Laura’s note: To frame what Nora discusses here, please refer to this post on All About Romance. The author does an excellent job of laying out the timeline to the current situation.

To clarify: I’m not on Twitter. I haven’t been a member of Romance Writers Of America for several years. Those are both personal and professional decisions.

Even so, it’s been impossible not to be aware of the horrendous situation involving RWA, its leadership and Courtney Milan which, as it escalated, brought to light a long-standing and systemic marginalization of authors of color, of LGBTQ authors, by the organization.

I’m not going to comment on the Milan/RWA situation, but on what–through that–has come to light.

What I write here is my opinion. Some will agree, some won’t, some will be angry, some won’t. That’s how opinions work.

Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America, is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.


What follows is the viewpoint of a long-time member.

I joined RWA in 1980 (wow!). I attended the first conference in 1981 just a couple months after my first book came out. It was wonderful. I met my dearest pal Ruth Langan at that conference, and many others who’ve remained friends all these years.

RWA gave me a community, and though I have never been active in its leadership (nor did I want to be!) I attended every conference save two for decades. The organization was formed to provide support, education, networking opportunities, to stand as advocates for writers, published and unpublished.

I’m grateful for the community, the friendships, the opportunities.

Was the organization perfect? Of course not, but I felt, certainly in those early years, it tried very hard to support, educate, advocate and offer networking opportunities. I didn’t see marginalization–and fully admit I may have been blind to it–until many years in when the leadership crafted a statement defining romance as one man/one woman.

For me anyway, this came out of the blue. Who decided this was our statement? It sure as hell wasn’t mine, and surely we’d all evolved by–what was it–abut 2005.

A great many members were outraged by it–as they should have been. I certainly was, and took the rare for me step of writing a letter expressing same to the editor of the Romance Writers’ Report. We do NOT discriminate. I would not be a part of this kind of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Jesus, it’s fine to have a character fall in love with a freaking vampire, but not someone of the same sex? Bullshit. Just bullshit.

Offensive, bigoted, homophobic bullshit.

I received an email from the then president urging me to be quiet, basically, explaining to me–and I am not kidding–I didn’t understand that the lesbians would take over RWA. Jeez, those terrifying lesbians!

After my brain stopped exploding, I emailed back telling her they could publish my letter–as written–or I would take out a full page ad to publish it.

If memory serves, it appeared as a letter to the editor in the next issue of the RWR.

That was a real crack in the wall for me, and left me disappointed and angry with the organization.

It was during this leadership era I began to see some pretty deep problems within RWA. This same president was in office during the Reno nightmare. I’m not going to go into all that here, just Google it, but I withdrew as MC of the awards banquet and again wrote a long, detailed letter. I think–not sure–this time I did take it as an ad.

I’ll say all of that put longer, wider cracks in the foundation for me. I nearly resigned my membership then, but decided to keep it. I went to conference, but now almost exclusively to be with friends, to see people I only saw once a year, to attend the kick-ass Harlequin party and attend the brilliant Literacy Signing.

But I thought, I believed, with leadership change, the organization was doing better, trying harder. I didn’t see the marginalization, and I regret that. I could have been a voice, and I wasn’t.

For several years our family foundation sponsored the Literacy Signing. Literacy is one of our foundation’s primary goals. My daughter-in-law, the amazing Kat, worked with the committee in charge to help enhance efficiency, and put a lot of her time and effort into it.

The Literacy Signing was the annual conference’s big kick-off, drawing many, many authors who signed their books, publishers who donated those books, many, many readers who bought books–and the proceeds went to Literacy.

This night was a source of pride–RWA was making a difference.

Bookending this week of workshops, hang out at the bar time, meetings, parties, networking was Awards Night. The last night, always a big celebration–published and unpublished. The Golden Heart Awards for the unpublished, the Rita for the published. And the Lifetime Achievement Award to a member who’d earned it.

I received a letter, through Laura, from the Board between the last conference I attended, in San Diego, and the next–can’t remember where it was slated to be held. Wait–Orlando, I think.

They’d voted to change the set up for conference week, and claimed to want my input–though they’d already voted and intended to announce the changes in about 24 hours. The Literacy signing would now be at the end of the conference–on a Saturday afternoon. The RITAs would be in the middle of the week, and the Golden Hearts presented at a lunch.

I get change, I understand change, but I felt–still do–this was stupid. And worse, imo, the Golden Hearts, the unpublished, were being tossed aside. Not right, not fair, not equitable. Why do this? And WHY make the unpublished feel they didn’t really count? The Rita/Golden Heart Banquet was our send off, our night to celebrate each other and the books we write. The Literacy Signing, always held on the evening before the conference officially started, drew huge crowds, and brought in impressive amounts for Literacy.
The unpublished members deserved their night to shine.

As the sponsor of the Literacy Signing, we should have had a little more warning of the decision, but we didn’t.

And in response to my response, it was basically: Done deal. We’ve decided the conference should be more reader-centric rather that author-centric.

And that did it. Romance WRITERS of America, not readers. We love our readers, we value our readers, but this was the professional organization for writers. Published and unpublished.

I resigned my membership. We pulled out as sponsor.

In the time since then and now, I haven’t paid too much attention to what’s going on with RWA or its membership. I’m not especially active on social media, so a lot would go over my head anyway.

