewing paranormal YA are 30- and 40-something married women.

      • While true many of us adults read YA, I mainly read YA because I want to write it, and I think the focus should be on writing FOR a teen audience. I think the misconception is that this means simplifying story structure or plots or adding lots of slang or something. The best YA books transcend this by showing an authentic voice and story that appeals to young readers.

        I think this will be difficult to quantify; YA by nature tends to involve more than just romance, like identity issues, family and friendship. It’ll be interesting to see where this leads!

    • Shoshana says:

      Yeah, this is a huge bummer for me. Because, even though all my books have a traditional sort of romance arc where the hero and heroine end the book happy together, the romance really isn’t the main focus.

      And it’s not just me–the vast majority of the YA books published are like this. So I don’t understand the decision.

      • Amanda Brice says:

        Show of hands for our YA writers…would any of us qualify under this new definition?

        • Carey Corp says:

          That’s a tough one, Amanda. “The love story is *the* main focus of the manuscript, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.” Very different from “the love story is an important element of the novel.”

          Pretty much eliminates paranormal. Contemporary and historical romance would fit the narrow definition, unless they are part of a series and not wrapped up with HEA optimism in that particular book.

          The YA market typically does not focus on romance without another compelling, meaningful element (and frankly, I wouldn’t want to write romance without a deeper message). YA is about coming-of-age AND getting the boy; Defeating monsters/evil AND…; Becoming independent AND…; Discovering your destiny AND… The romance is almost always the AND.

          I’m racking my brain and can come up with two authors that would fit the new definition: Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss); and Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry series). I can think of a lot of YAs that do not fit.

          I agree with Elisa. This new definition DOES NOT fit the YA market and is, therefore, a contradiction to RWA’s mission statement.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry was the one I was thinking of that’s pretty much 100% romance plot. Other than that, I too am racking my brain.

            I like how you put it. YA is almost always about the AND.

          • Terri Osburn says:

            These are contests put on by the Romance Writers of America. Not the Young Adult Writers of America. The mission of the organization is to advance and promote those writing in the Romance genre. So narrowing entries to those with Romance as the central element is actually in direct line with the mission.

          • Carey Corp says:

            Terri makes a harsh, but illuminating point. Maybe YA is incompatible with romance genres and I’m investing in the wrong organization.

          • Very good points! Erica O’Rourke’s Torn, which won the Golden Heart a few years back, also wouldn’t count under the new rules. I also feel conflicted about this new rule. I’m new to RWA this year but I’d planned on entering contests. Hopefully the chapter contests will keep YA more open.

          • C.J. Redwine says:

            I have to respectfully agree that this new definition of YA doesn’t match RWA’s mission. I say this because I write YA fantasy/dystopian. The romance is a HUGE arc in my books, but fantasy/dystopians must also have a quest. The quest and the romance are both equally important to the story, in the same way that the mystery is equally important as the romance in romantic suspense. If RWA has decided that only genres where the romance is the central plot feature can be recognized, I wonder how they justify keeping paranormal and romantic suspense on the list. I feel this decision re:YA shows a lack of understanding of the YA genre and disenfranchises many of the members who write YA. I’ve worked hard for years to get to the point in my career when I could finally enter the RITAs and now I have the sinking feeling that even though the romance in my book is very important and there is an emotionally satisfying ending to it, the fact that I also have a quest will disqualify me. If that’s the case, I will have to think long and hard before I renew my membership.

          • Carey Corp says:

            Well put CJ: “I feel this decision re:YA shows a lack of understanding of the YA genre and disenfranchises many of the members who write YA.”

            Honestly, my biggest issue is I think it’s very reckless of RWA to encourage YA material that a) doesn’t fit the market and b) focuses on a love story above all the other important messages teens need to hear.

            I know it’s the Romance Writers of America but they can’t have it both ways. They can’t take our money, claim we’re members, and then contradict the YA genre. If they are going to be that Romance-centric, then they need to remove YA from contests and downgrade the genre to associate status (like SciFi). And for Heaven’s sake, give the associate members a discount on dues – there’s got to be some advantage to being a second class citizen. LOL!

        • Bria Quinlan says:

          I’m going to say, probably not.

          My YA the romance act as a catylst to everything else going on. Yes, it’s a full romance with a satisfying ending — but is it the main point of the book. Nope.

          Also, I loved the Mom Point above about not *wanting* teenage girls reading books that are only about romance.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            And that’s just it. There are LOTS of YA books out there that are full romances with emotionally satisfying ends to the romance plot within the confines of the book itself (as opposed to merely over the course of the series arc) and that follow the traditonal romance arc, but have enough other features that the romance is no longer the CENTRAL focus of the book.

            And now they’re all out of the running for either of these awards. It’s just not a realistic reflection of where the market is.

        • I don’t think mine would qualify, but it was already a struggle because some YA category judges were already pushing for romance to be the main story. Two years ago two judges wrote “not a romance” on one of my YA Golden Heart entries. There is a romance in each book, but it is secondary to the main story of the books.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Well…if the new definition makes RWA-approved YA fall that far from the market, then it’s really NOT in line with a big part of RWA’s mission, which is to support writers towards publication.

        Really, the Board may not have had this information when they made the decision.

        Decisions can be reversed!!!!

        • Tawny Stokes says:

          RWA focus is back on ROMANCE heavy books. I think they allowed romantic elements and other writers with some romance in their books, say like urban fantasy. And they gained a lot of members because of that inclusion, but they are going back to their focus, their main basic is on helping ROMANCE authors find publication.

    • Sarah Shade says:

      No way I qualify. In the speculative fiction manuscript I entered this year, my hero and heroine don’t even meet until the middle of the story. I’m bummed. I was really looking forward to entering again.

    • Amanda Brice says:

      I blogged about the change the the YA definition at YA Indie today:

  2. Gillian says:

    I am still mulling over these decisions. I give a big thumbs up for the electronic GH submissions. No more last minute entries! I think the number of stories entered will explode and everyone will have to balance out their “I just want to tweak it one more day” against “Oops, my category just hit the 1200 mark”.

    I’m now a nostalgic dinosaur who will reminisce about mailing overnight boxes to Houston and all the fuss that used to go into little decisions like what color binder clips to use. :)

    A rather melancholy member of the now extinct Regency GH® finalist club…


    • Amanda Brice says:

      Good point about electronic submissions meaning more entries. But it’s 1200 entries overall, not 1200 entries per category.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        As in past years, the contest OPENS some weeks before entries are due.

        The date the contest opens has been pushed back about a month to Nov 15. So if you pay your money then, you can reserve your spot, and your entry itself isn’t due until Jan 2. (Though if you don’t get it in by Jan 2, your entry is disqualified….and your money is forfeit.)

        I agree that the all-electronic contest will garner significantly more entries. If you even THINK you’re going to have an entry, get your money in as close to Nov 15 as possible.

        • Greta says:

          Hi, Elisa.

          Is this the way the GH works? I thought it worked like this: all entries are accepted until the contest deadline is reached. At that point, any extra entries (over the contest limit) are rejected in this order: rejections to entrants who didn’t volunteer to judge, and then rejections in reverse order of receipt of all materials (=ms and synopsis received in RWA office). I didn’t think it worked in order of receipt of payment.

          • Elisa Beatty says:

            Hmm. I thought they counted the payments (i.e., didn’t take more than 1200), but I can ask Carol Ritter to clarify.

            It’s probably going to become an issue this year!

        • Kathryn Jane says:

          Electronic makes it easier for me, the first year I entered, 2 ms cost me nearly 400 dollars (courier costs, paper, ink, gas to the nearest town for supplies and to send was a three hour round trip!)
          Too bad my category no longer exists.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Yowza! $400?! Electronic would be a huge cost-savings in that case.

          • Trisza Ray says:

            Me too. I’m one of those who waits until the last minute. It cost me 268.00 to send my 2011 GH novel.

          • Kylie Griffin says:

            A significant portion of my budget in the year I entered the GH was funnelled into postage for the GH.

            For anyone submitting work from overseas, one ms entry (plus copies) cost an arm and a leg. And then there’s the vagarities of two postal systems and factoring in timeframes on top of deadlines for the GH.

            I applaud the GH for going electronic. It’s going to remove a lot of barriers for overseas entrants.

    • Anne Barton says:

      Yes, Gillian! I’ll miss the stories of people driving over 2 hours to hand deliver their entries to the Houston office. And what about that adrenaline rush from a mad dash to the Fed Ex office on the eve of the deadline? :)

      How nice, though, that GH entrants will have AN EXTRA MONTH (a little more actually!) to get their entries in. Which also means less time to wait for the finalist announcements. Seems like a really good thing.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Ooh–I hadn’t thought about the “less time waiting to hear” part!!

        • The new GH deadline is also good for people who participate in NANO. So many people get a first draft going through that in November and now they will have an extra month to refine.

          • Elisa Beatty says:

            Lord, yes!!! That’s huge!

            Now the question is whether they will continue to allow people to submit revised versions of their entries if final judges make requests after April 15 (or whatever date final judges will get the finaling manuscripts).

            There was some debate about that this past year, though in the end, RWA did allow revised versions to be sent. (That makes sense, since writers obviously want the very, very best and latest version of their book going out to editors….and unpubbed authors are constantly revising and learning and improving.)

          • No one who writes a NANO book in November should be entering it into the GH by Jan. 2. It’s a waste of money and the judge’s time to enter an unpolished manuscript into a contest.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Perhaps not a “true” NANO book, but my first Golden Heart final was a quasi-NANO book. I’d actually started the book a couple of months earlier, but the bulk of it was completely unwritten so I used NaNo to finish it up so I’d have a full manuscript in order to be able to enter.

            The thing is, the judges (both first-round and final) only see the first 55 pages. (And now that the deadline is Jan 2, there actually is plenty of time to polish the opening.) The remainder can be an utter mess, but nobody ever reads that part. It’s just there to prove the manuscript is complete.

            Considering that the finalists are not announced until March 25, that gives all entrants time to polish even before the finalists are announced. Sure, that might not be sufficient time for some writers to revise, but it’s plenty of time for others.

            The entries don’t go to the final judges until April 15. Some editor judges have been known to make their full requests as early as April 17, so if you’d been diligent about your revisions, then chances are you’d have a very polished full by the time a request was made. I don’t know if this is still the policy, but at least in 2008 and 2009 entrants who who got requests for the full had 48 hours to get a revised version to RWA to send to the requesting judge.

            So no, it’s not necessarily a wste of anyone’s time (entrant, judges, editors) if people enter NaNo books. However, it isn’t something I would recommend that all writers do. They have to have completed at least a couple of manuscripts in order to know how long it takes them to not only draft, but to revise (including any possible rewriting). In fact, I’d venture to guess that a few Rubies became finalists because of NaNo (and some may have even sold them through the contest).

            Would I ever submit a full manuscript to an enter immediately after NaNo, or even a month later? No. But you’re not submitting the full until potentially 4-7 months AFTER NaNo is over, which for many writers is more than sufficient time to revise.

    • Agree on both counts. Its ABOUT TIME that they moved to electronic – it was crazy to wait this long! And I am soooo sad that they eliminated Regency, juuuust when I was finally eligible to submit :-(

      Also – I am NOT pleased about the new scoring. I prefer the overall impression style scoring. Quite honestly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about the individual aspects of the score. Okay, off soapbox.

      My 2cents

      • Agreed on all points. Really sad to see Regency go, for perfectly self-serving reasons. And in terms of sheer numbers, I have to ask myself if there are really so many series contemporary to justify short and long categories, when compared to the sheer volume of historicals and Regencies.

        • Actually, yes. I would venture to guess that contemporary series is one of the most disadvantaged by this change.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            What Blythe said. I just took a quick glance at the eHarlequin site and I count 12 contemporary series imprints from Harlequin (I’m not counting the reprint lines).

            Most of those lines release anywhere from 4-8 books per month, so let’s say an average of 6 books per month. 6 x 12 x 12 = 864 Harlequin contemporary series books per year. (And I think that’s actually a low estimate)

            Add in Montlake Romance (Amazon’s new romance imprint), which has picked up some category length books, and some of the digital-first presses release category length as well, and you easily have over 1000 books vying in this field.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            OK, not “over” 1000 books eligible, but you know what I mean.

            Contemporary Series Romance has ALWAYS been an enormous pool.

          • And in addition to Harlequin and Montlake, there’s now Entangled’s category lines.

          • Elisa Beatty says:

            Again, the most recent numbers I could find are from 2006, but “category romance” was listed as having a 40% share of the market.

            So it’s fair enough to expand that category to two….but unfair to cut historical / regency to one.

            Were we really suffering so much from “too many categories”????

      • Erinn – the scoring bothers me a little too. I’m thinking about my entry this year, and while I hint that there is a love interest, you really don’t get a taste of the actual romance until after the 55 page limit. I write paranormal – the worldbuilding has to be done before the romance makes sense. I think this is going to make it much harder to judge in some categories (like YA as someone mentioned above)

        • And please ignore the extra “n” in your name. My finger fell asleep I guess. :)

        • Elisa Beatty says:

          Yes…with only 50ish pages of a manuscript, the romance is often in the “high conflict / they can barely stand each other” phase.

          In any case, I don’t see how you can separate out romance from the other aspects of the writing. I’m not going to respond emotionally to a romance story if the characters are bland or undeveloped, or if the writer has no voice.

        • Trisza Ray says:

          That is exactly the same issue I’m concerned about Lorenda. Like you, my hero and heroine don’t meet until around page 30 and they don’t even kiss until more than half-way through the novel. I spend the beginning world building and setting up the conflict that makes it hard for the characters to be together.

          Congratulations BTW.

          • Thanks! The Oklahomans are rocking it lately!

          • Trisza Ray says:

            I’m so proud that two Okie girls have won paranormal GH in the last two years. We really have to get together now. Maybe OK can corner the market on paranormal romance. Some people do think it’s a really scary place to live.

    • Mary Curry says:

      Awww, Gillian, that’s sad. You just reminded me of my first GH. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I literally finished printing the copies around 11PM and my darling husband drove me (and the babies)into the huge General Post Office on 34th Street in Manhattan so I could mail it off in time. I’m pretty sure it was a postmark deadline back then.

      I’ll never forget the amazing sense of accomplishment I felt walking down the steps after mailing it. Getting the GH call on it was an amazing bonus.

      I do think it’s time for the contest to go electronic, but I wonder if we’ll get the same rush from hitting SEND.

      • Gillian says:

        Exactly! The two ladies working my UPS office got so excited for me when I’d come in to ship it off. It’s silly, as progress is natural and I do think electronic entries are a good thing, but memories like those will remain special to me. :)

  3. Hope Ramsay says:

    On the face of it I’m one of those authors who are probably least affected by the changes. But I still have some very grave concerns about the four tier scoring system where the “romance” gets more points than the story. I worry that books without good stories or a good central conflict will end up finaling.

    I’m going to get up on a soap box here and be rather emphatic about my views. It’s okay if you don’t agree with me.

    There are be readers out there who don’t like much story in their romance. I know because they universally hate my books and call them too complicated. Okay I get it. But to me a great book is always about the story, not the romance. Sorry.

    And to that point, I would only say that most of the authors who’ve made it into the RWA Hall of Fame (SEP, Lavyrle Spencer, Eloisa James, to name just a few) ALWAYS have good stories with lots of believable conflict. Things happen in their books and their stories are what make their books so good. Sure they have a romance. And sure there is a barrier between the lovers, but in these great books the barrier is not only internal, it’s external as well. And the story drives those barriers and triggers those emotional barriers. You can’t have a romance without a story.

    So how can you say the romance is worth more than the plot? It’s totally whacky in my opinion. They are of equal value and the best ROMANCE authors know this.

    I can only surmise that this was some kind of backlash against paranormal stories that have very strong plot elements. But I fear that this system will backfire on RWA and penalize great storytellers — even those writing in more traditional sub-genres. Storytelling is what a novel is all about, regardless of genre. I think RWA has made a huge mistake.

