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Dear RWA Members: Don’t Be a Hater of the Hot

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Dear RWA Members*:

Can we talk about the RITAs? I don’t mean to harsh on the nominees. Indeed, some of my favorite authors were nominated this year and some of my favorite authors have won in the past. Oh, we all have our quibbles about who was left out and who was included, but those are subjective decisions. No, I don’t want to talk about the specific nominees but rather the categories themselves.

I know that you are a large group and one would say, even, a diverse one, but I have to tell you that I get the sense you aren’t happy with the direction that romance in general is taking. In the past, I’ve said many of actions of RWA that adversely affected erotic romance were primarily targeted toward epublishing and that erotic romances suffered because epublishing in romance is often associated with erotic romance. I posited that if inspirational romance were to be primarily associated with epublishing that it, too, would be treated differently. In looking back, though, I can’t help but wonder now if I was wrong.

By having an inspirational category but not an erotic romance category, it seems to me that one sub genre is being elevated over another in your organization which purports to the supporter of all romance writers, not just those who proclaim faith as the center of their lives and their works. I want to make it clear that I do not find the inspirational category in any way inappropriate, only that the absence of a corresponding erotic romance category appears fundamentally unfair.   Even your page on romance literature subgenres leaves out erotic romance despite nearly every major publishing house putting out specific imprints devoted to erotic romance.   (Note: I also question the percentage of books sold as erotic romances as being under 3% as you have on your site.   Lora Leigh, one of the top selling romance authors currently in the market, is squarely an erotic romance author.)

Before I go on, let me address why I think it’s appropriate for readers like me to weigh in on the issue of the RITA, an industry award. The RITA is something that authors view as the equivalent of an Oscar.   While the peer award carries with it industry prestige, you RWA Members want the award to be recognized and revered by readers.   You want it to matter.   But if you want readers to care, then you want them to become emotionally invested in the outcomes.   Emotional investment reaps emotional response.   In other words, if you want me to care about your award, then I have the right to criticize it.  

Again, I’m not criticizing awarding books that fall into the inspirational category.   I think that because of the subject matter that inspy romances involve, it makes sense to devote an entire category to it.   An inspy romance is not simply a clean one, but one that involves conflicts regarding faith, specifically Christian faith. To readers who are secular or who worship in a manner that is not Christ centered, an inspy romance would be difficult to judge in a totally impartial light.   

While erotic romance is not a religion, per se, some of the core principles of erotic romance are an anethma to inspirational authors and conservative authors.   The concept of domination and submission, the use of toys, role playing, and other sexual games translate for a certain set of individuals into sexual promiscuity. The push against sexual promiscuity can unfold in two ways: the requirement of the woman to be chaste and a unit that is limited to one man/one woman.   I can assure you, members of RWA, that the chaste woman and the one woman/one man unit are still strong tropes even within the erotic romance sub genre (much to my dismay at times).   If this is a writing award and the story fulfills the main tenets of the RWA definition then it has to be judged on its merits.

But because we are all biased creatures, our own concepts of morality and love will skew our view of a book.   A book whose emotional conflict is wrapped up in the sexual congress of the main protagonists or whose storyline contains envelope pushing sex can’t help but be viewed through the prism of dislike, disinterest, and disbelief by those who are predisposed to not appreciate this type of story.   Why then would you subject books written by your peers to this kind of unfair judgment, particularly when you have carved out a safe harbor for inspirational romance?

Under the current rubric of grading for the RITA awards, five books are sent out to five different judges. Each judge has the right to disqualify a book for being Not Romance.

Any entry receiving 3 NR (not a romance), 3 NSRE (no strong romantic elements), 3 NPF (not properly formatted, for entries in the Golden Heart contest) or 3 WC (wrong category) scores shall not be eligible to advance to the finals even if the scores would otherwise qualify it as a finalist.  

  I understand that there are several authors who have admitted to marking erotic romance books as NR and several authors who have submitted their books for RITA consideration who have had their books disqualifed for too many NR marks.   This practice has gone on for several years and authors who write the erotic romances are simply not entering their books because they know that their works will not get a fair shake.   By fair shake, I mean, no disqualification for being “Not Romance” so long as it fits the following description:

A Central Love Story  -‘ In a romance novel, the main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the relationship conflict is the main focus of the story.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending  -‘ Romance novels are based on the idea of an innate emotional justice-‘the notion that good people in the world are rewarded and evil people are punished. In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

There is nothing in the definition set forth by RWA that suggests that the expression of a characters’ physical attraction somehow makes it not a romance or even that it would exlude any kind of polyamorous relationship.   

All I am saying is that erotic romance deserves the same playing field as the rest of the subgenres in romance. If inspirational needs a separate category to fight against inherent bias, then so   does erotic romance.    For the fair treatment of all the authors who belong to RWA, the recognition of erotic romance as an equal within romance is vital.   The allowance of a separate category in the RITAs, your self professed most important award in the industry, would be a huge step toward equality amongst your members.  

Thanks for listening.

Best regards,

Jane  

  

*I address this to the membership because it is the membership, the board, the officers and not the staff that is making these decisions regarding what goes on within RWA.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

191 Comments

  1. Erastes
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 04:39:08

    Hear hear. *standing ovation*

    Thinks “also GLBTQ” too.

  2. catie
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 04:53:58

    Despite aspiring to publication, I am not a member of RWA due in large part to serious reservations I feel about joining a group that appears to be so biased against erotic romance, ebooks, and romances centralizing around GLBT characters. I’m torn. Change will only come from the organization’s members and voices for inclusion are more likely to be heard/addressed as the demand from “insiders” increases. Yet I still find it difficult to attach myself to a group so blatantly engaged in discrimination…

  3. Alessia Brio
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 04:55:19

    Bravo!

  4. Adriana Kraft
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 05:23:47

    Well said! Erotic, LGBT, polyamorous – all deserve falling in love with a happy ending.

  5. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 05:50:39

    There are at least two problems with erotic romance having its own category, though.

    1) You can’t judge the category you entered. Erotic romance won’t be judged by erotic romance authors.

    2) More importantly, to my mind, would be the possibility of a rash of wrong category markings as every individual judge gets to decide what she thinks is erotic romance.

    For example, Victoria Dahl’s “Talk Me Down”. It’s a contemporary romance, right? I don’t think any of Dear Author’ readers would consider it erotic romance. But it was pretty hot and there was some graphic (to some) sexual language. The heroine also writes erotic romance, leading to an overall feel of steaminess.

    Some judges are going to consider that book erotic romance and, with a category for that kind of sex in play, there’s a possibility of a Wrong Category marking. Several of those and Victoria’s disqualified.

    Finaling in the RITAs can be a pretty hefty financial investment, what with entry fee and book shipping, and it’s a crapshoot if a book can be disqualified because three out of five judges think non-euphemistic words equals erotic romance.

  6. Kimber An
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:15:56

    It’s really quite simple.

    Erotica is about sex.

    Romance is about love, with or without sex.

    As great as sex can be, it does not make an HEA. Only love can do that. The ‘Happily Ever After’ is the essential convention of the Romance genre. A reader must find the HEA believable. Most readers are over thirty and have learned the hard way that great sex does not equal love. For example, great sex will not keep a man faithful when his woman can’t have sex with him for medical reasons. Only love can do that.

    Erotic Romance is a gray area. My own opinion is when there is so much graphic sex in a novel it overshadows the love, if there’s love at all. It’s just sex.

    Doesn’t Erotica have it’s own award? Or, does Erotica want to cash in on the Romance genre’s huge selling record?

  7. Cindy W
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:28:34

    TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kimber An, I think it has NOTHING to do with Erotica wanting to cash in on the Romance Genre’s selling, THEY ARE THE READERS!!!!

  8. PSwift
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:39:34

    Kimber, I think your post misses the point. A large percentage of erotica today is written under the romance erotica banner. Love is a central part of the story, as is the sexual relationship. One does not outweight the other, which is what makes for an excellent erotic romance. This is why it is so hard to write an excellent erotic romance.

    Let’s not get confused. Erotica and erotic romance are two very different categories, as is paranormal romance and urban fantasy, regency romance and historical, etc. The point of this post is not to define a genre, but to identify why a genre is snubbed year after year by the RITAs, especially when it is a genre that seems to be selling and attracting more authors than any other. If RWA wants to stay relevant to the romance community at large at some point they are going to have to address this bias.

  9. Louisa Edwards
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:41:10

    Jane, thank you for this clear, concise, and rational exploration of an issue that tends to get overshadowed by emotion. I’m a current member of RWA, but I’ve seriously considered letting my membership lapse in light of the way the organization treats some of its members. However, I believe real change can only come from within the group, so I’m going to stick it out for a while. I can only hope the discussion that will undoubtedly result from posts like this one will spur the change RWA needs to remain a vital, useful organization.

  10. Carin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:44:15

    @Shannon Stacey’s concerns

    1.) They’ve figured out something for inspy romances – they must be judged by authors who don’t write inspy romances, but somehow it works out.

    2.) Ok, I’ll admit I don’t have a good answer for this one right at this moment, but I think it could be figured out. And your example (Talk Me Down) shows that RWA approved romances are currently pushing the line toward erotica already.

    It’s interesting that the literary world as a whole looks down it’s nose at romance, and the RWA looks down it’s nose at erotica. Nice. /sarcasm

  11. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:44:29

    I get the sense you aren't happy with the direction that romance in general is taking. In the past, I've said many of actions of RWA that adversely affected erotic romance were primarily targeted toward epublishing and that erotic romances suffered because epublishing in romance is often associated with erotic romance. I posited that if inspirational romance were to be primarily associated with epublishing that it, too, would be treated differently. In looking back, though, I can't help but wonder now if I was wrong. […] I understand that there are several authors who have admitted to marking erotic romance books as NR and several authors who have submitted their books for RITA consideration who have had their books disqualifed for too many NR marks. This practice has gone on for several years and authors who write the erotic romances are simply not entering their books because they know that their works will not get a fair shake.

    I think what you’re describing here sounds like an institution-wide form of discrimination which exists even though it’s not explicitly stated anywhere in the rules (although I suspect you might be wrong about them not explicitly excluding “any kind of polyamorous relationship” because the definition states that a romance must focus on “two individuals falling in love.”)

    As others have mentioned, it appears that this kind of discrimination may apply to other types of romances too. Erastes and others mentioned GLBTQ romance, which, given that the definition of romance does not specify the sex or gender of the “individuals falling in love,” should be considered quite acceptable. One gets the impression, though, that many authors of GLBTQ romances “know that their works will not get a fair shake.” I suspect that the same is true of authors of romances featuring African American heroes and heroines.

    The allowance of a separate category in the RITAs, your self professed most important award in the industry, would be a huge step toward equality amongst your members.

    I think that granting a separate category to a sub-genre would undoubtedly give it greater recognition and demonstrate the RWA’s acceptance and support for it. I know that with regards to GLBTQ and African American romances there’s a strong argument that these are not subgenres, just as romances with blonde heroines are not in a separate subgenre. I agree with that, but surely if these romances are also being excluded, or perceived to be excluded, from the RITAs then someone needs to find a way to show acceptance and support for these romances.

  12. Lorelie
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:45:27

    I anticipate a lot of hear-hear comments on this posts (as well as some healthy debate as to what makes the difference between erotica and erotic romance.) So let me say yes, I agree.

    Now, RWA-ers, how do we get this done? All the hand wringing in the world won’t fix this year, so how do we enact change? Is it about speaking up in local chapters or what? I’m an RWA member, but I’m not that active with it, so I need a little direction. (I go to Nationals, but not local meetings.)

  13. Amy Ruttan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:48:10

    Well said.

    The only reason I am a member of the RWA is because my local chapter rocks, and is one of the few RWA chapters that treats its NY Pubbed and Epubbed authors equally.

    For them I stay in the RWA, although the RWA has not benefited me in any other way.

    Although I did squash their expectations about PAN and earned my PAN membership in less than a month after their new rule. :)

  14. katiebabs
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:51:14

    The RITAS need an overhaul. Also is it true in order to even be considered, you have to PAY to enter? Is that the norm with other awards?

  15. Angela James
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:51:19

    Kimber An:

    Erotica and Erotic romance are two separate genres. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

  16. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:52:46

    When the subject came up for debate a couple of years ago, in terms of restructuring the categories, I know that erotic romance authors were polled and the votes came down about fifty/fifty in favor of a separate category. There are authors who want there to be an erotic romance category in the RITAs and there are authors who would prefer to place their EroRoms in the corresponding category, because they didn’t want their books judged primarily on the basis of the sex scenes (or as was already stated, one person’s EroRom is another person’s really steamy contemporary or historical or whatever).

    Personally, I think that EroRom deserves its own category because a) most of the major houses have an imprint, or at the very least have increased their output within this genre, and b) ultimately, when it comes to the RITAs, it’s up to each individual author to choose the category in which they best feel their book belongs. What having the category does is provide an alternative.

    And you know, it’s not just EroRom that gets the short shrift from members of RWA with respect to “does it belong?” During that same time period when the categories were being evaluated, I was shocked to find how many people were vehemently opposed to Young Adult continuing to have a RITA category. Because really, what could teenagers possibly know about love and lasting relationships? Never mind that many of the heroines in historicals have trended towards the young end of the spectrum, as did many of the Presents heroines, at least, back in the day.

    I’m a proud member of RWA, but I recognize that it has many shortcomings and that change can sometimes come as slow as molasses in winter. I feel, however, that the best way for change to come is for me to stay in and every time a vote like this comes up, I write my letters to the board and I open my big mouth and I say, “We need to do this in order to keep the organization relevant and moving forward.”

    To that end, I moderate the panels at National that many other members would shy away from and judge books in the RITA that others have sent back or turned their noses up. Oh, and speaking of judging the RITAs, I did have this year three very small press novels, two of which were GLBT. One, I regretfully had to mark Wrong Category because the romance wasn’t a central element and it would have been better served in Mainstream or Romantic Suspense, but the other was a really lovely book that I gave one of my better scores to. I applaud those authors for taking that chance and I was happy to have the opportunity to judge them.

  17. Jessica
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 06:56:42

    Is the problem that some erotic books do qualify as romances under the current RWA-endorsed definition of romance, and are being unfairly excluded because of implicit discrimination (for example, by assuming that any book with explicit sex just cannot be a romance).

    Or is the problem that the current RWA endorsed definition of romance is inherently discriminatory (for example, because by “two individuals” it explicitly excludes the possibility that polyamorous relationships can be loving ones).

    Is it the application of the definition or the definition itself? Or both?

  18. Kwana
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:08:20

    So well written Jane and needed to be said. Change must come from within and all categories should be represented and included.

  19. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:08:46

    I understand that there are several authors who have admitted to marking erotic romance books as NR and several authors who have submitted their books for RITA consideration who have had their books disqualifed for too many NR marks.

    To futher expand on my above comment now that I’m a little more caffeinated—I think, or would like to believe, that marking a book NR is a hard decision for a judge to make, and not a decision made lightly. It seems to me you’d really have to be offended by erotic romance to pseudo-publicly declare it not a romance.

    But if you didn’t have to, if you could say a book containing sex scenes that make you uncomfortable is simply in the wrong category—it should be an erotic romance—I think you’d see a lot of the more moderate judges having a negative impact on borderline mainstream novels.

    As for how they manage it with Inspirational—I think what constitutes an Inspy is open to a lot less debate. Not only is faith going to play a major part in the book, but they’re also almost always easily identified by publisher. With the exception of a Kensington book (I don’t know if it’s marked by imprint or not) every RITA nominee in that category this year is from a recognizable Inspirational/Christian publisher. They’re a lot less open to a judge’s personal opinion on what makes an inspirational romance.

  20. S.
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:11:15

    Also is it true in order to even be considered, you have to PAY to enter? Is that the norm with other awards?

    I don’t know about content competitions, but I do know that with design competitions, you often pay to enter and that fee can be quite large.

  21. Ann Bruce
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:17:34

    The RITA is something that authors view as the equivalent of an Oscar.

    Since I couldn’t care less about the Oscars…

  22. Jane O
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:20:31

    I agree that it would make sense to have a separate category for erotic romance, but

    some of the core principles of erotic romance are an anethma to inspirational authors and conservative authors

    .
    I’m afraid I find that comment rather insulting. Many of those who dislike erotic romance do not consider themselves either particularly religious or particularly conservative. To label them that way seems at best patronizing.

  23. Angela James
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:24:57

    Since I couldn't care less about the Oscars…

    This kind of statement both saddens and confuses me, because there are a lot of people who do care, so I’m not sure what purpose this statement serves?

  24. Will Belegon
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:26:42

    Thank you Jane, for this post. I have been struggling with the decision to be a member of RWA or not for precisely this reason. Why should I financially support an organization that is biased against me?

    Yet, there is much of value within the organization. So I am faced with a choice to fight this “battle” from either within the organization or from outside it.

    I didn’t finish reading all the comments yet, but re: Shannon and the issue of mis-markings via “wrong category”… I think that the element doing the most damage is going to find some excuse. NR vs. WC is just semantics at that point. I agree that it could expand the problem. But I think that the establishment of the separate category would still do more good than harm. Also, it would generate debate. And the knowledge gained through that debate would do good. Knowledge is an enemy of discrimination.

  25. Jaci Burton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:29:03

    I think the RITA categories as a whole are constantly being revamped, rethought, and overhauled. They just did it recently with category, and that’s a big ole mess now too. There used to be long and short category, and now there’s contemporary series romance and contemporary series suspense/adventure. Which just makes no sense at all. At least to me. But no one asked me for my opinion when revamping the category..uh…categories.

    But I agree that erotic romance, like inspirational romance should have its own category. There are fundamental pieces of the puzzle that make it unique from your standard romance. And aspects that may make judging one uncomfortable for some people. It’s not just a single title romance. It’s not just a romantic suspense. Sex plays a large part in an erotic romance. Sometimes more so in some erotic romances than in others. I’ve heard some say that it’s the story that should be judged. Well, that’s fine, but honestly, I don’t feel the stories are being judged fairly, because some judges are being turned off by the explicit sex. Fine, then. Give erotic romance its own category and let judges sign up for that category. I firmly believe there will be plenty of judges who are willing to take it on.

    I think the only way to enact change in RWA from authors is from the inside. Quitting in a huff and storming off changes nothing. Ranting and raving like a batshit crazy moron also changes nothing, and tarnishes the image of erotic romance authors as a whole. Calm, well thought out argument presented in a coherent and intelligent manner, as Jane has done here, is the way to push through the change many of us want.

    Thanks Jane. :-)

  26. Larissa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:30:00

    Personally, I’d like to see heat levels become something an author marks on their entries, and then judges could choose what heat levels they’d be willing to judge. Yes, there is an element of subjectivity — what one person thinks is erotic, another might think is warm. But still, it would eliminate a lot of the returns, the squeamishness, and the reluctance of authors to enter. If I can mark “erotic” on my paranormal entry, I know a judge who hates graphic sex won’t get it.

    If judges only want to judge sweet and warm, they don’t have to worry about getting something with graphic sex. If judges want to judge erotic and hot, they don’t have to worry about getting something that is too mild for them to enjoy.

    I know that the people behind the scenes who have to coordinate all of the entries to go to the right judges work hard, and adding heat levels to books will only make that work harder. But we also pay a lot of money to enter our books, and I’d like to see erotic romances get a fair shake. I know I’d volunteer to help sort out the books to send to judges, if that’s what it would take!

  27. Rowena Cherry
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:33:48

    Shannon makes a great point. An author cannot judge the category she entered. That’s supposed to avoid a potential conflict of interest, but does it?

    Authors who wish to be judged, are forced (pretty much) to judge in the year they are competing.

    So, not only may we end up judging something we have no interest or experience in assessing… in my case, I don’t mind erotic romance as long as it is well written and has a happy ending, but I’m not at all interested in cowboy romances.

    Actually, I’m not interested in inspirationals, either. I’m delighted that I can choose not to judge them. No offense intended. I’d rather people who don’t like my category weren’t obliged to read my stuff, too.

    I think it would be a great improvement if erotic romance books had a rating system, and that judges who don’t want to judge above a certain heat level could make that election when they sign up to judge. That would reduce the WC and NR problem.

    It might be logistically difficult to have an erotic romance category because almost every category has entries that are hot. If you did, you’d have historicals, paranormals, futuristics, fantasies, contemporaries, romantic suspense, etc etc in that one erotic romance category. How would an author with a borderline book choose whether to enter Erotic Romance or Historical Romance?