This latest issue hasn’t.

Again, I regret all the years I didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things that are now coming to light.

I hope that light continues to shine, and by doing so may change RWA for the good, may remind those in leadership positions what the purpose was all those years ago. To support and advocate for romance writers. Not specific kinds of romance writers.

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career, the couple hundred books I’ve written, I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I hope I’ve learned along the way. I intend to continue to learn and do better.


113 thoughts on “MY POV on RWA”

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      What will it take for us to live our spoken values?
      When will we walk the talk?
      When will we ever learn to respect and care for our families, neighbours, and communities?

    2. I left RWA long ago when I checked out the discussion boards and found them to be festering swamps of bigoted filth that the RWA crew did NOTHING about, despite complaints.

      Never again.


  1. Thank you for taking a stand and being willing to be open about it and go public with it!
    I know several writers (published & unpublished) who are members of RWA. They have mentioned to me that support of writers of color (all races, not just African Americans) has declined and LGBTQ writers have been shut out completely! That really made me sad. I’m not LGBTQ, but I support and have read romance books in that genre. Love is Love! I am a reader of color, and am often disappointed by the way we’re represented in books written by Caucasian writers. Most of us do NOT wear dreads, speak with a southern accent or speak ghetto slang. We have jobs in all industries, are managers, directors, VP’s, nurses, doctors, lawyers, judges, hospital administrators, as well as taxi drivers, garbage collectors, supers, janitors, mechanics, plumbers and other blue collar and pink collar workers. In your early books, you seldom had characters of color. In your ID books, you have had people of color and mixed races since early on. Your early portrayals of us were 1 dimensional, but you have improved greatly over time. The Crack from his first appearance has changed greatly to the Crack who is a man in love with a psychologist.
    I have a niece/goddaughter who is a published writer. Though she is considered “successful” she cannot live off her writing revenue alone. She’s also an Associate Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans. She writes reality based historical fiction. For some reason, though she’s received awards, been a suggested book by Oprah’s Book Club, Caucasian people don’t expect their to be love scenes in her books. They always have a problem with them! Just FYI, we have romances, engagements, weddings (big and small), children, anniversaries, etc., just like any other race under the sun!
    I applaud your stance! I applaud you for being to go willing with your opinions. I’m forwarding your comments to my friends. Thank you!

    1. Great comment. Sadly there really are many whites out there that 100% don’t see black love as real. This is why black authors in romance overall make easy less were get way smaller readership.

    2. Who is your niece? I love reality based historical fiction. And am always looking for new, intelligent writers.. I’m an historian myself and inaccuracy makes me crazy.

    3. I applaud you Laura for speaking a out you niece! You are absolutely right about how people of color are portrayed. My daughters are grown women of color with careers and to see people of color always shown as you stated is wrong. Every author has the right to write as she see fit to right regardless storyline/and all the other BS. I applaud you and would love to read your nieces books!

    4. Hi, I am reading more and more online how caucasians don’t like to see/read about POC as sexual beings, hear about their relationships, etc. How is this a thing?!? I truly do not get this and am appalled and saddened by it :-(.
      Love is love, and romance is romance, regardless of race and sexual orientation.
      I am not sure how to help with this, but we need to do better and I figure I’ll start by a) paying better attention and b) saying something if I hear someone speaking negatively about this. This is not acceptable!

      1. I find this genuinely sad. I’m caucasian and read anything my grubby little paws can get a hold of. How boring would the romance genre be if it was just about straight white people? The RWA mess is really sad tbh. Good on Nora Roberts as usual to give a clear headed response to a controversy that would have been clueless even a decade ago.

  2. You are so courageous and ballsy! I have always loved you for the books you have written, but now I want to salute you for the gutsy person you are!

  3. Thank you, Nora, for your ability to succinctly put into words what all of us are feeling. There should never be an organization that dictates the marginalization of any group. Writers should be free to WRITE and readers should and need to have stories that represent them.

    1. Thanks for the wise comment.
      It is all about the values inherent in the concepts of freedom and respect for diversity.

  4. I had no idea this was going on, but then divisiveness & prejudice have been part of the human fabric for SO LONG I guess it seeps into this as well. Awareness first, and thank you for your courage to educate. You rock!

  5. I think that sometimes those of us who are the beneficiaries of white privilege have not seen the marginalization of the POC, and LGBTQ groups. It’s up to us women to be sure that everyone knows our thoughts, feelings – to be vocal, to take a stand and support equality for all. Thank you for doing that.

  6. Well stated, Nora. I joined RWA early on and resigned my membership several years later for a number of reasons, one being the marginalization aspect you’ve noted. Writers write. It’s what we do. Some of our early books have stood the test of time re race/sexual orientation/other no-less-important issues, some not so much. Going into 2020, it’s hard to believe there’s this kind of – dare I say it? – idiocy with regard to what does or does not count as a “romance.” All we can do is write the best book(s) we can and hope readers find enjoyment in the stories and characters we create.

  7. Nora, you’re a stand up woman. Thank you for not being afraid to express your opinion. I’m sorry this has happened with the RWA.