    I guess we’ll have to wait to find out if books with strong stories are harmed by this system. That would be a shame, in my opinion.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Perhaps they need to define “love story” in the expression “central love story.” Are they assuming love-story is equivalent to romance?

      Without a clear definition, maybe we could interpret that to mean something “the story of love” between sisters or friends.

    • Hope, I feel the same way. I am very disappointed with the new scoring system. I write romantic suspense, and my books are very heavy on the suspense, but the love story is still integral to the book. Without it, the book wouldn’t be the same. But if you take the book as a whole, the argument could be made that it’s not really the main “focal point”. And I’m afraid this new scoring system is only going to reward books that are Romance with a capital “R” rather than a book with great writing/storytelling where the romance may be a little more subtle (yet still integral).

    • Hope,

      I agree with you. I, too, believe a great book is always about the story, not the romance. I understand that the organization is *Romance* Writers of America, but I disagree that only stories with a “central love story” can be considered works of romance.

      And that’s why I think it’s a mistake (and short-sighted) to eliminate the “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements” category. If there’s been concern that the romance element hasn’t been strong enough in the past, why not redefine the category? Perhaps as a novel which includes a complete romance arc (i.e. “love story with an emotionally satisfying or optimistic ending”) as an integral sub-plot? I know my 2012 entry fit that particular description.

    • Cathy Perkins says:

      I agree Hope. The best stories for me blend the elements seamlessly – plot, character, romance, setting …

      I’m curious how the new scoring will apply this year, since Strong Romantic Elements has a final appearance in the contest. If the romance is judged 50% of the total, and the story’s romance is an element rather than the focus, how will that work?

    • Heather Snow says:

      Don’t get me started about the new scoring, weighing towards romance. Most of us are shelved in the romance section, whether we have heavy suspense in our plots or not. Don’t get me wrong. My stories are primarily romance, but because I choose to dedicate more of my pages to a mystery than perhaps the next author, I might be penalized? Grrr. (and various other scoffing noises)

      • Honestly, I may just thumb my nose at them, score it as a percentage (say, 95%) and then arbitrarily divide the points across the 4 categories to meet the proper percentage.
        Like I said before, I really don’t care what it is in a novel that makes me love it, so long as it makes me love it!

    • Disagree on the question of whether external or internal conflict should get more weight, Hope–in a well written romance, they’re so wrapped around each other, it’s hard to say where one starts and the other stops. I definitely do not want to read a thriller with a romance tacked on between chase scenes when I take a romance to bed. Agree, RWA has made a huge mistake.
      First, they made a decision by fiat without consulting the people most affected. They know better, for pity’s sake.
      Second, they’re trying to make a peer award mean something outside the realm of the peerage, which is backward. If they want the GH/RITAs to be readers’ choice awards, with broad popularity, well….
      Third, I wasn’t aware that the GH/RITAs weren’t pulling their share of the load in terms of meeting our mission. These contests weren’t perceived by those most affected as broke, and now we’ve gone and fixed them, adopting wholesale the opinions of people who will not be affected in the least by their own suggestions.
      Makes one wonder.

    • Cheryl says:


      Emphatically agree with everything you say. I’ve had several veteran authors counsel me on my novels (WIP’s) and tell me that SEP and Linda Howard are more romantic elements than straightforward romance.

      Killing the Romantic Elements category is a huge mistake, my opinion, and they should also keep the Regency category separate from the Historical, because too few people will final (outside the Regency genre).

      We interviewed SEP for our Chicago-North newsletter and she said: “We have to make sure we avoid the cookie-cutter book. Characters and story lines can move in a thousand different directions.”

      How might “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Gone with the Wind” fare in today’s restrictive categories?

      I can’t speak for others, but I loved reading about Scarlett’s struggles as well as for the romance elements with Rhett. When Rhett did make an appearance in the novel, it was even more exciting. Would I have enjoyed the novel more if he had been on every single page, bantering with Scarlett? I don’t think so.

      In my Everyman’s Library edition of “Jane Eyre,” she doesn’t meet Rochester until page 143. Isn’t this a romance? Or would it be romantic elements? Call me nuts, but I see it as a romance.

      Now, it seems that we’ve got to write the heroine/hero interacting every other page. There are some folks who are very skillful at this — I’m not one of them. I like writing about a psychological journey and struggle as much as the romance.

      I have concerns that this further cements a ‘formula’ approach to romance writing and will hurt the genre overall, driving readers to seek out other alternatives, like YA, etc.

      Another example of something outside the “constrictive” romance perimeters: “Outlander.” It’s not a cookie-cutter romance, either. Right? Yet, today the male lead, Jamie, is listed as an iconic hero.

      Really sad to see what’s happening. Book publishing sales continue to dwindle and this doesn’t help.

  4. Beth, where did you see #4 on the GH eligibility: Individuals who have novels that “have been offered for sale to the public” are not eligible for the Golden Heart.

    I can’t find anything in the rules that say that, and from what they told me at the AGM, indie authors can still enter the GH as long as the don’t offer THAT SPECIFIC title for sale to the public while the book is under consideration for the contest.

    • Amanda Brice says:

      #4 on the eligibility is stated in the Hot Sheet, although it’s not currently on the website. It appears they may be in the process of revamping the website, because there have been many things in the rules that were there yesterday and aren’t there today, or vice versa.

      Anyway, in the hot sheet it specifically states that the RWA board clarified that individuals with novels that have been offered for sale to the public are not eligible, which is actually in contrast to what it says in the rules currently. The rules as listed on the website at the moment clearly allow indies who have never accepted a contract for publication from a publishing house to enter the GH with a different book. (Which I personally feel is against the spirit of the contest, but that’s a discussion for a different day.)

      So I’m hoping that they fix this problem. Is it the Hot Sheet clarification or is it the posted rule? Because the two are in conflict with one another, and that’s a pretty big problem.

      • Amanda Brice says:

        Oops, I stand corrected. It *is* in fact clarified in the rules on the website currently, in the preamble to the Golden Heart rules.

        “The purpose of RWA’s Golden Heart contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts written by individuals who have not published a Novel or Novella.

        For the purpose of the Golden Heart contest, “Novel” means a work of fiction of at least 40,000 words that is offered for sale to the public. “Novella” means a work of fiction of 20,000-40,000 words that is offered for sale to the public.”

        • Elizabeth Langston says:

          thanks for clarifying, Amanda.

          It took me a lot of time to comb through the content and distill. I don’t think (or hope) that the wording on the website is deliberately obtuse, but it did take some playing around to tease out the real meaning.

        • If you look at the definition in the RITA contest for eligible novel, it specifically states the book has to be one that is contracted by a publisher and NOT SELF-PUBLISHED.

          When I spoke to the board at the AGM, they gave the impression the GH IS open to indie authors but only for manuscripts that are NOT for sale to the public, hence RULE #3.

          This makes sense, because if my books are NOT eligible to enter the RITA, then my unpublished manuscripts SHOULD be eligible to enter the GH.

          I think that definition of NOVEL and NOVELLA at the top of the GH section is misleading, because NOWHERE within the GH rules or eligibility sectuib is the word Novel or Novella ever used. So what is the purpose of that definition?

          Eligibility is:

          “The Golden Heart contest is open to RWA members who have not accepted a publishing offer for a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by January 2, 2013. ENTERED WORKS must not be published as long as they are under consideration for the Award.”

          The rules say ENTERED WORKS can’t be published. They don’t say anything about individuals who have NOVELS that “have been offered for sale to the public” are INELIGIBLE for the Golden Heart.

          I interpret that as: Indies who do not have a traditional publishing contract are eligible as long as they don’t enter a work that is for sale or sell the title while it’s still being considered for the award.

          You’re the lawyer, Amanda. How would the legal world interpret this?

          Carol Ritter is away this week, but I left a message for Alison Kelly to see if I can get this clarified for everyone.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Ethically, I cannot give legal advice on a website.

            That being said, it is my belief that although these rules are hopefully contradictory, the preamble in which it states:

            “The purpose of RWA’s Golden Heart contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts written by individuals who have not published a Novel or Novella.

            For the purpose of the Golden Heart contest, “Novel” means a work of fiction of at least 40,000 words that is offered for sale to the public. “Novella” means a work of fiction of 20,000-40,000 words that is offered for sale to the public.”

            would control and indies are out entirely. This is consistant with the “clarification” in the Hot Sheet itself. (I’m guessing they realized the rule was vague and they wanted to close that loophole.) That being said, it is actually left vague in the actual eligibility rule stated on the website. However, I’ve noticed a lot of small tweaks happening to the wording over the past day, so I think they may actually be in the process of updating the language. (If so, they should not have posted anything until it was final.)

            So it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

            FTR, I personally don’t think indies should be eligible to enter the Golden Heart, even though we’re ineligible to enter the RITA. I know this will probably make me unpopular, but I do consider myself “published”, particularly since I’ll be filling out my PAN application shortly. I may not have sold my manuscript to a publisher, but I sell my novels every day to the public. Why would I enter the Golden Heart?

            Do I want to sell to publisher some day? Maybe. I’m not ruling that out. But I strongly do take the POV that the Golden Heart should be for unpublished writers, and even though I’m self-published, I’m published.

            OK, stepping off my soapbox. I agree the rules as posted on the website are contradictory and vague and I hope RWA clarifies them one way or the other, whichever way that may be. Because I can see the potential for litigation here if someone was really unhappy, either way.

          • I just had a long conversation with Alison Kelly. She said she’s not even certain if indies are eligible to submit manuscripts that are not for sale. She said she needs to talk to some people to clarify that.

            She agreed the eligibility requirements in the rules are open to interpretation, and she will be posting something more definitive in the rules as soon as possible. Her gut feeling is anyone who has ANY eligible length work for sale to the public will not be eligible, but for now, she can’t say for sure.

          • Shawn R. says:

            So if my work is self-published anywhere it’s not eligible for anything. If I want to enter prestigious contests I have to work with a “traditional” publisher or I have to decide to forego potential income on something I would otherwise offer for sale for several months.

            I don’t think that makes RWA sound particularly supportive of indie writers.

          • Trisza Ray says:

            Is it opening a new can of worms to suggest an RWA award category for Indy Publishing?

          • C.J. Redwine says:

            Frankly, the idea that RWA would extend PAN membership to indie authors but withhold the RITA doesn’t sit well with me. If an author is eligible for PAN, they are PUBLISHED and should be able to go after recognition, imo.

          • Carey Corp says:

            I’m with you CJ. The messaging seems to be that RWA wants indie and YA money without having to indie & YA categories.

          • Carey Corp says:

            meant: …without having to “support” indie and YA categories

        • Jami Gold says:

          Before, wasn’t the cut-off that you couldn’t be published in 40K words or more? Now, short novellas make you ineligible entirely.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Actually, 20K has been the threshold for disqualification at least since 2007 (when I started paying attention to the rules).

            When I finaled in 2008, before she told me I’d finaled, Trish Milburn asked me about a short story I’d published 2 years earlier. It was only 7K words, but apparently the RWA office was concerned it might have been a novella. Once I confirmed the length, she told me I was a finalist.

            Your manuscript must be at least 40K words to be eligible for the GH, but publication of a novella (20K-40K) would disqualify you since theoretically you could enter the RITA with it.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Last year, when the language used was “accepted an offer from a publisher,” they were still disqualifying self-pubbed books.

        How exactly is self-pubbing “accepting” anything, when no “offer” has been made, and the author is the publisher?

        Obviously, it was very confusing. The new language about work being “offered for sale” is much clearer.

        • Elisa Beatty says:

          Oh, wait…sounds like they’re still keeping the “accepted an offer” language. Well, hopefully that will be another tweak / clarification they’ll make. It’s very confusing.

  5. Kate Parker says:

    I’m going to miss NSRE. They’ve become some of my favorite stories, and now they’re not under consideration. In many cases, the authors will no longer be general members of RWA. I hope we don’t lose those talented writers, and the up-and-coming talented writers, and what they bring to RWA.

    Personally, and I may be the only one, but I like a single love story over a series of books. For me, it feels deeper and resonates more, maybe because I’m a long-view sort of person.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      This actually happens a lot in YA. It’ll be interesting to see if such books can survive under the new rules.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes, yes, yes!!!

      I hate the elimination of this category!!!

      It means Deanna Raybourn’s amazingly romantic Lady Julia Gray mysteries are no longer eligible, just because that romance took several (incredibly delicious!) books to play out.

      And Darynda’s Charley and Reyes wouldn’t be considered “romance” either. WHAT???????

      I realize RWA is concerned about the IRS challenging their non-profit status if they veer from their mission of supporting “romance” writing, but COME ON, PEOPLE!!! Re-word the mission statement slightly, or change the category to Novels with Central Romantic Elements.

      Aside from the death of the Regency category, this is the change that upsets me the most.

      • RWA defines Novels with Strong Romantic Elements as a subgenre of romance. The claim that eliminating NWSRE from the contests is necessary to maintain their nonprofit status is pure fantasy. The IRS doesn’t define what romance fiction is–RWA defines it. I’m sure the board has their reasons for eliminating the category from the contests–but either they’re not being straightforward about them, or they’ve gotten really poor legal advice.

        I also suspect that the reason Romance is weighted so heavily in the scoring is to prevent NWSRE from finaling in Single Title Contempory, etc.

        • That’s exactly what I was thinking! Having romance in a book as a subplot should be plenty reason to keep that story in the competition. I think this is a board that’s succumbed to an illogical terror of legal action and is over-reacting.

        • Tina Canon says:

          I feel the same way. I’ve been a reader of your blog for years and have been away and almost missed this blog. I write women’s fiction and planned to enter the category Novel with romantic elements. Now it’s gone! Ugh… I was also going to join the women’s fiction RWA chapter online. Now I’m not sure if I will renew my our RWA membership. Women’s fiction has grown so much over the last few years. I always have romance in my books and I love romance. But I also love showing my female characters growth. I’m afraid RWA is making a huge mistake. They are going to lose a lot of members. –Tina

      • Hope Ramsay says:

        The whole thing about losing their non-profit status because they are handing out awards to books that are not classically defined as romances can’t be right.

        The IRS doesn’t care about splitting hairs over the definition of a romance book. The fact is that RWA continues to fulfill its no-profit mission regardless of this change. It’s easy to blame a hard decision on the government, but I’m dead certain that’s not the reason this change was made.

        • Liz Talley says:

          It may not be the reason it was made, but that’s what’s being given. In the same vein, chapter presidents are being asked to address their membership regarding what the members are actually writing, and if it’s not romance, they’re being asked to consider changing their membership status. I’m super nervous to bring this to myh chapter in a few week because we have several writers who no longer actively write romance and several who had no intention of writing strictly romance. Ugh. I wish I weren’t pres this year.

          • Cathy Perkins says:

            Wait – the chapters are being asked to purge members who aren’t writing straight romance????

            I haven’t heard a word about this!

          • Liz, re: “chapter presidents are being asked to address their membership regarding what the members are actually writing, and if it’s not romance, they’re being asked to consider changing their membership status.”

            Was this in the leadership retreat? Our chapter president didn’t attend, and I’m the VP, but had a conflict during that time slot. This is huge. Our chapter would disappear–and we’re brand new. Few are going to continue their membership if they are a) told they can’t enter contests, and b) asked to change their membership to a non-voting one. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it’s like saying, “Y’all don’t really belong here.”

          • Trisza Ray says:

            I may be a little confused. Is RWA asking the chapter presidents to review what their writer’s are writing in terms of romantic content or is there a concern about alternative romance genres.

            I’m beginning to wonder if the backlash from my chapter precipitated this entire debate and the re-emphasis on central romance between a male and female and the withdrawing of NWSRE is RWAs way of circling the wagons and closing the door to alternative romance.

          • Carey Corp says:

            Liz, re: “chapter presidents are being asked to address their membership regarding what the members are actually writing, and if it’s not romance, they’re being asked to consider changing their membership status.”