    How would books be assigned to judges while still making sure that competitors weren’t judging their own competitors? One answer would be to ensure that RITA entrants judged GH, and GH entrants judged RITAs.

    That said, I do think that there ought to be a separate category for romances between multiple adults, adults of the same sex, or other traditionally-taboo pairings.

  28. Jane
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:34:57

    @Jane O I certainly don’t want to come off being patronizing and I don’t mean to imply that all inspy or conservative authors dislike erotic romance or that that is the exclusive set of authors disliking romance.

  29. Jane
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:36:35

    @S. There was a piece the other day on another blog or newspaper about the validity of contests wherein you have to pay to enter. I can’t remember what it is/was. … Googled it – it was Quill & Quire post

  30. Jane
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:38:59

    @Jessica It is both. From the emails of authors I have received, they’ve been DQ’d for both polyamorous relationships and books that contain themes outside what could be perceived the norm (i.e., bondage and submission). I’m a pretty strict constructionalist of the romance definition and these authors write what I would consider to be stories more romance-y than many romantic suspense or fantasy books.

  31. Jane
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:40:35

    @Lorelie I agree. The change, if any comes, has to come from institution members voting for specific change. You need to read the bylaws and the policies and procedures to ascertain what it is that you need to do to come to a solution AND then you need the bodies at the annual meeting to vote for that change. If ER authors really want some changes to happen, they need to make it happen.

  32. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:40:47

    I think the only way to enact change in RWA from authors is from the inside. Quitting in a huff and storming off changes nothing. Ranting and raving like a batshit crazy moron also changes nothing, and tarnishes the image of erotic romance authors as a whole.

    And once again, I find myself sharing a brain with Jaci. :-)

  33. Jane
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:43:20

    @Laura Vivanco I do think that there is what could be perceived as an institutional bias simply because of the numbers of the members who dislike the inclusion of erotic romance into the genre. I also agree that GLBTQ and African American romances, while not a separate genre, could use the “protection” like inspirational romance gets. It seems a little ridiculous to have two historical romance categories but not provide specific categories for other books.

  34. Maya Banks
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 07:46:33

    A few points I’ll address

    The idea that the ER category wouldn’t be judged by ER writers because you can’t judge in the category you entered. It’s the same for any other category and amazingly it still works. The reason? You opt IN to judge categories you want. You don’t sign up for categories you DON’T want to judge. It’s why inspirationals can get a fair shake in the RITAs. If you don’t want to get the inspies, you don’t sign up for that category. Would be the same for ER

    The idea of subjectivity…isn’t our writing universe RULED by subjectivity? And yet it always comes up in these conversations as if because of subjectivity we can’t possibly have an ER category. The thing is, the RITAs have clear delineation for what books can be entered where. If you write a series romance, you enter it in the series category. So why can’t it be as simple as if you write for an erotic romance imprint, then you can enter the ER category. Oh but wait you say! There are erotic romance books published across all imprints. Well that didn’t stop the RITAs from telling authors they can’t enter the series category unless they write for one of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines. Heck, I’ve got a few stories that I could have totally entered in the short and long contemporary categories when they were still differentiated by short and long. They weren’t published by the series lines but I could have entered them under the old rules.

    Readers/authors/judges not LIKING erotic romance doesn’t bother me. If it’s not your cuppa, it’s not your cuppa. What bothers me is for judges to say that an erotic romance is not romance and all because it doesn’t fit your world view of a more traditional relationship.

    I honestly thought in the beginning that there wouldn’t be an issue of ER books being judged in the RITAs. I was wrong. I was also an author who didn’t feel that there was a need for there to be a separate ER category. Again, I was wrong.

    If the RWA is dead set against a separate category, the LEAST they could do is offer an opt out check box for ER books. When you sign up online, they have at least two other check boxes so it’s not like it would be impossible. Then, at least, ER books wouldn’t be sent to people who have no desire to read or judge them.

  35. JulieLeto
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:06:40

    I used to be against the erotic books having their own category. Now, I’m not so sure…especially because of the opt-in judging designation. I think it’s very interesting, btw, that none of Harlequin/Silhouette’s “Passion” lines (Desire, Blaze, Presents) had a book final in the contemporary series category. Only in novella (Blaze) and suspense/adventure (Blaze.) Makes you wonder, that’s all.

  36. Lucinda Betts
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:09:15

    I really am of two minds on this topic. On one hand, I write erotic romances (they have both happy endings and HEAs). On the other hand, all of the erotic romances I write are paranormal/fantasty.

    The way the RITA is set up now, books like SHE and RUNNING WILD (my 2008 releases with Kensington’s Aphrodisia) would be judged against books by Yasmine Galenorn, Nalini Singh, and Susan Grant (congrats, ladies! and to the others I didn’t mention). Is that an appropriate group of peers for my books? I don’t know.

    If the RITA were changed so that all erotic romances were judged against each other, my books would be judged against books by people like Susan Lyons and Megan Hart, who write contemporaries, and against books by people like Vonna Harper who writes erotic Westerns, and against books by people who write erotic historicals, like Noelle Mack. Is that an appropriate group of peers for my books? Again, I don’t know.

    Even if the RITA judges weren’t tossing erotic romances out of the contest because of their erotic nature (which doesn’t seem particularly cool), there still isn’t a good answer to this question. At least when you lump all inspirationals together, they’re all the same subgenre. For erotic romances, it’s almost like you need a second subgenre for every category–which makes the award a little watered down.

    As an author of erotic romance, I’ve sort of resigned myself to the feeling movie makers of animated films must feel at the Oscars. Yes, we will get overlooked in the big picture. Maybe it’s not the best position to be in, but there is a solace. After all, everyone knows that Wall-e should have won Best Picture of 2008, even if it was a cartoon.

  37. Maya Banks
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:13:41

    Lucinda, inspirational entries have to compete against different genres within the inspirational umbrella as well. There is a separate romantic suspense line as well as a historical line and contemporary and other publishers also put out a variety of time periods/genres in the inspirational field.

  38. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:13:43

    I blogged elsewhere about this, too.
    Disclaimer – I am not a member of the RWA, but I am an enthusiastic member of my country’s romance organisation, the RNA.
    I don’t enter contests, or I decided not to this year, anyway.
    And I write Teh Hotte, as well as Teh Notte Quite So Hotte.

    But yes, if you compare the categories for the EPPIEs to the RITAs, there is a huge difference. True, the EPPIEs also include non-romance books, but erotica is separated out from erotic romance, and there are other categories, Thriller, for instance. But even when they’re excluded, there is more than one erotic romance category.
    If there’s more than one erotic romance category, as in maybe BDSM and the rest, then judging will happen.

    And some judges will read Teh Hotte without writing it. It doesn’t follow that every romance author who doesn’t write erotic romance, is agin it. Maybe there should be a supervisor who can question things like the NR comment.

    When people moan about the poor shake romance writers sometimes get in the romance community and the reading world at large, I say “Try writing erotic romance.” I’ve seen writers of erotic romance deeply hurt by thoughtless comments made, not just by moralists, but by people they considered their peers.

    Anyway, good luck to those people who did get through. I hope you all come out of it in one piece and happy.

  39. Carrie Lofty
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:13:55

    To readers who are secular or who worship in a manner that is not Christ centered, an inspy romance would be difficult to judge in a totally impartial light.

    I am about the least Christ-centered person I know, but I wound up with an inspy in my RITA judging this year. Gah, I thought. It had been entered as a contemp or a YA, because authors have the liberty to choose. Is it more contemporary than inspy? Do they want it judged against their YA peers or their inspy peers? She took a gamble and it wound up in my lap.

    What makes me feel particularly betrayed by this debate is that I really liked the book. When it got a bit preachy, which it did at points, I skimmed and picked up the next non-preachy thread. It wound up being the book I scored highest this year.

    So it really got my goat to have judges complain, loudly, on various loops that they literally could not read sexy books because their brains would be clouded by impure, un-Christian thoughts. Some of these protesters, and I’m in no way speaking for all of them, fell back on the sacred “it’s against my beliefs” argument. They can choose to disregard or disqualify certain romance entries because not even professionalism trumps their faith, comparing it to making an Orthodox Jew eat pork at a food judging competition.

    But non-religious types like me aren’t allowed an equivalent rebuttal. “Religious talk makes my skin crawl” is not a valid enough reason to refuse. I’m told to be professional, judge an inspy by its story, and not be prejudiced. I did that. But this lack of a two-way street makes me wish I’d been petty.

    Philosophically though, I wonder if part of this reaction on the more conservative side has to do with the prosthetizing nature of some Christian faiths. If they’re writing inspirationals, that means they intend to inspire readers with the glory of Christ, where people choose to be true to their faith against all obstacles. That’s the whole point of the story. So on the flip side, maybe they’re looking at erotica, bondage, GLBTQ, etc. as being out to prosthetize a certain way of life. Their work has an agenda, and therefore erotica must too.

    To that I say, I read an inspy and didn’t feel the need to run off to church. I enjoyed the story, smiled when I reached the happy ending, and rated it fairly. My core beliefs were not threatened. Maybe in the light of hot sexxxorin’, they just can’t say the same.

  40. Jaci Burton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:14:21

    none of Harlequin/Silhouette's “Passion” lines (Desire, Blaze, Presents) had a book final in the contemporary series category.

    I noticed that too, Julie.

    I read and loved many of the books that finaled this year. But I saw a lot more of the traditional, hearth and home type of books in many of the categories, and very little of the hawt & sexy.

    Made me go hmmmmmm…..

  41. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:22:29

    They can choose to disregard or disqualify certain romance entries because not even professionalism trumps their faith, comparing it to making an Orthodox Jew eat pork at a food judging competition.

    Oh man, I remember that argument and I was absolutely incensed by that comparison because a) it was stupid, and b) it was a wholly inappropriate comparison.

  42. Julia Justiss
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:32:30

    I’m not on the RWA board tho I know several members well (bless their hearts for the enormous amount of time and energy they devote for FREE) but I can assure you that the issue of RITA categories has been and continues to be debated and redefined, almost every year. No one is ever completely happy with the results, but the tweaking continues.

    For the record, to have/not have an erotica/erotic romance categoy was debated in the last go-round. As someone else stated, among those who commented (and please note, EVERY TIME the categories are debated, all RWA members are entreated, begged and implored to send in their opinions!) the vote was split 50/50 among authors of erotic romance who felt there should be a separate category and those who felt there should not.

    There continues to be discussion about how to fairly judge erotic romance, heat definition being one way for prospective judges to be able to opt out of reading entries they might not be able to judge fairly.

    The problem is, how are heat levels going to be defined? Use of explicit language? Are we going to publish a “dictionary” of what is considered explicit? By acts performed by consenting adults–inclusion/exclusion of “golden showers” or triads or dom/bondage and things considered “pushing the romantic limit?” But who defines what is “pushing the romantic limit?” Someone who reads “sweeter” romance might think any bondage is off the chart, while someone who reads alot of erotica might consider bondage within the confines of erotic ROMANCE rather “tame.”

    No consensis has yet been reached on these issues. Generally, both sides are passionate about their point of view.

    Thanks, Jane, for opening the debate again and please, continue the discussion and LET YOUR BOARD MEMBERS KNOW your thoughts. As I recall in the latest newsletter, a committee has just been formed to review the categories yet again. So many times people complain that “they” are imposing standards on us when “I” or “we” never bothered to express my/our preferences to the people responsible for setting up the categories.

    Please don’t speak unkindly about a group who devote enormous amounts of time trying to settle thorny matters that generally, no matter what the end result and how carefully the committees consider the imput they are sent, will disappoint or annoy some segment of the membership.

    Yes, one must pay to enter the RITA, as with most romance contests. For those who feel the RITA doesn’t give erotic romance a fair reading, alot of chapters and the erotic romance subchapter of RWA also have contests in which there are categories for hotter romance. Some might consider a win in those less “prestigeous” than a RITA win, but hey, a contest win is a contest win and always good to flash on your cover or on your website. Few readers have any idea what the RITA is anyway!

  43. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:34:46

    The Oscars? Um. The Oscars are known world-wide even by people who aren’t film buffs. The Ritas? Don’t think so. And I have to wonder if readers actually pay any attention to the wins, except to be pleased when a writer they particularly like gets an award.

    The notion that “ROMANCE” exists outside of sexuality has always struck me as rather peculiar. Excuse me; romance is about courtship. Courtship is about mating.

    Mating = sex.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to have explicit sexual scenes in a romance–for a YA it’s probably not appropriate, given current legal strictures. But to pretend that a couple just waltzes off into the sunset, hand in hand… I’m sorry. That breathless feeling, the butterflies in the stomach, the tingling in the nether regions–either the character is having some sort of neurological malfunctions, or is in the early stage of sexual arousal. Birds & the bees.

    What makes this a romance is that the characters intend to harness their horniness into a lasting relationship, and that means involving the emotions and reason as well as the gonads.

    Erotic or not is a matter of how the writer chooses to tell the story. Each is equally valid. So yes, in that sense, historical or contemp or paranormal or whatever – the heat level shouldn’t affect the category, assuming the judges are reasonable adults who can recognize that romance does usually lead to sex.

    However: if the bouncer at the door has her knickers in a twist if a characters’ knickers come off, then yes, erotic stories should have their own categories. I think the “heat level” indicator is a good idea. I don’t much care for books that are 75% sex and 25% plot, wouldn’t want to judge them because when there’s so much sex that it gets boring, I stop reading.

    Naturally, all of the above applies to same-sex romances… particularly the double-whammy for books like Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows series, which are closer to ‘sweet romance’ than erotica.

    And forgive me, but I don’t have money to waste throwing it at an organization that not only discriminates against me, but says my marriage of 9 years is not “valid.” I won’t say what I think of that, because I am endeavoring to be polite. But I would very much like to see RWA put an end to its religious homophobia, and until they do, there’s no benefit that could lure me to join this group and add my tacit approval to such bigotry.

  44. » Another RITA discussion
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:38:27

    […] Dear Author is hosting another discussion about erotic romance in the RITAs. Traditionally, erotic romance has not gotten a fair shake in the competition. First, it was because folks said that erotic romance was too much about the sex to be a “real romance.” Ummm, no. It’s real romance. […]

  45. azteclady
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:46:59

    Actually, I think that Kimber An’s comment makes Jane’s point all the more evident.

  46. Jackie Barbosa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 08:48:35

    It might be logistically difficult to have an erotic romance category because almost every category has entries that are hot. If you did, you'd have historicals, paranormals, futuristics, fantasies, contemporaries, romantic suspense, etc etc in that one erotic romance category. How would an author with a borderline book choose whether to enter Erotic Romance or Historical Romance?

    I’d say they would choose the same way authors choose now whether to enter single title contemporary vs romantic suspense or inspirational vs historical.

    In my RITA judging packet this year, I actually had two inspirational romances (out of six books). I did not volunteer to judge inspirational because I don’t read them and further, as a non-Christian, don’t feel I’m the best person to evaluate such books on their merits. Nonetheless, I judged these two inspirationals as fairly as I could. One was running in single title contemporary and the other was running in historical. The authors, despite having written books that were clearly inspirationals, chose to run in the non-inspirational categories. And while I can’t guess at their rationale for having done so, they weren’t in the wrong categories, although in my opinion, the authors essentially set themselves up to ensure they wouldn’t make the finals.

    In other words, the existence of an erotic category wouldn’t prevent authors of erotic romances from entering any other category their book might “fit” in, any more than the existence of the inspirational category does. It is up to the author to decide which elements of the book are most important to him/her from the perspective of the judge, and to choose the category accordingly. An author who chooses to enter a category other than erotic may be facing an uphill battle in terms of finaling, but that’s already the case. It’s just that having an erotic category would give the books that run in it a fairer shake.

    The question of who judges the erotic category is, IMO, a red herring. As mentioned, judges already opt in to the categories they want to judge (and notice that I judged two inspies despite not having opted for that category!). But also, the “erotic authors won’t judge erotic books because they’ll be entrants” makes numerous assumptions not in evidence: 1) all erotic authors have a book that is eligible to be entered; 2) all erotic authors will ONLY enter their boks the erotic category; 3) only authors who have entered the RITA will volunteer to judge; 4) only authors of erotic romances like to read them.

    So, sign me up as one of those in favor of an erotic category.

  47. Naughty and Spice Blog » Blog Archive » I Just Can't Be Arsed
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:03:46

    […] blogging hate mail, Kait Nolan’s blogging about burning books and Dear Author’s blogging about the Ritas not having an erotic romance uh whatever […]

  48. Courtney Milan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:04:41

    @Kimber An:

    Most readers are over thirty and have learned the hard way that great sex does not equal love.

    I am over thirty, and I agree.

    But that’s hardly the question.

    I don’t believe sex means love, but it’s a pretty darned important–in my mind, even necessary–component. If you’re going to restrict yourself to one person for monogamous sexing for the rest of your life, it would be nice if you restricted yourself to a person who was going to knock your socks off.

  49. Jackie Barbosa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:14:48

    I don't believe sex means love, but it's a pretty darned important-in my mind, even necessary-component. If you're going to restrict yourself to one person for monogamous sexing for the rest of your life, it would be nice if you restricted yourself to a person who was going to knock your socks off.

    Hear, hear.

    And, FWIW, at well over thirty (ahem!), I will say unequivocally that while I love my husband for many reasons, his ability to “knock my socks off” is high on the list. He cares enough to trouble himself to rock my world. Great sex doesn’t necessarily equal love, but love should equal great sex, IMO.

    ‘Nuff said.

  50. ldb
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:16:46

    I don’t think this is a matter of people who don’t like erotic romance not liking sex or heat. As a reader I can’t really work up much sympathy for this because while the erotic romance I’ve read has been hot it’s been lacking in the romance, and comparing other books I’ve read to ones labeled erotic romance if I’m basing it on which ones I believe have the strongest emotional bond then at the end of the day a romance will come out ahead.

    Having said that I’ve given up on the erotic romance lable because it seems like many publishers are broadening it, and trying to incorperate books that are really erotica into the mix. As a reader I can tell the differance and I don’t have the money to weed my through and find the authors who want to tell a love story with sex and the ones who want to tell a story about a person’s sexual journy.

    So while I may like my romances hotter, I’ve resigned myself to older romances and Blaze.

  51. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:19:05

    Interesting pattern here, of people who asked not to be sent “inspirationals” being sent them regardless. I had the same situation in judging Eppies–because they had defined some categories as “1M1W” I asked to be sent only GLBT entries. I got all kinds of stuff.

    Apparently the only sensibilities that are respected are religious ones–and by that I mean right-wing fundamentalist Christian prejudices.

  52. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:26:39

    Couple of things off the top of my head about my perception of the RITAs. Please bear in mind that I’m not a RWA member and that I don’t have any investment on this contest one way or the other not even as a reader at this point because the award doesn’t influence my purchases.

    1. Same number of finalists per category each year. Having more dillutes the category IMO. If the Oscars kept changing it around from year to year it would be harder for fans to follow.

    2. Instead of doing this end-year nominee bit, why not do something more like the MWA’s Edgars and placing entries based on quarters. It would allow authors/publishers/booksellers to promote finalists closer to the release date. I think this is particularly important since RWA’s award ceremony is in July and the winning entry could be 18 months old by then and not available for purchase. It would also make judging easier because the entry judging could be spread out. More importantly it would increase the likelihood that this was the first time the judge had read the book. If you had only five finalists per category, you could have 1 designated finalist from each quarter and then determine the 5th finalist from the 4 runner-ups at the end of the year.

    3. Is there any type of certification required in order to judge so that every one is on the same page as to what the criteria is for judging. It would still be subjective but there does need to be a baseline. A non-book example: I played in a national women’s volleyball organization which required team to supply refs to officiate the games. In order to officiate you had to take a class and be judged on your officiating skills.

    I only bring this up because I’ve heard the argument that I know how to write and I know what a romance is so I know how to judge. The problem with the argument is that judging a book and writing a book are two different skillsets. And that also begs the question of what is the criteria? (I haven’t seen the judging sheets so perhaps this is already addressed) But I’d question hypothetically what weight a book resonance carries (presentation) vs. craft (technical merit) and how that relates to the final grade determination. Since this is a professional writers organization, I do think both areas need to be addressed.

    4. No bound books. Covers, authors names all should be stripped because they do influence judgment. When I pull a book from my shelf, the cover invokes a feeling, when I see an author’s name it sets up an expectation… This would also give a more level playing field because it would allow e-publishing to enter books that are in digital only format and it might also give African American romance a more fair chance assuming that the bias does exist as it’s been described to me. Same thing with Blazes or other categories.

