As a controversy over bias and a lack of transparency at the Romance Writers of America continues to roil the country's foremost writers association for romance writers, the RWA has announced that it will postpone the 2020 RITA Contest until next year. The RITA Award is the U.S.'s top prize for romance fiction.
"Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA's ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation," the RWA said in a release. "The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year's contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances."
The news comes on the heels of an announcement that a recall petition has been filed by members of the RWA seeking the removal of new RWA president Damon Suede, who has served in that position since last month, when its former president, Carolyn Jewel, resigned. Suede has yet to address the calls for his resignation.
Suede is at the center of a rapidly-expanding controversy concerning his role in the sanctioning of author Courtney Milan as the result of a formal ethics complaint, resulting in the suspension of her membership and a lifetime ban from holding a leadership position with the organization. Milan was previously chairperson of the RWA's ethics committee.
Milan's removal has torn the RWA apart. Many of the group's rank and file have accused its board of racism, homophobia, and lack of transparency and tweeted their support for Milan, and bestselling author Nora Roberts has written of her support for Milan as well. In the wake of the uproar, a total of ten of the organization's board members have resigned, including Jewel, but the RWA continues to appoint members to replace them.
This article has been updated for clarity.