  8. Thank you so very much for speaking out for those who have a much quieter voice! You have NOT offended me in any way. I have no problem with ANY of your character and the way you framed to obvious Vampire VS an openly gay relationship is spot on! It seems they will never change and having told you to shut up and just go with the flow.
    Thank you for telling them to build a bridge and get over themselves. I’m sorry this wonderful organization has done this to ALL of us and all the writers too! Thank you for speaking up and speaking out!

    Happy New Year, Nora and Laura

  9. I have read your books for what seems like forever. (Dates us both, doesn’t it). If @ anytime there was what could be taken as discriminatory or racial or any of society’s other offensives, it was because it fit the story. You can not write a modern day story truthful without portraying life the way it is. If people would stop being offended by every unintentional slur or comment, we would all be happier. I for one, fully anticipate your next book & preorder ASAP when I can. Thank you for sharing your wonderful imagination with all of your readers. The last book in the trilogy was some of your very best writing ever.

    1. I don’t think you get to decide for others whether they should be offended by slurs. Maybe instead, work on not using words like that and kindly calling out those who do.

      –A marginalized person

    2. That’s easy to say when the slur isn’t about you or yours. I have a kid who is a person of color, as well as nieces, nephews and sisters. I am not. As READERS we know that WORDS MATTER. They can draw a picture, they can build you up or they can tear you down. If you aren’t someone who is marginalized, you can not possibly know how those words hurt and shape your self-worth.
      My kid is native american. He has spent 14 of his 16 years living in and around people who think that is less. When he came to us, we found someone to teach him about his heritage. We found an elder who was willing to work with a difficult and uneducated child and who wouldn’t take offense when he repeated things he’d heard in his life.
      He still nearly automatically identifies as “white” unless he’s somewhere he feels very safe. All his life, he’s been told that what he is, is less. We’re working on that.
      Here’s my advice to you. If someone is offended by your unintentional racism, learn from them, apologize to them, and DO BETTER. Don’t blame them for being offended, blame yourself for being offensive.

    3. Ms. Engels:

      Ms. Roberts admitted that she has created work in the past that was not reflective of the diversity and equality that she herself wants to espouse, and graciously apologizes.

      She does not say that she deliberately used harmful stereotypes add tropes as a plot element or device. This is a misrepresentation that whitewashes the issue at hand and the purpose of the post.

      Also, “slurs” are, by definition, offensive and insulting. That’s the actual definition. Therefore, I do not understand what you mean by an “unintentional slur.” You say that the world would be happier if people ignored slurs. I posit that the world will be happier when people stop using slurs.

      Please let Ms. Roberts live in her truth, however uncomfortable. Living in truth often means engaging in painful self-reflection. But it is only through self-reflection can we learn and grow. It has and will continue to make her a better writer as she challenges herself to do better and be better. We cannot change our past actions, but neither should we ignore or minimize them.

      I respectfully challenge you to examine why your immediate reaction to this post was to become so defensive that you seemed to ignore what she said and advocate for the usage of slurs and offensive language.

      Maintaining the status quo does not lead to improvements in personal or global thought and actions. And change is needed because there is much stereotyping, offensive language, and discrimination in the genre that is hurtful. The consumers of these books are not monolithic and they therefore deserve equal consideration and the respect of the author. Why should anyone tolerate this, especially when the readers pay to purchase the books?

      Maybe you do not care to see or live in a world that respects all voices. But many, including Ms. Roberts, do. I cannot examine your heart, nor is it my place to do so (plus, as a fan, I would generally think that anyone who loves Ms. Roberts’s books must be a good person) but I would respectfully suggest that you reflect upon the implications of what you posted.

      We are all works in progress that should be judged not on single actions, but on our development and growth. Many thanks to Ms. Roberts for writing this. May we all follow in her example to “learn and do better.”

      1. This is really good to hear from one of my favorite longtime authors—I have a couple of your books, too. Good on you for calling the RWA out on trying to censor a member merely for stating an opinion, and then trying to put one member against another, it seems. That’s all kinds of messed up.

  10. Very well stated Ms Roberts! As a 63 year old reader I may not want to buy those books but that is my choice. There are people that would and that opportunity to read or write should be there for all! If the RWA is going to block it screw them and start a new group RWAA, Romance Writer for All Americans!

  11. Thank you for citing the article on our site. We too feel Lynn did a superb job of summarizing this debacle. We have watched this unfold with dismay. We hope RWA listens to your voice as well as all those in Romancelandia who have said DO BETTER.

    Dabney Grinnan
    Publisher at All About Romance

  12. Well said!

    These are interesting times to live in, so it is greatly appreciated when someone steps up to include all of us….appreciate the many differences we have, we share, and more importantly contribute to this world.

    Thank you.

  13. Thank you for this detailed explanation and for shining a light on some very shady practices. As a consumer, I’m disgusted by the actions of RWA and those that filed the complaints (as if they’re the victims). With what’s happening in our world right now, transparency and inclusivity should be the primary focus for everyone.

  14. Thank you so much for speaking out- then and now. Yours was the first romance novel I ever read, and I have just read Golden in Death as an ARC. In the interim, I have read almost every book you have ever published, and have come to respect you enormously, and your words today have just increased that respect tenfold.

    As a young woman, your work ethic and drive are inspirational, and your skill with words aspirational. Now I can also admire your ethics and courage in standing up for what is right.

    Thank you for being my role model.


