My statement on why I am returning my Vivian Award:

Saturday night, I won the inaugural Vivian award for Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance from the Romance Writers of America. In my acceptance speech, I thanked RWA for creating an award recognizing Vivian Stephens and for encouraging members to work together toward meeting the challenges we faced to become a better organization for all writers and readers.

Tonight, I am telling RWA that I am declining my Vivian award and resigning from the organization.

I had decided to remain with RWA after its actions in 2019 because I didn’t want to cede the organization to the racists without a fight. I saw new board members stepping up to make much-needed changes toward inclusivity and equity, and I wanted to be a member who would help work toward those goals.

When I entered my book in the inaugural Vivian awards, I did it in the hope that the new judging rubric and DEI training would allow for historically excluded authors to be given the same consideration I’ve always been awarded as a cis straight white woman. I also hoped the new system would root out overtly racist or otherwise problematic books.

After discovering which book had won the inspirational category, I realized that my hopes were misplaced. RWA simply hasn’t done enough.

This afternoon’s statement from the RWA Board of Directors was the last straw. Its narrow definition of inspirational romance and discussion of characters seeking redemption from “crimes against humanity" prove the organization has not listened or learned from its current or former members.

I don't only want to be an ally. I want to be a co-conspirator. And I cannot in good conscience accept a Vivian award or remain a member of RWA under these circumstances.

Respectfully,
Sara Whitney
8/2/2021
UPDATED 8/4/2021 WITH LINKS TO CONTEXTUALIZE THE CURRENT AND PAST SITUATION WITH RWA:
Romance Writers of America awards book with genocidal "hero"
RWA's first statement on the 2021 VIVIAN AwardsRWA's second statement on the 2021 VIVIAN AwardsRomance is publishing’s most lucrative genre. Its biggest community of writers is imploding.

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