    I assume here that judges could be trusted not to google phrases to figure which book they were judging until after they’ve turned in and had their results certified.

    5. Erotic romance itself. Well, by a purist definition erotic romance isn’t erotic romance because it’s hotter than the average book. It’s because the sex actually plays a part in characterization and moving the plot forward so each sex scene or sexual encounter has a very specific purpose to the overall story arc. (BTW: I’m not saying a sex scene doesn’t have a purpose in a non-erotic romance. I’m saying that it carries different weight because of story construction.) That would be very difficult to judge because that’s a subtle distinction. Not impossible though. Deserving of it’s own category? Only if the judges are able to make those distinctions.

    6. Disqualifying an entry for not a romance or wrong category. Okay, here I’d really like to see this happen before the entry ever makes it to the judges. I know it’s a volunteer organization but to allow an entry to move forward in a competition that hasn’t already been certified as appropriate for the contest seems a waste of time for all concerns. Also if judges still felt that books were inappropriately categorized or not a romance, then they could write up why the book fails to meet their personal criteria and then those comments could used to further hone contest rules and judging criteria after the items were debated.

    7. Ispy romances. Shouldn’t get a separate designation if there are no other separate designations like non-traditional romances or African American or even erotic romance. By separating them out, RWA has made them special compared to all other romances. Either designate additional categories which also need to cultivated and grown or let Ispy compete with all other books.

    9. Young Adult. I’m not sure about this one because I have a hard time believing that the main plot thread of a young adult novel is the plot arc of a romance. I absolutely believe that there could be a romance within the story and that it has a traditional HEA but my perception of young adult story written for a young adult audience is that it is more of a coming of age story or about the growth on the primary character.

    I have to admit that I was surprised by a young adult novel winning best romance of the year simply because of my perception. Obviously I do not read enough romances marked as young adult to be informed.

  53. JulieLeto
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:33:29

    Yeah, I meant to also add…I don’t write erotic romance. I write hot books, yeah, but nothing like I think we’re talking about here. Anyway, I don’t write it and could very easily judge it because I read it and, obviously, am not offended by it.

    Generally, I don’t read extensively in the subgenre I write. I like to read outside of my personal experience, to grow myself as a writer. Yes, I read a few paranormals now that I’m writing them, but no more than I did before and certainly not exclusively. I mostly read romantic suspense and women’s fiction, though I write neither.

    My point is that I agree with Jackie. You don’t have to write a certain category is order to judge it fairly.

  54. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:36:11

    Totally, with you on this one, Jane. In fact, I can feel my heartrate escalating and my anger rising.

    I really felt angry when RWA created the Inspy category. It’s totally too narrow and specific a category for a contest that is supposed to be about general excellence in romantic fiction. And now that they keep refusing to create a corresponding erotic category…it just ain’t right.

    I have written letters to RWA, I have given my input whenever they asked for it on this subject–my feeling being that if there is going to be a “religious” category in the RITAs, there should be more religions represented, first of all. But there aren’t. An inspy Muslim story? Heaven forfend! And if they insist on keeping the Christian category, I wish they would at least call it what it is.

    And moreover, if they are going to keep the Christian category, they need to give Erotic stories the same level playing field. Sexy stories deserve their own category, period, as long as the Christians get one–and no, not that I think you can’t be a Christian and write erotic books. I totally know Christians and sex are not necessarily incompatible.

    One thing we have to keep in mind. Though I love RITA and hope someday to win one, well, it’s not as if getting a RITA is going to affect a writer’s sales either way. I don’t believe it does. The occasional editor has been heard to remark that RITA books in general sell more poorly than average. To me, this does make sense as RITA is not about what readers love, but about what other romance authors admire and find excellent. Different criteria altogether.

    Still, who doesn’t want to be recognized by her/his peers? RWA shoud either get rid of the Inspy category or institute an erotic one. Their continual refusal to do either just fries my ass.

  55. Fae
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:37:10

    As a GLBT romance author, an author of erotic romance, and an epubbed author, all in all the RWA has chosen to discriminate against my work in 3 separate ways. I have to agree with Lee Rowan when I say that there is NO benefit they could possibly offer that would inspire me to join an organization that so blatantly thinks my work is scum on their shoe. Nationals are less than 20 minutes from my front door this year but I’d sooner hang out at Dubya’s Texas ranch than attend. Might get more acceptance at the ranch.

  56. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:40:22

    Apparently the only sensibilities that are respected are religious ones-and by that I mean right-wing fundamentalist Christian prejudices.

    Lee, that’s not really a fair statement– the people who were unexpectedly sent inspirational books to judge in the RITA were sent them because the authors had opted to enter them in a category OTHER than inspy. When we get our judging sheets, it reads what category each book is entered in. For example, I opted to judge YA, Mainstream, and Single Title. All of the books I received were listed within those categories, however, when I started reading, I found I had a straight mystery with absolutely no romance entered as a Mainstream, a Single Title entry that would have been better served in Mainstream or better still, Romantic Suspense, and a Mainstream entry that personally I thought might have done better in Inspirational.

    Technically, I received books in the categories I opted to judge. All I could do at that point was judge the book on its merits, with the additional caveat of did I feel it fit within the parameters of the category in which it was entered.

  57. liz...
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:42:19

    I am not a writer, just a reader. I want to point out to the other writers that in the Oscar’s writers judge other writers, actors judge other actors, and so on. The only catagory judged by the whole group is best picture. It is understandable that the make-up people judge themselves because they understand the craft, and so on. If i was in a group this large and specialized that is what i would push for. there would be no books dropped because all the judges would understand the catagory.

    I have to say that most years I look at the winners list and just go “HUH?”. These are not the books i read. I don’t look at the winners list and make purchases off it.

  58. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:44:25

    One more thing, since the edit function won’t let me edit my previous comment.

    Cut “sexy.” Replace with “erotic.” I understand that it’s not just sexy we’re talking about here.

  59. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 09:56:53

    @Barb Ferrer:

    I see.

    Still, when the judges hit the preachy sections, they soldiered on and attempted to judge the writing on its merits.

    I somehow don’t believe the self-appointed guardians of romantic purity would have been so … Christian.

  60. Lissa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:06:24

    I will admit right off the bat that I am woefully ignorant about the RITA awards and its categories – however after reading this post and the comments I would say that it makes perfect sense to add an erotic romance category to the judging. It would also be a simple matter to me to determine what books fall into that category by which publisher/line they are from. For instance a book that is published by Ellora’s Cave is erotic romance – regardless of the nature of the sex in the book or the participants engaging in that sex, simply by virtue of the fact that Ellora’s Cave publishes erotica.

    As for “heat” ratings on books – the idea in theory is good, but in practice not so much. What you might think is heat, I might find to be bland and vice-versa. I think it boils down to a judges ability to read and judge a book based on the characterization, the plot and the writing, rather than on the sexual content. For instance, in real life I am a committed m/f hetero, but I can read about a menage coupling or BDSM or any other situation without being offended – just because it is not my preference does not mean that it doesn’t exist or is wrong or that the book is not well-written. I have judged in several RWA chapter contests and have read several books that I would not have gone to the store and picked for myself, but was able to read and appreciate the authors abilities even though the storyline was not my chosen preference and judge them fairly by that standard.

    I would question the judges ability to mark a book as “not romance” or “wrong category”. It seems to me that if the book has been accepted for judging by the RITA committee and placed in a certain category then it is in fact romance and belongs in that category; therefore it deserves to be read and judged. Dismissing a book because its subject matter is not your preference seems to me to be petty.

    As for subcategories within the erotica genre, I could argue that there is enough of a difference between the books in any category that each book could have its own sub-category, but that just defeats the purpose of the judging. I don’t think beyond qualifying a book as “romance” or “erotica” that it really needs to go much farther. There are obvious differences between those two categories, but once you begin trying to sort out what sort of coupling fits where and what kind of sex fits where, you lose the point of the category.

  61. Traumatized
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:20:51

    @Kimber

    Great sex doesn't automatically equal HEA but it helps a whole hell of a lot. It's true that not a lot of marriages have super great sex lives but it's also true that there are people who have been married FOREVER and have them. Just ask my therapist. Certain family members, who shall remain nameless, have been married over 40 years, got married before they had sex and still have a very active and unfortunately loud sex life to this day. *shudders* In their opinion, sex is a gift God gave them and their physical relationship makes their entire relationship stronger.

    Think their situation is an anomaly? Unfortunately (I say unfortunately because PDAs by the older members of my family can be traumatizing) it isn't. (Not because they're old, well partly because they're old, but mostly because it's kinda squicky to see your 77-year-old uncle smack your 72-year-old aunt's behind and then tell her, “Wait until they leave, won't nobody hear you scream then. *shudders*)

    You ask each of them what made their marriages so strong. And more than likely, they will say love. And to for a lot of people, and not just my freaky family, sex = love.

  62. Jo Leigh
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:24:43

    I believe the RITAs need to be looked at from a further distance. Examine the meta, as it were, of contest parameters and how they are set. For example, instead of looking at whether to separate this category or that, look at what constitutes a separate category at all. Is it critical mass? Definition by publisher? Ability to define? If the meta were defined, then it wouldn’t matter how the romance genre changed, there would be an inherent structure for sub categories to be made.

    After that, then work out the semantics of further definition, if needed.

  63. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:27:04

    Lissa @#60,

    Erotica is not erotic romance therefore it doesn’t meet the criteria for entry into RWA’s RITA competition because it’s doesn’t have the relationship as the main plot thread and it doesn’t require a HEA. In fact, I’ve read erotica where there was no actual sexual contact in the story. Can’t recall the name of the story at the moment but it did fit the definition of erotica.

    Some of Ellora’s Cave stories are erotica (the Xotika line comes to mind) but most are labeled by the publisher as erotic romance. Whether or not you agree with that designation is a facet of the issue that Jane addressed in her post regarding the competition and what exactly is a romance as defined by the judges.

  64. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:31:32

    I’ve been hearing that argument about “changing RWA from within” for years. So where’s the change?

    At what point do members who live in the 21st century begin to consider a different tack — like organizing a boycott? Maybe becoming nonmembers, and doing so en masse, would send a much stronger message than remaining members and suffering this ongoing, inexcusable prejudice. Honestly, why do you all keep letting your money and your presence support a group of sniffy biddies who engage in blatant discrimination? I’m truly flummoxed by this attitude.

    To those who find value in their local chapters — yank the whole chapter from the organization and just keep meeting! I doubt the RWA Goon Squad will hunt you down in some local library and firebomb the place.

    (Sorry, I don’t mean to be flip . . . but talk about an exercise in futility!)

  65. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:47:17

    I’ve been saying for months now that we all – readers, authors, whomever – don’t need categories for cataloging sexual content, we need tags. Just like for any other plot element.

    How this could be applied to something like an award such as the Ritas I have no idea but the discussion I’m seeing here is the same one I’ve seen countless times on countless forums related to sexual content, just with a different impact. The impact here being when and how the book is judged for the award.

    Most of the time when we readers are talking about this, it’s because we’re trying to figure what’s in the book before we actually buy/get it. Basically, generic levels or ratings of relative eroticness or hotness aren’t very usefull. That even applies to the inspiration content to some extent. Why? Because those are broad categories.

    Tags, however, are specific and they do tell the reader what’s actually in the books. What I’m hearing here is that the judges (who are readers, too) are reacting to broad categories of “erotic” and not actually knowing what they’re going to end up reading any more than any other reader would know. I can understand that. I’d feel the same way picking up a broadly labeled “inspirational” off the shelf without actually knowing what it’s about.

    Question, why are these awards aligned around such broad categories when the genre readership that they serve is so oriented towards thematic plotlines anyway? Are all of you going to tell me that of all the books submitted there are no similar plots and/or themes showing up year after year, regardless of sexual content level?

    Until we simply accept that “sex” is simply part of the story of a relationship in romance and stop segregating the stories by the level of how much is there, how in the world are we going to convince everyone else that the books aren’t all about sex? Rather we seem fixated on it.

  66. SandyW
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:48:39

    Perhaps the solution is for the RWA to develop some romance-speak code for Erotic Romance. Kind of like ‘Inspirational.' The RWA definition for Inspirational is:

    Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.

    But everyone knows that it really means romance novels written by, for, and about conservative, white, evangelical Christians. ‘Any religion or spiritual belief system' is meaningless verbiage.

  67. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:49:32

    K.Z., though I don’t like the seeming prejudice against Erotic Romance, I get a lot of value out of RWA, both from my three chapters and from National. RWA is the best for networking in my field. And though the yearly conference is too expensive, I always get a lot done–meeting with editors, agents, trading info with other authors–when I attend.

    The RITA isn’t all of it, not by a long shot. No way I would boycott RWA just because I disagree with some of the stances of the organization. I speak up and let them know where I stand, but I don’t ever expect any org to be run just the way I would like it run.

    Years ago, they had a rule that you couldn’t enter a book unless you owned the copyright. I wrote two continuity (house-owned, but with full royalty) books during that time that I was really proud of and wanted to enter in the RITA. No such luck. And then, finally, they wised up and dropped that rule. Too late for me to enter those books I was so proud of. But so what? I cry all the way to the bank about that.

  68. Karen Templeton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 10:58:01

    Re: Marking a book WC or NR/NRE: In ten years or so of judging, I’ve given the dreaded WC/NR three times…and not because of sexual content. Although the guidelines for each category are pithily stated, they are clear. If a book clearly does NOT meet the criteria stated in those guidelines — no matter how the book is marketed by the publisher, or which category the author/publisher entered it in — as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t be allowed to compete against other books that do.

    A so-called romantic suspense with no suspense is a WC, as is an Inspirational with virtually no faith elements. Even in a “strong romantic elements” category, the point is the romantic elements must be STRONG, and play a vital role in the plot/character development, even if there’s no HEA or HFN. Don’t meet guidelines = FAIL. Sorry.

    As for books being winnowed out for WC BEFORE judges see them — not possible, since the only way to determine whether any book meets the guidelines is to read it.

    As for the topic at hand — I was on the task force a couple of years ago to revamp the categories, and we recommended a separate ER category. However, it’s true — taking into account the membership feedback (paltry though it was), those who WROTE ER were equally divided on whether or not it needed its own category. So our recommendation was denied. Had it not, that 50 percent who truly believe ER needs to be mainstreamed, not “niched” would be upset, just as those who feel ER needs its own category are now. So I’m not sure how to “win” this one.

    Especially since the divide between what works, sensuality-wise, from one reader/author to the next seems to be growing. While I do understand the frustration from those who feel marginalized, reverse down-putting is not the answer. Yes, romantic love involves physical attraction, but not every reader/writer needs/wants to vicariously experience every detail — and their viewpoint is every bit as valid as those who do. Some people want it all there on the page, others to imagine it. Or not. None of us has any business dictating to anyone else how romance should or shouldn’t be portrayed…or even what constitutes a “real” romance.

    We each have our individual comfort zones and mindsets, and the right to read and write whatever floats our boat. And IMO until we reach the point where those rights are recognized and honored ON BOTH SIDES, the issue will never be satisfactorily addressed.

  69. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:01:17

    @Lee Rowan

    I somehow don't believe the self-appointed guardians of romantic purity would have been so … Christian.

    I’m afraid that there, I’d have to agree with you, much as I might wish that wasn’t the case. :(

  70. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:01:26

    @K. Z. Snow:

    To those who find value in their local chapters -‘ yank the whole chapter from the organization and just keep meeting!

    This seems to me the most logical course of action. I realize that RWA is a large organization and has a lot of publisher contacts, great big conventions, etc., but there is no reason I can fathom why it continues to be the only game in town except sheer inertia. It isn’t too uncomfortable for those writers who are not pushing the envelope, so they feel no pressing need to change.

    If there were an alternative organization in the US that did not discriminate, I would join and volunteer to do some of the lifting. None of the things that RWA do are intrinsic to the individuals who run the organization.

    As a private membership entity, RWA has every right to define its field any way it wants to… but it does not have the right to impose that definition on the entire romance field and all its writers, as though it’s speaking ex cathedra and we’re all tithe-paying church members. I think it’s dishonest of the organization and its leaders to accept membership and entry fees from writers whose books are guaranteed to suffer discrimination, in practice if not in the carefully-worded descriptions.

    RWA strikes me more and more as a dinosaur – a small, slow-to-adapt brain attached to a body that handles many of its functions rather independently. I have a feeling that if there were some other organization for writers of romance–and I mean all writers of romance — it would take off like a rocket.

  71. Kate Pearce
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:03:17

    To Shannon:
    1) You can't judge the category you entered. Erotic romance won't be judged by erotic romance authors.

    -Using that definition you couldn’t have an inspirational category either because if you can’t judge the category you entered who can judge the inspys? which is, I would guess just as small a pool of authors, if not smaller than ER. And not every Inspy or ER author will have an eligible book out that year and many will not choose to enter-so I’m sure there will be plenty of judges.

    2) More importantly, to my mind, would be the possibility of a rash of wrong category markings as every individual judge gets to decide what she thinks is erotic romance.

    -How about allowing the authors who write erotic romance and are published under that label to check a box when they enter stating the book is ER? I think we know what we write.

    And as an additional comment, how about a check box for judges who don’t want to read ER?

    Seems quite simple to me LOL

  72. veinglory
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:04:16

    “Some” author view RITAs like Oscars, not all.

    And in response to comments. If erotica is a theme not a genre, fine. By my count two erotic romances finaled and none that are not MF-vanilla. Is this proportional?

  73. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:07:05

    How would books be assigned to judges while still making sure that competitors weren't judging their own competitors? One answer would be to ensure that RITA entrants judged GH, and GH entrants judged RITAs.

    Wait, are you saying that the books are judged *only* by authors who have also entered books? Or is it just that most RWA members who judge have also entered books? Either way, though, it seems a bit, well, problematic that the pool of judges is identical to the pool of entrants — at least for the purposes of giving the RITA widespread regard.

    As to the issue of a separate category for ER, I know there are many who simply want ER mainstreamed, but the question is whether that will happen naturally, or whether you need to foster integration with a bit of institutional recognition vis a vis a separate category. How can a separate category marginalize ER when it’s already getting the ultimate marginalization in not being accepted as Romance?

    As for the issue of labeling (how do you tell what is and isn’t ER), if it’s the author who chooses the category, and the book is labeled and marketed as ER, then IMO it shouldn’t be the nightmare some envision. True, sex and sexuality are ironically troubling for a genre focused on romantic love, and damn, something needs to be done about that (which IMO starts with exactly this kind of awareness-raising), but I don’t think mixing in ER books with other subgenres is doing ER any good in terms of being accepted. And ER IS a valid marketing category, which makes its absence as a RITA category even more baffling to me.

  74. Robin L. Rotham
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:12:37

    Thank you, Jane!!! I have debated this matter with several board presidents, and the main problem, IMO, is that they’re unfairly requiring us to define “erotic”. We shouldn’t have to define erotic any more than the inspirational category has to define inspirational — and for those of you who think that category description is specific to Christianity, think again. From the RWA website:

    Inspirational Romance: Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.

    Judging guidelines: In this category, religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are blended with and form a significant part of the love story, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

    Of course, everyone knows that this category is devoted to Christ-centered books — but it isn’t DEFINED that way, and technically, this category could cover romances involving Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, and even Wicca. The category description is deliberately vague, I believe exactly because RWA doesn’t want to be viewed as discriminating against other religions. The description and judging guidelines leave both the author and the reader to determine if a book qualifies as inspirational, and they (we) won’t always agree. That’s just how it goes.

    And yet RWA is bound and determined to make us DEFINE erotic — a word they claim is “inherently indefinable” — once and for all, forever and ever, amen, if we want an erotic category. That is patently unfair.

    Based on the other RITA category descriptions and judging guidelines:

    Erotic Romance: Romance novels in which erotic elements (in the context of any traditional or non-traditional romantic relationship) are integral to the story and take the book beyond the conventional romance boundaries.

    Judging guidelines: In this category, the erotic elements (in the context of any traditional or non-traditional romantic relationship) play a major part in plot and/or character development, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

    It should not have to be any more specific than that.

  75. Kohdi
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:13:08

    To be honest I don’t quite understand the whole thing. Surely this is just about supply and demand? How many percent of romance readers read erotic romance? and how many read inspirational? Does any one has any data on this?
    If there are more erotic romance readers than inspirational, then yes, it is unfair and things should change. Otherwise, get more people to read erotic romance then demand a category.

