As you can tell by my four summaries of what I’ve gone through when I attended three previous Romance Writers of America Conferences, I remember the occasions in a fond manner.
I’m ever so happy I didn’t attend this year.
So it comes to pass that the RITA ceremony was a complete and utter disaster from start to finish. Honoring past award winners is a good thing; putting pictures of disasters in the news as a backdrop behind each of the prior winners is not the way to hold a award ceremony.
So badly was the presentation written, that… get this… the master of ceremonies, the best known romance author in America at the moment, Nora Roberts, publicly resigned from the Master of Ceremony duties 24 hours before they were to begin at the end of what is reported to be a fairly heated argument at the Harlequin Party!!
From Selah March:
The story goes that the reigning Queen of Romance, THE Goddess of the genre, NORA ROBERTS herself, was slated to MC the awards ceremony, which was supposed to be an all-out celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the RWA. But after reading the script for the presentation, Nora flatly refused to participate unless allowed to do MAJOR rewrites.
What a diva, right? I mean, the nerve.
Because they refused to rewrite the script, and Nora didn’t MC, and what followed, according to some who WERE in attendance, was a horror show to end all horror shows. Instead of a celebration of RWA and romance fiction over the past 25 years, the RITA/GH awards ceremony included the following:
* a video and audio rehash of every national and international tragedy that’s taken place since 1980, set to a back-drop of kicky tunes from each year represented.
Imagine, if you will, footage of the tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” playing in the background. Apparently, only a last-minute edit managed to save the ceremony attendees from being forced to watch the shuttle Challenger explode in mid-air and…AND…the Twin Towers fall.
Think about that. All those NYC agents and editors in the audience. Think about it some more.
Yee-HAW. We’re celebratin’ NOW, baybeee…
** images of political leaders flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.
Okay…wait. Let me rephrase. Images of REPUBLICAN political leaders–specifically Presidents Reagan, Bush I and II–flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.
Word has it the only time President William Jefferson Clinton–you remember him? Rhodes Scholar? Two term president? Led the country through a time of exceptional prosperity? Had a little trouble keeping it in his pants, true, but left the nation with a JILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS?–was shown was in conjunction with the Monica Lewinsky nonsense. Biased much?
Selah points us to Nora Robert’s letter to the Board of Directors of RWA, and it’s a doozy. It will either be published as a letter to the editor of the RWA publication Romance Writers’ Report or put in the next possible issue as an advertisement. As this is meant for public dissemination, I’ll repost the entire letter here – as originally posted on Nora Roberts’ own message board:
As Ms. Quinn refused to read my statement, as agreed, before the awards ceremony in Reno, then again reneged on her agreement to read it after the awards, I will write it here.
Nora Roberts declines to host tonight’s awards ceremony as she feels the content is inappropriate and believes the focus should be on the nominees and the organization.
Oddly, I wasn’t given a script by Ms. Quinn. One was provided by a member of the production team when I requested it on Friday afternoon in Reno. The only significant change I was able to implement, though I argued and debated with Ms. Quinn, Laura Hayden and Diana Pershing, was the deletion of the video containing the fall of the Twin Towers and the Oklahoma City bombing. How painful those images would have been to the many editors in attendance who lived though 9/11.
Instead of a celebration, a night of fun and anticipation for the nominees, and an entertaining and sparkling event, the audience was treated to a three-plus hour world history lesson, heavy on disaster, death, politics, war and tragedy–in one memorable moment, Don’t Worry, Be Happy was played over those images.
I can’t comprehend how such tragic events and images had a place at a ceremony meant to showcase the nominees and the organization. Nor can I understand how it was thought proper to juxtapose those with presenters being driven on stage in a limo, walking to the podium to Joan Riveresque commentary in a format that gave more play to the presenters than those who were lucky enough to take home a Golden Heart or a Rita. The emcee’s place in all this seemed to be to recite endless dry facts and figures of RWA dues, conference fees and sites over the last quarter of a century, instead of relating the heart of our organization.
It was tempting to resign my membership. But it wasn’t RWA that pushed this agenda. It was a handful of individuals. RWA has, as always, my respect, affection and gratitude. The current president has none of those.
The current president in question, the RWA president that Nora Roberts resigned her MoC duties in front of, is Tara Taylor Quinn.
The RWA has made several bone headed moves of late, ones I have let others talk about, as I’m no longer a member of RWA. But this fiasco is a hoot, and there’s more to talk about here than just what happened this last Saturday evening.
To sum it up, the RWA board apparently was bending in a political direction with several key decisions reflecting a stricter morality BEFORE this politically charged Award ceremony. While I could have forgiven the RWA for the various alleged oversights concerning Graphical Standards, or the way that the RWA Board of Directors dealt with an e-publisher of erotic novels, the RITA Awards ceremony fiasco, and the reluctance of the President to compromise with the more sensible Nora Roberts leading up to that ceremony indicates an ingrained and resolute polarization of political opinion
in an organization that should remain unbiased.
Are the RWA rank and file members responsible for electing the Board of Directors, and therefore are ultimately responsible for their own leadership?
Why yes. Yes they are.
In my recent summaries of the RWA Conferences, I bemoaned the lack of Mainstream Media coverage of the conference. Sunday morning I saw more articles about the Women’s blog conference called Bloghercon than I did the RWA Conference. I did find one summary media piece in the Sacremento Bee for today, where it ends with the beginning of the RITA Awards.
I think every member of the RWA ought to breath a sigh of relief that this fiasco didn’t get picked up by the press.