The Romance Writers of America (RWA) is ditching its annual RITA Awards in favour of a new prize following a racism row that engulfed the organisation.
Last year's awards were cancelled following an author boycott over the RWA's suspension of author Courtney Milan, who had criticised another author’s work as a "racist mess". It's president and board members eventually quit over the backlash amid calls for the association to reform.
This week, the RWA announced it was “retiring” the RITAs and replacing them with The Vivian, named after founder Vivian Stephens. In a letter to its members, it said the new award would be “guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access
The letter said: “The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope—because happily ever afters are for everyone.”
A taskforce will unveil proposals for the new award at a board meeting at the end of May with plans to streamline scoring guidelines and introduce a category for unpublished authors.
Stephens said: "Today, as we move forward into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be one group, united by the purity of craft that identifies the organization. Guided by their star shine, moving quietly with confidence in the direction of their purpose, writing wonderful stories. Members must step up and deliver their best. Romance novels are read by people of Every Background throughout the World! They read these novels for entertainment, general information, life-style ideas, encouragement, rules of behavior, fun, a good laugh, hope, and a reminder of how life could be...i f only.”