    Let me just say, I’ve never read any inspirational romance, religion turns me off. On the other hand, I’ve rarely come across any good erotic romance. A thin veneer of “tru wuv” slathered on top and a hastily tacked on HEA does not make it an erotic romance. It just makes it annoying, and bad. Sometimes they are so bad, I think I prefer to read straight porns, at least they are honest and you are not left wondering what could the main characters possibly do with each other if they aren’t having sex. In fact, these days, I just read porn. But I digress.

  76. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:18:11

    When we have discussions like this one, I can’t help but wonder how far we’ve come from having genre Romance be institutionally validated as default white, Judeo-Christian, hero-centric, straight, missionary position dominant. Another reason the RITAs might not be so relevant to newer generations of Romance readers?

  77. Lucinda Betts
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:18:36

    Maya, thanks for clearing that up. I was under the misconception that all inspirationals were contemporaries. Knowing that, erotic romances should definitely have their own.

  78. Eve Boston
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:20:16

    Well said! And especially this…

    By having an inspirational category but not an erotic romance category, it seems to me that one sub genre is being elevated over another in your organization which purports to the supporter of all romance writers…

    Thank you. And brava!

  79. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:24:41

    RWA is bound and determined to make us DEFINE erotic -‘ a word they claim is “inherently indefinable” -‘ once and for all, forever and ever, amen, if we want an erotic category. That is patently unfair.

    This seems very strange. Why can’t they just take a look at what “Passionate Ink […] a Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America for erotic romance writers” has to say about erotic romance? Passionate Ink has a definition of Erotic Romance which seems a useful one:

    stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn't be removed without damaging the storyline. Happily Ever After is a REQUIREMENT to be an erotic romance.

  80. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:26:22

    Wait, are you saying that the books are judged *only* by authors who have also entered books? Or is it just that most RWA members who judge have also entered books?

    Robin, I didn’t enter the RITA this year, but I still volunteered to judge, and am able to do so, by dint of being a PAN member.

    I think where this particular confusion comes from is that the RITAs often run short on judges– this is the first year where I wasn’t asked to judge extra books. As such, there’s a rule in place where, while you don’t have to volunteer to judge in order to enter, it’s strongly encouraged, and should the contest run too short on judges and entries have to be returned because of that shortage, it’s the entrants who didn’t volunteer to judge whose entries are returned first.

    Does that make sense?

  81. awriter
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:27:46

    Oh here we go again, yet another circular discussion with folks complaining on the interwebs and not writing to their board members with their complaints. As I understand it there is a task force looking at the RITA’s – perhaps everyone bothered about this should take the time to write to their board member. Personally as someone who writes erotic romance I didn’t join the RWA to win some stupid award. YMMV.

  82. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:32:12

    And in response to comments. If erotica is a theme not a genre, fine. By my count two erotic romances finaled and none that are not MF-vanilla. Is this proportional?

    The only way to answer that question is to get a true and accurate count/listing of both the print and ebook published within the genre. Does anyone do that? Reliably, I mean?

    But the thing that amazes me from surfing around to the various sites and forums online is the sheer diversity of reader opinion on what they see as the “norm” in romances. I get that this genre is so big and diverse and I love the variety available. So, I guess it always amazes me when I still run across forums where it still seems to be the norm that most of the readers don’t read ebooks or don’t read any erotic romances.

    And by that I mean that they say it in the same way many outsiders would say “I’ve never read a romance.” So, the thought that inevitably goes through my head is, “Right.” Because, nowadays, I’m not sure they would even know if they had or not – at least until after they start squawking about something objectional that they’ve run across.

    I keep telling those regular romance readers that erotic romances are sliding into the mainstream print publishers and not necessarily getting labeled as such every single time. Which is why some type of content tagging is important. It’s as much about finding what one likes as avoiding what one doesn’t. And broad categories only go so far.

    For instance, define “vanilla” nowadays because it’s come a long way in romances and there are still readers that tend to skim even it – whatever it is. ;)

    But we’re not obsessed with sex. ;p

  83. Keishon
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:50:43

    Personally as someone who writes erotic romance I didn't join the RWA to win some stupid award. YMMV.

    Obviously, mystery writer, Barry Eisler doesn’t care to win either and he attends regularly, I think. I’ve heard over the years that RWA is bar none, the best place to network regardless of whatever else they seem to do wrong/right.

  84. Anion
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:51:36

    What members should do is file official complaints, because this discrimination goes against the RWA’s stated goals (which are “to support the professional interests of its…members,” and “to help its members pursue a career in romance fiction”).

    RWA members are also, according to their “Code of Ethics,” prohibited from engaging in “conduct injurious to RWA and its stated goals,” which is as I quoted above, helping members pursue careers etc. etc.

    I think perhaps a group of those who retained their memberships might be interested in looking into that Code of Ethics.

    There are disciplinary actions in place designed to deal with violations of the Code of Ethics. Seems to me that publicly admitting you disqualified an erotic romance because you just don’t like reading lots of sex is “conduct injurious” to those entrants. Seems to me that discriminating against one subgenre is “conduct injurious” and is further a violation of that stated goal; how is refusing to allow erotic romance to play in the big-girl pool “supporting the professional interests” of members or “helping [them] pursue careers in romance fiction”?

    The RWA is violating its own rules and its own Code of Ethics. Oh sure, they’ll take your money, though.

    File a complaint. Push for disciplinary action. All the letters to the RWR in the world aren’t going to make a bit of difference. I’m not usually one to get all lawyer-happy (no offense, Jane) but seriously. SUE. You gave them your money because they said they’d help further your career, and instead they slam doors in your face.

    They are a NONPROFIT CORPORATION, which (again, if memory serves; I could be way off here and I admit it) makes discrimination of this nature ILLEGAL and could threaten their nonprofit status.

    At the very least it will make a nice, big, embarrassing stink.

    JMO.

  85. Cat Grant
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:52:27

    To those who find value in their local chapters -‘ yank the whole chapter from the organization and just keep meeting! I doubt the RWA Goon Squad will hunt you down in some local library and firebomb the place.

    My local chapter considered “seceding” from RWA. And we probably would’ve done it, too, if not for the fact that we would’ve been obligated to turn over all the money in our treasury to RWA National. Since we’re an exceptionally small group (only about 10 people regularly attend meetings), that would have left us with no operating funds.

  86. Dagny
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 11:57:22

    Question, why are these awards aligned around such broad categories when the genre readership that they serve is so oriented towards thematic plotlines anyway?

    Now this I like.

    Best Secret Baby
    Best Friends to Lovers
    Best Romance With a Plot Depending on One or More of the H/H Being TSTL
    Best Marriage of Convenience
    Best Mistaken Identity
    Best Revenge
    Best Marriage in Trouble
    Best Office Romance
    Best Romance that Rehabilitates a Villain from an Earlier Work by the Author
    Best Spy Romance
    Best Road Romance

  87. Lissa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:11:57

    At AQ #63

    Erotica is not erotic romance therefore it doesn't meet the criteria for entry into RWA's RITA competition because it's doesn't have the relationship as the main plot thread and it doesn't require a HEA.

    Perhaps I am being obtuse here, but I wasn’t aware that there was a difference between “erotica” and “erotic romance”.

    By defination erotica is: literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality

    and

    erotic is defined as: strongly marked or affected by sexual desire.

    I honestly don’t see a distinction here between “erotica” and “erotic romance” to me they are one and the same. I do get that per RITA’s criteria the relationship must be an important part of the story and it must include a HEA and I understand that reasoning, but I seem to be missing the distinction otherwise. I fail to see how labeling something “erotica” automatically means it does not contain romance. Can someone explain what the difference actually is?

    I have a question too about the inspirational category – which seems to be drawing just as much fire as the erotica category. I don’t read these types of books so my knowledge of them is limited, but drawing from comments here -it seems a category that is specific to Christian based religions. Is this because the majority of books are written by Christian religion authors, therefore other religions are not represented or is it because there is actual discrimination occurring? I ask because if there is discrimination occurring then the category needs to be redefined or removed; but if it is specific to Christian religions because those are the only books being written/submitted then I see no issue with the category.

  88. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:12:15

    @Barb Ferrer: Yes, but I think it’s still difficult to argue that the RITA should have widespread legitimacy and influence when its judges are primarily culled from entrants. Not because those judges can’t be subjectively objective (evaluation is never completely objective, right?), but because the “peer” aspect is narrowed even beyond RWA members. I mean, what proportion of Oscar voters are also entrants?

  89. Jinni
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:13:58

    I have heard a lot of complaints that a Blaze (or other sexy category author) feels like they can’t win against the home and hearty categories.

  90. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:18:14

    @Kate Pearce:

    2) More importantly, to my mind, would be the possibility of a rash of wrong category markings as every individual judge gets to decide what she thinks is erotic romance.

    -How about allowing the authors who write erotic romance and are published under that label to check a box when they enter stating the book is ER? I think we know what we write.

    So, presumably, did all the authors who had their books disqualified for NR marks.

    For those who would enter their books in the erotic romance category, checking a box would be fine. You know your book is erotic romance and it would be judged as such by judges who have opted in for judging them. My concern is the authors who enter their books in contemporary or historical and are marked WC by a judge who thinks a couple of extra-steamy sex scenes make a the book an erotic romance and feel it should have been entered as such. That judge’s opinion and/or definition of erotic romance can’t be controlled.

    Not that I’m against an erotic romance category. I think there are pros and cons to it. That’s just one of my concerns.

  91. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:26:21

    @Dagny: Oh, yeah. Give me the plot list and I’m happy.

    I suppose it’s all a matter of whether the purpose of the awards is for prestige within the genre/sub-genre or to impress the readership. Because if it’s to impress the readership, you have to make an impression on them first. And plot lists keep us happy.

    However, having said that, I also appreciate what Anion is saying about making an organization maintain their own Code of Ethics. Because if they are using the broad categories to mimic the sub-genre labels routinely used by the publishers, then erotic romance is just as valid as inspiration and romantic suspense or any other.

    The question then becomes why are there enough entrants for the continued use of one and not for the other? Because if everyone who writes erotic romances pulls out and gives up . . . it’s for sure you’re never going to get your own category or recognition of any kind.

    I still maintain, though, that even with acceptance and inclusion, there has to be some type of tagging to allow for people to have knowledge of what the actual content is. That’s as much what plot/theme lists are about as anything else. Give judges some extra specific information and knowledge along with those categories and it might make a lot of difference.

    I mean, if some of you had known a little bit more about some of those religious books you had to read, would it have made a difference?

    And before anyone tells me that “Oh, but this is a judging situation so we can’t do that. We have to go in blindly.” I frankly won’t buy it. Not completely. Lack of information and knowledge is exactly what you’re all complaining about. People judging books they aren’t “qualified” to judge. People being asked to judge books they don’t want to judge because they’re under assumptions, usually mistaken ones, about the content in several different directions.

    At it’s base, this is about spreading the correct information about the books before they’re labeled/judged/bought incorrectly. It’s always about the books. And that can’t be done with broad labels. It has to be done with the correct, specific information.

  92. Angela James
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:30:00

    @Lissa

    As I said to Kimber An earlier in the thread erotica is a separate genre from erotic romance. It’s like saying chick lit is the same genre as contemporary romance because they both have female lead characters and are contemporary. Even though chick lit may or may not have romance or feature the female lead in a relationship. And may or may not have a HEA for the main character. Same goes for comparing erotica to erotic romance. Different genres, different marketing and quite often, different readership (erotic romance has a much larger buying audience than erotica).

  93. Monica Burns
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:43:20

    One more thing, since the edit function won't let me edit my previous comment. Cut “sexy.” Replace with “erotic.” I understand that it's not just sexy we're talking about here.

    I have a theory about this. RWA has worked hard in their efforts to focus on ensuring the romance genre receives respect as a valid genre in the literary world. Unfortunately, the news media and world in general sees romance as trashy reads of little quality. Every romance reader knows different, but can you imagine what would happen if the words sex, sexy, erotic, etc. were used in a news release announcing a RITA or a GH finalist or winner? The news media would be on it syrup on a belly button, and once again RWA would be dealing with the dreaded “bodice ripper,” “trashy book,” etc. labels. Because everything is about perception. This type of news coverage would undermine all of RWA’s efforts over the last several years in their attempt to make romance accepted as a something other than “mindless” reading.

    Granted, this is strictly a hypothesis of mine, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Especially when at RWA’s annual general meeting last year, we were told that sex plays a role in every romance, and that’s why there wasn’t a need for an ER/E category.

    Do I think there should be an ER/E category. No. Not because I don’t think it deserves it, it does, but I’d like to see ALL categories disappear. I’d love to see the top 20 best books of the year honored. Regardless of subgenre, publisher, medium of publication, and most importantly regardless of print run. (And THAT is an entirely different topic).

    Though I love RITA and hope someday to win one, well, it's not as if getting a RITA is going to affect a writer's sales either way. I don't believe it does. The occasional editor has been heard to remark that RITA books in general sell more poorly than average. To me, this does make sense as RITA is not about what readers love, but about what other romance authors admire and find excellent. Different criteria altogether.

    I would have to agree simply based on my personal observation and perception that the RITA cannot really be equated to the the Oscars as the final RITA winning books aren’t necessarily of great significance to a bookseller and/or reader as has been pointed out. I believe the RITA is a peer contest, and there’s not a thing wrong with that. I just wish we’d stop trying to make it into something it’s not.

    My perception is based on my experience with the contest’s continuous morphing and comments from agents/authors that the RITA does not do for a book what an Oscar does for a movie—Increase the take of a publisher/author by any significant amount for the winning book. An Oscar win can breathe new life into the earnings of a movie or an actor’s pocket, but my perception is that the RITA does not do this. This doesn’t make the contest insignificant by its own standards within the organization. RWA members clearly believe RITA winners provide quality reads. At least, they do in my mind. However, the value outside of RWA is questionable, which is why I find the Oscar comparison useless.

  94. Ann Aguirre
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:44:04

    Like Jackie and Carrie I got stuck with an inspie this year. I did NOT sign up to judge that category. The author entered it as a historical. OMG, it was tiresome. There’s something wrong when the people who want the hot get Jebus instead. Why can’t we get a box to check? That way I get the smokin’ violent books and someone else gets the boring “I’m too much a sinner to deserve you” books.

  95. Janine
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:49:58

    This is going to be a controversial statement, but I would prefer that the RITAs have just one category. One. “Best Romance.” Or if that doesn’t satisfy, “Best Romantic Novel.” And then I would prefer that all subgenres of romance, categories, contemporaries, historicals, erotic romances, inspirational romances, paranormals, GLBT, and whatever else there is out there, compete against each other for the title of “Best Romance.”

    Yes, it would make it even harder to final or to win. Yes, it would probably favor the more bestselling books or types of books.

    BUT I feel that the current plethora of categories is one major reason why the RITAS don’t get the kind of respect that the Edgars or the Nebulas get. If there were just one award, it could be like the Pulitzer Prize for the romance genre.

    The question in my mind is: is the object of the RITAS to make it easier for everyone who entered to win, or is it for the award to garner respect and interest from readers?

    If the object is to make it easier for everyone who entered to win, why doesn’t the RWA just give every single person who entered a RITA and call it a day?

    But if the object is to garner respect, then I think there should be just one category. One. Or there at least should be a “Best Romance” category added to the current categories, in which all the books compete against each other so that readers don’t have to look at a huge list of finalists and winners to decide what they should buy.

    However, since that is clearly not going to happen, then yes, it would be better to have an Erotic Romance category, an African American romance category, and a GLBT category. Because yes, as long as there are going to be so many categories, that would be a lot more fair.

  96. Monica Burns
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:57:26

    This seems very strange. Why can't they just take a look at what “Passionate Ink […] a Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America for erotic romance writers” has to say about erotic romance? Passionate Ink has a definition of Erotic Romance which seems a useful one:

    The PI Board has continuously submitted suggestions to RWA for a category description based on our chapter’s definitions of ER/E (written by the fabulous Sylvia Day) all of which have been rejected for one reason or another. Angela Knight worked hard to write a description that would meet with RWA approval and was repeatedly rejected. My attempts as well as other members of the PI Board proposing a definition for an ER/E category have been rejected by RWA.

  97. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:57:49

    Perhaps I am being obtuse here, but I wasn't aware that there was a difference between “erotica” and “erotic romance”.

    By defination erotica is: literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality

    and

    erotic is defined as: strongly marked or affected by sexual desire.

    I honestly don't see a distinction here between “erotica” and “erotic romance” to me they are one and the same.

    Not to pick on you, Lissa, but this misconception is exactly what I’m talking about with regards to many romance readers. Possibly even many authors. And this is a discussion that’s been going on online for a good decade or more.

    Let me ask it this way, would you consider romance without sex but that have a high degree of – oh what is the term – sexual tension to be erotic?

    Because that’s sexual desire.

    I seriously doubt anyone considers a sweet romance with strong sexual tension to be erotica. Unless they’re not romance readers. ;)

    So the dividing line has to be something else. One of the best commentaries on this topic that I’ve run across was on Teach Me Tonight back last year called Classifying Works Containing Sexual Content. I don’t agree with everything said in it, but I saved it and have begun referring to it whenever this topic comes up because it helps clear my thoughts when things get confusing, especially the paragraph.

    What’s interesting is that the article makes it easy to see why romances with a lot of sex scenes could be confused with erotica. They are not the same thing, however.

  98. DS
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 12:59:54

    @Dagny– You win an internet. I particularly liked

    Best Romance With a Plot Depending on One or More of the H/H Being TSTL

    and

    Best Romance that Rehabilitates a Villain from an Earlier Work by the Author

  99. dayna hart
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:03:55

    Monica, I think your hypothesis is a very good one, really. RWA fought to get romance treated with some margin of “respectability”? within the literary community. Now, being asked to include books which are frank and upfront about sexuality – I wonder if they don’t find it VERY threatening to the progress they’ve made.

    No, I don’t agree with it, but I at least understand the resistance.

    I think allowing ER books to compete with their non-ER counterparts would be rather cool, actually…assuming the judges judge according to the genre-definitions, not the heat level.

    **just read the note about the repeatedly rejected definitions of erotic romance…and that’s not cool.

  100. Karen Templeton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:05:07

    ::OMG, it was
    tiresome. There’s something wrong when the people who want the hot get Jebus
    instead.::

    Just…wow.

    And perfect example of the point I was trying to make earlier.

    Respect works both ways. As does accepting (not liking, accepting) world views that don’t mesh with your own. Don’t like the book, fine — but calling it “wrong” because the author/that market doesn’t see things the way you do? How is that not just as judgmental as someone accusing ER authors of denigrating or bringing “down” the genre?

    Not getting it. Seriously.

  101. lil
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:05:13

    You know what, I’d be interested in reading a non-Christian inspirational romance.

  102. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:05:20

    Doggone it. That was supposed to be “especially the last paragraph” in my last post. It wouldn’t let me edit.

  103. Jessa Slade
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:07:35

    As an active member of my local RWA chapter and mostly happy member of RWA national, I just want to encourage people who want to see change to get involved. Yes, you CAN change an organization from within. I’ve see it. I’ve done it. Just ask my poor chapter which I’m dragging kicking and screaming into the late 20th century via an online newsletter.

    Bitching is fun, don’t get me wrong, but don’t forget to DO something too.

  104. Leslie Kelly-Parrish
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:07:54

    Thank you, Jane, very well said!

    But I don’t even know that an entire new category for erotic romance is necessary, or would totally solve the problem. For instance, it wouldn’t do anything to help anybody writing a supersexy novella, would it? Novella length works can only be entered in the Novella category. Or you might have judges who read the most erotic content marking Presents or Desires with a “WC” because they’re not hot enough.

    If we could just do something to allow judges to opt out of judging books they really don’t feel comfortable reading, most erotic romances would probably fit into already-defined categories…and might actually (finally) have a shot at being truly competitive.

    When you enter your book, you check the little box that says:

    “Does this book/novella contain strong sexual content?”

    And when you sign up to judge you check the little box that says:

    “I do not wish to judge any book/novella with strong sexual content.”

    It doesn’t seem that difficult to me and might go a long way toward solving this problem.

  105. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:10:49

    I can’t slog through all these comments without my head popping open and snakes coming out, but here’s my two-cents:

    1) The writers of so-called erotic romance themselves are split 50/50 on whether or not they want their own category. This alone seems to indicate that creating one would make just as many authors unhappy as not creating one, so it’s no wonder the status quo is winning.

    2) The fact that Pam Rosenthal’s last two erotic historicals finaled for the RITA (and they even include *the butt seks!*) would seem to disprove that erotic romances are hated by RWA’s members and that they can't get a fair shake from the org's prissy members.

  106. Karen Templeton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:11:00

    Oh, and I actually kinda like Monica’s Top 20 suggestion. No categories, just 20 highest scores.

