Statement Regarding Contest Changes

In light of the rumors, misconceptions, and questions regarding the recent contest changes, the Board offers the following statement to RWA members:

We understand that the RITA Award and the Golden Heart Contest are of great importance to our members, but that does not mean we should make decisions regarding them by referendum of a membership of more than 10,000, especially when opinions vary so widely and involve a subject that is so difficult to view objectively. That need for utter objectivity is what prompted the hiring of an impartial consultant to evaluate the contests. The RITA and Golden Heart are programs, no different from any other program or service. The Board of Directors is elected by the membership to make all decisions relating to programs and policy. It is not our practice, nor is it the practice of any Board of Directors, to poll the members regarding the decisions we are elected and obligated to undertake.

Romance Writers of America’s purpose, stated in the bylaws:

2.1.1. To advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy: means for such advancement include, but are not limited to, professional education, publications, contests and awards, and an annual conference;

And per policy regarding the contests:

The purpose of the Golden Heart contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts.

The purpose of the RITA contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas.

The decisions made at the July meeting re: the contest were made with these in mind.

Regarding the completely unfounded rumors that because of changes in the contests some members will be forced out of the organization or can no longer be General Members: The RWA Board has made absolutely no changes to membership classification, nor is it in the Board's power to do so. Those classifications are firmly established in the bylaws (see below) and can only be changed by a vote of the full membership.

4.1.1. General. General membership shall be open to all persons seriously pursuing a romance fiction writing career. Only General members shall have all rights of membership and only General members shall have the right to vote and the right to hold office in RWA.

When joining and again with renewal, our members affirm that they are in fact pursuing a career in romance fiction. Those who are not pursuing a career in romance fiction but who wish to remain members of RWA should indicate at their next renewal that they wish to become associate members. It is a completely self-policing policy, relying solely on the affirmation from the member.

4.1.2. Associate. Associate membership shall be open to all other individuals, including employees of RWA and its contractors, who support the organization and its purposes but who do not meet the requirements for General membership or who are not permitted to participate on RWA’s general discussion listserves by reason of being publishers, acquiring editors, or agents who actively acquire romance fiction or actively offer representation to writers of romance fiction, as further described in RWA policy. Associate members shall not have any voting rights or the right to hold office in RWA.

(Note: In the upcoming bylaws revision, we have removed the line barring associate members from the listserves.)

While there has been some confusion among members about the different requirements for membership and for the award and contest, one follows the writer while the other follows a specific book or manuscript. An author might truthfully attest that he or she is pursing a career in romance fiction, but that does not mean every book written by that author must be a romance, by our definition or any other.

If you wish to read more about the reasoning behind the recent changes to the RITA and Golden Heart, please refer to the President’s columns in the January, May, and August 2012 issues of the RWR.

The Board of Directors, RWA




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