Over the holiday break, the members of the romance writing community were stunned by a series of events within the national organization of Romance Writers of America. I’ve been a member since 2011, and as of January 1, became the president of my local chapter, CTRWA. I’ve gotten a lot out of my RWA membership in terms of education, networking, and inspiration. I’ve given back in the form of board service on two different chapter boards. As a member, I’m disappointed and aghast at the handling of the situation, and at the various statements that were subsequently issued. I’ve had my confidence in the organization shaken to the core and have no idea how they will earn back that confidence for me and for many others.

RWA has struggled in recent years to stay ahead of changing times in the publishing industry, as the call for Own Voices authors has grown, and more of a spotlight has been put on the lack of diversity and outright racism in the traditional publishing world as well as in RWA institutions such as the Rita awards. There are some within the organization that don’t understand why change is needed, why representation matters, why the status quo is untenable; I urge those authors to educate themselves about why this matters. There are many more who want RWA’s advocacy on behalf of romance writers to be just, meaningful, and inclusive, and are struggling to come to terms with the current situation and how to change it.

I can’t speak to the intentions of the national board regarding their decision to sanction Courtney Milan and in their subsequent handling of the fallout related to their actions. I can only speak to the repercussions of those actions. For years, so many have worked to increase all types of diversity on the board, and to have so much of that work undone as a result of these events is hard to take. No organization is perfect, but the failure of leadership over the past two weeks has revealed major issues with this one.

I’m an optimist by nature, so in general I try to focus on positive outcomes and those things that I can change. I’m going to do my best as the president of my chapter to do what’s right for the chapter, to keep it alive and thriving and to do what I can, and what my board can accomplish working together, to try to get closer to the values we’d like to see RWA aspire to.

In terms of personal decisions, I doubt I will be attending the national conference this summer, unless I believe it to be in the chapter’s best interests to have a representative there. I essentially see no reason to ever enter the Rita contest. I support the effort to recall current RWA President Damon Suede. I have learned a lot about craft from Damon over the years, but I truly believe it’s in the best interest of the organization for him to step down. I applaud the hard, visible, vocal work of RWA members like Alyssa Cole and the entire CIMRWA chapter who have drawn a line in the sand and are pushing for real change.

RWA says, “We will strive to uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do.” The organization will have to work extremely hard over the coming months and years to prove that intention.