    Could be interesting. And first suggestion of an alternative that feels workable. To me, anyway.

    But only ONE winner, Janine? Out of 1200 entries? Assuming there would be 1200 entries, since I imagine many, many authors would say “forget it” if there was only one shot at winning.

    That, I’m not seeing.

  107. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:13:29

    Not commentary. Just for fun. Here are this year’s award categories for some different writing orgs. (PS. I think we should start a fan award for the theme categories. Those were great! I want to see whose book is the best secret baby or the best amnesia story, etc.)

    RWA, The Ritas:
    • Best First Book
    • Contemporary Series Romance
    • Contemporary Series Romance:Suspense/Adventure
    • Contemporary Single Title
    • Historical Romance
    • Inspirational Romance
    • Novel with Strong Romantic Elements
    • Paranormal Romance
    • Regency Historical Romance
    • Romance Novella
    • Romantic Suspense
    • Young Adult Romance

    MWA, The Edgars:
    • Novel
    • First Novel
    • Paperback Original
    • Critical/Biographical
    • Fact Crime
    • Short Story
    • Young Adult
    • Juvenile
    • Play
    • TV Episode
    • Motion Picture
    • Robert L. Fish Memorial
    • Mary Higgins Clark

    SWFA, The Nebulas:
    • Best Novel
    • Best Novella
    • Best Novelette
    • Best Short Story
    • Best Script
    • Andre Norton Award

    HWA, The Bram Stoker Awards:
    • NOVEL
    • FIRST NOVEL
    • LONG FICTION
    • SHORT STORY
    • ANTHOLOGY
    • FICTION COLLECTION
    • NONFICTION
    • POETRY

    The Hugos (World Science Fiction Convention):

    • Best Novel
    • Best Novella
    • Best Novelette
    • Best Short Story
    • Best Related Book
    • Best Graphic Story
    • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
    • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
    • Best Editor, Short Form
    • Best Editor, Long Form
    • Best Professional Artist
    • Best Semiprozine
    • Best Fanzine
    • Best Fan Writer
    • Best Fan Artist
    • The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  108. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:16:26

    @Robin

    I mean, what proportion of Oscar voters are also entrants?

    I think technically all of them, if they’ve appeared in a film during the nominated year which is conceivable, I suppose. According to the oscar.org website,

    Eligibility for the awards competition is contingent on the receipt of an Official Screen Credits Form with full, complete and authentic credits, the name of the Los Angeles County theater where the film has played, and the dates of the Los Angeles run.

    Interestingly enough, it sounds as if a film had to have a run in a Los Angeles County theatre in order to be eligible. Then, according to the website, after that deadline, the next important date is when the nominating ballots are mailed out.

    The Nominations Process

    Nomination ballots are mailed to the Academy's active members in late December and are due back to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international accounting firm, in January.

    So it sounds as if a screen credits form is mailed into the Academy with proof of a Los Angeles County run, then the individuals involved in that film are placed on the full nominating ballot in the appropriate categories and mailed out to the membership at large (which numbers about 6000, according to the site). And as was mentioned in earlier comments, like votes on like within the categories, with the exception of Best Film, which the group as a whole votes on.

    Perhaps that’s one option to consider. A mail-in or online ballot to winnow down the nominees to the finalists and then you go to the judged panel for the finals. It’s the same system that allows for a small film like Slumdog Millionaire to win and yet– there are still people who complain that Wall-E should have been in the running and indeed should have won, proving yet again that no system can satisfy everyone.

  109. MuiMui
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:17:08

    From reading all your posts it seems that this category system is actually not being strictly adhered to by authors submitting their works. Inspy as contemp, mystery as single title or whatever. So judges end up getting books they didn’t want in the first place. How about authors stick to what their books were marketed as in the 1st place or maybe their should be a screening process (or is that too much to ask?) so judges get what genre they wanted in the first place.

    That way erotic romance doesn’t have to be judged by those who don’t want to read it (for whatever reason) and the same goes for those who don’t want inspy or suspense or YA…

    >> On a related note… I’ve been reading romance since I was 12 (I’m 21) and even I can see the rapid shift in heat levels in standard romance novels today. If the RWA wants to hold a moral high ground at the same time as showing the most recent “best of romance”, they are going to become irrelevent as they won’t be reflecting what the average reader is consuming.

    Finally, on a separate note, I just wanted to say (in my incredibly insecure un-eloquent way) that I found some of the comments in regards to inspy offensive and unnecessary. It was just hurtful to read……. Please be aware that you can express your dislike of a genre without deliberately hurting people who live it in real life.

  110. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:30:40

    Re: The Oscars & Wall-E. I was given to understand that studios had some input into which category a film could end up with (Best Picture vs. Best Animation Feature – sorry I didn’t look up the actual award category) by what they lobbied for. Some say that an animation film with a happy ending has such a slight chance of winning that it’s a waste of lobbying effort. I’ve heard others say that excluding films such as Batman Beyond for Best Picture that the Oscars aren’t pulling in big Oscar viewer numbers because they don’t include enough mainstream pictures that movie audiences care about.

    I’ve never really given it much thought, I’m just included these little tidbits because it has a similar ring to parts of our discussion and shows that every award system has issues.

    So, if one really wanted the Ritas to mean something to individual readers and potentially have an impact on purchasing decisions, what would need to change in order to more directly reach those readers?

  111. Ann Aguirre
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:30:51

    Respect works both ways. As does accepting (not liking, accepting) world views that don't mesh with your own. Don't like the book, fine -‘ but calling it “wrong” because the author/that market doesn't see things the way you do? How is that not just as judgmental as someone accusing ER authors of denigrating or bringing “down” the genre?

    Wrong with the process. I thought that was self-evident in the context, wherein I was suggesting a box to check. See, this kind of thing is indicative of the inherent defensiveness in this dialogue. I never condemned any author / market. I just don’t want to judge it if I haven’t signed up for it. And yet there’s a mighty celebration of the people who refuse to read certain books for moral reasons, but if we mark these wrong category, it becomes religious persecution and we are accused of being unprofessional. (I can find examples on PAN.)

    My not-liking or wanting to judge inspies suddenly becomes condemnation of a whole lifestyle? Someone needs to catch that kneejerk reaction before it breaks somebody’s sternum.

  112. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:35:30

    Okay, I like the idea of having a box to check when I judge. I would take the smokin’ hot books any time, especially the ones that explore B&D. Please. Yes, that probably sounds odd coming from an SSE author. But we don’t all read only the kinds of books that we write.

    re the Oscar comparision, well, I do kind of think RITA is like Oscar. There are a whole big bunch of Oscar categories. And Oscar has had a lot longer to build cred than the RITA has. Plus, Oscar is peer-judged, too. Romance does have the whole “prejudice of the boring literary community” and “people who never read one but still judge romance as not good anyway” to overcome. But more impossible things have happened. As in Yes, We Can! and all that.

  113. Janine
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:38:30

    @AQ:

    Yeah, notice that the Edgars don’t separate historical mysteries from contemporary mysteries and in the Nebulas, SFWA doesn’t even separate Science Fiction from Fantasy. There is an overall “Best Novel” award in each of the contests you listed except the RITAs.

  114. Maya Banks
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:39:01

    But we don't all read only the kinds of books that we write.

    Amen. I read a buttload of sweet, home and hearth etc books. It by far represents the bulk of my reading for pleasure. I buy across the board the SSEs, the Harlequin Romances and selectively the Supers and Harlequin Americans each month. I’m hopelessly addicted. LOVE them.

  115. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:43:49

    MuiMui @108:

    How about authors stick to what their books were marketed as in the 1st place or maybe their should be a screening process (or is that too much to ask?)

    I’m not arguing for one side or the other but here are two examples from the past winner pool regarding marketing:

    Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie which is clearly meets the definition of a romance wouldn’t be entered in the RWA category because my version of the book is labeled on the spine by the publisher as Fiction.

    or

    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon which was also not marketed as a romance and the author clearly states that it’s not a romance as she defines it.

    Again not arguing for a position but it does beg the question of criteria: who decides to enter what where and who should have the power to decide that the book doesn’t meet the criteria and should there be an appeal process?

  116. Jane O
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:52:16

    I find this thread … interesting. It prompts two thoughts, both of which will probably annoy some of you.

    1. Hasn’t it occurred to people that the reason E/ER books that were entered didn’t make it to the finals in the RITAs is that the judges thought they just plain weren’t good enough? A lot of what I’m seeing here sounds like sour grapes.

    2. Many of the comments about inspie authors and readers (and I am neither) sound contemptuous and just plain bigoted. If you want to complain about people being narrow-minded, look in the mirror first.

  117. MaryK
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:54:51

    @Ann Aguirre:

    Wrong with the process.

    That makes more sense.

    I thought that was self-evident in the context, wherein I was suggesting a box to check.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t because I also thought you meant “wrong with the book.”

    Maybe there needs to be a workshop on “How to Pick the Correct Category when You Enter the RITAs.” I wouldn’t be too pleased to have to judge a romantic suspense or mystery if I’d signed up for mainstream.

  118. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 13:55:18

    How about authors stick to what their books were marketed as in the 1st place or maybe their should be a screening process (or is that too much to ask?) so judges get what genre they wanted in the first place.

    Oy, first off, I’m sorry for being so mouthy in this particular conversation, but it seems I have a lot to say based on my own personal experience.

    When I entered for the first time in 2007, I actually put my book in a category different from how it was marketed (YA entered in Contemporary Single Title) but there was a very good reason for that and if y’all will bear with me, I’ll explain some of the fine print of entering the RITAs.

    That year, I originally entered Adiós in the Young Adult category; unfortunately, we didn’t meet the minimum number of required entries (25) to make it a viable category. At that point, I had a choice, withdraw and take a refund of my entry fee or choose another category in which to enter, which is allowed by the rules. Any other year, and I probably would have withdrawn, but I really, really wanted to be eligible for Best First Book.

    Best First Book doesn’t exist as an independent category for entry, but rather, as an adjunct category– when we enter our books, there’s a box we check on the form that asks “Is this book eligible for Best First Book”

    This was going to be my one and only chance at First Book and so, I took a deep breath and entered my YA into Single Title. Honestly, I didn’t even think I had a shot in hell because I figured I was going to get dinged for Wrong Category and that would be all she wrote. And even if I wasn’t, it’s always such a stiff category, I never imagined I had a shot of finaling. All I wanted was to amass enough points in order to final in First Book, which is possible– that you can final in First Book without finaling in the category in which you originally entered.

    Well, as it turned out, I managed to final in both– so for that, I was very grateful to have the option of choosing a secondary category even if it wasn’t the most appropriate one. And as always, I thank the judges who kept an open enough mind to judge my book on its own merits and not kick it out because (as overheard at the RITA ceremony that year) “What business does a YA have even entering the RITAs in the first place? What’s the industry coming to?”

  119. MaryK
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:00:42

    @AQ: Outlander won a RITA?!? Gabaldon doesn’t consider it a romance yet it was entered in a romance contest. Who entered it?

  120. azteclady
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:01:22

    “What’s the industry coming to?”

    Funny, it seems that I read that a lot, but referring to the sexual content and erotic romance.

  121. veinglory
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:02:33

    The difference between erotica and erotic comance is that erotic romance must also satisfy the genre requirements of romance.

    I find erotic romance very easy to define, as these things go. If the book is erotica and genre romance, it is erotic romance.

    Getting more specific than that lead the same way as the inspy defintion where it is something much more specific than it says on the box (a.k.a not even all Christian denominations are allowed).

  122. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:05:17

    Outlander won a RITA?!? Gabaldon doesn't consider it a romance yet it was entered in a romance contest. Who entered it?

    The publisher, probably.

  123. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:06:26

    Janine @112

    Yep, I did notice that. The other thing I noticed is that historically the only writers’ org that had significant changes in the categories from year to year was RWA. That’s not to say that others hadn’t changed but that their categories seemed more stable on the basis of my GLANCE. On the other hand, RWA is a much younger organization than MWA. Looking at The Edgars database you will find winners & nominees from 1946. RWA has only existed since 1980. I’m curious is RWA the only writers organization to grant full membership to inividuals who are not professional writers by their own organization’s definitions. (not making a judgment statement, I really am curious)

  124. Jaci Burton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:10:05

    “What business does a YA have even entering the RITAs in the first place? What's the industry coming to?”

    Barb – I thought Adios was a fantastic book. I enjoyed it tremendously and have no doubts as to why it won the RITA

  125. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:13:25

    @Barb Ferrer: Barb, forgive me for being dense, but I think your explanation is beyond my comprehension level. I was kind of going for the most basic point:

    As you might know, actors nominate the performances of actors, directors the work of directors, and so on through most of the categories. (There are a few — documentaries, foreign films, certain technical slots — that do things a bit differently to deal with the demands of a particular medium.) Then the entire organization votes on those nominations.

    So, simplistically again, I was thinking that there are several differences here, first that entrants for the Oscars are nominated by their peers, and second that the Academy as a whole votes for the winners. Whereas in the RITAs, entrants must nominate themselves and voting panel is quite limited relative to the entire RWA membership.

    re. changing the categories, I like the idea of moving categories completely away from subgenre requirements, but I fear that the way Romance is treated within the RWA, marketed by publishers, and to some degree read, might make that a difficult change to administer without a larger change in the RITA nomination/judging processes. Of course, I tend to think that we’re in the midst of several genre paradigm shifts, so we’ll see how these changes will impact the RWA more generally. IMO if RWA is happy with the way the contest runs and what it signifies, then that’s fine — no changes necessary. But if they want to make the award significant in a general way — i.e. to readers, to the commercial fiction community as a whole, etc. — then I think it’s going to take more than including an ER category and rounding up more judges.

  126. Lissa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:24:11

    @BevBB 97

    Let me ask it this way, would you consider romance without sex but that have a high degree of – oh what is the term – sexual tension to be erotic?

    Because that's sexual desire.

    In answer to your question – depending on how the sexual tension is created the answer could be yes. Words can be both extremely erotic and very romantic. Some of my favorite erotic scenes don’t always include physical sex. But that could just be me.

    And I don’t feel picked on – I did ask for an explaination. Being as I gave up reading romance for about 15 years and am just coming back to it I sometimes feel as though I am a step behind in most of these discussions.

  127. Karen Templeton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:31:18

    Ann — okay, I did misread the one sentence, thinking the “people” referred to in your sentence meant the characters in the book, wanting the hot and getting “Jebus,” instead. Rather than the judges who checked the box. Oy.

    However, the “Jebus,” as well as the “boring I’m-too-much-of-a-sinner” line comes across as disrespectful and directed at the entire subgenre. Maybe not your intention, but it read that way to me.

    Would be the same if someone referred to all smokin’ hot romances as “those boring/appalling/irritating/insert slam of your choice, nothing-but-sex books.”

    Right?

  128. Angelia Sparrow
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:44:20

    @Robin
    technically, this category could cover romances involving Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, and even Wicca.

    My partner and I have a gay pagan inspirational that’s just ready to submit. So technically, we could enter it for a RITA in some not-too-distant year. Faith is vital to the story. The rituals pull the boys through the no-money times, through the world-is-against-us times. It’s just that their faith is in Cernunnos.

    I think it would crash and burn about the time they hit the second line of “Faunus the Roman Goat-God.” But, I’d still love to set the cat among the pigeons.

    As it stands, I am not an RWA member. Since e-books, erotic romance and GLBT are not supported by RWA, I see no reason, as a writer of e-published GLBT erotic romances, to support RWA.

  129. Courtney Milan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 14:54:49

    @Angelia Sparrow:

    I think it would crash and burn about the time they hit the second line of “Faunus the Roman Goat-God.” But, I'd still love to set the cat among the pigeons.

    Spew alert!

    Faunus the Goat-God automatically gets a 9 from me, no matter what category he is entered in.

  130. Ann Aguirre
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:03:02

    Jebus is a pop-culture reference from the Simpsons. Homer, who is not religious, but attends church with his family to please his wife, coined the word. At least that’s where I first heard it, and it’s never used with mal-intent on that show. Well, not in my opinion anyway. I’m sure there are others who disagree and think Matt Groening is a very bad man.

    I was talking about the one book I had to judge. I’m not widely read enough in the genre to say if they’re all like that. I’d guess not, though.

    My point is just that there should be a box to check for “strong religious content” and “strong sexual content.” That way, the people who are willing to read same will receive those books in the first go, and there won’t be judges reading stuff they’re predisposed to hate, or having to send the book back at their own expense to be judged by someone else. Seems like that would sort things a bit better from the jump.

    Regarding: “Would be the same if someone referred to all smokin' hot romances as “those boring/appalling/irritating/insert slam of your choice, nothing-but-sex books.”

    I’d be totally cool with that description. I’d take it as (a) opinion (which everyone has a right to) and (b) a flip response. Plus, sex or no sex isn’t a judgment on a person’s intrinsic value. It’s personal taste, nothing more.

  131. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:25:22

    RITA judges have the option to send back books that they don’t feel they can judge fairly (e.g. books that are too religious, too sexy, or have a plot that hits home in too personal a way, etc.)?

    There is NO reason for a judge to read a book they know they can't give a fair shake to. NONE. I mailed one back this year because the author is someone I really just don't get along with on a personal level and I didn't feel comfortable judging her book (I don't happen to like her writing either; but I'd have to wonder if the score was coloured by my dislike of her, and that's just not fair).

    That said, I’m all for the “opt out” and “opt in” for things like religious content and heat. I wouldn't even mind being able to opt in and out of specific time periods (I love historicals, but there are some settings that just don't work for me).

  132. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:28:29

    @Lissa:

    In answer to your question – depending on how the sexual tension is created the answer could be yes. Words can be both extremely erotic and very romantic. Some of my favorite erotic scenes don't always include physical sex. But that could just be me.

    And I don't feel picked on – I did ask for an explaination. Being as I gave up reading romance for about 15 years and am just coming back to it I sometimes feel as though I am a step behind in most of these discussions.

    You’re right, though, the words and scenes can be erotic but that doesn’t make the book erotica. Erotica is a separate genre. Defining the dividing line is a discussion that’s ongoing, though. As a long time romance reader, the best answer I can give is to 1) pay attention to what the publisher labels the book then 2) look for some evidence of those content tags I go on about.

    The reason I say that is that while erotic content isn’t just about the sex or the graphic nature of it any more than romances are solely about the relationship – those are part of the erotic formula. Tools of the trade. Whatever one wants to call them. Just like secret babies and arranged marriages and so forth and so on are part and parcels of romances with or without the sex. Certain things are inevitably going to show up repeatedly in erotic novels, too. And in varying degrees of graphicness.

    We each have our own comfort level with all of it, just like we each have our own favorite plots and themes. And ones we hate.

    Now here’s a question. If we don’t identify problem factors for people in the books beforehand, how are we supposed to effectively evaluate the story or writing? To me that’s like asking a romance reader to effectively evaluate a science fiction novel when they’ve never read one and have no idea what they’re about to read. Consider if that reader didn’t even like science fiction plots to begin with . . .

    Knowledge of what’s good and bad only take one so far when there are already preconceptions about certain types of books. Just reading this thread the gap between inspirational and erotic romances is readily apparent. To expect either to judge the other against their wishes is nuts. To ask them to do it blindly is doubly so.

  133. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:28:43

    Oooooo, and could we divvy up the paranormal category with opt in and opt out too? I love Sci-fi romance and Urban Fantasy, but Satan will be wearing earmuffs before I ever willingly read another vampire or werewolf romance.

    Of course RWA will have to triple their office staff . . .

  134. Courtney Milan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:35:39

    @Kalen Hughes:

    RITA judges have the option to send back books that they don't feel they can judge fairly (e.g. books that are too religious, too sexy, or have a plot that hits home in too personal a way, etc.)?

    Someone on the PAN loop allegedly tried to opt out of a book that was too hot for her, and was told by RWA staff that she had to read it and if it didn’t work for her, to mark it as not a romance.

    So. Yes. That option? Not having so much faith in it.

  135. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:39:19

    Re who “Nominates” the finalists in the RITAS. No one. You “win” a final slot by the first round of judging. We can enter our own books–or our editor or agent can, or anyone, actually–but there are no nominations, technically. You can enter, final and/or win. Does it matter? Oh, probably not!

    And Ann, thanks so much for explaining the Jebus reference. Clearly, I’m not up on the Simpsons. So sad… But I’ve been busy reading a bunch of boring/appalling/irritating nothing-but-sex books.

