Important News Regarding the 2021 VIVIAN Awards
We understand the concerns regarding the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category. As a Board, we learned of the winner at the VIVIAN Ceremony, along with the rest of the membership. The board has held an emergency meeting and are in agreement that the proper remedy is to rescind the VIVIAN award for "At Love's Command."
Romance Writers of America has a long history of building bridges between authors and the publishing world. In the past, the romance writing industry has gone through rocky periods where representation of marginalized authors has been minimalized and often forgotten altogether. In 2020, RWA took on the enormous task of creating a welcoming and open atmosphere from an organization that had institutionalized barriers and prejudices. In just one year, RWA has made huge strides. We have updated our bylaws to put inclusion at the forefront of membership. We are in the process of implementing an organization-wide DEIA program. We have created mentorships and outreach to marginalized authors through an Own Voices Program and have implemented a Pen to Paper Program to assist new writers in completing their first romance novel.
The retirement of the RITA Award and the introduction of the new VIVIANS added a new judging rubric aimed toward making decisions based on the quality of the work and limiting bias. The 2021 inaugural Vivian finalists were the most diverse class in the history of RWA awards. 17% were marginalized authors in comparison to 4% in the last RITA Awards. As this is the contest's first year, we already had planned a post-award analysis of the Vivian contest framework, looking at a systematic review of the judging, the rubric and the outreach.
RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights; however, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day. RWA is rescinding the Vivian awarded to the book finalist "At Love's Command."