            Really?! This makes me very sad. I am very PRO-RWA but based on what you said, I would not fit the new, narrow RWA scope. My YA and literary fiction have strong romantic components, but apparently that still makes me a bastard member. My local RWA chapter has always been a place for writers to come and learn from the best in the business, regardless of what they wrote. That acceptance has been a powerful testament to the romance genre in the greater literary community. But now we’re going to be separatist and segregate? Wait – I said “we” but I should get used to saying “they” – this is not my RWA.

          • June Love says:

            The new membership structure could be the kiss of death for smaller chapters who have to struggle just to get people to run for the board.

          • I’m not sure what is going on with the membership crap, but I don’t see how they can do this. What criteria? If you HAVE written romance in the past (i.e. my first 17 books) do I have to STILL be writing romance (as defined by RWA, not as defined by me) now? Do your books have to be on sale? In what format? What if you wrote a bunch of romances, but are now writing an urban fantasy series, do you potentially “lose” your active membership? And I don’t by that the SRE change was because of the IRS. Like someone said, RWA defines romance. SRE are romances in MY opinion and in many others, they just don’t fit the traditional mold.

          • Carey Corp says:

            Great point June! Me and two of my YA cohorts were entertaining the idea of running for our local board. It’s our duty to serve and we want to give back, but the direction RWA has set with these changes make me question whether it’s worth my time & money to continue my membership.

          • Carey Corp says:

            I meant “Two of my YA cohorts and I” LOL!

        • Trisza – I don’t think that’s what they’re getting at…I wasn’t given many of the details, but from what little I did witness in my stint at that same local chapter, RWA (Nationals) was very open to alternative stories.

          That being said, these stories would need to be structured/restructured to fit the new grading scale – which IMO is very hard to do in some categories (as I ranted about above). :)

          • Liz Talley says:

            I don’t think that’s the case at all. Alternative romance that is indeed romance is not the issue. But members who write poetry, straight sci-fi, non-fic, etc are being asked by RWA to examine their membership. This is a point I payed close attention to, but I feel very strongly that members will have to decide for themselves if they should be general members or associate. I’m not asking them to bring their work and checking it. No way. But I will announce that RWA is examining the members they serve and because romance is the elemental unity for the membership, that they are asking non-romance writers to consider where they best fit. I don’t think it’s intended to make anyone feel unwelcome, but more of a tool to insure common purpose in the writing. There was no directive issued to chapter leadership, merely a discussion.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Me, too, Kate. I’m wondering if it would just be easier to change our purpose to Romance and Women’s Fiction Writers of America. It almost makes me sick to think how many fantastic writers who give so much to our image will be set aside in this whole thing.

      Can’t we all write fiction for women and be one? I’m a unity kind of gal.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        I like the “romantic fiction writers” phrasing someone suggested…

      • Karen says:

        I attended the workshop at Nationals titled Blurring the lines between Women’s Fiction and Romance.

        An editor on the panel said a romance was a story with a courtship plot. Without the courtship, there is no story.

        A women’s fiction is a story where the woman wins or attains the goal she set out for. It can contain anywhere from 20 to 80% romance. But it would still be a story if the romance was left out.

        With different length fiction, the introduction of the hero/heroine comes at different page #’s within the story.

        I think the way the 4 tier scoring will determine the amount of romance in the story has to come from the synopsis. It is the only complete view of the story to determine how much of said story is actually a romance.

        If I’m correct, that means the synopsis has to be strongly written to convince those judges the romance is firmly rooted within the plot because there is no other way they can determine how big a role romance plays in the story without reading the entire manuscript.

        Don’t know if this is encouraging or not.

        I have friends who write stories that more fit women’s fiction lines but because romance is a part of life in anyone’s existence, their stories contain a romance. It just isn’t the focus.

        I can’t figure out why RWA is doing this. They are cutting themselves free of some really awesome stories that fit within their framework a lot better than I think they realize.

        • I suck at synopsis writing. Guess I need to get published, stat, before I have to enter another GH.

        • Karen, the answer to why they’re doing this is FEAR. It’s time to evolve, but RWA is clinging to safety–and I can’t blame them. The litigious climate we have these days makes everyone afraid. Mention the word IRS, and most people have a visceral reaction.

          The leadership is neglecting the big picture because of this fear. What we need–and God bless those wonderful volunteers who are serving us on the board now–is a board that is smart and practical but also fearless and visionary.

          This is a crucial moment in RWA’s history, a chance to solidify the true overarching mission of the organization–which IMO is to promote fiction that is essentially feminine or resonates with the feminine heart–and they’re botching it.

          It was fear talking when they slid these changes in at the AGM without warning anyone.

          We need to talk more about the mission of RWA. We need to update our vocabulary. We need to not be afraid that we’ll lose ourselves by striving to better ourselves.

        • Tina Canon says:

          I totally agree. To say I’m devastated is dramatic but true. RWA has been a huge influence in my writing as a women’s fiction writer. But now I feel ‘displaced’. Will this organization be a benefit to my writing still? Will attending conferences and joining chapters benefit my writing and career development? What about Baraba O’neals wonderful women’s fic books and her last Rita put her in the Hall of Fame. Now her category is gone from the Golden Hearts.

      • Liz, that suggestion came up years ago when women’s fiction started gaining traction as an alternative to writing strict romance and there was a great ballyhoo and nothing changed.

        I think the mission statement is the problem and that the name of the organization should slightly change. But mention this to traditionalists, and they get very, very upset. I still think the core mission won’t change very much and, most importantly, traditional romance writers won’t lose out at all.

        The worst thing to do is rein in your horse when it’s jumping…RWA is doing just that. They should’ve chosen risk over self-protection. They’re hurting the organization by shunning writers who want romance in their stories but who might want to put that romance into a context that’s not traditional–maybe a context that hasn’t even been created yet. One of our members could be the one to come up with the Next Great Thing!

        Yet RWA is now by default discouraging creative thought and pushing our writers, most of whom are women, back to the Stone Age with these restrictive new policies.

        No time to edit for gorgeousness. Back to the deadline!!!

    • Kelle says:

      I, too, will miss the SRE category. The line between SRE and “Romance” is a blurred one. Personally I’d rather see the GH/RITA eliminate the novella categories and focus only on full length books.

  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Being a working writer with a day job, I’m quite concerned about how much complexity and overhead the 4-tiered judging system may introduce into the process. I currently judge both the GH and the RITA, but if judging the contests becomes overly complicated or labor-intensive, I may have to reconsider whether I have the bandwidth to judge both contests.

    Like Hope, my primary GH and Rita judging criteria is the effectiveness of the storytelling. Does the story engage me? Does reading the story make time fly by, make me yearn for more manuscript pages? To me, this is the key, and I’m concerned that any weighting toward romance-specific criteria may skew the results in unintended ways. As Amanda mentions above, the romance-weighted criteria may pose challenges to YA writers in particular.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I’m with you in the frustration with anything that makes the massive judging task more labor intensive.

      And weighting Romance heavily in the Golden Heart when you only get fifty pages… Wow. Would my ’09 winning entry have bombed with this new scoring system? The hero and heroine have barely met at the end of fifty pages…

    • Jami Gold says:

      I agree. I *love* judging the GH because of the straightforward scoring. This is going to muck it up. *sigh*

  7. This may sound self-serving because Novel With Strong Romantic Elements is my category.

    As a reader–and one hopes RWA is considering this from a reader’s standpoint as well–one of my favorite new series is Darynda’s Charley Davidson series. NWSRE is Charley’s category. Where would she go?

    And, someone help me out here, I’ve read plenty of Romantic Suspense over the years, but where is the line drawn between J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas series (futuristic police detective novels with continuing romantic story arc over the series, right?)and Darynda’s series (paranormal PI novels with continuing romantic story arc over the series)?

    I would argue that the Eve Dallas series is NWSRE rather than Romantic Suspense, but I wouldn’t want to have that conversation with Nora. :) Hey–it’s whatever she says it is. She’s earned that. But for less established writers, where is the line?

    I think many of our stories across several genres may have trouble meeting the “central love story” and “optimistic ending” requirements. In the past, if the love story was important but not central, and the ending left open, it was an NWSRE book.

    I’m afraid many of us may be out in the cold. And I’m not sure this is just about contests. It seems more a statement of the intention by the organization to refocus on Romance with a more narrow definition.

    I may be wrong. I often am.

    • Dara says:

      I’m sad to see that category go too. I’ve never entered but was hoping to this year…guess not. :( My stories are not specifically romance; they have strong elements but a good part of them have a larger plot in play and the romance is a strong sidestory.

      Oh well. I’m sure I can find another contest out there :)

    • Yes, Susan, exactly! Nora’s JD Robb books have won the RITA in both the RS category and NSRE category, haven’t they? I don’t know how they decide which book goes to which category in a given year, but still. Her JD Robb books are definitely more romantic elements, and if you take the new rules/scoring system, her book probably wouldn’t have even finaled in RS this year.

      I’m very sad about the elimination of NSRE. :(

    • What you said! :-)

      I said this in reply to another comment, but I think it’s worth repeating:

      I understand that the organization is *Romance* Writers of America, but I disagree that only stories with a “central love story” can be considered works of romance. This is why I think it’s a mistake (and short-sighted) to eliminate the “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements” category.

    • Tina Canon says:

      Susan I feel same. :(

  8. I hate the changes.

    I think that telling judges they haven’t been judging right all these years by splitting components for judging and weighting the romance is wrong. We are the best judge. Yes, I get it, they want to narrow the perception of romance to the world, but how does that “further the interests of career-minded romance writers?” Honestly, does removing from consideration a lot of GREAT books where romance is important, but not THE most important thing, help improve the status of romance writers? It doesn’t.

    As a published author, I don’t like being judged on different elements of my writing — I think it’s wholly unnecessary.

    SRE is a catch-all for books where the romance is secondary, but still present. Look to the winner this year — GREAT BOOK (I read it) and it focuses on issues and themes important to WOMEN while also incorporating a later in life (the heroine is 40ish) romance. I loved this book, I think it represents romance fiction at the next level (I also loved the HQ Next line that got cancelled) and empowers women. I hate that it’s gone.

    That all said, I have always been an advocate of cutting the number of categories. I advocated when I was on a committee years ago that we have 5 categories all as “romance” (series, contemporary, suspense, historical, paranormal) but not if romance is weighted. Good books are good books. Great books stand out and final regardless of whether they are inspy or erotic or short or long. Judges are smart — they can mark NR if they feel the romance is not getting enough playtime.

    I also think that if RWA doesn’t want to recognize excellence in women’s fiction when we are largely an organization that represents female writers, then why do they want us to teach workshops and participate? Because obviously we’re not doing it “right” and shouldn’t be here in the first place.

    I think RWA is short-sighted and exclusionary in this thinking. We’re not growing anymore as an organization (I’m not talking about numbers), and if it wasn’t for the Kiss of Death chapter, I would not be renewing my membership.

    • Amanda Brice says:

      Well said, Allison. The elimination of that category really upsets me for all the reasons you stated.

    • Great argument, Allison. I hope you cut and paste what you just said in a letter to the board. They’re shooting RWA in the foot by excluding Women’s Fiction with Romantic Elements. Personally, I think Romance Writers of America should be changed to Women’s Fiction Writers of America.

    • Beth Langston says:

      As far as Central Love Story goes, I would like to see RWA change “central” to “integral” or “important.

      I don’t want the 2 young adults at my house to view romance as central to their lives. And I don’t want my fictional heroines to do that either. I want them to be multi-faceted. I want them to have qualities and interests that make it likely they could be a strong partner in a romantic relationship.

      I don’t really understand the rumor that this somehow has to do with the IRS. But even if that is true, how can a central romance qualify RWA for one set of deductions… and integral romance does not?

    • Trisza Ray says:

      Why the changes in the first place?

      It seems the RITAs have it right. Everything I’ve seen nominated in the past 3 years that I’ve been involved in RWA, are novels that are selling well and have immense popularity in the ‘real world’ so it seems to me, the RITA judges have there fingers on the hearts and pulses of the novels they’re judging AND the what the general public wants to read.

      For the GH it may be harder because the manuscripts are unedited and final judges are looking at marketability and how ready the novel is or isn’t for publishing whereas preliminary judges (like me) are judging for potential, how the manuscript resonates and how they connect with the story and the heroine. So many good GH finalling manuscripts (and winning manuscripts) are still unpublished.

      Is it because with final judges they are more objective vs preliminary judges who tend to be subjective? That is the reason why I think RWA should offer workshops or training for judges.

    • Liz Talley says:

      This. Exactly.

      Why can’t we fiddle with out mission statement to include Women’s fiction? Those books are about the journey women take to empowerment with a little romance along the way (or hint of it). I HATE this idea more than anything else. Narrowing the categories doesn’t bother me as much either. I figure streamlining is fine. Maybe even raises the visibility and prestige in the public realm. But I don’t like that romance is weighted so much. I don’t even understand the ratioinal.

      Okay, I’m starting to get worked up. Need to lay off the coffee.

    • Kat Sheridan says:

      Actually, sadly, erotic romance is NOT a category. I’ve always wondered why inspy deserved its own category but erotic romance had to hide itself in some other category and pray that it didn’t get a judge who who would be shocked and horrified of it.

  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    I do love the change to all-electronic for the Golden Heart.

    But most of the other changes don’t make much sense.

    I hate the highly artificial four-tier scoring system. Again, I realize RWA wants to wave flags in the air to let the IRS know they’re all about ROMANCE, ROMANCE, ROMANCE (to preserve their non-profit status), but *pleeeeease.* So many of us have talked about how much we love the single-number, gut-reaction way we judge the Golden Heart. It was all about “do I love this as a book, and would I race to the bookstore to buy it if it were published.”

    Now I’m going to be scratching my head trying to separate out romance from writing style and character and….ugh.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      And, yes, this is self-serving, but I hate the elimination of the Regency category.

      I can’t find any firm statistics more recent than 2006, but most of what I’ve seen is that historical sales overall make up about 20% of the market, double or more than double paranormal, inspy, or romantic suspense. Shoving all the great historical books out there into one slot isn’t a fair reflection of the market.

    • Mary Curry says:

      Somewhere in my files, I have the really old score sheets from when they had something like a 150 point base. It was two pages long and resembled many of the chapter contest score sheets with all the judging points.

      CONGRATS on your win!

    • I think the new scoring is going to encourage a lot more of those “East German” judges we’ve all had in one contest or another. I won this year’s Para GH, and I sometimes have a hard time separating the romance from the style, grammar, etc.

      Anyone is allowed to judge the GH – regardless of whether they know a comma from semicolon, active vs passive voice, etc.

      That’s why I loved the old scoring system. It boiled it down to “do I like this story?”

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Lord, yes.

        And it’s also going to have fair-minded judges feeling railroaded into giving scores that don’t quite “feel right” to them…..

  10. Mary Curry says:

    Interesting changes. I read the Hot Sheet but totally missed the part about deadline changing to January. Bet that’s gonna mess with people’s holidays. There was something good about having to have entries out the door before holiday madness set in.

    Thanks for sharing about this today. It’s so great to read everyone’s perspectives. I always mean to check in here and forget. I’m glad I saw Anne’s FB link today.

  11. Deanna Chase says:

    I am really sad to see the NWSRE category go away. This means all my favorite urban fantasy books will be ineligible. My own books are boarder line paranormal romance and quickly moving into urban fantasy.

    I’m also really upset that self-published authors are still not eligible for the RITA. Not that it would matter much to me with my books being left out of categories anyway.

    This is the second time I’ve seen reference to writers of NWSRE might end up as not a general member. Is that true? Who decides to kick us out or rework our membership status?

    • Amanda Brice says:

      I am a chapter president, although I was unable to attend Nationals. However my VP attended the chapter leadership retreat on my behalf and she took notes about what was discussed.

      As she explained it to me, there is some discussion about General membership vs. Associate membership. However, RWA has no plans to kick out romantic elements authors from general membership since it is still “romantic fiction” (note the use of the adjective romantic as opposed to the term Romance).

