NEW YORK (AP) – The Romance Writers of America have collected their annual RITA awards and replaced them with an award dedicated to the founder of the association and intended to respond to criticisms of the lack of diversity.
The RWA announced Thursday that the new award will be called Vivian, in honor of Vivian Stephens, a pioneering novelist and publisher of black romance. The credentials of the award beyond “excellence in romantic writing” are still being developed. RWA will seek feedback from thousands of members and hopes to launch Vivian this fall.
“Our goal is to celebrate the best of our diverse genre,” said RWA president Alyssa Day in a statement. “To do this, it is imperative to develop rules and resources that ensure Vivian is inclusive, fair and accessible. We have a task force at work to make this happen.”
The long-term frustration among writers about diversity became widely known last December after the RWA initially scolded author Courtney Milan for calling a racist Kathryn Lynn Davis novel. The trade association was in turmoil throughout the year when board members left and numerous publishers dropped out of this summer’s annual RWA convention, which was eventually canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Thursday, Stephens urged the sentimental community to engage in storytelling, regardless of anyone’s background.
“Since we all live in the universe, it is worth remembering that under the external dressing of ethnicity, color and gender, we are all the same. Flooded with the gift of the stars, “he said.” Today, as we advance into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be a group, united by the purity of the craft that identifies the organization. “
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