  15. I have always considered you one of my main writing goddesses—you’ve been an auto buy for me since the 80’s. Thank you for speaking up about this. Especially since I was at Reno, and remember how incredibly ticked off I was about the way RWA was taking such a discriminatory attitude. I cheered when you told them all off at that anniversary event.

    But this still breaks my heart. I have been a member since 1997, and I loved the organization. RWA has done more to educate unpublished writers than any other writers’ group.

    But this white supremacy garbage has to stop.
    Civil rights are not pie, people. When someone else gets them, that doesn’t mean you get less. Nor is bullying black people a civil right.

    1. Bravo! To you and Ms. Roberts! As a reader of color, I always look for books I can relate to. So it does my heart good to see writers standing up for each other and for their readers!

  16. Everyone should speak out like you did! Amen! Your an Awesome Author and an Awesome Human Being! Everyone shoud be treated equal!

  17. I’m a reader of everything and anything, some good, some bad. Thank you for taking a stand, always, on what you believe and are not afraid to shout it! I love that about you and I love your books.

  18. I’ve always thought the strength of the money contributed in dues by the not yet published allowed RWA to flourish and gave it power to speak for all members.

    Dropping the golden heart, the only avenue for recognition for these unpublished members , was a mistake. I could understand renaming the award but not the dropping of any recognition for the not yet pubbed.

    RWA’s power came from the funds generated by the not yet published – which numbered in the thousands added to the funds generated from the Rita contest and funds collected from the conferences both published members and volunteers donated their time to help run and provide free content to attendees . Published authors and their workshops were actually the draw for unpublished attendees.

    It’s my opinion some staff and board members forgot whose reputations , dues and free labor brought them to the position RwA used to occupy in the industry – the published AND the thousands, and I mean literally thousands, of unpublished members who ran the chapters- unpaid Those volunteers and their work and then their dues , their unpaid labor, and their cash , paid the salaries of the same staff that then ignored their concerns in the organization.

    Marquee names like Nora were the draws that brought the unpublished who paid again to attend these conferences. Knowledge was available at these conferences but again , it was presented by unpaid authors – who may or may not have gotten comped their conference fee.

    RWA did not stand by the members who invested their money and time and labor to create this organization.

    I stopped my membership after Reno- I couldn’t take the double standard anymore . My volunteer work fed the beast but my unpublished status meant I didn’t matter.

    It was a breech of trust.

  19. You are an amazing human being, woman, and writer. This post simply reaffirms my pride in being a most ardent fan. I love your books and thank you for the countless hours of joy, peace, and enjoyment they have given all of us.

  20. I’m so glad you wrote this. I was a member of RWA from 2009 to 2018 I was the president of my local chapter from 2016 to 2018. I loved my local chapter. But I felt that RWA national never had my back. I wrote erotic romance. When I was unpublished I could not enter the golden heart and when I was published there was no place for me to enter the Rita. One year the opened it up to erotic romance and M/M tradition romance won. Since when is same sex romance erotic? When my publisher ( at the time the largest erotic romance publisher in the US ) did not pay its authors and in fact charged us everything we made to get rights back, all RWA did was write the publisher a letter. I was sick and tired of being treated like a dirty cousin of by RWA my faith in RWA was gone. After my term as president to my local chapter was done I decided to leave RWA. I will alway treasure what my local chapter did for me. They always made me feel like they had my back.
    I really feel bad for all the local chapters They are the real victims in all this. In my opinion RWA national is a dinosaur and needs to be restructured if it’s going to Survive. A writer no longer needs them to have access to editors and agents and contests.

    1. Like Heidi, I was an active member for many years. And like the erotic writers, we the Christian writers were often made to feel like an unwanted step-child. I loved my local chapter but had to leave RWA. (And I’m old enough to recall being looked down upon for having my books e-published, when that just wasn’t considered professional.)

  21. Thank you very much for addressing this. As a longtime reader, I was wondering what your thoughts were throughout this troublesome time. Thank you for always setting a great example and being a true leader in the writing world.

  22. Thank you for speaking out. I had no idea. I have been reading and enjoying your books for a looooooong time and have been lucky enough to meet you years ago in California at a book signing.

  23. I’ve always been impressed with how you changed with the times in your writing. When you had your smokers quit, sometimes detailing their urges in the story, showed you had your finger on current day leanings. In the future, in the In Deaths, same sex romances/unions were common and unremarked. In your current day stories you shown that love is love, and that people were becoming more open in acceptance. I think you’ve shown great insight and courage in your writings. As always, I’ve admired your outlook on life and how people can live through adversity and pain with strength and courage. Your trilogy of The One took my breath away, and I hope opened eyes to what can be done even in the face of great change. Has your writing changed? Absolutely, and thank God for it. I’m always glad to see another NR/JDR coming up, knowing I’ll find a new world to explore. Thank you for your honesty and grace.

  24. Thank you so much for making this statement. You give me hope and confidence that we all (writers) are going to build a better space (whether phoenixing RWA from the ashes of this mess or building something entirely new)–a space that shelters and protects everyone, and marginalizes no one. <3 We are better than this disaster. #loveislove

  25. What a joy to see you speak up in support of unpublished authors as well as authors of color and LGBTQ authors. I’m not an author, just an appreciative reader who derives enormous pleasure from seeing people be kind. You have a good heart and I’ve long suspected that’s part of what makes you an outstanding author. I guess it makes you a good, decent human being too. Thank you for speaking up for the “little” guys. It may not matter to the officers of RWA but it matters to us.

