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View Full Version : RWA2018 and Suzanne Brockmann's Lifetime Achievement Blow-Up



BenPanced
07-25-2018, 07:40 AM
I attended RWA's national convention for the first time this year, and it was a spectacular learning experience for me. During the annual general meeting (first thing I attended. Hey, I'm a member, I was there, I want to know what the organization's doing for me and my fellow writers), the subject came up of RWA's looooooooooooooong history of dragging their feet on issues. Recently, they're addressing issues on diversity in the romance publishing industry and better representation of underrepresented groups. The primary discussion is on race but they've long also looked at QUILTBAG as part of the "diversity" umbrella.

During the RITA awards, author Suzanne Brockmann received the Lifetime Achievement Award and in her speech, she excoriated RWA for long looking down on QUILTBAG authors and novels, starting primarily with her own experiences in trying to get a novel published with a gay man as a minor background character (SPOILER ALERT: in 1992, you couldn't even do that in a novel and expect the organization to stand behind you). As recently as 2008, she was asked to MC the RITA awards and after rehearsals, was asked to not mention the wedding of two gay characters in a novel she'd published then. She didn't fight back then, either. She finally fought back long, hard, and loud during her LTA speech, especially since her own son has recently gotten married to his boyfriend, speaking out in a "now or never" tone that became more strident, more impassioned, and more brilliant as it went on.

Many people who'd never heard of her before that night fell deeply, completely, and totally in love with her. (I had to tell her that I need to track down her books and how much I hate it when an author forces me to buy more books.) Full text of her speech here; make wid der klikkety. (https://tinyletter.com/SuzanneBrockmann/letters/that-rwa-lta-speech-news-from-suz)

But, obviously, not everybody shares in the enthusiasm. The owner of Clean Reads is shocked, horrified, and aghast that such a deeply profound honor has been sullied and turned into a political event, claiming she'd insulted most of the people in the audience* (https://twitter.com/lillie_80/status/1021749432507871232) (which was hard to tell if she'd insulted anybody at all, considering she'd gotten THREE standing ovations during the course of her speech). Brockmann had the platform and I'd say she reminded RWA of the contract they have with their members, to represent them and promote the romance genre, and how much work still needs to be done. She kept it on track within the confines of the group and their mission, unlike various performers over the years who'd used their Oscar win to promote their stances on the Israel-Palestine conflict; that is politicizing the moment and taking away from it.

My other takeaway from this? Jesus H., those RITA awards are fucking HYOOGE. If you've seen All About Eve and the Sarah Siddon Society award Eve receives during the run of the film? You think THAT thing was gigantic? Holy crapsticks, you could probably stun an ox with a RITA.

*The original Facebook post has since been deleted but a screencap is included with the Twitter feed.

Sheryl Nantus
07-25-2018, 02:44 PM
I was pleased to see this - she called out the community, and we're all responding in the positive - and noting who's trying to drag us back to the 1950's, if not earlier.

Slow moves forward - but it's a move.

Hope to go to RWA next year in NYC - it should be a blast!

Alessandra Kelley
07-25-2018, 03:10 PM
Wow. That was beautiful.

BenPanced
07-25-2018, 04:25 PM
Several people on my Facebook list are reevaluating their Facebook connections to Taylor based on the blatant homophobia, in general, and since they also write M/M. I mean, how the hell could you continue to play "one big happy" after her reaction?

amergina
07-25-2018, 04:57 PM
That speech is *such* a barometer as to whether someone is a racist, queerphobic bigot or not.

And heeeey. If you think you aren't and you don't like what's being said, then guess what? You are! You just want to hide behind "it wasn't a good venue for that" or "I'd miss her just talking about her singing group" or any other excuse you can come up with to try to say "she shouldn't have said that."

Jeneral
07-25-2018, 05:10 PM
I watched the RITAs from home in my pjs with a glass of wine (couldn't go to the conference, but my CP was up for a RITA so there I was!), and her speech took my breath away. At the same time the chat group I'm in with some writing besties who were there were filling me in on how most of the room was incredibly supportive, but there were the occasional pockets of pearl-clutchers. She said difficult things that needed to be said (and needed to be heard), and I really hope that we as an organization can make some progress from here.

Also, I got to hold a RITA last year, and those things are heavy AF. :ROFL:

Tazlima
07-25-2018, 05:24 PM
I read the speech and all I can say is, that was beautiful.

Alessandra Kelley
07-25-2018, 05:32 PM
Several people on my Facebook list are reevaluating their Facebook connections to Taylor based on the blatant homophobia, in general, and since they also write M/M. I mean, how the hell could you continue to play "one big happy" after her reaction?

Some context, please?

ElaineA
07-25-2018, 05:48 PM
I keep seeing a lot of people mentioning the complaints--within an hour of the speech--but not one of them crossed my Twitter feed until the screencap of Taylor's terrible take. Sometimes I just have to be grateful people are so blind about what they are revealing about themselves.

BenPanced
07-25-2018, 06:53 PM
Some context, please?

