Statement on 2021 VIVIAN Awards

The 2021 VIVIAN Award winners were announced Saturday, July 31, and we congratulate the finalists and winners of this inaugural award. While we celebrate the winners, we are aware that one of the contest’s categories has come under criticism.
Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements, as a subgenre of romance, requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity. According to its subgenre conventions, the book in question finaled and won for this category.
For our inaugural VIVIAN contest, we saw a diverse finalist class. We attribute this to a detailed rubric and required DEIA training implemented to make the contest equitable. As part of that training, VIVIAN judges were instructed (upon reading a contest entry) to report any perceived objectionable or harmful content to staff. RWA staff did not receive any complaints from the thirteen judges who read and scored the entry.
While encouraged by a diverse inaugural finalist class, we do recognize that we must continually analyze and refine our process to ward against perpetuating harm. We regret any harm experienced by the romance community. Our Vivian Task Force is now charged with assessing the overall effectiveness of the contest to include the contest process, rubric, and entry and judging guidelines.
Once the review is complete, the task force will provide recommendations on how to improve the contest and identify and manage potentially harmful content at the earliest stages in the contest lifecycle. The Vivian Task Force will be headed by Task Force Chair, Director-at-Large Jackí Renee.
Please forward any questions or comments to [email protected].
Thank you,
Romance Writers of America
[email protected]