  26. Well said and thank you. Writers are writers. I believe that, if someone doesn’t like the plot/content/characters of a book, don’t read it; there are plenty of other books to read. I personally have an aversion to reading about rape, so I avoid those books. It’s a matter of freedom and of choice, both for writers and readers. As a side note, I personally got very tired of all the vampire love stories.

  27. Thank you for speaking up and for putting so eloquently in words what so many authors have felt–still feel. Your professional manner in how you spoke your opinion packs a louder, more effective punch than the slanderous garbage (on both sides) taking over social media.

    I quote you here: Writer is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed.

    Well said, as always, Ms. Roberts.

  28. You are and have been my favorite author for years. When I attended my first RWA Nationals in NYC in 2015, I was an aspiring author. Getting to attend your talk and get a photo of you made me giddy and I literally skipped through Times Square afterwards. Now, the photo of you is on my bulletin board in my office, reminding me to keep my butt in the chair and write. I’m about to publish my 6th book. Your no-bullshit statements and opinions are gold. Thank you for standing up and sharing your opinion and your prior experiences. RWA needs to do better or dismantle and start again including ALL writers. Period. Thank you.

  29. Years ago, I attended the New York City RWA to meet you, and get my photo and signed copy of your book. I knew nothing more about the RWA till i read this.
    It’s inconceivable to me that this can still be happening today. As an orthodox jew, my opinion of romance is man/woman. But not i, nor anyone else, has the right to define another persons ideas- love , faith or any other beliefs.
    My first job in the interior design business was a real eye-opener for me. I had never been exposed to gay people. I became very friendly with Larry, my gay co-worker, and i grew to respect him as a person. Who else would I go to see Evita on Broadway with, than Larry?
    I abhor discrimination in any form. I would not buy or read any gay love books. That is my right. But to deny them, or any race, the right to publish anything they want, is so wrong- it’s mind boggling to realize that it’s still happening in a professional organization in this day and age.

  30. Ms. Roberts,

    In these days of what seems to be a regressive bent in (at least) the romantic fiction genre–from serious issues like over/covert racism/sexism and so on to things like trying to copying all but the sound of someone breathing? Thank you SO much, for standing out in a crowd of clouds. From a devoted reader.

  31. I’d totally forgotten about Reno. That was my first year of membership and I didn’t attend that conference but I so remember the backlash when I attended the one in Atlanta that was a year or two after that. Lawsy.
    Thanks for speaking up. We appreciate you.

  32. I admire your dedication to your principles, and for pulling out of an organization that you had lost faith in–it’s more of a stand than most people take. I also appreciate you owning up to what I wish some other authors would cop to: that there were years when you “didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things.” As an author of color who suffers from the time, economic, and mental health consequences that come from being passed over for opportunities and recognition despite strong craft, I do sometimes feel unseen, unheard and unsupported by authors who probably are on the same side of this as me.

    My dad used to always tell me (and I tell my kids), “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. I think the question of what to do (quite literally and exactly) is one that allies struggle with. I’d like to see us, as a community, move away from some of the common responses that tend to come up in the wake of incidents such as these, and to have smarter conversations, ask smarter questions and end up with smarter outcomes.

    1. I’m tired of people trying to make racism great again. It’s going to be 2020, not 1950.

      Thanks for speaking up, Nora. You’ve always been a leader in this industry.

      And to those writers of color, I promise to do a better job of supporting you and your work. I haven’t always done as much as I should, and that’s going to change.

      1. “I’m tired of people trying to make racism great again. It’s going to be 2020, not 1950.”
        BRAVA, Angela Knight, and what a great parallel statement to the one currently masquerading as racism as well

  33. Racism should certainly be called out without fear of repercussion. But it should also be noted that to call someone a racist is a serious accusation. Where’s the proof? This accusation was made about an author by another author who admittedly did not read her book. She cherry picked passages and then viciously attacked and name called based only on those passages taken out of context. How is this okay? This reeks of McCarthyism. Few people even read the maligned author’s complaint. At least get all the facts.

    1. You clearly choose to ignore all the facts Ms. Milan laid out in favor of those attacking a chinese-american woman. Why? What do you have to gain to making certain the racists have just as loud of a voice as ever? Hm…

      Most curious.

      1. McCarthism indeed. Accuse someone of being a communist, and the more the person says he/she isn’t a communist, the more proof he/she is a communist! Ellen sounds comfortable with that.

    2. Jane, I think you are misinformed about the facts. Perhaps you should read the statements and articles that have been shared on twitter. The actions of the “victims” speak for themselves.

  34. But it should also be noted that to call someone a racist is a serious accusation. Where’s the proof? This accusation was made about an author by another author who admittedly did not read her book. She cherry picked passages and then viciously attacked and name called based only on those passages taken out of context.


    CM called THE BOOK “a fucking racist mess.”

    She highlighted passages AND provided screenshots. There’s plenty of context.

    FYI, the thread is below so please, point out where CM called the author names. She addressed the book, an inanimate object.

    Asian women get fetishized & dehumanized over the ‘subservient woman’ racist screed that came up in this book. They’ve faced abuse over it.