      The Associate status is intended to be used for writers who are not writing either Romance or romantic elements (many local chapters have a large number of pure mystery writers or science fiction writers who join the local RWA chapter simply because they like the workshops and feel more welcomed by the chapter than by the local writing group for their genre), or for people who are using RWA as a social club and not actually writing at all.

      It’s about protecting the non-profit status.

      • Deanna Chase says:

        Thanks for the clarification, Amanda. Very helpful.

      • Liz Talley says:

        Also, other than the changing of the status, not much else changes. Associate members can’t vote on Board election, can’t vote on bylaw changes and can’t be on the Board. Otherwise, there is no other change. They can still vote on policies and procedures, etc. So essentially, all they give up is “voting” membership, which doesn’t seem to be such a big deal to me. I suppose I would hate to lose full membership, but I suppose meembers will have to look at what they gain by either membership and decide for themselves. I just don’t want to police the process. Feels very “Big Brother” to me.

      • It seems they want it both ways — membership and dues from those who write “romantic elements” but they don’t want an SRE category in our peer award. Seems silly and contradictory to me.

      • Christa Selnick says:

        I have yet to find a bookstore with a “romance” section as well as a “romantic” section. Likewise, I’ve never met an editor who’s said, “I only acquire romance manuscripts, but my colleague buys romantic fiction.”

        I’m sorry to say the Board’s position on this makes little real-world sense to me.

  12. Mary Curry says:

    One more thing –

    I’m wondering how much about the changes has to do with protecting the RWA brand.

  13. I really hate the changes, for selfish reasons. It essentially eliminates urban fantasy from competition. Urban fantasy authors with romantic elements are also unwanted by Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, who think we write too much romance. Now, RWA is telling us we’re unwanted (well, like SFWA, they’ll take our dues but not include us in their highest peer competitions) because our romance doesn’t outweigh our stories.

    I also have been a Rita judge for the past several years and it bothers me to be told I must weigh romance twice as heavily as plot, characterization, and writing skill. Then again, are those of us unwelcome to enter the competition as of 2014 also unwelcome to judge?

    • Trisza Ray says:

      Excellent points and intriguing questions.

      Do you have to enter the GH or RITA in order to be a judge?

      • Elizabeth Langston says:

        I don’t think so. I’ve judged the GH in years I didn’t enter.

        • Amanda Brice says:

          No. I’ve judged the GH the past two years without entering.

          And now that I’m eligible for PAN yet not eligible to enter the RITA, they’ll be more than happy to sign me up as a RITA judge (since they’re always woefully short on judges for that contest and regularly end up sending judges twice as many books as they’d requested — often 9 or 10 full novels — I hear the trick is to sign up to judge the novella category so you have less reading to do) yet disenfranchise me from entering.

          That being said, I know that a large part of not allowing self-published books in the RITA has to do with the fact that the contest fills up super quick as it is, and they don’t have enough judges to read the entries they already have, so as long as the RITA continues to be short on judges it will be very difficult to make the case that they should let in even MORE entries.

          So I’ll sign up to judge. (Well, actually the sign-up period will probably take place before they process my PAN application, so I might end up having to judge the GH again anyway.) Because I don’t want them to use the “not enough judges” excuse as a reason to keep indies from the RITA sometime down the road.

  14. Trisza Ray says:

    Several months ago, I made a comment about contest judges on the 2011 GH Starcatcher Loop.

    It has always been my opinion that contest judging is inherently flawed. There are those of us who spend countless hours learning and studying our craft. Hundreds of hours and dollars attending workshops, buying books on writing and reading blogs. Every free minute or extra dollar I get, I’m buying a trade magazine, attending an on-line workshop and reading published authors in generally every category and I KNOW that most of you do the same.

    BUT, there are writers out there who don’t bother to read outside their sub-genre, who don’t bother with learning basic writing techniques including plot structure, character development, sub-plotting, and other elements of story mechanics yet they routinely judge other writers’ work.

    I can’t complain specifically about GH judges–my winning manuscript scored very high–but there have been other contests I’ve entered were I honestly felt a particular judge couldn’t possibly be a serious writer. Based on some comments I’ve received, I seriously wondered if the judge was an actual adult over 18. I have had judges go on rants about religion, sexuality, and even one judge who told me that a “black woman would never behave this way” in reference to my main character who is biracial. I have also had judges criticize medical references in my manuscript. One judge wrote a scathing comment about blood spatter evidence, insisting that the correct wording is blood splatter.

    I’ve also had a judge criticize that there was “no romance” in an entry that called for only the first 10 pages of the manuscript. The contest was one that focused on a “great beginning”. Obviously, the judge hadn’t even bothered to read the rules. There was no category on the score sheet scoring romantic elements because the contest was supposed to focus on the beginning of the story but she included her own score sheet category and even commented “You’re story had a great beginning but there was no mention of romance and the hero and heroine never got together so I took off for lack of a romantic element”. This was the actual wording, includint the misuse of ‘You’re’.

    I think the GH is spot on in breaking down the scoring but I think it is so sad that they have to. A GH judge should not have to have the scoring broken down in such a manner.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I’ve been thinking about a requirement to educate judges too.

      For YA authors, this issue comes up a lot. YAs can have varying levels of sexuality (ratings anywhere from G to R/NC-17). They can have cursing and drinking. Those features shouldn’t inherently ruin a score. Yet it is common for YA judges to grade down because “YAs shouldn’t be doing that.”

      I’d like to see our YA-RWA special interest chapter generate some rules to help judges judge.

    • Yes, exactly. All of this. Only you said it more eloquently than I did above.

      That probably means I’d give your MS a low score ’cause it’s too hard for me to understand. ;)

    • Kylie Griffin says:

      RWaustralia & RWNew Zealand saw a need to train our judges with the goal of developing consistency with scoring etc. and, while it’s not mandatory, a package was developed to assist any volunteer who put their hand up to judge any of our contests.

      I know there was a lot of time spend developing this training package but I do believe it was worthwhile. For those volunteers genuinely interested in developing their skills this proved invaluable. It also helped those who didn’t think they “could judge” because they had “no idea where to start”.

    • charli mac says:

      I have done well in some contests, others not so much. I had one judge highlight at least 3 phrases per page ranting about cliches. Problem was she didn’t know the meaning of cliche. I also had one judge confused by my olive complected MC. You see he is Cuban and she thought all Cubans were white. I also have issue that the .GH takes any volunteers from the membership , regardless of skill level.

    • I’m very worried about the judging as a result of the new score sheet for the Golden Heart. Right now I’m wondering if it’s even worth it to enter any contests (and I’m coordinating one in 2013 so I should be a proponent) because I don’t trust the judges anymore. It seems like the better my craft becomes and the more editor/agent interest I receive as I query and submit–positive interest which shows that I am improving as a writer–the worse the comments are and the more holes the anonymous judges (published Pro and unpublished) try to poke into the story itself. I’m so burned out on judging and entering contests that I think I’m going to take a year off and see how the dust settles.

      As far as the redefinition of the membership status based on one’s own evaluation of one’s work as a romance/novel with strong romantic elements, I have so many thoughts that my head spins. Many of my RWA sisters and a few brothers aren’t writing pure romance, but they are vital members of the organization who give back to RWA locally and nationally. This membership reclassification feels very negative. I don’t want to lose my fellow writers due to this change.

      Just my two cents.

  15. Honestly, I think Pro members should judge the RITAS and PAN Members judge the GH. Now that would make things interesting.

  16. BTW, this whole thing about protecting the non-profit status sounds ridiculous. If WE as an organization can define what ROMANCE is, how does SRE jeopardize our tax-exempt status? It seems to be the excuse for EVERYTHING RWA does that is controversial. “Oh, we have to do this because of our non-profit status.” I think it’s BS, to be honest, and haven’t seen any good explanation. It’s like the most ultra-conservative approach to running an organization. What is the IRS going to do, read all the SRE finalists and say, “Oh, this isn’t a REAL romance, we’re getting rid of your non-profit status.”

  17. One more thing — RWA is so happy to tout the statistics that more than 50% of mass market sales are romance. What happens when they remove all the books now ineligible for the RITA because they’re not “romance” — regardless of where they are shelved or what the publisher thinks? Barbara Samuel, Susan Wiggs, Kristin Hannah, and even many of Debbie Macomber’s books are women’s fiction with romantic subplots. They’re happy to include all these mega sales into their stats, even though the board doesn’t think they are “real” romances.

  18. Trisza Ray says:

    I’m a little confused about the GH rule:

    The Golden Heart contest is open to RWA members who have not accepted a publishing offer for a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by January 2, 2013. Entered works must not be published as long as they are under consideration for the Award.

    Does that mean that if I’v accepted an offer from a publisher on Jan 1, 2013 but I don’t have a release date (or my novel will not be offered for sale) until Jan 1, 2014, I’m not eligible to enter the GH?

    • Trisza, my interpretation is that if you accept a publishing offer or offer your book for sale (ie. self-pub) at any point between the entry deadline and the announcement of the winners, then you are ineligible. *I could be wrong.* I believe this is the case for RWAustralia contests — if you accept an offer, you have to withdraw from the contest even if you’ve reach the finalist stage.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Again, this is something we need to ask for clarification on.

        To me, “published” means “available for sale.”

        But if they really mean “contracted”….then, good grief, it might be very, very unwise to enter Golden Heart at all.

        Those two-and-a-half months between announcement of finalists and the day final judges’ scores are due are PRIME TIME for finalists to sell.

        And if they really mean no sales until late July when winners are announced, it’s FOUR whole months.

        It’s crazy to tie finalists’ hands for that long….

        • Trisza Ray says:

          Exactly. Once you are a GH finalist so many doors open for you. What if you accept an offer before Nationals? Do you have to withdraw?

          The language needs to be clarified and either ‘contracted’ or ‘published’ should be used. Not both.

          For continuity and clarity, I think it should be based on a publishing date.

        • Trisza Ray says:

          Until a manuscript is actually ‘published’, it is still a manuscript.

        • I had the same interpretation: published = available for sale. So if you sign a contract before the GHs are announced, you’d need to tell your publisher not to release it before then.

          I’m stunned by how loosely worded these updates are. Aren’t we a writers’ organization?

          • Trisza Ray says:

            The board should have had a thesaurus, dictionary AND the US Constitution on hand during the meeting.

          • Kylie Griffin says:

            Umm, dictating a publication date to your publisher seems rather forward, don’t you think? :-)

        • Karen says:

          Crazy example of that concept. GH Inspirational had only 4 finalists this year. 3 of the 4 had sold by the time we arrived at Nationals. 2 to Love Inspired and 1 to a small press. None are out yet, but soon.

          Mine was the only one left. Does that mean I won by default? Not thinking that’s what I want editors thinking about when they read my submission.

          And what a way to bust my bubble of thinking I had accomplished something great. All I did was take the role of the turtle in the Tortoise and the Hare story. Not gonna think about it. Nope.

          • Anne Barton says:

            Karen, you DID accomplish something great!!! A GH entrant’s status as unpubbed or contracted has no bearing on the judging. Congrats on your win, and may it lead to a sale! Congrats to the other Inspy finalists too–lots for the Firebirds to celebrate!

          • Congratulations on your GH win, Karen! I absolutely ditto what Anne said.

        • You make a huge point here, Elisa. From my perspective, the whole point of this ‘unpublished’ competition is to garner the attention of publishing industry professionals who want to BUY THE MANUSCRIPT. I sold my GH manuscript before the finals were announced in 2009, and I thought that was the whole flipping point.

          This wording is obscure at best and a disservice to a contest of longstanding value in our community.

      • This really confused me as well. Another reason to save my $$ and invest in something different like educating myself or maybe a case of cheapo wine. :-)

  19. I agree with a lot of what has been said. Seems like “romance” is being pushed with a rather heavy hand, whether with scoring or with the elimination of the NWSRE categories or the change to YA. Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding something, but some of the posts suggest the changes are intended to protect RWA’s non-profit status. How do the two things correlate? I’m not getting something here.

    And because I’m a Regency writer, I’m most curious as to why Historical and Regency were lumped together.

    Also — these were changes the board made? The membership doesn’t get to vote on such major changes?

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I don’t understand why there wasn’t more discussion BEFOREHAND.

      I didn’t attend the annual meeting (my bad), but were these changes just ANNOUNCED, not voted on???

      • Elisa, I didn’t go to the AGM, either–too much going on. But who knew all of this was on the table? Not me. I saw notices about signing proxies, and some mention of topics to be discussed, but what I saw was very high-level, and sounded benign. If I’d known these very specific and important things were going to be discussed I would have gone. But you ask a very good question. Were these things voted on by the membership, or were they announced by the board?

  20. Thanks for posting this, Beth. I’m pleased about electronic entry for the GH–that’ll save me at least $100 in postage, not to mention decrease my carbon footprint!

    However, I’m sad about a few things: the loss of NWSRE, the scoring system (I *loved* the ease of giving a overall score based on how much the story resonated with me), and changes to the YA category.

    I attended a workshop at Nationals in which the speakers said romance is the subplot in YA–today’s YAs are more about the hero/ine’s journey and growth. That struck a chord in me because my own YAs are now less romance-focused than my previous books. There are love interests, but they’re not the central focus of the book. So…perhaps the GH won’t be for me this year. It’s a fun ride, but I’d rather expend my energy on achieving publication instead.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Well said, Vanessa. And an interesting point you raise…

      Do editors want to purchase books (such as YA) where romance is the main plot?

      Could RWA (via the Golden Heart contest) be encouraging unpublished authors to write books that editors aren’t interested in buying because the romance is over-emphasized?

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Ouch. Great point, Elizabeth.

        And I love what you’ve been saying about how wrong it is to encourage our teen readers to think “romance” should be the central element in their lives.

      • Amanda Brice says:

        VERY good point. I can think of some published YA novels where the romance is in fact the most important point. But most of the books that are actually YA Romance per se (not romantic elements), the romance is only part of the plot, with the other aspects of the plot taking just as much stage time (if not slightly more).

        I’ve finaled in this category in the GH twice: in 2008 with a YA time travel romance, and in 2009 with a YA mystery with strong romantic elements.

        With this new rule, obviously CODENAME: DANCER would be out. It has a strong romantic theme and the love story was an important element (which was the standard previously), but the love story is not the central focus and there’s no resolution of the romance (it’s a continuing series, so I won’t resolve the romance until several books down the road), so I’d be out under the new rules.

        But I even though PARTY LIKE IT’S 1899 would be out, even though it’s truly a YA Romance (not just elements). The love story is not the main focus of the manuscript — the time travel and the character growth of the heroine finding herself/overcoming her prejudices play an equal role in the plot, if not slightly more central than the love story. But the romance is pretty darn central, and the resolution of the romance is optimistic and satisfying. However, even if it’s central, it’s not primary, so I think it would also be out.

        Frankly, it seems to me that this category description has been written by someone (or someones) without a clear understanding of the market and the genre.

      • Rita Henuber says:

        Do we really want to tell a 13-19-year-olds that romance and an HEA is that important?

    • Trisza Ray says:

      I’m conflicted on this subject. I think you are absolutely right in that a YA should focus on the emotional growth and journey and that the romantic element should not be the main focus but I do get RWA’s position in that the main element in a romance should be the romance.

      But are they taking it a little too literal? In most literary works, personal growth and development is the overriding tenet of the novel. In a horror novel, the elements of horror are a big part of the story but ultimately, the work is about the characters’ development, struggle and growth. It’s the same for mystery/suspense/sci-fi etc. Novels are about the characters. The mystery, horror or romance is/are the elements that sustain dramatic tension.

    • Carey Corp says:

      Agree with this whole thread. Young adult is it’s own genre is not a Romance genre. If romantic elements are not enough, maybe RWA should cut YA out all together. These changes are a SLAP in the face to YARWA members who have given so much to their parent org.

  21. Dara says:

    I’m sad about the NWSRE category. That’s mainly what I write. The romance is almost always a secondary element in my plot. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to enter other contests instead. :) Too bad because I always wanted to enter GH but as of now, I can’t.

  22. Trisza Ray says:

    My local RWA Chapter disbanded this year and RWA revoked its affiliation but they made no mention directly about the underlying issues in the decision of the chapter to disband and the revocation of its affiliation with RWA.