I'm talking about forming author-author connections with somebody within the genre who makes such comments, and then how can you pretend everything's hunky-dory and keep these connections when an incredibly toxic atmosphere has been created. I've met people in science fiction/fantasy circles who've tried to explain away such behaviors in order to keep the peace and not appear to be The Troublemaker™; people who've connected to Taylor on Facebook are wondering if they want to continue to keep that connection, even if it's "just" a Facebook friendship and not a "real" one.

veinglory
07-25-2018, 06:56 PM
Clean Reads defines itself predominantly as a "conservative publisher". Which seems like the epitome of making it about politics.

cmhbob
07-25-2018, 07:14 PM
I read the speech courtesy of a link on amergina's FB page, and loved it. What a writer, and what a mother.

I've got 8 mutual friends with Ms. Taylor, and I don't see any of them dropping her. About half of them probably agree with her, and the rest have some many author connections they don't realize they're friends with her.

When I read Ms Taylor's post, there were quite a few people there praising Ms. Brockman's speech, both for content and venue. How can you not use a pulpit like that when you get access to it? It was a Lifetime achievement award, and her writing and her children are part of her lifetime.

Alessandra Kelley
07-25-2018, 11:22 PM
I'm talking about forming author-author connections with somebody within the genre who makes such comments, and then how can you pretend everything's hunky-dory and keep these connections when an incredibly toxic atmosphere has been created. I've met people in science fiction/fantasy circles who've tried to explain away such behaviors in order to keep the peace and not appear to be The Troublemaker™; people who've connected to Taylor on Facebook are wondering if they want to continue to keep that connection, even if it's "just" a Facebook friendship and not a "real" one.

I meant, “Who is Taylor and what reaction?”

Tazlima
07-25-2018, 11:59 PM
I meant, “Who is Taylor and what reaction?”

Taylor is the owner of Clean Reads. Her reaction is linked in the original post.


. The owner of Clean Reads is shocked, horrified, and aghast that such a deeply profound honor has been sullied and turned into a political event, claiming she'd insulted most of the people in the audience* (https://twitter.com/lillie_80/status/1021749432507871232) .

frimble3
07-26-2018, 01:14 AM
Clean Reads defines itself predominantly as a "conservative publisher". Which seems like the epitome of making it about politics.
I would have thought 'religious' rather than 'political', but, I guess these days that's a blurry line.

Alessandra Kelley
07-26-2018, 02:28 AM
Taylor is the owner of Clean Reads. Her reaction is linked in the original post.

Oops. I didn’t bother following that link and it wasn’t identified in the OP, so I missed the significance, sorry.

veinglory
07-26-2018, 07:00 PM
To me "conservative" reads as "the non-liberal political party in that country". But since moving to the US politics and religions seems to have become heavily conflated.

cool pop
07-27-2018, 07:25 PM
This happened on FB with some small time, unknown author who went on tirade about Suzanne's speech, exposing the author's racism and homophobia. People have been tearing her down on FB for days. I don't know what these people are thinking saying this crap in public.

Well, the Clean Reads woman and the FB author should get together and write a book called, "How to ruin your career in less than a month." It would be a bestseller because they are definitely experienced.

The Clean Reads lady should be ashamed being a publisher. She should be concentrating on her authors because lately all I've heard about her company are complaints. Maybe she should tweet about that.

Clean Reads used to have another name for years but I forgot what it was. Started with an A.

amergina
07-27-2018, 07:34 PM
Clean Reads used to have another name for years but I forgot what it was. Started with an A.

Astraea Press. I think there's a thread around here for them somewhere....

Ah here: https://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?218524-Clean-Reads-(formerly-Astraea-Press)

No much recent activity, though.

veinglory
07-27-2018, 10:43 PM
I think part of the problem was when they changed the name to "Clean" because it does come with baggage that anything they won't, include gay romance, is being called... not clean. A press can choose to include or exclude anything from their scope but what you call yourself (and that scope) matters.

CEtchison
07-28-2018, 07:42 PM
My first thought post-RITA's this year? Lord help the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

In 2017, Ms. Bev lit the place up and in 2018, Suz burnt it down. lol

Sunflowerrei
07-29-2018, 03:13 AM
I heard about her speech via Twitter. I read a lot of romance, so I follow a lot of romance authors--and they were all excited about the speech.I read the transcript, loved it. It's exactly what needs to be said in these times. I watched the video last night on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and her inflections and the whoops of the crowd make the speech that much better. Good on her for using her platform.

BenPanced
07-29-2018, 04:07 AM
A friend on Facebook posted a link to an open post from a woman who just wouldn't STFU about this and with every "but I'm not racist/homophobic!" reply kept digging herself deeper and deeper. (What made it really bad was she complained how the use of Language, in particular the word "fuck", in romance novels only proved the authors' and readers' lack of education, coming ][ this close to saying they're stupid. What made it even worse was she comes ][ this close to telling you some of her best friends are a black/brown/Not White™ [yes, she uses the articles "the" and "a" when talking about black people, as in "the blacks" or "a black"] and only refers to President Obama as "the previous occupant of the White House".)