    Courtney wrote a statement detailing how such racist stereotypes have affected her, the women in her family & how insulting it is to all the women who came before.

    If a member of a minority race tells you something is racist, guess what? The white people don’t get to say otherwise.

    BTW, if people aren’t racist, being called racist isn’t going to affect them. It only digs at some because the truth hurts.

    1. Damn it, this threaded wrong.

      Selene, FYI, my post was directed at Jane, not you.

      1. You must be kidding. Screen shots are context? Was the character supposed to be racist? Have YOU read it? So let’s take some dialogue from “American History X” and conclude the screenwriter is racist. OK.

        1. JJJ,

          Please. Go educate yourself on what racial stereotypes are, why they are harmful.

          And…gasp…maybe consider looking up Milan’s statement on why the racist stereotypes, such as Chinese women only being taught to please their husbands, being meek and subservient and never lifting their eyes, being uneducated might be considered harmful, how such stereotypes have led to actual abuse of Asian women.

          Or maybe you would be okay with the world assuming all the women in your family have always been and will always be nothing but brainless twits who exist solely to make a man a sammich, are too spineless to ever look anybody in the eye…oh, and yes… too docile to ever consider having their opinions.

          That’s just one issue with racial stereotypes, all of which are wrong-minded, hurtful and damaging…and anybody with eyes can find them in the rather long and detailed excerpts CM provided.

          You don’t need extensive *context* to know it’s racist as hell to refer to a Chinese person as ‘yellow’, to suggest all people of one gender are left uneducated, to write that all people of said gender are meek & subservient, just as it’s racist to use a certain N word to refer to black people, and that’s just for starters.

          If you can’t see the problem & refuse to open your mind to consider there might be a problem, it’s your own precious white fragility getting in the way & that’s on you.

          And with that, I’m done. I respect Nora too much to muddy up her board trying to explain the problem of the bigotry to the willfully bigoted.

          1. You know zero about me, my ethnicity, my beliefs, or anything else. You toss around “willfully bigoted” when I asked a simple question. Have you read the book? Apparently the answer is no. Do you read, watch TV, watch movies? Are you remotely aware that there are fictional characters in them, ones which might express beliefs that we, as watchers, readers, might not only disagree with, but abhor? This is where something you don’t seem to be familiar with – context – comes into play. You have a character saying “that yellow so-and-so” – the reader is not supposed to AGREE with or EMPATHIZE with the character. The character is villainous. Is this what what was happening in the book? I don’t know and apparently no one else – including Milan who apparently didn’t even read it either – is answering. Milan, who a quick search on Goodreads one-star reviews for ONE book shows many readers disturbed by a hero who wishes he was a rapist – saying that he wished he was the type of man who would take a “woman he fancies” “by force.” So is this the character? Is this Milan romanticizing rape? Is Milan a misogynist?

            I don’t guess you will answer because you’ve decided to call everyone a bigot and then run away under the guise of not wanting to muck up Nora’s board.

  35. I didn’t comment on the issue between Courtney, RWA, and the root of it because it’s been discussed in many other areas—and those discussions often become heated, accusatory and personal.

    We posted the link to the excellent article, with timeline, from AAR to provide context.

    Otherwise, I called this blog post my POV ON RWA for a reason. My point of view, from my own experiences, thoughts, feelings and so on, after about three decades as a member. My own POV on what’s come out since the issue between Milan and RWA became public on what certainly strikes me (and is enforced by the experiences I wrote about) as long-standing and systemic marginalization of certain groups within the membership.

  36. Well written and I applaud you. I just finished The Rise of Magicks. Another awesome book. Thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

  37. Holy wow. Crazy. I didn’t realize that RWA had defined romance in such a narrow manner because I had already left. Happy I was not part of that fight. Like I say, drama after drama, issue after issue. They create their own crap and then dive right in.

  38. If everyone cares so much about marginalized groups, why are disabled authors left out of the outrage against racists, homophobes, and ableists?

    1. I agree that not everybody thinks of these groups. I know plenty of people (myself included) eager to make authors who represent these perspective as part of the conversation. While I was doing some pretty significant volunteering with RWA in late 2018 and early 2019 around DEI, I hounded RWA leadership to help me find disabled authors to serve on the Diversity Advisory Committee, which I headed at the time. They would not allow me to hold an open application process for volunteers, nor were they able to follow through on finding different perspectives I wanted to see represented. I am an AOC with intellectual disabilities and I sometimes write neurodiverse and differently-abled characters. I believe we need more of all of these.

  39. As always, Nora… your comments and observations have “hit the nail on the head…” Many thanks for the serving up the facts about the 2005 fiasco and failed leadership that has led RWA into its dark and double standard regarding the diversity issue.

    I recently saw a posting RWA put out regarding the RWA members getting on the NYTBS list and I was shock when you name wasn’t listed. So I wrote to “Donna” at RWA (who is in charge of updating the data) on a monthly basis and asked her why your weren’t included on that list. When she told me you were no longer an RWA member I was absolutely shocked.

    I joined RWA in 1990 and in ALL that time I’ve known you to be an advocate for the the organization, donating time and energy to giving seminars and hosting the literacy reception. So learning that you were no longer a member left me with only ONE question which I e-mailed back to RWA’s Donna the next day. I wrote:

    “Nora Roberts has always been a champion of RWA. She even has an award named after her….. what in the hell did RWA do to piss Nora off….???”