    The issues are still there and revolved around gay/lesbian romance and categorical considerations in the contests including GH and RITA.

    Are we still ignoring the subject?

  23. Tammy Baumann says:

    I have a little different take on the new scoring system.

    For years, I entered the Golden Heart and received decent scores, but didn’t final until this year. It often left me wondering WHY I got an 8 instead of a 9. I think the new scoring system may help writers understand where their weaknesses are. Be it characterization or plot etc. The new system may make the entrant feel they’re getting more for their money, and that the contest is FINALLY electronic will also help. I’m guessing many of you, like me, waited too long and paid WAY too much to ship our entries at the last minute, making the GH a very expensive contest that garnered no real feedback. It felt more like buying a lottery ticket and hoping for the best. (Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I had complete strangers come up and give me hugs at the conference last week just because I had a little ribbon that said I was a finalist. Very cool to be appreciated like that. And so wonderful to be a part of an organization that celebrates each other’s successes ;0)

    That said, I’m sad to see Strong Romantic Elements disappear as well. Maybe we should ask the board to reconsider that decision?

    • To me, other contests are better for writers who want in-depth scoring on their strengths and weaknesses. The Golden Heart (and the Golden Pen, for that matter) is about the gut shot, the first impression, the editor’s red pen.

      I wanted RWA to provide some kind of descriptive scale that we could use. I think Laurie did one on the blog a while back, and I use it when I score GH entries.

    • Katrina Snow says:

      I also think the new scoring system may benefit writers more than the old method. My scores last year ranged from 3.7 to 8.2 and left me scratching my head wondering where I’d gone wrong. I think the new system will at least pinpoint weak areas or show where the judge had issues with the pages.

      Along with others commenting above, I am a bit concerned that the Romance portion is weighted so heavily, as it’s tough to develop that in the first 50 pages. Then again, the judges will also read a copy of the synopsis, so if that is written well, they will see how the romance unfolds throughout the story and perhaps that can influence their decision about the Romance score.

      Hey, and congrats on the win!

  24. Trisza Ray says:

    Why can’t GH Finalists and Winners judge RITA if more judges are needed?

    Hate to belabor the point but maybe if RWA certified judges (developed mandatory training workshops etc) they could open up a whole new pool of potential judges.

    I get why you wouldn’t want inexperienced/new writers who may or may not be serious about the craft judging such a prestigious contest like the RITAs but RWA allows anyone to judge GH. GH entrants have more at stake than RITA entrants and they deserve knowledgeable judges too.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      I have nightmares that that is exactly how I finalled and one day they’re going to let me know they let a 4th grade science class judge my entry ;)

  25. As the Golden Pen coordinator, I’m just shaking my head and wondering how we’re going to respond. We model our contest on the Golden Heart. Will we continue to follow their lead? Or will we stick to our guns and keep the old rules in play?

    • Amanda Brice says:

      The Golden Pen’s selling point is that it closely resembles the Golden Heart, accept that you get feedback. And since the scores are returned before the GH deadline, it’s used by many as a way to hone in on and tighten their GH entry.

      Obviously you’re keeping the “old” categories and rules this year since the contest is under way, but now entrants in several categories won’t be able to apply that feedback to polish their manuscript for the GH.

      So that’s sad.

  26. Trisza Ray says:

    Although I’m complaining a lot about the changes, especially the obscure and inconsistent wording, I wholeheartedly support RWA and am grateful and thankful for those members who actively attend the board meetings and make policy decisions.

    I also vow that I will become more proactive and interactive.

  27. Rita Henuber says:

    Just when I thought our industry was beginning to settle down … the brown stuff hits the fan. I have so many questions.
    If this very large organization can change its rules, why can’t it update its definition of romance?
    Do we want to return to the 70s bodice rippers style of romance?
    Will members drift away from RWA causing chapters to fold?
    How will new contest rules affect chapter contests?
    Will some new organization that embraces everyone being shut out by RWA spring forth?
    I respect RWA’s right to make the rules. That said, I don’t fit into any one prescribed pigeonhole. I am who I am. it’s beginning to feel like RWA wants to fit me, along with many other multifaceted authors into a single little round hole. I won’t go!

  28. Gwyn says:

    I’m with Rita. The tiered structure reverts romance to “Hi. How are you? Want to get it on?” instead of the multifaceted genre it’s become over the years. To me (and do keep in mind this is a personal opinion), this sounds more like RWA is a springboard for erotic romance (despite the lack of a specific category) than the more traditional boy-meets-girl-chaos-ensues-love conquers-all romance. Yes, a compelling love story doesn’t necessarily require sheet time from the get-go, but the judges see three chapters, the first quarter of the book at best. This is where the characters are first becoming acquainted with both each other and the difficulties that could prevent their HEA. So, that leaves the majority of the romance arc to the synopsis, and that isn’t judged.

    Personally (again, an opinion), I think RWA is shooting themselves in the foot, disenfranchising many of their memebers. Members, I dare say, who will find the support they need elsewhere. Time has opened other doors for the budding writer, regardless of gender, and you can bet those organizations will take full advantage.

    • Gwyn says:

      Make that “regardless of genre.” Need more coffee. ;-)

    • This is how I feel too, Gwyn. If I don’t write hot and sexy, in your face romance, is there a place for me? Because I think I write romance…but my romances always develop slowly and the focus is on the emotions, not what happens in the bedroom. I know not all readers demand hot and sexy, but I’m always dinged on my books for not having enough physical romance between my hero and heroine. Isn’t romance more than just the physical?

      • Dara says:

        I hope they are taking their cues from that 50 Shades of Gray stuff.

        And my stories take a “behind closed doors” approach to bedroom scenes. Since romance is a secondary element for most of my writing, I don’t find it needed. Plus some of us don’t always want to read the detail of the bed romp.

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        I LIKE slow-developing romances. It’s so much more real and heartfelt than the “I’ve seen you for three seconds and I MUST have you” fantasy.

  29. Ann Macela says:

    What I don’t understand at all is why there was no general discussion with the membership BEFORE any decisions were made. We were not consulted in any way that I can find. Who were these “consultants” who came up with the ideas? Why did we go to them and why did they suggest the changes? What is the Board trying to do and why?

    What the Board voted in, they can vote out, right? These changes are not to the By-Laws where members must vote. I’m off to write the Board and express my opinions. I truly suggest that everyone do the same. Talking and complaining among ourselves just raises the blood pressure and doesn’t reach the people who need to change the decisions.

    • Great point, Ann. I don’t see why the members weren’t given an opportunity to vote on these changes either. And you’re right. We should be taking our concerns and frustrations about these new rules to the board. If we don’t speak up, they’ll assume we’re happy with the new changes. Time to go work up a letter! :)

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      yes, yes. Many letters to the Board….

    • Christa Selnick says:

      Great reminder, Ann. If we feel this strongly, we should definitely write to the board. (Respectfully, of course!)

  30. Here’s a question — what message does eliminating the NSRE category send to the Elements of RWA online chapter? You’re not welcome? (because you don’t write romance as *we* see fit to define it?)

    Just curious…

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      THIS is exactly what I was wondering. That seems to be a really active, successful group of writers who give back to the writing community.

    • charli mac says:

      As a board member of Elements we are…angry, angry, and angry. We are formulating a response to send to nationals and demanding answers . We shall keep you posted.

      • Christa Selnick says:

        Deborah, that’s my concern as well.

        Charli, I’m the 2008 GH SRE winner, though Im sorry to say I dont belong to the Elements chapter. I’d be interested in what your chapter board decides to say. I hope you’ll post your letter online and let us know where to find it.

    • Tina Canon says:

      I was wondering the same thing! Under the new standards for memberships, most of the writers in this chapters would not be considered ‘voting’ members because they don’t write ‘romance.’

  31. Kay Hudson says:

    Let’s keep in mind that these new rules (which don’t seem quite solid yet) are for contests, not for membership, or for what is or is not welcome in RWA. From what I understood at the AGM, RWA hired a consultant to help bring the Rita into the same sphere as other respected genre contests (Edgar for Mystery, Hugo and Nebula for SF, etc.) by focusing on romance. Categories vary a lot across the contests in RWA–Rita and GH don’t have Erotica categories, for example. A lot of chapter contests don’t include Inspirational, or YA, or whatever, usually because they don’t have enough judges. That doesn’t mean those writers aren’t welcome.

    I haven’t been around long enough to be sure, but I suspect the split between historical and Regency goes back to the time of traditional comedy-of-manners style Regencies, which really were a very different subgenre. Those books have virtually disappeared, and current Regency stories are much more in the general historical vein. I do remember when there were long and short historical categories, and those are long since gone.

    I am a little puzzled by the new scoring system. It might be helpful for some entrants, although I do like the one-number gut-feeling scores.

    • I’m the first to admit I’m a little touchy on this subject, as we had similar arguments in the OK chapter. But for me, I see the GH contest as an effective way to jump to the top of the slush pile.

      I noticed firsthand my partial requests went up when I had “GH Finalist” in the subject line.

      Yes, these new rules are just for the contest, but in some cases, that gives the author a leg up with agents/editors. So to offer this opportunity for some genres but not others is inherently discriminatory. (One of my main concerns with the OK chapter issues, only the subject in that case was erotica and s/s as opposed to genre).

      Is this RWA’s fault that editors and agents pay more attention to finalists? No, but that’s the reality (at least IMO).

      I don’t think RWA is trying to exclude these members, but they aren’t helping them (in the contest sense – RWA is MUCH more than just their contests) either.

    • Cathy Perkins says:

      Actually, I learned today (see the posts above) that people who don’t write straight romance will be demoted to a non-voting, “associate” membership status.

      So the repercussions extend beyond the contests

      • This makes more sense to me – still not saying I agree with the decision – but at least the logic is slightly more sound.

        I can at least see RWA’s point in trying to tighten the focus back to “romance”.

        But I also agree with all the people above who say there are fewer and fewer straight romance books on the shelves these days, especially with paranormal and YA and Women’s Fiction.

        Sigh. All I can say at this point is I don’t have any good ideas on a solution, so I certainly can’t blame RWA for trying to find one.

        • The problem, as I see it, is the narrowing view of what a “romance” novel is as defined by the contests (GH/RITA). The Board may not have intended to send a message to writers who don’t fit the contest criteria that they aren’t writing romance (and thus, perhaps, not as welcome at RWA), but I think it’s an indirect result of these changes. I also think the Board should have been able to foresee this response, and who knows? Perhaps they did.

          Unless and until a better explanation of why they made the changes is provided to the membership as a whole, I’m afraid the reactions that have been expressed in these comments aren’t going to just “go away.”

  32. Nan Dixon says:

    Love the electronic changes and the date changes.

    I’m wondering why they didn’t address the revisions between submission of a manuscript and requests from editors. Hoping that if they are trying to get people to publication that it means you can still submit changes if there is a request from the judges.

  33. Bria Quinlan says:

    I do understand wanting to stick close to the mission, but when it comes down to it, this is the question I would have asked: What shelf does it sit on?

    How many of those Romantic Elements books end up in the romance section? So many, right?

    As for YA, I think they’re going to see a drop in (what would hopefully be) great entries. How many YA writers are going to risk the money on entering a contest where someone could say, “Oh, there was a good romance, but I thought her thing about family/image/dealing with school/etc where the character is learning who she is was stronger…” Which, it’s about teens. If there isn’t something else going on, I’d question that book.

    On the flip side, Bravo to them for finally going electronic. Paper & Cost savings all around.

    It’s a shame that so many author’s are being (basically) told to leave. If your primary touchstone (this contest) says you aren’t eligble, where do you fit in the group as a whole?

    • Carey Corp says:

      Bria – did you see the comment from Liz Tally about chapter presidents? “chapter presidents are being asked to address their membership regarding what the members are actually writing, and if it’s not romance, they’re being asked to consider changing their membership status”

      To me, this is even more alarming than the GH changes. It’s tragic really – the beginning of the end of an organization that I love.

      • Bria Quinlan says:

        Holy. Moo. Cows.

        No. I’m still reading through them, but figured instead of say, “Yup.” “I agree.” “Yup.” everywhere I’d write my thoughts first.

        RWA is racing toward not being able to pay their bills then.

        I used to tell all my writerly folks, I don’t care what you write, get into RWA because they will teach you how to be the best at being a writer. So sad those days are over!

      • Agreed. I’m totally baffled about this entire strategic shift. (And not in a good way!)

      • Amanda Brice says:

        I’m a chapter president, although I’ll be the first to say I was not at the chapter leadership retreat last week since I didn’t go to Anaheim (new baby in the house and all that). However, my VP was there and the way she explained it to me is that it’s not so much about telling Romantic Elements people that tehy have to become associate members (RWA says no, they’re not kicking these members down in status) but that writers who don’t write any sort of “romantic fiction” (notice the difference — they didn’t say Romance) at all.

        Evidently several chapters have a lot of members who write straight-up mystery with no romantic elements, or science-fiction, etc. (I’ve heard it said that the local RWA chapters are much more welcoming than many of the other local writing groups, so sometimes authors come to us to take our workshops and end up joining.) And some chapters ahve members who use RWA as a social club and aren’t actually writing.

        These are the types of members that presidents will have to encourage to consider changing their memberships to associate stauts rather than general.

        And believe me, I was worried for a while there when I saw the elimination of romantic elements, because I’m a local chapter pres. I’ve written YA Romance in the past (although the love story wasn’t the central focus) and I’m currently writing YA Romantic Elements, so I was worried that *I* might not even be eligible for General Memership (and thus not eligible to serve on my board, let alone be president.) My immediate past VP is a former Golden Heart winner for Romantic Elements, and several other members of my board are also SRE people. Was my chapter suddenly going to no longer have a board?

        RWA assures me this is not the case.

        • Bria Quinlan says:

          And so those focused writers who are mystery, fantasy, etc who may have almost-no to no romance? Are they booted?

          Personally, if someone said, Yes we understand you pay the same dues, give back a lot to your RWA chapter, and are working very seriously toward publication, but you don’t count… I’d say, great. Please pro-rate my membership and send me a refund as of the date of the meeting at Nationals.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Not booted, but rather asked to convert their membership to Assosciate status. My local chapter’s board is discussing how we would possibly police this, but I think we’re going to have to remind everyone of the various classes of memership and have them self-identify. I don’t know.

            Classes of Membership

            •General Membership: open to all persons seriously pursuing a romance fiction writing career. Only General members shall have all rights of membership, and only General members shall have the right to vote and the right to hold office in RWA.

            General membership is not available to: non-writers who work in the publishing industry, writers pursuing a writing career in something other than romance fiction, or writers who are seriously pursuing a career in romance fiction but also work as an editor or reader for a publisher or agent, and whose responsibilities in any way affect whether or not a submitting writer’s work is accepted or rejected by that publisher or agent. These individuals must apply for Associate membership within the association.

            •Associate Membership: open to all other individuals, including employees of RWA and its contractors, who support the organization and its purposes but who do not meet the requirements for General membership or who are not permitted to participate on RWA’s general discussion listservs by reason of being involved in the acquisition process*, i.e. publishers, acquiring editors, or agents who actively acquire romance fiction or actively offer representation to writers of romance fiction, as further described in RWA policy. Associate members shall not have any voting rights or the right to hold office in RWA.

            *“Acquisition process” means the process by which manuscripts are reviewed and evaluated by any individual who is employed or contracted by a publisher that actively acquires romance fiction or by a literary agency that represents authors of romance fiction, for the purpose of either recommending that a manuscript be considered for acquisition or representation, or be rejected and removed from consideration by that publisher or literary agency.

            •Affiliate Membership: open only to booksellers and librarians. Affiliate members shall not have any voting rights or the right to hold office in RWA.

          • Bria Quinlan says:

            Oh Amanda, that feels too “Second Class Citizen” to me :(

          • Amanda Brice says:

            I know many are skeptical, but it really does have to do with protecting the 501(c)(6) professional business league status of the organizationi. If too many members are writing something other than what is proscribed in the mission statement, then the IRS could potentially deem it a social club tax dodge.

