January 8, 2020
To the Romance Writers of America Executive Board of Directors:
On January 5, 2020, the Ottawa Romance Writers Association held an extended membership meeting to discuss the recent events that have rocked the RWA and its membership. Both the ORWA board and the membership voted unanimously to give this statement.
We are disheartened and saddened by RWA’s recent actions. We do not support the decision against Courtney Milan, nor do we support the sanctions that were initially leveled as part of that decision. We believe that racist, homophobic, and other problematic content should be called out, and we further believe that all books should be critiqued and the reviews, good or bad, shared with other readers. We fully support the doctrine of “love is love” and we want our chapter to be welcoming to everyone.
As RWA’s first international chapter, we’re calling for the following actions to be taken by the Board of Directors as a step to earn back the membership’s trust.
- Damon Suede must step down immediately, and the board, including the members he appointed, must resign their positions as soon as permitted under the bylaws. The membership has lost its trust in the President-Elect/Currently Sitting President and has no faith that Damon Suede can lead with RWA’s and RWA’s chapters’ best interests at heart. Given the loss of trust, board members appointed by Damon Suede, and not elected through the membership, cannot continue to hold these positions.
- A new election must be called to replace the current board with individuals chosen by the membership and not the president/board who has lost the membership’s trust. We feel that individuals nominated for board positions should have previous board experience with RWA or other non-profit groups, and they should be prepared to indicate their outlooks and plans for their RWA service.
- Once elected, the new board must make a statement to clarify how they are going to deliver on expectations of diversity, equity, and inclusion that RWA has stated its commitment to.
- RWA must become more transparent with the membership regarding its internal dealings, including, but not limited to:
- Providing easily readable and understandable statistics on all actions/decisions, such as the number of ethics complaints received and acted upon, or the amount of funds used to fight legal/industry issues on members’ behalf
- Posting the bylaws and processes and protocols in an easily findable, central location on the RWA website for all members to refer to as needed
- Implementing a full audit, as promised, to uncover irregularities in any of RWA’s processes and procedures, including ethics complaints
- A crisis communications strategy must be conceived and implemented so that the confusion, lack of quick communications, and clueless and oblivious communications the membership experienced over the past two weeks is not repeated.
- Finally, we believe the RWA Executive Board of Directors owes the membership an apology for how it has mishandled this entire issue.
The only recent decision we can support is suspending the RITA Awards. The contest has been plagued by scandal and the board’s recent and highly questionable actions pushed many participants past the breaking point of what they will tolerate. However, the board must be prepared to provide a detailed explanation of how they will use this year to fix the awards.
The decisions made and the communications or lack thereof has not only damaged RWA’s reputation on a national and international level, but on a local one as well. A number of agents, agencies, editors, and authors have said they will no longer participate in RWA events. Through its actions, RWA has affected local chapters’ abilities to attract members and speakers, and that is unacceptable.
We, as ORWA members, joined the RWA so we could be part of a professional organization representing romance authors. Over the past two weeks, RWA has not exhibited the professionalism it is supposed to uphold. ORWA will be monitoring the progress of the national organization and we expect redress through the actions outlined above.
Lucy Farago, President
Jenn Burke, Vice President
Ludvica Boota, Treasurer
Renée Gendron, Secretary
On behalf of the members of the Ottawa Romance Writers Association