    Needless to say Donna never replied or answered my question.

    Thanks to you I now know why….! And, I agree. RWA was treating the Golden Heart Finalists and Winners like the bastard child at a family reunion. RWA’s current mentality and direction has failed its membership…. and that’s a crying shame.

    Thank you Nora … your honesty and straightforward opinion is refreshing during times like these. Hopefully, the new year will bring about some much needed changes and clear minded thinking.

  40. I used to sell hundreds of your books in the 1990s. You still stand out to me as an author whose name I learned to remember. Because of the impact, you had on readers. I remember learning you wrote as J.D. Robb (and I’ve yet to read those books, I keep meaning too! Now you’ve had so many, I feel I’ll never get to them all!)

    I appreciate your stance. You are a wonderful person. Keep being courageous and standing up for what matters.

  41. Thank You, Ms Roberts, for speaking out. When I read a novel I am reading for the color of the writing, not the color of the writer. I make my reading choices on content.

  42. Nora,
    I’m not a personal friend. But I want you to know as a public person, I admire your integrity, your moral attitudes and your willingness to see me and others as humans with the same rights and needs, with hopes and dreams and finally as humans who love.

  43. I dropped my membership in RWA when I realized as an AOC my work was considered less and inferior.

    1. I was told my black pediatrician heroine was unrepeatable and unrealistic. Which boggled my mind because werewolves and shifters were okay but black love wasn’t.

    2. I was told my characters should be whitewashed to make them more palatable.

    3. I was told my heroine wasn’t black enough because she grew up in an affluent neighborhood.

    4. I was told my hero was too urban/ghetto because he grew up in the inner city and not realistic because he owned his own business.

    I knew then that that wasn’t the place or organization for me. But I had leaned towards rejoining when I saw the efforts and changes of the past couple of years. I thought it was going to be better. I am glad I did not give my money because it is expensive which is why I never have been able to attend a conference.

    1. Seriously? Who the heck were the people telling you this racist nonsense? Apparently, they’re never been to places like Detroit, or Atlanta, or New York, where black people own their own businesses and have for decades—not just in big cities like the ones I mentioned, but in small towns, too. Sounds like the white people telling you all that bs had never even been around a black person before, or only knew what little they knew about black people from TV. Good grief—with limited racist attitudes like that, no wonder you left the organization. Why waste time supporting someone or something that dosen’t support you?

  44. Shiloh’s a damn good writer of erotic romance dealing with fantasies many women have. You don’t get to police other people’s sex lives.

    1. Angela, ignore her & her word salad.

      She doesn’t even realize that “yellow” wasn’t even used in a villainous sort of framing, but as a way to describe a Chinese character’s complexion.


      1. Sigh. Yeah. Just irked me. I’ve been getting judgmental comments from RWA ladies who disapprove of what I write for 22 years.

        1. I write mostly gay romance novels. I’ve been dissed so many times for being ‘one of those authors’ and for being a guy too (‘men cannot possibly understand how to write a ‘real’ romance’) that I avoided RWA like plague after a single encounter with an online group linked to the RWA back in the early 2000s.

          I just wanted to thank Ms. Roberts for her support, even if she has not been all that vocal about it. My complaints fall into a void. Yours will not.

          Happy New Year.

  45. It is difficult to give a weighted opinion of a topic that is practically unknown to me: Namely, the functioning of an association of writers of the romantic genre. So, from a distance, I can only give a general opinion on what stands out from the whole thing. Frontal rejection of any type of veto or censure of a particular, or certain, type of romance I think that in the literature, the absolute freedom of the writer must prevail above all in order to write what he wishes to write. Then the readers will decide if we like it or not, if we buy it or not. But vetoing writers who, in their freedom, write about interracial romances or between same-sex people, are stealing from us, the readers, the freedom of choice, they are censoring what we should or should not read. Enough of vetoes, censures and racism! Each of us is older to choose what we read or not, but nobody has the right to say for us. It is my humble opinion.

    1. 2020 people. Its time to evolve…..and I dare say past time. Well Nora, thanks for wrapping this up and putting a bow on it. Courage with integrity, a mighty combo! It’s always a good thing to shine a light on the marginalization of any particular segment of humanity. Let’s start with an old fashioned parable; the golden rule: “do into others has you’d have done to you”. And God willing, we’ll progress from there. Talk amongst yourselves.

  46. I have always admired how committed you are to what you believe in. As always you are so well spoken and express your self so concisely, a real class act. I remember a long time ago how your beliefs got the historic site of St. Declan’s Well, saved in Ardmore, Ireland. When you posted to us, what you had written to the town, so many of us around the world did the same thing. The folks involved were quite overcome at the worlds response.
    You are a leader in your fortress of solitude. God Bless you and yours.

  47. Well said Nora, You give us one more reason to admire you. You are an awesome writer. I have followed you for years and you are the only writer who’s books I still buy rather than get them at the library. Thank you for standing up for those who had no voice. T

  48. I’m so happy you posted this. I’m so happy I never joined RWA. Supporting you, reading your books, it’s a no-brainer.