          • I definitely agree, Bria; however, I don’t believe any other longtime professional writers’ organization allows members who don’t write in that particular genre–mystery, science fiction, etc–because you must be published (novel or short story) in qualifying markets to even qualify for membership. If the story of the RWA bringing in a consultant to boost the RITAs up to Nebula/Hugo level, I can see why they are moving towards a tighter line regarding the definition of the romance genre, the activities of its membership, and what types of books are published by the membership.

            Back in 1981, the RWA was not founded with the equipment to deal with the changes we see in 2012 because the market was so new, and because American romance writers had little foundation on which to spring into publication, so the organization was open to all dues-paying members. Fast forward to today and we have e-publishing, erotic romance, YA romance, m/m romance, indie publishing, digital first imprints created by NY, and a huge shift towards digital everything, period. There are so many kerfluffles, this one included, because the RWA was only equipped to handle authors published by or hoping to be published by Harlequin and other category romance lines, and the various romance imprints created back in the 80s and 90s.

            Now that authors have so many genres in which to write, and so many markets at their disposal, matters have grown a tad out of hand, and I can see why the board feels they will have better control over the direction of the organization–and the industry–if they make the agenda of the RWA less generic and more specific to romance writers whose books say “Romance” on the spine or category on Amazon, and are shelved in the romance section of Barnes & Noble or your local library. It sucks that it seems they are kicking out scores of people willy nilly, but if the RWA’s inertia is slowing because they are trying to be all things to everyone, including members who don’t even write romance genre novels, their present and possibly future actions are understandable.

          • Bria Quinlan says:

            Great points Evangeline. Very well put. But, I do think it’s sad to lose-to-gain… And the shelving issue would still typically include a large number of Romantic Elements.

        • Carey Corp says:

          Thanks for clarifying Amanda. It is good to know that author who write works with romantic elements will not be relegated to second class status. This still makes me a bit leery. How do you quantify active vs. inactive and what percentage of romantic content meets eligibility. If RWA is going to encourage that chapters suggest some members downgrade to Associate Status, the least RWA could do is reduce the fees for that membership.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Preaching to the choir, Carey.

          • Bria Quinlan says:

            AMANDA – Is there anyway you could just follow me around in all of life clarifying things?

            I am still a little … leery of RWA suddenly doing this though.

          • Liz Talley says:

            I don’t think RWA can “force” this. But by saying they make it clear what general membership comprises, namely pursuing a career in romantic fiction, they protect all the membership. If you write women’s fiction/paranormal, suspense, fantasy, etc with romantic elements, you pretty much are safe. But we have members in my home chapter who do not write ANY romance. These members are the ones who must “police” themselves.

            If I step back and look at this, I see lots of shade of gray, and I think RWA knows this. But publically, the stance has to be firm on ROMANCE because that is our identity and the bond that knits all of the subgenres together.

            So, no, you won’t be asked to change your membership if you write romance, but if you write non-fiction Christian coffee table books, you might want to consider changing your membership. Or if you write poetry. Or sci-fi thrillers. Or historical fiction with no romance….

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Another difficulty with what Liz just raised is what happens when you have members of your chapter that joined because they were writing romance, but these days they’re working on a memoir? Or non-fiction about fitness? Or a Scrivener how-to book? (Although in that case, I know for a fact she’s still writing romance as well.)

            Is it enough for them to plan to work on their romantic fiction once they finish the “other”? Or what about the other category that they’d mentioned, which is people who aren’t writing anything at all. What constitues “not writing”? Kerri Carpenter did a blog on the Waterworld Mermaids the other day about her dirty little secret that she hasn’t written a single thing since the beginning of May because she has writer’s block.

            Or me? I went through a period there where — despite my best intentions — I didn’t write for over 18 months between pregnancy, having a preemie, and then the inherent exhaustion of new motherhood and returning to work after maternity leave. I started writing again once my little girl was 13 months old, and then almost as soon as I started, poof! I found myself pregnant againt, and utterly devoid of energy so was falling dead into bed at night without getting any writing done. That went on until my little boy was 2 months old. So after a 18-month stretch of no writing, I then had another roughly 9 months of no writing. OK, granted, I had a book on the shelves at that point and fans who were eagerly asking for the sequel, but I wasn’t actively writing.

            So under this standard, should I have been an associate member? How long can a stretch of writers block last before RWA would potentially deem that the member is using it as a social club?

          • Carey Corp says:

            Great point Liz.

            I don’t want to perpetuate misinformation or distort intent. I do agree that adhering to RWA’s romance-centric identity as a non-profit is very important.

            What would be helpful would be some clear vision communication on the whats and whys from RWA. Something that reaffirms why the romantic emphasis is central to the organization while not making current non-romance focused members feel like second class citizens. That way, rather than perpetuating conjecture, we can align and support our organization.

            Honestly, I recommend my RWA and local chapter to anyone I meet who is serious about writing. But I will be hesistant to do that if that if strong distinctions are made between Full Members and Associate Members.

            ALSO most organizations that have levels of membership have a pricing discrepancy. Less rights equals less dues. If membership becomes a point of scrutiny, then pricing structure be scrutinized as well. I can’t help but wonder if their consultant did a best-in-class survey of similar non-profit organizations as a mitigating factor in his/her recommendations.

            Amanda – I know I’m preaching to the choir (LOL) but I’m hoping this dialog will reach RWA leadership.

            And can I just say – the Ruby Sisterhood Rocks for hosting this interchange. Thanks RSS!!!

          • Carey Corp says:

            More great points Amanda and Liz.

            Now that I’ve had some time to rant and process, what I’m sauggesting is RWA could have done a better job with this communication and execution. Here’s where the corporate world comes in handy. If you are going to refocus on membership classifications (and it seems like the reasons driving the focus are sound), do it as a restructuring/reorganization – bundle it with GH/RITA changes as a holistic realignment. Tier membership pricing to support General and Associate distinctions and announce with plenty of leadtime. And above all, give some sound background as to why these changes are to the benefit of all. This way we all move toward the same goal as one.

            Again – hoping RWA pays some attention to these threads. :)*steps off soapbox*

          • Jody W. says:

            All right…playing devil’s advocate…let me ask a question. Looks like the big difference between General Member and Associate Member is the right to vote and hold an RWA office. Considering how many members bother to do either of those things (hint: not a majority), why would not being allowed to vote or hold office make that much of a difference? What other differences are there? In what other ways would a move to Associate Membership curtail a writer’s benefits from belonging to RWA and/or a local chapter?

          • Carey Corp says:

            Great questions Jody (and thanks for playing DA). I see a couple of issues with the membership shift. Local chapters would suffer because less members would be eligible to serve on the boards. (I think I have that right – you have to be a general member to serve on local boards, right? I might be wrong on this point, so feel free to correct me.)

            Next, RWA seems to be encouraging non-romance centric writers and those not actively writing (which is a gray area) to take associate membership status. That makes sense and fits RWA’s mission, but RWA requires Associate Members to pay the same amount in dues. That does not make sense. Usually if an organization has tiered membership they also have a tiered pricing structure. Now RWA has not historically tiered their dues to align with General or Associate memberships, but if we are to scrutinize membership, then dues must fall under the same scrutiny.

            And third, being a YA author with strong romantic elements in my stories, I get to keep my General Membership. Which would be fine if RWA wasn’t invalidating my genre with contest definition and scoring changes. Although YA typically has romantic components, it does not fall into the romance genre. The market demands more than a romance centric plot. So this messaging confuses me. Does RWA support YA (and by extension, me) or do they not?

    • Carey Corp says:

      “AMANDA – Is there anyway you could just follow me around in all of life clarifying things?” Bria – I’m with you!

      Amanda – your time devoted to clarification is a testament of your passion for this organization. It is very appreciated!

  34. Diana Layne says:

    I guess electronic entries will be less of a logistics nightmare for RWA but I for one don’t like electronic entries and stopped entering and judging so much when chapters started going electronic. I don’t like other writers work on my computer nor do I like my work on theirs. I also hate judging electronic entries because it keeps me tied to the computer even longer. I liked being able to judge the hard copies anywhere. But I’m a dinosaur, I know.

    • Amanda Brice says:

      The nice benefit of judging a contest where you don’t have to mark up the pages with comments is that it makes reading the entires on your Kindle feasible. My biggest beef with judging electronic entries is that it was so much easier to mark up hard copies, but if I don’t have to mark something up, I can just send the entry to my Kindle and voila! I don’t need to spend additional time in front of my computer.

      • Diana Layne says:

        I didn’t think about the Kindle, but you still have their stuff on your computer (which, yes, I know you can delete, but with the hardcopies you’re supposed to keep them until after the winners are announced, so I’m guessing you gotta keep those electronic entries until at least then) plus my work would be on their computer–ok, what’s the difference than them having my hard copy entry where they can just retype my work if they wanted? IDK. It just feels…different, lol.

    • Gwyn says:

      I’ll be the Pterodactyl ( maybe I’d learn not to dislike flying so much!). I stopped judging several contests for the same reasons. I’ve enjoyed judging the GH, but I tend to do overview reads (for general feel), marking only the real WTH stuff, then read for content, mechanics, continuity (which often requires going back and forth within the entry) and whatnot. This means the pages are at the table, in the livingroom, etc. Hunching over the computer for the hours judging requires, on top of those spent doing my own work, doesn’t appeal on so many levels, including my back, my neck, and several other aging body parts.

      • Bria Quinlan says:

        Seconded what Amanda said. After the last contest I judged, I gave myself a year to say “no” to every contest except the GH because of the time, effort and emotional strength it took to give feedback to a couple of the entries ;)

      • Diana Layne says:

        I’m not even gonna try to fly, I’m a big, lumbering, Brontosaurus. :)

  35. I’ve skimmed over most of these comments, and want to reiterate something I posted to the Kiss of Death chapter this morning.

    NONE OF US are in this business to win contests. We’re in it to write books we love and see them published and in the hands of readers. Period. That’s it. Contests are only one narrow avenue toward publication.

    The RITAs are a little different because they are a peer award, and recognition from fellow authors that you wrote a damn good book that’s representative of the genre. I would love to win a RITA someday. That probably won’t happen under the current climate, but that’s okay. Because that’s not why I write. And it’s not why any of you are writing.

    Don’t write toward entering contests. There will be RWA chapters that will fill the void that was left when RWA decided that many of us no longer fit within the framework of their public face. Write stories you love, because those are the stories that sell. If you change anything to fit a contest criteria, you’re not writing a book you love.

    Most of us don’t sell off contests. Some do, and yeah! I’m glad, because getting published is HARD. But most of us don’t sell off contests, and we shouldn’t think that these changes are going to have any impact on whether we sell. Write what you love, write with passion, break the rules–stand out among the masses, because as more unpublished members come in and listen to RWA’s strict definition of romance, they’ll neglect to develop their unique and wonderful voice.

    Good luck to everyone, published and unpublished, in getting the first or the next contract!

  36. Charli Mac says:

    I am a board member of the Elements of RWA Chapter #211. We are in the process of formulating a reponse to Nationals.

    We are disappointed, angry, and feel betrayed. Our category was founded a few years back to SAVE NWSRE.

    On MyRwa you can go to the section called GOVERNANCE and read past meeting minutes. While doing some research for our letter together I came across something interesting in the March 2011 Board minutes. There it was discussed as part of the RWA Strategic Plan to evaluate the RITA/GH contests. During this meeting a motion was made to hire a consulting firm. What is stated on page 7 I think many will find interesting.(After a motion is made, a rationale must be given.)


    Dorien Kelly moved that the proposal from Organizational Performance Improvement Systems, dated February 2, 2011, to evaluate the objectives and procedures used in conjunction with the RITA and the Golden Heart contests and thus optimize their value to RWA, be formalized in contract form and returned to the Board for approval in June 2011.

    Rationale: RWA’s Strategic Plan calls for increasing the perceived value of both the RITA and the Golden Heart among the general public. The Board of Directors recognizes that they, like all of RWA’s members, are writers and thus direct stake-holders in the contests. An unbiased external source is best suited to help RWA better position these contests.The motion was adopted by general consent.

    Wow, we’re stakeholders are writers? Never woulda guessed that based on the fact it was voted on without the membership’s approval or knowledge.

    Fast forward to the Board Meeting Minutes for March of 2012. They made a motion to take the results from the consulting firm and create a task force to investigate the findings. That task force was to report their suggestions/findings at the July 2012 Board Meeting.

    They did and it resulted on what we found on the Hot Sheet.

    Also, since the fallout the National Board has given 2 groups 2 totally and completely different answers. I guess they didn’t think we’d begin to compare notes. I can’t paste them here because they are on loops/private emails but I can summarize:

    One stated that NWSRE authors will not be forced into associate memberships, why? Because they are romance writers. That the category is defined as romance.

    Another group asked why the NWSRE category was removed. Nationals told them because when the consulting firm asked why they awarded Novels that were not classified as romance, they couldn’t given one good answer.

    So, which one is it? Are those who write NSWRE considered Romance Writers and our work considered Romance or not?

    Can’t have it both ways. Either we, the writers of NWSRE are romance writers and our work is part of the romance genre or its not. They can’t say yes, you can pay your dues but not be awarded the benenits they are bound to provide according to their mission. Now that is what I call A VIOLATION OF THE IRS NON PROFIT TAX CODE.

    Sorry for the diatribe, it’s been a very long week. I shall keep everyone posted. Feel free to email me. I could go on for days about this…


    • Charli Mac says:

      And, in case you were wondering, the July minutes are not available yet. It is one of the many requests we are making to Nationals.


    • I mentioned above that I do understand why these decisions were made, but I really think the RWA should have looked to the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association if they wanted a better model on how to define the organization’s agenda. Because now, shuffling women’s fiction and romantic fiction (whether it be a series like Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega, or Deanna Raybourne’s Lady Julia mysteries) off the mortal coil is like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Particularly when many romance genre editors also acquire WF and romantic novels.

  37. I think RWA is in for a BIG surprise when they see how few people volunteer to judge the GH this year. Not only do a lot of people dislike judging electronic entries, but many of their past judges won’t volunteer because they’ve been declared ineligible to enter either the RITA or GH.

  38. Mary Roya says:

    So what can be done to resolve this issue?

    • charli mac says:

      Write a letter to the nationals board and voice your concern and ask questions. We, my chapter, are asking what the formal process is to appeal a motion made by the board. And we are asking to see the report from the firm.

  39. Kelle says:

    I think the changes in scoring are a bad idea. (1) They don’t reflect how a reader reacts to a story. Does the story work or not? Is it compelling? That is ALL that needs to be said. Breaking it down into elements doesn’t approach the way readers “judge” works of fiction. (2) It makes judging a LOT more work. How many of us will volunteer for that?

    If I were judging I would probably just give the entry a 1-9 rating then mulitply each percentage by that number without breaking things down in my head. It may be wrong, but I wouldn’t put that much additional effort into judging this contest.

    In any case, I fall into a gray category of having sold (thus ineligible for GH)but not being eligible for PAN (thus also ineligible for RITA). The rules don’t impact my career path (much), however, they do make me loath to judge the GH (and ineligible to judge the RITA). I continue to judge chapter contests (my way of giving back to the industry)and would gladly volunteer to judge if I were eligible for one contest or the other. . .

    BTW everyone has had insightful and interesting comments on this topic. I agree with several of the other posters that we should write to the board and express our concerns. They do, after all, claim to represent the organization–which is US.

  40. I wanted to expand on a (nested) comment I made above. The problem, as I see it, is the narrowing view of what a “romance novel” is as defined by the contests. The Board may not have intended to send a message to the membership whose writing doesn’t fit the contest criteria that they aren’t writing romance, but I think that is an indirect result of the changes made. The Board should have been able to foresee the responses that have been expressed in these comments (and I’m sure elsewhere), and who knows? Perhaps they did.