ETA: In another post, she tries to make her point about discrimination and affirmative action by...talking about her black Lab.

ETAA: In a comment to another post, it's revealed she's making a formal complaint to RWA.

Laurasaurus
07-29-2018, 05:58 PM
I know you're being mature and kind by not posting the link, but by god I want to read that thread. :D

cool pop
07-29-2018, 10:15 PM
Astraea Press. I think there's a thread around here for them somewhere....

Ah here: https://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?218524-Clean-Reads-(formerly-Astraea-Press)

No much recent activity, though.

Yep, that's it! Thanks, Amergina.

cool pop
07-29-2018, 10:19 PM
A friend on Facebook posted a link to an open post from a woman who just wouldn't STFU about this and with every "but I'm not racist/homophobic!" reply kept digging herself deeper and deeper. (What made it really bad was she complained how the use of Language, in particular the word "fuck", in romance novels only proved the authors' and readers' lack of education, coming ][ this close to saying they're stupid. What made it even worse was she comes ][ this close to telling you some of her best friends are a black/brown/Not White™ [yes, she uses the articles "the" and "a" when talking about black people, as in "the blacks" or "a black"] and only refers to President Obama as "the previous occupant of the White House".)

ETA: In another post, she tries to make her point about discrimination and affirmative action by...talking about her black Lab.

ETAA: In a comment to another post, it's revealed she's making a formal complaint to RWA.

That's the woman I was talking about on FB. Aside from her just being straight racist, the term "blacks" doesn't bother me. I refer to myself as black. I can't stand the term "African-American" for many reasons. One is unless the person came from Africa, it's inaccurate. I mean how can you call ALL blacks African-American when most of us never even set foot there but not call Charlize Theron who was BORN in Africa, African-American? She is African-American but how many times have we heard folks call her that outside making the same point I am about the inaccuracy of calling all blacks the term? I didn't come from Africa and neither did anyone in my family who is living right now. My ancestors centuries ago came from Africa but not me. If I'd been born in Africa and became American, it would be correct to call me that. I am American, that's it. I don't care for attaching "American" on the end of the name for an ethnic group because it's another sample of separation and how minorities aren't regarded as just Americans. We call white people "white" and rarely does anyone use "white American". People can call themselves what they want but I have never agreed with calling myself African-American and I don't. But, speaking of this lady, it doesn't matter what she called us, she is just plain racist and ridiculous either way. Saying "African-Americans" wouldn't have made it any better.

People are saying her writing career is dead but honestly, did she have much of one anyway? ;) Who has heard of her? Folks on her friends list didn't even know her. I wouldn't be shocked if this was her way of getting publicity or attention and it backfired.

Another Roseanne bites the dust.

BenPanced
07-30-2018, 01:27 AM
I know you're being mature and kind by not posting the link, but by god I want to read that thread. https://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.png

I'm just afraid that no matter what I do, it's going to get picked up by searchbots and it's going to wind up on my Permanent Record™.

aspirit
07-31-2018, 01:47 AM
Author Nicki Salcedo published a response (https://medium.com/@nicki.salcedo/dear-suzanne-brockmann-5d67d5a1a41f?sk=e55c8eeafd868c2d97a144339333e355) that I think makes for an excellent companion to Suzanne Brockmann's speech.

Marissa D
07-31-2018, 03:06 AM
Author Nicki Salcedo published a response (https://medium.com/@nicki.salcedo/dear-suzanne-brockmann-5d67d5a1a41f?sk=e55c8eeafd868c2d97a144339333e355) that I think makes for an excellent companion to Suzanne Brockmann's speech.

Wow. Wow wow wow. Thank you for posting that.

cmhbob
07-31-2018, 05:41 AM
Author Nicki Salcedo published a response (https://medium.com/@nicki.salcedo/dear-suzanne-brockmann-5d67d5a1a41f?sk=e55c8eeafd868c2d97a144339333e355) that I think makes for an excellent companion to Suzanne Brockmann's speech.

Oh, my. What a post. Thanks very much for sharing it.

Filigree
08-03-2018, 12:57 PM
Each post I read about this makes me cry again. I'm glad people are speaking out, but I'm boggled by the sheer wasted potential that the RWA & the romance publishing industry has ignored. Thrown away. The authors who've simply never entered RWA contests, queried a novel...or shelved their writing as Salcedo did.

That's a lot of great diverse books we never got a chance to read.

BenPanced
08-03-2018, 09:37 PM
At this year's nationals, RWA did hold a diversity summit to address the issue. A short summary of talking points and action plans can be found here. (https://www.rwa.org/p/bl/et/blogid=20&blogaid=2283)

Filigree
08-04-2018, 08:29 PM
Okay, that's a hopeful collection of steps. One of my biggest frustrations is bookseller shelving practices. Sadly, that's driven more of my (all genre) purchases to ebook, either Kindle or Kobo where I have a better chance of finding the diverse books I want.