    Happy New Year, Nora! I hope 2020 will be wonderful for you and yours. The Rise of Magicks was the final book I read in 2019, and the entire trilogy is so exquisite. All three books are on my favorites shelf. Thank you for enriching so many lives, mine included.

  49. It’s just sad that people just can’t be people without labeling each & every one of us. I have no issue reading about different races than myself. It’s how I learn about different cultures, and that includes LGBTQ. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of hatred. I’m white and straight, but I’m an obese person. I recently asked why do BBW books need to be identified as such. Why can’t we just pick up a book for the joy of reading, and not label it? It doesn’t matter what you are. The only thing that matters is whether you are a Godly person. I just recently, within the past two weeks, walked away from a blog that I had applauded, because it provided a service that I enjoyed using. But the author of the blog decided that the ad being put back on Hallmark was wrong. The blogger stated that while they love all people, that they believed that homosexuality was wrong. Hatred was spewed. And that is not loving everyone. I replied to the blogger on the public post, and the blogger did not approve my post. The blogger based her feelings on the Bible. Do I read the Bible? Yes, I do. There are a lot of good things in the good book. But at the same time, the Bible was written by people. Not God. It’s God’s supposed word authored by people. But God made each and every one of us in his image. It’s stated that God loves each and every one of us. If that is the case, how can any one of us not be loved by God? He made us. And he and only he can judge us. We’re not supposed to judge each other. We’re supposed to love everyone…just like God does. And spewing hatred of any one type of person makes everyone feel bad, whether you want to admit it or not. Just love…not hate…hatred is a waste of your time & energy.

  50. Thank you for your clear explanation of the current RWA decision. How sad that a group created to support romance writers has become so confused. I have always enjoyed your books, but I truly admire that you take a firm stand about the problems in the book world.

  51. Something that troubles me about all this is the viewpoint I gained from being outside the organization. It’s been my impression for about a decade in general, and the past 3-5 years in specific, that the romance industry has been a leader in opening doors to all types of people — as someone already said, love is love! The number of subgenres keeps increasing. More and more people of minority are being represented. The “HEA” and “HFN” requirements for the category are getting stretched further; and the “one man/one woman” requirement has shifted to one lover/one lover, in male-male, male-female, female-female, other-other. The erotic arm of the industry has expanded to damn near “anything goes” short of gross pornography. I’ve gained this impression from reading publisher submission requirements, agent submission requirements, contest submission requirements, and then studying what’s actually been emerging in the marketplace along with being a reviewer. All I see is huge forward motion, way ahead of where (U.S.) culture is at. Thus and so, how the heck did this clusterf**k happen? If RWA hasn’t been supporting the above-described expansion, where has it been coming from? And if the trend is not supported by RWA, why should this organization matter? The industry is bigger than RWA. Perhaps this is what’s coming clear from the ruckus.

    1. It appears that in some areas, America is struggling to come into this century. Often religion or the bible is used to justify disrespect or abuse of others.
      Examples are previous justification of slavery, the subjugation of women, and brutality to children based on bible quotes.
      The Methodist Church has recently split into two because they cannot agree on the role of women and same sex marriage.
      The divisiveness between pro-life and pro-choice philosophies is another example of the attempt to deny individual women and their families the right to chose.
      African Americans continue to fall behind in terms of justice, pay, and receiving the same treatment that others do.
      These knotty issues impact on every aspect of the world of fiction.
      Thank you for keeping these important issues to the forefront.
      Nora and Laura should be celebrated.

    2. @Carolyn, it’s fine for writer’s organizations, publishers, agents or whoever to say that they want diversity and quite another thing to acquire or truly champion the acquisition of diverse romance. In some cases, publishers are asking for it more loudly but not really acquiring much. In other cases, authors of diverse romance are not getting the same deals and/or marketing perks as authors writing mainstream romance.

      In other words, talk is cheap. And it’s pretty unlikely you’ll catch industry folks saying out loud that they DON’T want diverse romance (which would make them sound pretty racist, ableist, heteronormative, etc.). There’s still a pretty big gap between what industry says and what it does. For example, Harlequin closed down its Kimani imprint a couple years back, which focused on African-American romance. The Hallmark Channel just came under fire for pulling a gay-themed wedding commercial offline and, of course, Hallmark has a publishing arm.

  52. I just love how you kick ass when some ass needs to be kicked. Writers are usually not seen so we don’t know the color, creed or disability, we only know their words. I am sorry some writers are suffering ill treatment and am proud you alway stand for justice for all. Thank from a reader who cares.

  53. I took a break from social media over the holidays, opened up my e-mail and saw that this mess with RWA had exploded over the holidays! Wow. As an unpublished author, I’ve felt like an outsider in RWA for most of the time I’ve been a member, but especially the last couple of years. So sad to hear all this. Perhaps it’s time to start a new organization for romance writers.

  54. Nora Roberts, you are an inspiration for my heart, and as an unpublished author, you have revealed your honest innocence and your ability to change. More importantly, you have revealed the content of your character.

    If only others could or would consider the integrity you have shown, the world would be a better place.

  55. Nora, thank you for speaking out and clarifying many issues.

  56. Nora: I have enjoyed your books for many years and I hope your stand on diversity includes anti-semitism as well. As there have been many shootings at temples, stores and restaurants of Jewish origins I hope you include anti=semitism as one of the diversity issues that you stand behind.

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