    Allison is right — we aren’t in this business to win contests. However, if the most important contests/awards in the organization don’t accurately reflect, a) romance publishing as it exists, and, b) the type of books many of the members self-identify as writing (romantic elements, as well as strong romance as an integral, but not central, component — including YA) and which they (and the industry) still view and shelve as “romance”, then there’s a real problem. (And that’s not even opening up the cans of worms regarding the lack of awards for Erotic and GLBT romance).

    Wanting to “elevate” the contests in the eye of the general public is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you chop out whole categories of books to do it. Perhaps it means you make sure your definitions for those categories are better worded. I don’t know. But there has to be a better way — even if it means opening up a dialogue with the membership first, before making what feels like wholesale changes.

  41. Ann Wright says:

    As a member, I’ve followed this discussion with much interest, but on reading certain comments, I’ve done so with growing concern. I’m a corporate attorney licensed to practice in several jurisdictions, although not in Texas. Of course, I can’t advise anyone as to matters of Texas law, and even with corporations formed in jurisdictions in which I am admitted, I can’t render an opinion without a review of all relevant documentation. However, as food for thought, I can point interested members toward some provisions of Texas nonprofit corporation law, IRC Section 501(c)(3), and RWA’s charter documents.

    Section 22.201 of Chapter 22, Nonprofit Corporations of the Texas Business Organizations Code states that: “Except as provided by Section 22.202, the affairs of a corporation are managed by a board of directors.” See As to the exception, Section 22.202 provides: “The certificate of formation of a corporation may vest the management of the affairs of the corporation in the members of the corporation.” See So, if RWA’s Certificate of Formation doesn’t expressly reserve the management of the affairs of the corporation to the members, then that duty resides in the BOD.

    RWA’s Certificate of Formation isn’t on the RWA website. However, RWA’s Restated Bylaws appear at Section 7.1 of the Bylaws provides: “Except as otherwise provided in the Certificate of Formation, the affairs of RWA shall be governed by its Board of Directors…. It shall be the Board of Directors’ duty to carry out the objectives and purposes of RWA, and the Board of Directors may exercise all powers of RWA except as otherwise reserved in these Bylaws and the Certificate of Formation of RWA.” This section of the Bylaws tracks the statute, suggesting that the affairs of RWA are governed by the BOD, not by the members.

    Generally, the power of members of a nonprofit (and even a profit) corporation typically rests in the election of the members of the BOD. Yes, members must vote on certain actions other than the election of directors, but these actions must usually have a substantial impact on the structure of the corporation. Section 22.164 of Chapter 22, Nonprofit Corporations of the Texas Business Organizations Code provides that “fundamental” actions require member approval. These include: (1) an amendment of a certificate of formation; (2) a voluntary winding up; (3) a revocation of a voluntary decision to wind up; (4) a cancellation of an event requiring winding up; (5) a reinstatement; (6) a distribution plan; (7) a plan of merger; (8) a sale of all or substantially all of the assets of a corporation; (9) a plan of conversion; or (10) a plan of exchange. See

    To maintain IRC 501(c)(3) status, a nonprofit corporation must operate in accordance with its stated tax exempt purposes. See,,id=96099,00.html/ Section 2.1 of RWA’s Restated Bylaws sets its primary purpose as follows: “To advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy: means for such advancement include, but are not limited to, professional education, publications, contests and awards, and an annual conference.” I presume that RWA stated this as its purpose on the 501(c)(3) application. The question then becomes: Who is a romance writer? Further, to maintain 501(c)(3) status, a nonprofit corporation’s activities can’t serve the private interests or benefit of any individual or organization (other than the 501(c)(3) organization) more than insubstantially. I presume that the BOD, after have received proper advice and counsel, decided to make changes to the contest rules to avoid non-compliance with these requirements.

    The BOD has not only the power, but the duty, to ensure that RWA acts in compliance with the Certificate of Formation, Bylaws, Texas nonprofit corporation law, and federal and state tax statutes (including 501(c)(3)). Even if the members were to elect new directors, those directors would have the same powers and duties. Apparently, RWA had changed direction since its formation and tax exempt status grant. The changes are to return RWA to compliance. If the membership believes that RWA’s stated purpose doesn’t advance its needs any longer, the membership should pursue an amendment to the Certificate of Formation and Bylaws (with any and all consequent 501(c)(3) filings). In the alternative, dissatisfied members could break away and form a nonprofit corporation that meets their needs and advances their goals.

    I can appreciate that some members are shocked/angry/disappointed by the changes to RWA’s contest rules and membership category eligibility, and by the method that has brought about those changes. However, I’d suggest that, before taking any action, they give due deliberation to at least the basics of Texas nonprofit corporation law, federal and state tax statues, and RWA’s charter documents, and that, when they do approach the BOD, they do so through calm, courteous, and contemplative discourse.

    • Courtesy and civility are never a bad idea, so thanks for the reminder, and yet, nothing in Texas law precludes the plain common sense of consulting the people affected before you undertake to make changes in the way an organization operates.
      Texas’ lawsuit against Christie Craig suggests our board might have to be extra wary of litigation, but again, notice and an opportunity to be heard are the basics of due process–a chance to chime in could easily, EASILY, have been provided prior to any action being taken, and much of this after-fussing avoided.

      • Ann Wright says:

        In the United States, the term “due process” is a constitutional right afforded under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution having to do primarily with: (1) affording procedural due process in civil and criminal proceedings; (2) affording substantive due process that prohibits state and federal governments from depriving an individual of life, liberty or property without due process; and (3) preventing the enactment of vague laws by the government. The members of a nonprofit corporation have no right to due process. If the BOD has the power and duty to manage the affairs of the corporation pursuant to the Certificate of Formation, the members can’t claim that the BOD shouldn’t have acted without consultation with them. Moreover, I’ve never seen the BOD of a nonprofit corporation with thousands of members consult the members before enacting a resolution, unless the issue at hand involved a fundamental action requiring a membership vote (e.g., dissolution, sale of all assets, etc.). Again, the members of a nonprofit corporation have the power to elect the members of the BOD. However, the BOD may not act contrary to applicable law or corporate charter, no matter what the members may want. For this reason, I believe that the issue isn’t the BOD, but the charter documents. The members have the power to seek an amendment of the Certificate of Formation (and its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status) that would allow a broader purpose. Unfortunately, for mistakes made in the past (that is, when RWA changed its direction), the present BOD has been made the target of some member’s anger, frustration, etc.

        If you are referring to Texas Department of Transportation v. Christie Craig, et al. in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, the petitioner sought an injunction against the respondents for trademark infringement. Federal trademark law has nothing to do with state corporate law. So, I just can’t see how the trademark infringement claims in this case, or the denial of a preliminary injunction to the petitioner and the ultimate confidential settlement of this case between the parties, could have any impact on the issues under discussion.

        I assume that this isn’t what you or anyone else wants to hear, but I think a lack of understanding of the applicable law and charter documents places the concerned members in a weak position, not a strong one. In other words, I don’t think the members should argue due process or trademark law or any other inapplicable law or case, but rather, bring their concerns to the attention of the BOD and suggest a workable framework. If changes can be made that are in compliance with the applicable law and charter documents, I can’t see why the BOD would refuse to enact them. Of course, this wouldn’t only require BOD and member discussion but consultation with Texas corporate counsel and tax counsel. So, in other words, the wheels might grind along more slowly than desired.

        • You make the point wonderfully: The board might have been trying to keep a legal agenda straight, but they’ve not observed the basic, common sense priority of providing notice of their intentions, and an opportunity to be heard regarding those intentions to the people most directly affected.
          Grace Burrowes, JD, MA, who happened to graduate first in her Ivy League law school class, but who desperately hopes enough well written romances will get her the bleep out of the courtroom one year soon

          • Amanda Brice says:


            I’m concerned about these changes and how they apply to me as a member whose genre seems to have disappeared, but know it was well-within their legal authority to do what they did. My biggest concern arises from their failure to provide notice of their intentions or hear their constituents out. Due process doesn’t apply, but common sense, sound organizational policy, and good PR would dictate that they would have done a better job of rolling out these changes.

            Amanda Brice, JD, LLM

          • Amanda Brice says:

            By the way, thank you for the explanation, Ann. Very informative.

          • Ann Wright says:

            I do agree that the BOD might have considered a different approach. However, even though common sense priority, etc. sounds good on its face, I can’t agree as a matter of corporate law that the BOD should have given the members a notice of intention and an opportunity to be heard. Under the Bylaws (and presumably the Certificate of Formation), the BOD has the duty to manage the affairs of RWA. The initial members gave the BOD that duty and didn’t reserve it for themselves. If the BOD governs by poll of membership (nevertheless by poll of thousands of members), the BOD has failed to do its duty. For this reason, you won’t see the BOD of any nonprofit or profit corporation with thousands of members running things by those members before taking action (unless it involves a vote by law). If you suggest otherwise, you aren’t thinking as an attorney, but as a member.

            Consider that there might be an even more important reason as to why the BOD did what it did in the way that it did. Nonprofit corporations that have changed direction after the filing of their 501(c)(3) application have lost their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. I can’t assess the risk to RWA’s status without a review of recent rulings under 501(c)(3). However, if you represented RWA, would you have advised the BOD to make a statement that it had veered off course and needed to make changes to bring it back onto course? Would you have handed that juicy bone to the IRS?

            I think we’re beating a dead horse to continue a discussion along these lines. Even if the members had been given notice and hearing, the result likely would’ve been the same due to the constrictions of the applicable law and charter documents. Of course, the members would’ve better understood the need for the changes, but the BOD might’ve left a more damaging paper trail.

            If the BOD has adopted a resolution to make these contest and membership changes due to Texas nonprofit corporation law and IRC 501(c)(3), then I’d suggest you move on from the prior notice and opportunity argument, It sounds good in the moment, but it won’t get you where you need to go at the end of the day.

            To restore the nsre category, to allow for non-romance YA entries, to allow writers of novels in which there is no central romance to remain general members, it might well require an amendment of the Certificate of Formation and By-laws (with consequent 501(c)(3) filings). To accomplish this, it’d require the mounting of a campaign among the membership, the calling by the BOD of a special meeting of the members (I’d have to check the Bylaws on special meetings), the voting of the membership, and the filing of the applicable federal and state paperwork. Do you see my thinking, not as a member, but as a corporate attorney?

            However, as a first course of action, I’d bring the concerns to the attention of the BOD, hear what the BOD has to say, and consider whether there might be a simple solution.

            From Ann who graduated with honors from a top ten law school, who was an editor of and published author in the law review, who has won an award for legal scholarship, who has represented profit and nonprofit corporations at large Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York law firms for almost 25 years, and who loves to help others but hates to be slapped for being the bearer of unwelcome news.

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Seriously, thank you Ann. I don’t think anyone is slapping you for being the bearer of bad news. RWA had no legal requirement to give notice, but I wish they had from a PR standpoint is all.

            Onwards and upwards…

        • Ann Wright says:

          I agree that if the BOD had engaged a PR firm to assist in rolling out the changes, some of the members mightn’t have had such a shocked reaction, at least not initially. With the way the BOD handled the matter, these members might’ve reasonably concluded that the contest and membership changes were the sole idea of the BOD. More, based on this understanding, some might even think that if they fire off enough angry letters, they can reverse the changes.

          I’m not certain whether the BOD actually understands the reason for the changes, just the need for them. Of course, attorney members can follow a discussion such as this, but non-attorney ones likely can’t appreciate the gravity of the issues (and I wouldn’t expect them to do so). I have no idea whether the BOD received the advice of RWA counsel. However, I can say that, if I represented RWA, I would’ve advised the BOD not to make any statements that could place RWA in legal jeopardy.

          In any event, no matter why or how the changes came about, I think the membership should move forward, not look backward. What does the whole membership want—for RWA to serve its original and stated purpose, or for RWA to evolve into a different organization that serves a broader purpose and membership? As someone explained above, RWA was formed to further the goals of romance writers, but somewhere along the way, started to further the goals of other writers. Depending on what the unhappy members decide to do, the whole membership could be called upon to decide the future of RWA.

          For these reasons, I set out to warn unhappy members not to fire off angry letters to the BOD, but to help those members understand the possible issues and encourage them to enter into calm, courteous, and contemplative discourse with the BOD.

          • Charli Mac says:


            It’s not a matter of the legal right of the board. It is the lack of clarity in their responses since the announcement.

            One of the problems is that the RWA isn’t saying outright why they deciedd to make the changes. They have responded to two different inquires from members with two completely different answers. They answered each member with whatever sounded good to keep that member happy. Problem, the board didn’t think anyone would share notes.

            One response stated that although the contest changed, the member is still considered a romance writer, spelling out that authors of Strong Romantic Elements are romance writers. So, the will not be demoted to associate member for writing such.

            Another reponse stated that the reason for removing the category was because the Consulting questioned why RWA gave awards to writers who wrote outside the genre. Why are they giving awards to no-romance books? The response from the board was, they didn’t have a single answer.

            So, which is it? Are those who write NWSRE romance writers or not? RWA cannot have it both ways so they we continue to be happy little soldiers and pay our dues.

            The board should just come out and say, we are returning to traditional romance. Period. Not passifying anyone who dares question with a tailored response to make them happy.

            As far as the legality of it all the BOD defines what romance is. Adn taht definition should coem form the membership. You think the IRS is sitting around with a bunch of novels saying this is romance and this is not? The IRS has been the go to excuse for the board to do as they please for years.

            While yes, the BOD doesn’t legally have to tell us squat MORALLY they should. The BOD serves the body, not their own agenda.

            In regards to the above statements they are lying to one of those members which I think would be against some non-profit law. The mission is to advance the careers of Romance Writers. These changes seem to be defining what a Romance Writer is without having the courage to really spell out their intentions.

            Just my few cents.


          • Charli Mac says:

            Sorry for my above typos. Really got excited while typing, lol.

            For clarification the Consulting FIRM asked the BOD why were they awarding non romance awards to non romance writers. Just to clear up any confusion.

            I wonder who this firm is that knows so much about the Romance genre and the nuances of publishing…


          • Ann Wright says:

            I have not disputed that the BOD has handled this in an unfortunate way. I do think the fact that members of the BOD have provided inconsistent explanation supports my conclusion that they don’t really understand the reason for the changes, or in the alternative, has been counseled to avoid a clear answer. But I’d point out that the question isn’t “What is a romance novel?” but instead, “Who is a romance writer?” as that is at the heart of RWA’s stated purpose in its Bylaws, and presumably, its Certificate of Formation and IRC 501(c)(3) application.

            The IRS doesn’t have to sit around reading romance novels. From what you say, the outside consulting firm has pointed out that the contests include non-romance novels which, of course, means that the membership includes non-romance writers. That’s what we call a paper trail. And when a nonprofit corporation has changed its direction after the filing of a 501(c)(3) application, the IRS is more than happy to revoke 501(c)(3) status.

            You can send all the letters you want to RWA and RWA chapters, pointing out the inconsistencies between the explanations of the members of the BOD, arguing about the definition of romance novel, and so on and so forth. However, I think your energies would be better spent on first obtaining an official statement from the BOD, then possibly on seeking a special meeting of the membership to consider an amendment to the Certificate of Formation to allow for a broader purpose than furthering the career goals of “romance writers.”

            By the way, I agree with you that the BOD can’t serve its own agenda, but I’d point out that it also doesn’t serve membership segments. The BOD serves the nonprofit corporation, which is in essence the entire membership. For that reason, I see the ultimate disposition of this matter as one within the power (and vote) of the entire membership.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Thank you for researching and writing this response.

      I agree that we need to raise our issues to the BOD in a productive way. Venting (politely, of course) in forums like this is a good first step to get all concerns aired.

      I can understand why they want to comply with their own mission statement. What I don’t understand is why we weren’t already.

      • Ann Wright says:

        Bravo! I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. When did RWA veer off course? Who set the new course? Didn’t RWA consult with legal counsel or its accounting firm at any point along the way? Did this now become an issue because, when RWA retained the outside consulting firm to assess the RITA, someone spotted these issues?