    Karen T., if it seemed I was slamming Inspy, I wasn’t. I just don’t get why Inspy is a category. I’ve read some excellent ones and when they’re good, with tight construction and rich insight, they stand up fine against anything in the genre and have no need to be judged by special criteria. Same with ER. I only argue for ER because there is an Inspy category. It just seems more balanced. The idea of being able to opt out of judging hot-button books is even better, though.

    And I know, I know. We opt IN, not out.

  136. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:39:44

    @SandyW:

    Perhaps the solution is for the RWA to develop some romance-speak code for Erotic Romance.

    Ah, but they do: Not Romance! The arrogance is mind-boggling.

  137. Lori Armstrong
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:44:04

    ***Instead of doing this end-year nominee bit, why not do something more like the MWA's Edgars and placing entries based on quarters. It would allow authors/publishers/booksellers to promote finalists closer to the release date.***

    Clarification for Edgar “Best Novel” – it is a novel published in hard cover

    If you submitted your first book, and it was published in hard cover, it’d belong in the Edgar “Best First” category

    If your book is originally published in mass market or trade paperback, it’s in the Edgar “Best Paperback Original” unless…your first book was published in mass market, then it’d be entered in the Edgar “Best First” category

    As a Board Member of MWA I find this discussion fascinating. We’re asked to add or redefine categories too. As a former RWA member, it just reinforces why I elected to no longer pay dues to this organization, either under my name, or my pseudonym, in which, yes, I write erotic romance.

    As a MWA judge for the 2008 Edgar Awards in the YA category, I find it interesting that any RWA member can judge the RITA’s. Our judges are submitted by the committee chair and must be approved by the MWA Board of Directors for the members judging qualifications. Each category has between 5 to 8 judges. That’s all. And yes, some of the categories have up to 500 entries. Does that mean all books are read cover to cover? No. But absolutely all books are given a fair shake, probably moreso than just judging 8 to 10 because it is a daunting process and little chance to play favorites. We knew the responsibility was demanding one when we signed on. To be honest, I was proud to be chosen as a judge and gladly gave up most of my free reading time in 2008 to YA books. I started receiving books in Feb. 08 and the cutoff date was Dec. 1st 2008.

    Without exception all the entries came to me directly from the publisher. And FYI – MWA does not charge an entry fee for consideration for an Edgar Award.

    I think what boggles my mind about this whole argument is that people who judged the RITA’s freely post their negative thoughts about the books they were entrusted to judge… all over the net. About what they disqualified and why! As judges for the MWA Edgar Awards we signed a nondisclosure agreement, stating we would not talk about anything that occurred within our committee, outside our committee, about judging, the judging process, any of the books, or the final outcome. Nothing. Ever. Period.

    So maybe it’s not about the categories, but the judges and the judging process that should be addressed first.

  138. Ann Aguirre » Blog Archive » Can of worms
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:47:14

    […] a big thread going at Dear Author about how RWA shouldn’t hate the erotic. I expressed the idea that it’s wrong for […]

  139. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:48:37

    @AQ: Wow, that breakdown of awards in the various genres definitely shows the romance genre is different. Any speculation on how much the sheer size and variety in the genre has contributed to the evolution of the romance award list?

    Or are we really just that picky about what we read that we have to divide it up that much? ;)

  140. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:53:11

    @Christine Rimmer: It probably wasn’t clear from my comment, but what I meant by entrants nominating themselves was just that they had to enter their own books, unlike other awards where a work is nominated for consideration by another. It’s one of the reasons I find the word “contest” to be problematic as it applies to some writing awards. Contests are competitions among those who enter themselves, which IMO is not quite the same thing as being nominated for an award. The RITAs are in some ways a contest with aspirations for the widespread respect of an award. Which is not to say that RITA winners aren’t deserving of respect, just that IMO one of the reasons the RITA does not have the prestige of, say, the Hugo, is that it’s not based on peer nominations. I realize that one could argue that the current structure is more democratic (will nominations result in a popularity contest), at least for those eligible to enter, but it does make for a different kind of process.

  141. Jackie Barbosa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:54:10

    Lori Armstrong wrote:

    I find it interesting that any RWA member can judge the RITA's.

    This isn’t entirely accurate. Only authors who meet the definition of “published” under the PAN rules can judge the RITAs.

  142. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 15:58:12

    Someone on the PAN loop allegedly tried to opt out of a book that was too hot for her, and was told by RWA staff that she had to read it and if it didn't work for her, to mark it as not a romance.

    If that’s true, I’m a very, very sad RITA fangirl. If that’s how little the staff care, no amount of tinkering will fix the system.

  143. Karen Templeton
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:06:26

    Someone on the PAN loop allegedly tried to opt out of a book that
    was too hot for her, and was told by RWA staff that she had to read it and if it
    didn't work for her, to mark it as not a romance.

    Yeah, I’d really like to know the facts behind that, because as far as I know there’s always been the option to return books we don’t feel we can judge fairly. I’ve never returned any of my entries, so don’t have first-hand experience, but if someone actually told a judge that she “had” to read a book and to “mark it as not a romance” if it didn’t work for her, I’m with Shan.

    I’m more than sad, I’m horrified.

  144. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:27:28

    I think what boggles my mind about this whole argument is that people who judged the RITAs freely post their negative thoughts about the books they were entrusted to judge… all over the net. About what they disqualified and why! As judges for the MWA Edgar Awards we signed a nondisclosure agreement, stating we would not talk about anything that occurred within our committee, outside our committee, about judging, the judging process, any of the books, or the final outcome. Nothing. Ever. Period.

    And you really think that holds? I’d be amazed if it did. I know I’ve inadvertently stumbled across internet discussions for the Nebulas and the Edgars– lengthy discussions that involve the books and the judging process and any other amount of minutiae– whether the judges were involved or not, I don’t know because I didn’t read them in their entirety, but the discussions, much like this one, do exist.

    While people have been discussing the judging process and using some of their personal examples, I’ve seen no names or titles or plots or anything bandied about that would indicate the specific books being discussed. And if we didn’t discuss the process, the only thing accomplished would be more and more inaccuracies tossed about as fact, further warping the opinion of the RITAs. In your post, you yourself had an inaccuracy, stating that any RWA member can judge the RITAs when in fact, that’s not true. You have to be a published member of the RWA in order to judge the RITAs. Period.

    Frankly, I’m tired of other organizations climbing up on their high horses and acting as if they’re above the issues that plague the RWA. No one organization is problem free– each one has issues specific to them and they all have to fight their way through to, if not a happy medium, at least a measure that will allow for enough stability in order to continue to address the issues.

  145. Barb Ferrer
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:29:40

    Yeah, I'd really like to know the facts behind that, because as far as I know there's always been the option to return books we don't feel we can judge fairly. I've never returned any of my entries, so don't have first-hand experience, but if someone actually told a judge that she “had” to read a book and to “mark it as not a romance” if it didn't work for her, I'm with Shan.

    I'm more than sad, I'm horrified.

    Ditto to this. I’d really like to know the details behind it.

  146. Courtney Milan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:43:51

    @Barb Ferrer: I used the word “allegedly” because I know little more than I’ve said here. For those of you who are on the PAN loop, it’s message 450.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RWA-PAN/message/450

    I don’t feel comfortable copying info from that message to a public forum because I think there’s an expectation of at least some limited privacy on the PAN loop, and I don’t think it’s fair to frustrate that privacy or out the author who complained.

    There’s a lot of information lacking from that message, and now that I’ve looked it up I see my memory was wrong in one respect: she was told to mark it “wrong category” not “not a romance”–so I remembered that bit wrong, but either way is equally horrifying to me, if true, since she’s essentially being told to score someone in a way that might disqualify them from the contest.

    I don’t insist the story is true–or that RWA’s side might be very different–or any other things. There is, however, allegedly a story that someone wanted to return a book, and was allegedly told she couldn’t do it but could mark it wrong category.

    I don’t have any more information than I report above.

  147. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:49:54

    RITA judges have the option to send back books that they don't feel they can judge fairly (e.g. books that are too religious, too sexy, or have a plot that hits home in too personal a way, etc.)?

    Someone on the PAN loop allegedly tried to opt out of a book that was too hot for her, and was told by RWA staff that she had to read it and if it didn't work for her, to mark it as not a romance.

    I’m with the ladies who are doubtful as to the facts of this story. They took back the book I felt I couldn’t read with no questions or guff. And I'm highly suspicious that someone at the National office would tell a member to mark a book as NR if it was too hot.

  148. Jackie Barbosa
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 16:58:19

    I'm with the ladies who are doubtful as to the facts of this story. They took back the book I felt I couldn't read with no questions or guff.

    Whereas I am, while not completely convinced, willing to believe it could have happened. The reason is that a friend/CP of mine received two manuscripts in her GH entry packet that she felt she couldn’t judge fairly because she knew the authors in both cases. When she contacted RWA and asked to opt out, she was STRONGLY encouraged NOT to send those manuscripts back. Ultimately, she decided she simply HAD to bow out in the interest of fairness, but it was NOT simple and she angsted quite a bit about it.

    Not quite the same, I grant you, but nonetheless…doesn’t suggest that there’s a lot of encouragement to return entries if one doesn’t think one can be fair.

  149. mary beth
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:09:52

    I have no idea what the answer is. Until this year, I was adamantly against an erotic romance category because I can’t figure out what qualifies as erotic versus steamy. I love Blaze, but all Blazes are not created equal when it comes to their erotic nature. Would we end up with a “well if there are three fully consumated love scenes and one round of oral sex that’s doesn’t qualify but that almost threesome does” discussion? Yikes. I don’t want to go there, and I don’t want to be the author trying to figure out where to enter my books.
    Maybe the answer is to toss the categories and just have the RITA for short and long historical and contemporary books.

  150. Courtney Milan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:09:53

    @Kalen Hughes: I do not want to be put in the position of defending words that are not mine, which I didn’t witness, when I don’t know the person who said them.

    There’s a link. You probably have access.

  151. Lee Rowan
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:25:39

    @MuiMui:

    Finally, on a separate note, I just wanted to say (in my incredibly insecure un-eloquent way) that I found some of the comments in regards to inspy offensive and unnecessary. It was just hurtful to read……. Please be aware that you can express your dislike of a genre without deliberately hurting people who live it in real life.

    MuiMui, please don’t take this personally–I do not know you and you may be the most accepting person in the world. (I have friends who are committed Christians who write m/m romance; apparently they don’t think “love one another” has exclusionary clauses.) But this “Not Romance” game is being played by the sort of “Christians” who use the bible as a blunt instrument.

    “Do unto others” works both ways. Strangely enough, when the christianist ladies who are ‘protecting Romance’ by excluding depictions of loving sexual activity declare that they are too pure to read others’ sexually-oriented work, or that same-sex couples are not capable of “real” romantic relationships… that does tend to make it difficult for us pariahs to view fundamentalist Christian screeds in a serious and reverential manner.

    Denying other human beings the right to be considered as capable of lasting, loving relationships is deliberately hurting people. Really, it is. If the judges who treat erotic and same-sex romances as dirt–as “Not Romance”–expect to be treated deferentially in return, they’d better be prepared for a long wait.

    Please be aware that you can express your dislike of a genre without deliberately hurting people who live it in real life.

    I think the love story of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon–together for 50+ years, married, annulled, and married again just weeks before Martin’s death–is both beautiful, incredibly romantic, and terribly sad. Add to that the fact that this prejudice is not shared by all Christian denominations… witness Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson’s marriage to his life-partner.

    If people who call themselves Christians want to attack anyone who is different, they must be aware that those who do not buy into their worldview are not going to take them seriously, and just might give “inspirational” stories every bit as much respect as they give the genres they dislike. It’s awfully hard not to get snarky when one is told that one is an abomination, spawn of the devil, unclean, etc. ad nauseam. Throwing rocks and then whining when someone heaves one back is just not very grown up.

  152. Janine
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:36:22

    @AQ:

    Yep, I did notice that. The other thing I noticed is that historically the only writers' org that had significant changes in the categories from year to year was RWA. That's not to say that others hadn't changed but that their categories seemed more stable on the basis of my GLANCE. On the other hand, RWA is a much younger organization than MWA. Looking at The Edgars database you will find winners & nominees from 1946. RWA has only existed since 1980. I'm curious is RWA the only writers organization to grant full membership to inividuals who are not professional writers by their own organization's definitions. (not making a judgment statement, I really am curious)

    Excellent point about the other organizations being older and very interesting question about membership requirements in other organizations. I’m pretty sure SFWA does require members to be published but I don’t know about MWA or HWA.

    The reason I think it would be good to have an overall “Best Novel” category is that as a reader, I want to know what the contest judges think the best book of the year was (plus maybe four or so other great books that would be the non-winning nominees in that category). I’d strongly prefer that to a list of a dozen novels (or more accurately, eleven novels and one novella). I want to know what judges think is a great book, not necessarily a great paranormal or inspirational or category. What book has great characters, wonderful plotting, terrific writing? That’s what I want to know.

  153. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:44:48

    I missed something the first time around and I need someone to clarify for me.

    For the Rita contest does one group of judges judge the entire category beginning to end or are there different judges for different rounds? I ask because it ties into my original concerns about criteria and judging baselines.

    BevBB @ 138 Wow, you’re asking me to speculate on an organization that I don’t belong to. At a guess, I’d say inclusiveness and the desire to spotlight subgenres and excellence. But really, I don’t have enough information to say more than that so I push back to RWA members:

    what is the purpose of your awards program?

    I’m looking for the purpose something like a mission statement. Once you define purpose then you can test the category designations against the stated purpose to see whether or not they work. Maybe they need to be streamlined, maybe they need to be overhauled or expanded. But there’s no way to answer that question unless we understand that stated purpose and how it ties into RWA’s organizational mission statement.

    Lori Armstrong @ 136 Thank you for clarifying. I garnered as much as I could from your organizations website this morning so I appreciate the additional insights you give about the process for your organization’s award program and its category designations.

    Barb Ferrar @143 While I agree that no organization is perfect, the process Lori describes for MWA’s award program sounds superior in theory to RWA’s. Now that may not be the reality and I’m sure that you or other RWA members can up come with many reasons why that isn’t the case.

    Hey, I’m dying to hear them. Because for me it’s all about the process: consistency of judging, consistency of criteria and consistency of rule setting & enforcement. But when I read these discussions about RWA, & specifically the Ritas, I’m left feeling it’s a sloppy mess. Of course, I’ve heard similiar things about SWFA (in general not specifically about their awards program) so perhaps that’s par for the course for any public discourse surrounding these organizations.

  154. Kate Willoughby
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:47:44

    I write erotic romance.

    1. I like the idea of simplifying the categories into Best Romance Hardcover, Best Romance Paperback, Best First Book, etc. But then that would make the whole ceremony very short and all that RITA-shiny-goodness wouldn’t get spread around nearly as much.

    2. I would like to know RWA’s stance on just what the purpose of the RITAs is. Is it to increase sales for those authors via the prestige of winning such a highly respected award, like the Oscars do for the movies that win them? Or is it more of an in-house peer recognition award? Because, really, until that’s determined, no other changes or discussions really do much good.

    3. I think it’s kind of unfair to mentally penalize Inspies (their authors, the genre, and/or RWA, because they’re mainly Christian based. Publishing is a business and likely the reason the majority of inspy books are Christ-centered is because that’s what sells.

  155. Sybil
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:48:24

    I haven’t read all the comments yet and haven’t seen really any of the posts on the subject (well none posted this year).

    My thought is and has always been (hey maybe I will learn something later that will change it my internet has been down for most of the month) that RITA has TOO many categories it doesn’t need more it needs less.

    Sorry I do not get the inspy category, I understand it is one of the biggest markets along with Erotic Romance (or was I have been offline all month).

    Worried judges can’t play fair? First year will suck ass but check the fucking ballots and than don’t let those authors judge again – period. Readers can’t judge but you might not know this, we don’t get paid to blog, most of this we do because we love this genre, this community and books. It would take a call for volunteers and I can bet there would be a shit load to help RWA however they needed. Scan the ballots, number them, have them validated and on you go…

    I mean hell I haven’t been in romanceland THAT long and this has been an issue every year and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. And yes I don’t care for threesomes with god so one could say that is why I don’t want an inspy category but I do read erotic romance and I don’t think they should have to have their own category either. A romance is a romance is a romance. This isn’t a sex award judging the best sex scene so I can’t see if there is one or isn’t one matters it is if it fits the story, if it moves the plot along and if the reader should be able to say I will judge this genre, this genre, this genre… every contest I have judged has let me.

    Doesn’t the award start to mean less the more of them there are? I mean hell it seems a bit silly and don’t even get me started on the historical category and I LOVE historicals.

  156. Ann Bruce
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 17:58:16

    @Angela James: The RITAs have never factored into my reading. I’ve only read two titles on this year’s list. One I LOVED and the other was almost a DNF. I know, I know. Reading taste is subjective.

    My point: a movie winning an Oscar doesn’t make me want to watch it more…and in a lot of cases, if I do watch it, I don’t understand how it won (e.g. Brokeback Mountain). Ditto with the RITAs.

    Admittedly, though, I’m a philistine when it comes to movies. I’m probably a philistine when it comes to books.

  157. Lori Armstrong
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 18:18:54

    Barb Ferrer Comment #143 ****Frankly, I'm tired of other organizations climbing up on their high horses and acting as if they're above the issues that plague the RWA. No one organization is problem free- each one has issues specific to them and they all have to fight their way through to, if not a happy medium, at least a measure that will allow for enough stability in order to continue to address the issues.****

    Barb, I wasn’t dumping on any organization. Or touting one over the other, which is why I qualified my thoughts right off the bat. I dropped out of RWA precisely for the reasons that have bantered about on this blog: what *I* perceive as unfair treatment to erotic authors, of which I proudly am one. And since I wasn’t afforded PAN status, I honestly had no idea what the RITA judging process is, since I was not in the body of voting members at the time.

    And since a question was posed on this forum about the differences in other organizations award/judging criteria and since I have recent firsthand experience with MWA, I was more than happy to set the record straight.

    You’re right, no organization is perfect, I certainly never meant to imply MWA was “better” than RWA, in fact, there are plenty of really really positive things about RWA that MWA could bring into our organization, a few of which I even suggested.

    I’d be very very surprised if any Edgar judges participated in any online discussion of books they judged, beyond the fact they were judges that particular year, in that particular category because there are legal repercussions if we violate the terms of the confidentiality agreement.

  158. AQ
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 18:35:09

    I posted this link in the queryfail post yesterday. It’s from Tony Ross and he’s talking about the need for honest critiques.

    Equally, if the work is good, even if you hate it, especially if you hate it – even if you hate the fact that the very sight of the work singes your cornea, and sucks your will to live! If it’s good, tell them its good!

    I keep thinking about judging. If one can’t look past whether it’s an inspy or an erotic romance or the hero howls at the moon, then are they really contest judge material for a professional peer award? I know reading enjoyment is subjective but being a judge isn’t about being subjective, it’s about being as objective as possible within the stated criteria.

    One more thing. I passed over Lori Armstrong’s comment about 500 entries in one category. Wow. Just Wow. That’s a lot of stories to judge by 5-8 judges in a year and the entries to the contest are free. How do the numbers for the RWA Rita categories compare? And how does MWA run a free contest with that many entries while RWA finances it through an entry fee? I’m not saying one way is better than the other, I’m questioning financial strategies and designation of resources. Which I guess I have no right to ask since I’m not a member of either organization. But I am curious nonetheless, even if I don’t expect an answer.

    Anyone from the Boards of these writer organizations ever think of holding a summit together to exchange ideas? All of you guys might learn something from one another and perhaps on certain issues that are relevant to all authors regardless of genre you might even come up with a unified strategy.

  159. olivia
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 18:37:59

    As a member of RWA, nothing makes me crazier than the RITA sideshow. I faithfully and repeatedly paid my contest fee and entered my novels. No big deal, my publisher provided the necessary # of copies. I faithfully judged. I signed up for categories with which I am familiar, as reader and fan.

    When I stopped entering my own books I continued judging in a minimum of 2 categories per year as my way of giving back to an organization that I still liked but no longer loved. Even though my panel of books seemed to increase in number every year.

    Eventually, due to category expansion and the need of ever more judges, I found myself having to judge categories that made me all “meh” but still, I judged objectively based on writing quality and adherence to category definitions. Yes, I was getting romantica and inspirationals in historical or contemporary groupings. Some were exquisitely written. Some were not.

    Oh, and when you judge Best First Book, you get a little something from every category.

