Introducing The Vivian, a New Award for a New Era

May 21, 2020

To our members:

The RWA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.

The Board has also made the decision to retire the annual RITA Awards. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Rita Clay Estrada, RWA's first president, for honoring us the past 30 years as the award's namesake and for her service to RWA and romance authors everywhere.

In support of The Vivian, and guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, the contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board's vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission:

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.
The task force will present a proposed format for The Vivian at the May 30-31 Board meeting, which will be subsequently posted on A few highlights of the proposed format include:

  • A clear rubric to enhance and streamline scoring guidelines in addition to judge training that will allow for more standardized judging,
  • A sophisticated matching process so that entrants can be sure their books go to judges versed in their subgenre, and
  • A category devoted to recognizing unpublished authors.

Members will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed format at the member town hall scheduled for June 3 and by emailing [email protected] or [email protected]. The Board's goal is for the rules and format to be finalized and voted on at the Fourth Quarter Board meeting (date TBA) in time for a fall launch, with the first year of the contest to recognize books published in both 2019 and 2020.

RWA Executive Director Leslie Scantlebury and RWA President Alyssa Day had the chance to speak with Ms. Stephens to request the honor of naming this award after her. In their conversations, she was gracious, kind, and hopeful for the future of RWA. They asked if she would share her thoughts with our members, and we’re pleased to relay them to you here:

"I once heard an astrophysicist explain how heavy elements of the Periodic Table forged into the center of stars, later explode, showering the universe and everything in it with its spoils, Stardust. Since we all live in the universe it is well worth remembering that underneath the outer dressing of ethnicity, color, and gender, we are all the same. Showered with the gift of stars.

"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...if only.

"It is the duty of every Romance writer to give every Romance reader that experience. The writer must elevate themselves to be worthy of the craft and bring to it all of the nuances and magic of good storytelling. The reader deserves and expects nothing less."
--Vivian Stephens
The Vivian will be a new contest for a new era of RWA, and we can't wait to celebrate the amazing storytellers who elevate our genre.
Alyssa Day, RWA President
C. Chilove, RWA Secretary
E.J. Russell, RWA Treasurer
Avery Flynn, Director-at-Large
Veronica Forand, Director-at-Large
Leslie Hachtel, Director-at-Large
Lisa Kessler, Director-at-Large
LaQuette, Director-at-Large
Siera London, Director-at-Large
Amy Quinton, Director-at-Large
Elizabeth Schechter, Director-at-Large
Jessa Slade, Director-at-Large
Nikki Sloane, Director-at-Large
Anna Zabo, Director-at-Large
Annag MacCallum, PRO Advisor