        No matter the why and hows, I can appreciate that some members are quite devastated by the developments. They have become general members of an organization that soon mightn’t recognize them as general members. They have written mss for a category that won’t appear in the next GH (and in the RITA the year after that).

        Strength always comes in numbers. In my humble opinion, the concerned members should band together and have a representative or even two representatives speak for them (preferably people who have had interactions in the past with one or more BOD members).

    • Charli Mac says:


      My chapter is asking for clarification on many of the points you suggested. We are asking them to define what a romance writer is. It’s not defined in the by-Laws or Articles of Incorporation in any detail. We are also asking for what the process is regarding appealing the decision.


      • Ann Wright says:

        The Restated Bylaws don’t define the term “romance writer” and presumably, the Certificate of Formation doesn’t do so either (I don’t have the COF, but it’s probably available online). This doesn’t surprise me. At the time of the adoption of the initial Bylaws, the meaning of “romance writer” was in all likelihood well understood. The meaning of this term blurred as RWA approved the general membership of writers, created certain contest categories, and accepted the entry of certain ms in instances where romance wasn’t central to the writer’s story.

        Arguably, the meaning of “romance writer” isn’t within the purview of the BOD. I wouldn’t have asked the BOD for this, as I wouldn’t have wanted to suggest that the BOD has the authority to define the term. I would’ve taken the position that the term needs to be defined in the COF and Restated Bylaws. Of course, this would then be a matter for consideration and approval by vote of the general membership, as well it should be.

        I know of no right of, or process for, appeal of a BOD resolution by members. In fact, Section 7.6 of RWA’s Restated By-laws provides: “The Board of Directors shall make the final decision in all disputes among committees, Board members, and/or others concerning RWA functions and business.” If the BOD is standing on firm ground (i.e. the reason for the changes is based on compliance with applicable law and charter documents), the BOD is beyond reproach. As I’ve pointed out previously, the remedy for unhappy members isn’t to attack the BOD on a resolution already passed, but instead, to cause the entire membership to vote for or against amendments at a duly constituted meeting.

        • Charli Mac says:

          Ann, no they don’t define the term Romance Writer but if the Mission is to advance the careers of Romance writers through education, a conference, and by awards and contests wouldn’t that give me, as a member the right to ask them to define it since they removed my category from the Rita/GH with no alternative? In my small legal experience, it would seem they are in violation of their mission by not providing me with a contest to enter. They accepted me a member, as a Romance Writer and even have chapters that promote non-traditional romance novels. As a dues mayoing member I believe they are in violation of their Mission.

          Also, how does a national organization of thousands of writers come together “to cause the entire membership to vote for or against amendments at a duly constituted meeting” when there are no regular meetings for the membership? The only public meeting I know of is at Nationals and there the board lets us know their decisions/motions.

          I don not believe that formulating a letter asking for answers and documentation is attacking the BOD in any way. It is the ONLY venue available to the membership to start dialogue on how to rememdy the issue.


          • Ann Wright says:

            It isn’t about your right as a general member to ask the BOD to define “romance writer” under Section 2.1.1 of the Restated Bylaws. It’s about your right as a general member to participate in defining “romance writer” under Section 2.1.1 of the Restated Bylaws. In asking the BOD to do so, you’ve yielded that right to the BOD (not as a legal, but practical, matter). Do you now see my concern?

            I don’t believe that the BOD is violating its duties because it doesn’t provide a contest category to satisfy every member, though I appreciate you’d like me to say otherwise. Under Section 2.1.1 of the Restated Bylaws, RWA has “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy: means for such advancement include, but are not limited to, professional education, publications, contests and awards, and an annual conference.” Arguably, RWA could fulfill its purpose with no categories for each of the RITA and GH.

            As to the manner in which a national organization with thousands of members comes together, Article 9 of RWA’s Restated Bylaws addresses the meetings of members. I’ll paste in a few important provisions here to make it easier for you and the followers of this discussion to understand your rights (and powers) as members.

            Section 9.1.2. Special meetings of the membership may be called by the President, the Board of Directors, or at least ten percent (10%) of the General members listed on the RWA national membership roster as of the date the meeting is called, by petition signed by such members and delivered to the Executive Director. The Board of Directors shall fix the time, date, and place for all special meetings, provided that a special meeting called by the General membership shall be held not later than 90 days after receipt of a petition properly filed by members.

            9.1.5. Quorum. Members holding one-tenth (1/10) of the votes entitled to be cast, represented in person or by proxy, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of the membership.

            9.1.6. Manner of Acting. The act of the majority of the members present at a duly called meeting of the membership at which a quorum is present shall be the act of the members, unless the vote of a greater number is required by law, RWA’s Certificate of Formation, or these Bylaws. The members may also act by member vote on any matter, which vote can be conducted by mail, by facsimile transmission, by electronic message, or by any combination of those methods.

            9.1.7. Proxies. At any meeting of members, a member entitled to vote may vote either in person or by written proxy executed by such member, which proxy shall assign voting authority to another voting member or to the duly authorized attorney-in-fact of the member giving such proxy.

            So, you see, the members don’t derive their rights (and powers) from the actions and decisions of the BOD, but from the charter documents of RWA.

            The emotions of some members are quite raw at the moment. Depending not only on the words employed, but the tone conveyed, a letter can be interpreted as an attack. I’ve seen this happen many a time over the years. In other words, on the corporate battlefield, cool heads often prevail over hotheads.

          • Charli Mac says:

            Ann, Thank you for your insight, once again. It seems some (us disgruntled) members need to get together and get some things done. My chapter is moving forward with a letter but we will be pursuing calling a Special Meeting.


          • Ann Wright says:

            Please keep in mind that, if you were able to have a special meeting of the members called, and if the number of members at the meeting (whether in person or by proxy)constituted a quorum, you’d be asking the entire membership to vote on the following question (although it would take the form of a vote for or against an amendment or amendments):

            Do you want RWA to serve its originally stated purpose of advancing the professional interests of writers who write stories in which romance is central to those stories?

            Or do you want RWA to serve a broader purpose of advancing the professional interests of writers who write stories in which romance is not central, and might even be peripheral, to those stories?

            A special meeting of the members would require the entire membership to decide the future of RWA.

            If the membership voted for the latter, RWA might naturally evolve into a different organization, perhaps even one with a different name.

          • Ann Wright says:

            Let me restate the third paragraph of my prior comment:

            Or do you want RWA to serve a broader purpose of advancing the professional interests of writers who write stories in which romance may or may not be central, and further, in which romance even may or may not be peripheral, to those stories?

            I’d have to consider this further before framing an intelligent question, as the concerns of the YA and NSRE writers are divergent.

          • I assume “romance writer” for the RWA means those who write romance novels targeted to the traditional romance imprints (Avon, Berkley Sensation, etc), and not those who write for non-romance imprints, but include strong romantic elements? If that’s the case, then to re-direct the ship could possibly mean a) restructuring the organization so that only authors eligible for PAN and PRO status were eligible to join (or PRO-eligible authors possibly being just associate members) or b) restructuring the charter to include authors of “romantic fiction” like the UK’s RNA. Either way, these would be difficult and unwieldy changes to enact.

          • Ann Wright says:

            Has a British member of RWA arrived in this discussion?

            The membership could broaden the purpose under Section 2.1.1 of the Restated Bylaws without amending the membership classifications under Section 4.1 or the PRO and PAN communities enabling provision of Section 4.9. I’d be surprised if the American members of RWA proposed or voted to change the membership provisions of Section 4.1 to create a class system such as that of RNA. With no criticism intended, I’ve always thought of the published authors as being like nobles and the unpublished authors as being like commoners under RNA’s membership system.

            Now, if I may be so bold as to speak for the unhappy members of RWA (I assume these are the writers of NSRE and of non-romance driven YA), I think they merely want to return to the state of actual affairs before the recent changes. With that the case, the membership might need only to broaden the purpose under Section 2.1.1, tweak some other provisions of the charter documents such as Section 4.1.1, and cause the undertaking of any and all required governmental filings. On the other hand, to restore RWA to its stated purpose, but to retain the “disenfranchised” members, the membership might need to amend the membership classifications under Section 4.1 to cover those author members of RWA who are no longer eligible for general membership, whether as associate members or some new classification of membership.

            In either event, most Americans (with their rugged individualism and indomitable spirit) tend to think no change is unimaginable, no goal is unobtainable.

            Having said all of this, I’d like to state for the record that I don’t advocate any particular position. I’ve merely pointed the unhappy members toward an avenue provided under the Restated Bylaws for addressing concerns. If they should undertake and be successful with the call of a special meeting of the members, each and every general member of RWA will have the right to cast his or her vote for or against any and all proposed amendments. That’s the heart of American democracy.

  42. Marilyn Baron says:

    I will miss the Novels with Strong Romantic Elements category.

    Do these new rules mean that if you have self-published a book which is offered for sale and you want to enter a completely different novel, you are ineligible for the Golden Heart?

    • Amanda Brice says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what that means (as long as the book you published is at least 20,000 words).

      And frnakly, that’s as it should be, in my opinion. (I know that probably doesn’t make me very popular in the self-pub circles — and I’m self-published!).

      • Charli Mac says:

        I agree too, Amanda. Once you decide to self-publish, well, you are apublished author. The Golden Heart is for aspiring authors. We can’t have it both ways, decide to self publish, then enter a contest for unpublished authors.


  43. Charli Mac says:

    Here is something from Deanna Raybourn’s blog and her feelings regarding the removal of the NWSRE from the RITA. I think it sums up how many of us feel, dumped.


  44. Ann Wright says:

    Let me restate the third paragraph of my prior comment:

    Or do you want RWA to serve a broader purpose of advancing the professional interests of writers who write stories in which romance may or may not be central, and further, in which romance even may or may not be peripheral, to those stories?

    I’d have to consider this further before framing an intelligent question, as the concerns of the YA and NSRE writers are divergent.

  45. Charli Mac says:

    Pasted below is the letter Elements of RWA Chapter #211 sent today. Please feel free to share with your chapters and other members of RWA. They are feel to use the letter in its entirely or portions.

    Some may disagree with the content we sent from a legal standpoint but the membership of the chapter, in which we the board serve, wanted this. As did the board.

    We believe in transparency as a board and chapter. We want those affiliated with RWA to know what we are asking of our National BOD. Many may agree or disagree. Either way, here it is. If some here want to pick apart the letter, feel free but my only intention of posting it here is for the general public and all parties interested to know what the Elements Chapter is doing regarding the matter.




    Dear Romance Writers of America Board of Directors:

    We are writing this letter on behalf of the Board of Directors and the membership of the Elements of RWA Chapter #211as well as for concerned members from other chapters. The recent decision by the Board to remove the Novels With Strong Romantic Elements (NWSRE) category from the RITA and Golden Heart has left the Elements of RWA chapter with many questions and concerns moving forward. Our chapter was founded to preserve the category and we were not given an opportunity to question or defend what we believe to be a fundamental part of the RWA’s mission to advance and support the careers of romance writers.

    The mission of the Elements Chapter, whose charter and mission was approved by RWA, is to offer support and career focus to published and unpublished writers of nontraditional romance fiction and fiction with romantic elements. We embrace the romance genre as strong and relevant to readers lives, and provide an informal yet professional on-line environment where writers of all levels are encouraged to grow and evolve within that genre and the publishing industry.

    The mission of RWA is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy: means for such advancement include, but are not limited to, professional education, publications, contests and awards, and an annual conference.

    RWA accepted our chapter and its members as romance writers. Thus, the decision to remove the Novel With Strong Romantic Elements Category seems to be in conflict with the mission of RWA.
    The chapter has taken the time to formulate a list of questions and requests.

    1. We would like the full report from the independent consultant made available to all members of RWA, the background information on who this consultant is and how they were procured. We understand that part of the Strategic Plan for RWA called for the evaluation of the RITA and Golden Heart. However, the general membership was never given the opportunity to read the report and weigh in on any board motion from the July 2012 Executive Meeting. The RWA Board meeting minutes from March 2011 state the following on page 7:


    Dorien Kelly moved that the proposal from Organizational Performance
    Improvement Systems, dated February 2, 2011, to evaluate the objectives and
    procedures used in conjunction with the RITA and the Golden Heart contests and
    thus optimize their value to RWA, be formalized in contract form and returned to
    the Board for approval in June 2011.

    Rationale: RWA’s Strategic Plan calls for increasing the perceived value of both
    the RITA and the Golden Heart among the general public. The Board of Directors
    recognizes that they, like all of RWA’s members, are writers and thus direct
    stake-holders in the contests. An unbiased external source is best suited to help
    RWA better position these contests.

    The motion was adopted by general consent.

    2. We would like to see the meeting minutes from the July 2012 RWA Executive Board Meeting and the Report from the Task force commissioned to analyze the RITA and GH based on the report. Such minutes should include the official vote and any discussion as to the board’s rationale for removing the NWSRE Category.

    3. We would like to know why such a decision would be made without the input of the dues paying members of RWA? Especially since the Board of Directors, as stated above, recognize us as writers and direct stake holders in the contests. As stake holders we should have been given the opportunity to weigh in on this matter.

    4. During the July Meeting the Board defined what a romance story is: 1. In order to best serve RWA’s mission statement and purpose, the Board determined it is necessary to define what a romance story is so that programs and benefits can remain focused on romance. The Board approved a definition of romance as a work that contains a central love story, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
    RWA’s mission is to support romance writers s we would like the RWA board to define, in detail, what exactly a Romance Writer is.

    5. We would like the RWA Board to explain how Novels With Strong Romantic Elements do not contain a central romance? By its definition NWSRE is a work of fiction in which a romance plays a significant part in the story, but other themes or
    elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries.

    6. We would for RWA to state that the existence of the special chapters like Women’s Fiction, Elements, Chick-Lit, Futuristic Fantasy & Paranormal, Kiss of Death, and others are not in conflict with the RWA Mission and why.

    7. We would like RWA to state how they plan to support our chapters and assist in the advancement of our careers in light of removing the category from the contest.

    8. We would like to know the official procedure for a chapter or individual member to make a grievance to the RWA board. We would like to know how the body can appeal a decision made to remove NWSRE from the GH and RITA.

    9. We would like to know if the Novel With Strong Romantic Elements contests in various chapters will be allowed to remain and why.

    10. Finally, we would like to know why the National Board would have the forethought to begin discussions on re-evaluating the GH/RITA in Early 2011, pay an outside consultant, create a task force to analyze those results, and then choose to make a single motion over the course of one Board meeting without gathering the insight from the membership? Something that is so detailed in planning and execution deserves to be deliberated by the dues paying members, i.e., the writers, the stakeholders.

    As writers who believe in and fully support all genres of romance and more so as dues paying members of RWA, we would like these requests and questions to be given to us by September 4, 2012.

    We would like to acknowledge and thank the board for their hard and work and dedication to Romance Writers of America.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation. We look forward to hearing from you.


    Carol Hughes, President of Elements RWA
    Elizabeth McCollum Nazario, Acting VP/Secretary of Technology of Elements RWA
    Nicholas Genovese, Treasurer Elements of RWA
    Debbie Gould, Secretary of Communications Elements of RWA
    Ginger Duran, Social Media Liaison Elements of RWA
    The Membership of Elements RWA

  46. […] If you’re not a romance writer, you may not have heard about the kerfuffle going on with the Romance Writers of America and a good number of their 10,000 members. In short, they changed contest rules, killed contest categories and started making noise about who can and cannot be a general member. Get a better feel for it all on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. […]

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  48. Beatrice Holley says:

    I know I’m not the first to say this, but to completely cut out self-published authors is, in my opinion, exceedingly short-sighted.

    Am I reading the rules correctly? If I publish even one (completely unrelated) title under my name or a pseudonym I’m ruled out of the GHs. And self-published authors don’t qualify for the RITAs either?

    What is the thinking behind this? Is the RWA just attempting to support traditional publishing companies? How is this actually supporting new and upcoming writers? Do they not realise that the best and most ambitious writers will be out there selling their own work independently and without the assistance of the traditional publishing business?

    I was considering becoming a member and entering, but this has made me think twice.

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