    I stopped judging in protest when a Regency Historical category was added, an expansion of the existing Historical category. Partly I understood–there are indeed many, many Regency hystericals on the market. But for me it was a step too far, and a misguided one. I continue to feel that Historical Romances should be judged on their merits. Not based upon the era. Medieval should go up against Regency and Western and Victorian and Viking. The best historical–no, the best *novel* I ever judged during my judging years was a Western…and if forced to name my least favorite sub-genre, that would probably be it.

    So when the issue of hot or erotica or romantica not having its own category comes up, and judge objectivity, and especially when it all becomes conflated with whether or not there should be an Inspirational or a YA category…I find myself even angrier about the mismanagement of the contest.

    I belong to a variety of writers’ organizations and prefer their methods of award-giving to RWA’s.

    The RITA competition is meaningful to a subset of published RWA members and possibly their editors (the editor of record for a winning book is also credited, which begs the question should the recognition go to the acquiring editor or the editor who edited it. Not necessarily the same person.) Winning a RITA doesn’t get you a bigger advance. It doesn’t mean you’ll sell your next book. It’s an honor to receive an award from your “peers” but at the same time, as commenters have pointed out, it has little significance in the bigger publishing world or among the reading populace.

    To those who assume RWA is anti-erotica, or pro-inspirational–you should see the monthly Romance Writers Report. Based on the covers in the author ads, the authors of hot novels are clearly paying a large share of the printer’s bill!

  160. B
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 19:27:16

    To those who assume RWA is anti-erotica, or pro-inspirational-you should see the monthly Romance Writers Report. Based on the covers in the author ads, the authors of hot novels are clearly paying a large share of the printer's bill!

    As a reader, I don’t know if this is the case with RWA, but….

    Just because someone takes your money doesn’t mean they accept/support you.

  161. Dagny
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 19:31:36

    The best historical-no, the best *novel* I ever judged during my judging years was a Western…and if forced to name my least favorite sub-genre, that would probably be it.

    Forget this year’s Ritas, I want to know what the mystery awesome Western was.

    As a reader, I’m open to anything well written so I just want to know what was good in a given year. But that said, I’m not paying much attention when the list of nominees bears little relation to the books consistently being hailed as great by reviewers I trust and the comments of people with whom I’m familiar.

  162. Robin
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 19:56:27

    @AQ: I think for a lot of people, a Romance is judged primarily or even solely on the extent to which the reader finds it romantic. Then there’s the fact that every reader has her own standards of success and failure.

    Personally, I think that honest critique pulls the overall quality of the genre up, but I also think that there’s still more than a little resistance to the idea of paying critical attention to the genre *from within the genre.* Plus there’s a false assumption that “critical” means “criticism” and not merely “analytical.” Which is not to say that RITA judges aren’t analytical or discriminating or that the books are not rigorously judged — just that IMO there’s no universally accepted rubric of of evaluation (what elements should be measured and what weight should they each be given) that sets a clear standard of excellence in the genre.

    @Olivia:

    I stopped judging in protest when a Regency Historical category was added, an expansion of the existing Historical category. Partly I understood-there are indeed many, many Regency hystericals on the market. But for me it was a step too far, and a misguided one. I continue to feel that Historical Romances should be judged on their merits. Not based upon the era.

    What has baffled me is the idea that more eligible entrants requires more potential winners. But it reinforces my sense that it would be very, very difficult to alter the categorization of RITAs from subgenre to general book categories. As long as the genre is seen in terms of its specific subgenre elements, IMO it’s never going to get the kind of widespread respect and attention that other genre awards do (i.e. the Hugo, Neblua, Edgar, etc.), because those differences are not particularly meaningful except for dedicated Romance readers.

    re. the split between advertising of and awarding to ER novels, IIRC RT faced a similar controversy several years ago regarding m/m Romance.

  163. ldb
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:13:33

    @Lee Rowan: post 15I

    Perhaps the problem she has, and the one I know I have with your statements is that you’re throwing rocks at people who aren’t themselves throwing anything. I don’t think the words abomination or spawn have been used in this discussion at all and yet you act as though everyone who might not find erotic romance entertaining could only possibly feel that way because they are far too close minded. If you’ve been insulted by people in the past don;t take it as a free pass to insult everyone else who might belong to that particular religeon I find THAT to be close minded, and frankly everything you’ve accused “Christians” of doing you seem to be doing youself.

    And as an aside, I don’t think there should be an insperational catagory if a book is good it shouldn’t need to have a catagory created for it in order to win.

  164. Fae
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:39:51

    re. the split between advertising of and awarding to ER novels, IIRC RT faced a similar controversy several years ago regarding m/m Romance.

    And their discrimination continues to this day. Which is why I won’t be heading to Orlando nor purchasing any ad space in their magazine. They’ll take our money but they won’t review our books.

    It really shocks me how no one seems to care (enough to act, anyway) that the two biggest organizations in the Romance industry are blatantly discriminating against people based on the sexuality of their characters, the amount of sex their characters have or whether an author is in print or not (never mind that an epublished author can earn enough in one months sales to qualify for PAN 2-3 times over. I have.).

    Why does everyone seem to turn the other way and let it happen? I really don’t understand the enabling and dismissive condoning of bigoted, discriminatory practices that goes on.

  165. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:44:22

    @Robin:

    What has baffled me is the idea that more eligible entrants requires more potential winners.

    I think this is where my question about the sheer size of the romance genre applies because I wonder if that’s the reason for the breakdown by sub-genres instead of novel size.

    But it reinforces my sense that it would be very, very difficult to alter the categorization of RITAs from subgenre to general book categories. As long as the genre is seen in terms of its specific subgenre elements, IMO it's never going to get the kind of widespread respect and attention that other genre awards do (i.e. the Hugo, Neblua, Edgar, etc.), because those differences are not particularly meaningful except for dedicated Romance readers.

    The only thing is that I’m not sure how meaningful the awards are even to those readers, considering that they do change (slide around?) depending upon how many books are actually submitted per category. I mean it’s not like they’re locked in and there’s ultimately always going to be the same award each year for a certain sub-genre in that case. As a reader one can’t even consistently trace back year to year for comparison in every category.

    (As for the use of plot/theme type categories, well, there are various reader/fan sites that already do something similar each year. ;))

    No, the question that really comes to my mind at this point is about consistency in some major fashion. If I looked back at the records, would I be able to see what someone thought the best romance each year was? Or would there just be no way of knowing?

  166. Dagny
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:49:27

    (As for the use of plot/theme type categories, well, there are various reader/fan sites that already do something similar each year. ;))

    Hee, I was going for the cheap joke with my suggestions. Why offer constructive input when you can make yourself giggle.

    Still, I pay more attention to most of those sites and their awards than I do to the Ritas.

  167. BevBB
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 21:30:43

    @Dagny:

    Hee, I was going for the cheap joke with my suggestions. Why offer constructive input when you can make yourself giggle.

    Still, I pay more attention to most of those sites and their awards than I do to the Ritas.

    I wasn’t joking. I was quite serious in suggesting their use knowing full well that reader sites already use them for exactly the same reason. :D

    What I was more interested in seeing, though, was the big discrepency between the romance genre awards list and ones from the other genres. Now that is truly fascinating.

    Not sure what it points to but it definitely points to something.

    There’s a phrase that keeps popping into my head for some reason. Sounds something like “by women for women” and I can’t help wondering if that might be why that list is so fragmented and so unlike the others.

    Like I said, truly fascinating.

  168. Mary Winter » RWA: Be Relevant or Fade Away
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 21:33:01

    […] that I have very strong feelings on RWA. Since reading the wonderful post over at Dear Author (http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/03/31/dear-rwa-members-dont-be-a-hater-of-the-hot/), I've been composing this blog entry in my head all afternoon. I have a long history with RWA, […]

  169. AQ
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 00:07:46

    Okay from the MWA data back to 2000, the primary list of awards is as follows:

    1. Novel
    2. First Novel
    3. Paperback Original
    4. Short Story
    5. Fact Crime
    6. Critical / Biographical Work
    7. Young Adult
    8. Juvenile
    9. Episode in a TV Series
    10. Motion Picture
    11. Play
    12. The Robert L Fish Memorial Award
    13. Mary Higgins Clark Award

    At times we also see the addition of TV Feature or Mini-series, Special Edgars & The Ellery Queen Award but other than that the core list appears the same.

    Checking the database for 1980 gives me the same category names.

    In 1946 the awards were: Best First Novel, Best Motion Picture, Best Radio Drama, Outstanding Mystery Criticism.

    In the interest of fairness I had to determine if my glances/perception and the comments I made regarding that perception stood up to reality. Here are a couple of things that I noted while drawing up the RWA list.

    1. On average since 1990 the number of categories per year = 12.
    2. Young Adult category first appears in 1983 for 15 appearances with its biggest gap of non-appearance from 1997-2007
    3. Inspirational Romance first appears in 1985 and has appeared on the list 17 times. Years missing from the list: (1982-1984, 1987-1994)
    4. Regency first appears in 1985 and remains on the list until 2007 then reappears in 2008
    5. Best Romance of the year began in 1990 with the first Rita ceremony and lasts until 1996. In 1998 there is a category called RWA’s Favorite Book but it never makes a repeat appearance on the list.
    6. Traditional Romance first appears 1984 and is removed from the list in 2008.
    7. Since the beginning the romance awards have always been genre based.

    And those are your trivia facts for the night. Others can parse through the data I’ve culled. The original information can be found on the past winners page for rwanational’s website and theedgars.com. Too tired to go after HWA or SWFA maybe somebody else will volunteer because data is good.

    Someone from RWA will need to confirm whether the items listed as name change are just name changes or also represent a category definition change.

    RWA is as follows:
    2008 to 2009 list identical

    Change in 2008 from 2007
    Add Contemporary Series Romance
    Add Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure
    Add Historical Romance
    Add Regency Historical Romance
    Add Young Adult
    Remove Long Contemporary Romance
    Remove Long Historical Romance
    Remove Short Contemporary Romance
    Remove Short Historical
    Remove Traditional Romance
    Name Change: Romantic Novella becomes Romance Novella

    Change in 2007 from 2006
    Remove Regency Romance

    Change in 2006 from 2005
    None

    Change in 2005 from 2004
    None

    Change in 2004 from 2003
    Add Novel With Strong Romantic Elements

    Change in 2003 from 2002
    None

    Change in 2002 from 2001
    None

    Change in 2001 from 2000
    None

    Change in 2000 from 1999
    Add Romantic Novella

    Change 1999 from 1998
    Name Change Long Contemporary Romance from Long Contemporary Series Romance
    Name Change: Short Contemporary Romance from Short Contemporary Series Romance
    Remove RWA’s Favorite Book of 1997

    Change 1998 from 1997
    Add RWA’s Favorite Book of 1997

    Change 1997 from 1996
    Remove Romance of 1995
    Remove Young Adult Romance

    Change from 1996 to 1995
    Remove Historical
    Add Short Historical

    Change 1995 from1994
    (I assume some the 2 historical entries are really name changes but I don’t know which is which)
    Add Inspirational Romance
    Add Historical
    Add Long Historical Romance
    Remove Historical Series
    Remove Historical Single Title
    Name Change: Paranormal Romance from Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

    Change 1994 from 1993
    Name Change: Contemporary Single Title from Single Contemporary Title
    Name Change: Historical Single Title from Single Historical Title

    Change 1993 from 1992
    Name Change: Historical Series from Series Historical

    Change 1992 from 1991
    Add Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
    Add Single Title Contemporary
    Add Young Adult

    Change 1991 from 1990
    Remove Single Title Contemporary
    Remove Young Adult

    Change 1990 from 1989
    Award Name Change: RITA from Golden Medallion
    Add Romance of 1989
    Add First Book
    Add Single Title Contemporary
    Name Change: Short Contemporary Series Romance from Short Contemporary Romance
    Name Change: Romantic Suspense from Suspense
    Add Series Historical
    Add Single Title Historical
    Remove Historical Romance

    Change 1989 from 1988
    Add Suspense

    Change 1988 from 1987
    None

    Change 1987 from 1986
    Remove Inspirational Romance

    Change 1986 from 1985
    Name Change: Single Title Romance from Mainstream

    Change 1985 from 1984
    Add Inspirational Romance
    Add Long Contemporary Series romance
    Add Short Contemporary Romance
    Remove Contemporary Under 65,000 words
    Remove Contemporary 65-80,000 words
    Remove Contemporary over 80,000 words
    Add Mainstream
    Add Regency Romance
    Remove Category Historical Romance

    Change 1984 from 1983
    Add Contemporary Under 65,000 words
    Add Contemporary 65-80,000 words
    Add Contemporary over 80,000 words
    Add Traditional Romance
    Remove Contemporary Mainstream Romance
    Remove Contemporary Sensual Romance
    Remove Contemporary Sweet Romance
    Name Change: Historical Romance from Mainstream Historical Romance

    Change 1983 from 1982
    Add Contemporary Sensual Romance
    Add Contemporary Sweet Romance
    Add Young Adult
    Add Contemporary Mainstream Romance
    Remove Category Contemporary Romance
    Remove Mainstream Historical Romance

    And our starting awards in 1982

    Category Contemporary Romance
    Category Historical Romance
    Mainstream Category Romance
    Mainstream Historical Romance

    Good night, folks!

  170. Shelli Stevens
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 00:28:01

    Gosh I read through all these comments and go back and forth on how I feel. I was initially against a separate category and then for it. I think I’m leaning toward wanting one. And from the sounds of it, I’m not alone. Many people who initially didn’t want a separate category are leaning toward the wanting one now.

    I mean my first NY book comes out in August. It’s erotic and futuristic. From what I gather there’s not a futuristic category either (unless I missed it!)….so I’d have to enter in the paranormal? I don’t really know. But I do know that’s one heck of a long shot. Though I have thought about subbing my novella in the upcoming Sexy Beast VII antho, because that’s a little more cut and dry. It goes in the ‘novella’ category.

    I will say I’m an advocate for the RWA. I think a big part of that is having a strong local chapter. I’ve been president of the Seattle chapter for two years, and having served for a total of four years on the board. The networking is priceless. I’ve met so many people and have learned so much. The organization isn’t perfect, but then which one is? Yes, I would love to see more acceptance for erotic and epubs (both which apply to me) and I hope that will happen. I really do see that happening. There’s so many of us–unless we all drop out because we’re upset and want to snub them, but what does that solve? We need to show that we’re a valuable presence and we’re here to stay. And be mature and respectful about it. Like I said, I really enjoy my RWA membership. And at this point I don’t see the negatives outweighing the positives.

  171. Evangeline
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 03:04:22

    I don’t know whether someone has already mentioned this, but Inspirational/Christian romance has its own guidelines–CBA–which possibly contributes to their own separate category since Inspy books must adhere to additional guidelines non-Inspy romances do not. But that said, the RITA categories somewhat match the RWA’s special interest chapters, which means that ER should indeed have its own category. I find it difficult to believe that out of the large pool of eligible RITA judges, everyone but those who have spoken up here at DA, wouldn’t touch ER with a ten-foot pole. I also don’t think the question is “what is erotic romance?”–if an author considers themselves an author of erotic romance, there it is. The attempt to categorize what erotic romance exactly is comes across as trying to identify it for those who aren’t regular readers of the sub-genre and those who don’t write them. I think most people know what they’re writing and reading.

    And geez, painting Christians with a tar and feather, eh? I gather that the lack of non-Christian religions in mainstream romance is rather akin to the general lack of people of color–the majority of romance readers are those white folks someone above sneered at. The chronic case of anti-Inspy furor is rather ironic when the few reviews of non-Caucasian romance posted here garners little response. But I digress…

  172. Anion
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 03:20:23

    I don’t understand why judging works the way it does either, when the internet exists and the RWA website has a Members-only section.

    Open the contest to entries. List all the titles. Let the membership vote. One vote per member number. Boom. If they don’t want to vote in a category they don’t have to; say all members get a vote in the first round but only PAN gets to vote on the second, or whatever. Or use the regular judging system for the first round but open the final round to the membership at large; there are a few options. Heck, you have local chapters, let them do the prelim voting as a whole and nominate two or three of their members’ books. Then the computer tallies all the votes.

    Let publishers do marketing/promo campaigns the way the studios do for Oscars and Emmys. Get people involved. Yes, members may have to buy copies of the final round books, but don’t most romance writers also read romance? Isn’t the chance pretty good they’ll have read those books already, or can get them from the library or used book store or whatever? Is it really too much to ask, if Rita entries are tallied sooner, to give each member, say, six months to read the final-round books in the categories they’ve decided to vote on?

    As someone said above–sorry, I can’t remember who and am in a bit of a rush, but I agreed with it 100%–if you’re not capable of judging a book objectively on its quality, you really shouldn’t be judging anyway. The very idea that the RWA is catering to that kind of unprofessonalism makes me cringe.

    The way the Oscar votes go isn’t perfect either, and we all know the Academy has certain quirks, but at least it’s a pretty fair vote. It would eliminate all this silliness.

    What this comes down to for me is you have a large number of dues-paying members asking the RWA to do something, and the RWA is refusing. It wouldn’t hurt them to add an erotic category. It wouldn’t add hugely to their workload. There is absolutely no reason why they can’t add the category save their own refusal to allow members to get what they pay for.

  173. Linda Winstead Jones
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 04:44:31

    While the idea of everyone reading all romance books and voting (or a small group reading them all and voting) is an ideal, it doesn’t work for romance. I just checked the RWA website list of books published in March. 248. Some are reprints, but not too many. I can’t even guarantee that all publishers are represented. So, you can figure conservatively that anyone trying to judge all romances would have to read at least 200 books a month. Even skimming, I can’t see that working.

    I was on the RWA board for 4 years, and I’m pretty sure we spent more time on the RITA than anything else. We listened to member feedback, we made changes, hoping to make the contest better, we made more changes and tried to address problems that came up in the process. It’s not perfect, but there is no evil plan behind the scenes. To be upfront, I’m not in favor of an erotic category for two reasons: It creates more problems than it solves, and there is already a place (places) for erotic romance to be entered. Every category is diverse.

    Imperfect as it is, I’m a RITA fan. I won one a few years back (writing under a pseudonym) for a book that didn’t have a print run large enough for every RWA member to read, unless it was passed around at chapter meetings and mailed back and forth. :-) Did it revive the career of that author or line of books? No. I don’t think that’s what it’s about.

    Re: the list of changes year to year. In some years when a category disappears (like YA and regency) that means it didn’t receive the minimum number of entries (25) to qualify as a viable category for that year.

    LJ

  174. What if She’s Bi? « Adriana Kraft
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 05:17:14

    […] by adrianakraft If she's Bi, she deserves a happy ending too! Over at dearauthor.com, a recent blog about RWA's Rita awards and erotic romance pushed a red hot button and generated over 200 […]

  175. MuiMui
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:35:25

    @Lee Rowan:

    If people who call themselves Christians want to attack anyone who is different, they must be aware that those who do not buy into their worldview are not going to take them seriously, and just might give “inspirational” stories every bit as much respect as they give the genres they dislike.

    I understand where your coming from. People who call themselves Christians being the operative words here.

    I just wanted to let you know a little about me and why I was a little hurt…. I don’t live in America, where there’s the ‘Bible Belt’ where there’s a large proportion of Christians. I live in the U.K. where it’s just ridiculous to be a theist. (This is a generalization of course).

    Once, when I was 15 walking into to school I came upon hundreds and hundreds of little papers crushed on the sidewalk. Torn, ripped, trampled. I picked one page up, curious as to what could cause such destruction. You guessed it, about 20 of those little New Testament Bibles were torn out from their covers and ripped to shreds.

    When I was 17, I had to listen to my history teacher on several occasions tell her class that Christians were mad/crazy/ridiculous and they all have some weird mental disorder. I walked home with tears streaming down my face. I’m the only Christian in my group of friends and though they respect me, they do, to some extent, find me totally addled.

    When I was 19, I lived with a girl that was very verbally abusive, and the fact that I was a “dumb Christian” came into it often.

    I don’t have any place to judge anyone for their lifestyle/beliefs because here I’m alone with mine and I know what it feels like. I have gay friends and muslim friends (my BFFs ^___^) and atheist friends. I love them no matter what, which is what I was taught.

    It’s one thing to ridicule an organization that you say is openly discriminating and is hypocritical (I totally get that) but when the fundemantals of MY beliefs come into it – I get hurt. Like saying “those close-minded homophobes” is one thing, but when someone goes “and that Jesus/God blah-dy blah”… Yea… ouch.

    It may be stupid and I may be just too sensitive but I just wanted you to know where I was coming from…

  176. Christine Rimmer
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:44:07

    The way the Oscar votes go isn’t perfect either, and we all know the Academy has certain quirks, but at least it’s a pretty fair vote. It would eliminate all this silliness.

    Anion, well, not so much. the academy is infamous for awarding Oscars for any number of non-excellence reasons. If you go back and look at the winners of best picture through the years, it’s humorous–or shocking, depending on your personality–the pictures that win and then sink in a couple of years to oblivion, while great movies don’t, but live forever.

    Really cracked me up when Sean Penn won Best Actor this last time. Everyone knew that Mickey Rourke would win simply for the sake of his personal come-back triumph with the Wrestler. But Sean Penn won on pure excellence. All were surprised.

  177. AQ
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:56:38

    I’m back and because I simply need to know, you guys get tortured too! See that’s fair, isn’t it?

    Couple of things:
    1. RWA RITA changes from year to year. I originally said significant but that was because during my glance there was no way for me to determine what was a name change vs. what was a category change. However, since I don’t know whether or not the name change also includes a category redefinition there is no way for me to know whether or not I was wrong with my original perception. If they’re also changing definitions, one might consider that tinkering for whatever that’s worth. I personally find constant name changes distracting especially when I compare it to the other awards.

    2. The reason I specifically broke out Young Adult, Inspirational and Regency was because I thought it was important that I say that those categories had been there almost from the beginning. While reading this thread and others, my impression was something else entirely so I felt it important that I include that. Others can determine whether or not they think it relevant.

    So back to our regularly scheduled story. PS. These were easier to do so I’ve only included the years there were changes. I’m happy to redo this to include the no changes listing if others feel that it’s important for relevance.

    SWFA, the Nebulas:

    1999
    Added Script

    1976
    Remove Best Dramatic Writing

    1975
    Name Change: Best Dramatic Writing from Best Dramatic Presentation

    1973
    Add Best Drama Presentation

    No other changes listed. List dates back to 1965

    Original Categories:
    Novel
    Novella
    Novelette
    Short Story

    Current Categories:
    Novel
    Novella
    Novelette
    Short Story
    Script

    HWA, The Bram Stoker Awards:

    2005 from 2004
    Remove Illustrated Narrative
    Remove Screenplay
    Remove Work for Young Readers
    Remove Alternative Forms

    2001 from 2000
    Name Change: Alternative Forms from Other Media

    1998 from 1997
    Add Anthology
    Add Illustrated Narrative
    Add Work for Young Readers
    Add Other Media

    1995 from 1994
    Add Nonfiction

    1994 from 1993
    Remove Novella
    Remove Novelet
    Add Long Fiction
    Remove Nonfiction
    Remove Other Media

    1993 from 1992
    Add Novella
    Add Novelet
    Remove Long Fiction
    Add Other Media

    1989 from 1988
    Add Nonfiction

    1988 from 1987
    Remove Nonfiction

    Award goes back to 1987

    Original Categories:
    Novel
    First Novel
    Long Fiction
    Short Fiction
    Fiction Collection
    Nonfiction

    Current Categories:
    Novel
    First Novel
    Long Fiction
    Short Fiction
    Fiction Collection
    Anthology
    Nonfiction
    Poetry Collection

    I’m going to have to go through MWA’s The Edgars later. It dates back to 1946 and that will take some time to generate a similiar list. The Hugos also date back to 1946

    Original List:
    Best Novel
    Best Novella
    Best Novelette
    Best Short Story
    Best Dramatic Presentation
    Best Professional Editor
    Best Professional Artist
    Best Fanzine
    Best Fan Writer
    Best Fan Artist

    Current List:
    Best Novel
    Best Novella
    Best Novelette
    Best Short Story
    Best Related Book
    Best Graphic Story
    Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
    Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
    Best Editor, Short Form
    Best Editor, Long Form
    Best Professional Artist
    Best Semiprozine
    Best Fanzine
    Best Fan Writer
    Best Fan Artist
    The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  178. Christine Rimmer
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:57:42

    Oh, and Robin, way back at comment 140 or so…I see what you mean now. Yep. RITAs are self-nominated as opposed to those contests where others have to nominate you.

  179. Kalen Hughes
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 10:21:19

    Regency first appears in 1985 and remains on the list until 2007 then reappears in 2008

    But with a new definition. The original category was for “Regencies” (aka short, usually “sweet”, category books set during the Regency period [think Barbara Cartland or Emily Hendrickson]; these are no longer in production). The new category is for single title novels set during the Regency period (think Jo Beverley or Julia Quinn). The historical categories seem to undergo major shifts on a regular basis. *sigh*

    I mean my first NY book comes out in August. It's erotic and futuristic. From what I gather there's not a futuristic category either (unless I missed it!)….so I'd have to enter in the paranormal? I don't really know. But I do know that's one heck of a long shot.

    Futuristic seems to do just fine in the Paranormal category: Linna Sinclair won for Gabriel’s Ghost two years ago and Susan Grant won for Contact in ’03. And being “erotic” doesn't seem to keep a truly good book out (hence Pam Rosenthal's back to back finals).

  180. XandraG
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 11:18:31

    I still wiffle between wanting and not wanting an ER category in the RITAs – the pros of it are that erotically-themed stories get their fair shake measured against their own subgenre peers, and judges with moral objections to explicit material can opt out of the entire category. The cons are that it brings to the forefront the idea that sexual content is a classification and/or rating system in romance fiction, playing into the whole “housewife pr0n” meme, and that if you have a single ER category, you have historicals up against paranormals up against contemporaries in ER while they get their own categories elsewise.

    There is also a larger question here in terms of prioritization of classification, for lack of a better term. Which classifications trump which others? Which classifications are important enough to pull a book out of one subgenre and into another? Regency, for example, trumps Historical. YA trumps contemporary. Paranormal trumps contemporary, and oftentimes historical as well. Suspense trumps contemporary and short contemporary, if I’m understanding the current categories correctly. Novella trumps any other classification. Inspirational trumps other classifications as well (witness the culture-shock reactions coming from judges who didn’t expect to see an inspy in historical or suspense or whatever. Independent of value judgment, the judges obviously didn’t expect to see an inspy in another category). Erotic would likely end up being one of those classifications that trumps other categories, but then it begs the question of where the line is between erotic and not erotic enough, on both sides of the classification. Will we end up providing lists of “erotic-approved” situations, positions, behaviors, etc, that define a book as “erotic” (or disqualify a book if it’s in one of the other subgenres).

    Now, I don’t know if there’s an easy solution or a right answer. What it really feels like, judging from the general atmosphere of dialogue from official quarters in RWA, is that erotic romance is getting the stepchild treatment not so much because it’s teh_hawt, but because it’s teh_electronz. It’s no secret that Erotic Romance started in epublishing (internets is for pr0nz) and it is there that the majority of it can be found. Traditional publishers came late to the game and play well within boundaries that the epublishers tend to push.

    Until that’s addressed, I think we’re all dancing around the elephant pretending to be a large gray coffee table.

  181. XandraG
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 12:46:00

    On Inspirationals:

    The category is misleading. It should be called “Christian” – not only because the only publishers putting out inspirationals are interested in pretty much exclusively Christian-oriented fiction, but because as other posters upthread pointed out–there’s a different set of standards that inspies have to meet, put out not only by the CBA, but also by the confines of the Christian *brand.* Which is not the same as the Christian religion.

    It’s probably not fair to put an inspy up against another book that doesn’t have those additional branding requirements to meet.

  182. BevBB
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 13:15:00

    @Evangeline:

    I don't know whether someone has already mentioned this, but Inspirational/Christian romance has its own guidelines-CBA-which possibly contributes to their own separate category since Inspy books must adhere to additional guidelines non-Inspy romances do not. But that said, the RITA categories somewhat match the RWA's special interest chapters, which means that ER should indeed have its own category.

    Ahhhh, this actually makes things make a lot more sense. I think. At least in terms of why certain award categories are more “stable” and can field more entrants each year.

    So, I suppose the next obvious question related to the relative size of the genres would be whether the other genres also have special interest chapters? Or are they simply so much smaller that they only have geographical ones?

    Hence the reliance on awards by size rather than special interest lobbying. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing – as long as it works for as many as possible.

  183. Jules Jones
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 14:08:37

    The RITA definition for Inspirational doesn’t specify Christian. It doesn’t even specify “one man and one woman” whether with or without Yahweh, or $DEITY_OF_CHOICE. Any bets on what the reaction would have been had I entered my m/m romance which meets the definition as given, and does so with Christian lead characters, specifically an Anglican and a Methodist?

    No, it wasn’t written as a spoof. It’s a space opera and a romantic comedy, but the picture I painted of the Anglican church’s attitude to marriage in the [mumble]th century was a serious extrapolation of what’s happening in my church right now, and an explicit statement of where I think my church should be going. Nevertheless, somehow I think there might well have been a spate of “not a romance” and “wrong category” marks.

    This is something RWA is going to have to get to grips with over the next few years. There are Christians writing m/m romance, and some of them have written or will write inspirational m/m romance. Ditto erotic romance. There are pagans writing inspirational romance, both sweet and erotic. That definition covers all of them, and relying on the ban on epublished books to keep them out is not going to work forever.

  184. SandyW
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 15:09:53

    So, I suppose the next obvious question related to the relative size of the genres would be whether the other genres also have special interest chapters?

    I think in this case CBA refers to the Christian Booksellers Association, which apparently has a specific list of criteria that fiction must meet in order to be sold in member stores. Not a part of RWA.

    There is a very interesting list of special interest chapters, but it doesn't quite match RITA categories. There is a special interest chapter for Christian romance, but there are quite a few others as well.
    http://rwanational.org/cs/about_rwa/chapters_listing/special_interest_chapters

  185. Melinda
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 16:14:02

    To be upfront, I'm not in favor of an erotic category for two reasons: It creates more problems than it solves, and there is already a place (places) for erotic romance to be entered. Every category is diverse.

    I agree. Some problems are legal and some are more subjective. The contests, both the Rita and GH, have changed over the years. Even the score sheets, this over legal issues.

    It’s more complex than the discussion here.

    (I wrote more but lost my post) There is no way to form a criteria for judging romances. Too many books. There could never be a panel. Personally I hate the score sheets. I wish they had remarks for techniques and such, but that would create more problems and even legal issues.

    However, what I consider poor technique ( such as head-hopping, weak structure, and use of flashbacks ) may not be *poor* in the eyes of another reader. Some of the erotic romance novels could be badly written, or the stories could not be as moving to readers.

    I will say this, words used in erotic and hot rated romances can take me right out of the story. That’s a no-no. Let’s be blunt. Language, how we look at language and the use of it, over a lifetime, affects our judgment. It’s really not about morals or any of that. It’s more complex.

    The Rita is a nice contest, but it’s not EVERYTHING.

    I am not sure it holds the same weight as The Hugo, etc. In fact, most awards are for those inside the industry, not the normal reader.

  186. AQ
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 17:24:41

    Melinda

    It's more complex than the discussion here.

    I don’t doubt that.

    There is no way to form a criteria for judging romances. Too many books.

    There’s always a way to develop criteria. If there’s no criteria then you are relying on subjective decision making by whoever judges the work.

    However, what I consider poor technique ( such as head-hopping, weak structure, and use of flashbacks ) may not be *poor* in the eyes of another reader. Some of the erotic romance novels could be badly written, or the stories could not be as moving to readers.

    As it stands now, this is a professional peer award not a reader award. Technical merit should count for something. How much is at issue? The other issue that comes to mind when talking about the technique issues you raise is the skill level of the judges identifying them. This is really nitpicky but I want to trot this out for argument’s sake.

    Example: Head-hopping. If the story is in limited third POV, it’s rather easy to identify. But if it’s an omni-pov that the author’s shooting for and not executing well. What then? Does the judge know enough about POV techniques to be able to discern that and grade it accordingly?

    I’m not saying this is the level of detail that I think Rita judging should have. What I’m trying to highlight is the fact that judges skillset would seem to be all over the place just by the virtue of being writers.

    Some author may just write. No classes. No care about structure, technique or anything else and they tell a really good story. Other authors take classes and chart out turning points and have all these detailed layers. That doesn’t mean one story is better than the other, it means that they are trying to do very different things and sometimes one works better than the other. For readers the preference is all over the board. (I know mine is.)

    If there’s no criteria and no common understanding of what and how the story is being judged then that’s raises all sorts of legitimacy issues because the award claims to be a peer award from a professional writing organization. That doesn’t mean that the judges need to go into complete analytical mode. What I’m shooting for is the baseline of what will be judged, how it will be judged and whether or not the writers involved in the judging have the skillset to meet the minimum criteria in my hypothetical model to fulfill my desire for at least the appearance of objectivity.

    [And thank you Olivia because your comments lends credibilty to the fact that the objectivity I’m trying to get at does exist within the judging ranks.]

    I will say this, words used in erotic and hot rated romances can take me right out of the story.

    But the question is do those words fit the story being told? Not your personal comfort level with the romance story but the actual construction of the story being told. To flip it around what if I were judging an inspy entry and the lead character said something I considered exceptionally insulting to women. I can assure you that that would take me out of the story as well. If I’m a reader, I’d probably stop reading right there but in this case I’m a judge for a professional peer award contest. Do I get a pass because it puts me outside of my comfort zone and pisses me off and doesn’t fit my worldview of acceptable behavior? Or do I need to look past that, continue reading and judge the work as a whole?

  187. AQ
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 17:36:34

    Added for POV example above: Or what if the author had excuted the omni pov properly and the judge thought it was head hopping?

  188. Melinda
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 13:21:09

    As it stands now, this is a professional peer award not a reader award. Technical merit should count for something. How much is at issue? The other issue that comes to mind when talking about the technique issues you raise is the skill level of the judges identifying them. This is really nitpicky but I want to trot this out for argument's sake.

    This is just one of the issues that makes a criteria problematic. At one time, the RWA awards did have *Techniques* judged. It caused legal issues.

    Other authors take classes and chart out turning points and have all these detailed layers. That doesn't mean one story is better than the other, it means that they are trying to do very different things and sometimes one works better than the other.

    This is your opinion. Not mine. Skills make a big difference, in say, winning The Hugo or Nebula. How the story is told is just as important as story itself.

    And this is just another issue that would be problematic.

    Added for POV example above: Or what if the author had excuted the omni pov properly and the judge thought it was head hopping?

    A trained reader would know.

  189. AQ
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 19:12:34

    Melinda

    This is your opinion. Not mine. Skills make a big difference, in say, winning The Hugo or Nebula.

    1. The Hugo is not a professional peer award. You need to either be a full member ($195 attending the conference) or a supporting member ($50, not attending the conference) to vote. Being a professional writer is not a requirement nor is reading any of the titles that finaled.

    I included The Hugos in my award title comparision because it’s a rather well-known award and I thought it rather interesting to look at type of categories The Hugos used vs. what the professional writing organizations were using.

    2. As for the Nebula, at this moment I have no idea what the criteria is for the Nebula so your statement that skill makes a difference is not one I could verify. Although since my perception of The Rita is that it is tinged with bias, I’d have to say that my current perception of The Nebula is that the standards are higher. That perception may not hold up under scrunity.

    Some author may just write. No classes. No care about structure, technique or anything else and they tell a really good story. Other authors take classes and chart out turning points and have all these detailed layers. That doesn't mean one story is better than the other, it means that they are trying to do very different things and sometimes one works better than the other. For readers the preference is all over the board. (I know mine is.)

    3. My intent with this paragraph wasn’t to put down one type of writer vs. the other. It wasn’t even to say that one type of writer had more skill in telling a story than the other.

    Here’s a non-reading/writing example of what I was trying to convey. I hope that this example will be more clear. Volleyball. Some volleyball players are simply naturally gifted athletes. They play and play and play, they never study, rarely do drills but they’re still marvelous athletes and amazing to watch on the court. Other players need to practice and study and drill before they play. They need to understand the hows and whys of what they’re doing and then they need to do it over and over again until they perfect it. They may not be as naturally talented but in the end they may be just as skilled during competition and also beautiful to watch on the court.

    Being an official is an entirely different skillset and it uses a different part of the brain than competing. There’s no correlation between being a great player and being a great official. That’s part of the reason why the national volleyball league I belonged to required teams to have the individuals that they’d designated as officials be certified.

    All officials regardless of experience had to take a class each season to ensure actual knowledge of the core rules, rules changes & how to apply them in given situations. Then there was the actual certification process where we were observed and graded during sanctioned tournament play. If one didn’t pass the certification process and the team had no other certified officials then the team couldn’t play in sanctioned tournaments. If your team wanted to play there had to be at least 3 individual certified: 1 up ref, 1 down ref and 1 scorer. If you lost one during the tournament, you had to beg, borrow and plead for a certified official from another team or forfeit. That’s how important consistent officiating was to the organization I belonged to.

    That doesn’t mean there still weren’t issues but at least we had a solid baseline and criteria which we were required to follow and could be judged on. AND IF there was a dispute during tournament play, we could either refer to the written rule book or lodge a formal protest which would be reviewed first by the site director, then by the regional office, and finally up to the national office and the board of directors. In other words, there was a concrete process involved for our non-professional national organization.

    How the story is told is just as important as story itself.

    Sure but how is that reflected in how the scores are determined when you don’t have standard criteria for how a work is judged?

    Added for POV example above: Or what if the author had excuted the omni pov properly and the judge thought it was head hopping?

    A trained reader would know.

    The key word there is trained. A trained author would know as well.

    However, I would never assume a group of authors would judge and weight something like head hopping the same unless they had all been trained to RECOGNIZE and SCORE using the same CRITERIA. There will always be differences–you can’t get around that–but without training and standards there can never be any perception of consistency. I’d also argue that there’s little chance of actual consistency as well.

    This is just one of the issues that makes a criteria problematic. At one time, the RWA awards did have *Techniques* judged. It caused legal issues.

    Frankly, if RWA had all kinds of legal issues before, I’m kind of surprised that you don’t have them now.

    I will say this, words used in erotic and hot rated romances can take me right out of the story. That's a no-no. Let's be blunt. Language, how we look at language and the use of it, over a lifetime, affects our judgment. It's really not about morals or any of that. It's more complex.

    Again I go back to your comment here (and others like it). This goes to the heart of my perception that there is inherent bias in the award process. Bias that could be better managed by developing better criteria and that’s why I keep hammering on it.

    Knocking a story out of the contest with a wrong category or a not a romance mark should have the highest possible scrunity attached to it. RWA’s contest supervisors should review all books knocked out as well as grades given to determine if there are any patterns that justify the claims by individuals that certain types of stories aren’t getting a fair shake. And if perception of bias is false then the Board needs to develop a method to show/prove that to the at-large organization because false perception of this magnitude can be extremely damaging to an organization.

    However, if it does happen to be true, then the Board needs to deal with it immediately, outlining steps in order to address the issue and correct it. Either way it’s a top-down process that needs to have transparency, consistency and criteria/process at its core.

    *********

    Finally, in general, I’m still left wondering about subgenre categories used for award category designation. Leaving erotic romance off the table for the moment and the potential problems identify criteria for contest purposes.

    I can make an argument for using subgenre classification for the Rita award progra. It’s not one that I’d personally favor, but I can make the argument. That said, I’m then left wondering why there isn’t a listing for African American or GLTB?

    What’s the justification for non-inclusive when you have: 1. a subgenre based award program; 2. African American and GLTB are subgenres of the romance genre as designated by the publishing industry, authors, librarians and readers; 3. members of your organization are making a living writing in these subgenres; and 4. there is a claim by your membership that titles within these subgenres cannot compete on an equal footing because of a perceived bias within the contest itself and the judging ranks specifically.

    I’ll leave you with RWA’s mission statement.

    The mission of Romance Writers of America is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance-‘or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.

    Dear RWA members, please take a hard look at your mission statement and then determine how well your organization is measuring up to its stated goals for all your members. If you like what you see, then vote to keep it. If you don’t like what you see, then organize and figure out what you need to do to change it. If it can’t be changed and you don’t like what you see and you’ve given your all to promote change, then it’s time to leave and possibly start a rival organization.

  190. Musing on Erotic Romance « Tour’s Books Blog
    Apr 08, 2009 @ 09:57:42

    […] little editorial several weeks ago and low and behold – there's an interesting thread over on Dear Author about it that tackles the Romance Writers of America's position on erotic romance – it's not […]

  191. Karen Scott
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 12:29:38

    My not-liking or wanting to judge inspies suddenly becomes condemnation of a whole lifestyle? Someone needs to catch that kneejerk reaction before it breaks somebody's sternum.

    Nothing useful to add, but this comment made me laugh out loud.

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