[This is the fourth update in a series which includes Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership, Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership and As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan.]
Kathryn Davis, who along with Suzan Tisdale filed the ethics complaints that triggered RWA’s penalties against Courtney Milan, has told The Guardian that she was “encouraged” by the administration of Romance Writers of America (RWA), to make a formal complaint against Milan: “White romance novelist in racism row says she was used”.
“They encouraged us. They wanted us very badly to file these complaints,” Davis said.
…Davis now says that she never wanted Milan to be punished by the RWA. She declined to say who precisely within RWA had encouraged her to file a complaint against Milan, but said it was “the administration at RWA” and that it was “not the membership” and “not the members of the board”.
“I do feel that the Romance Writers of America perhaps used Suzan Tisdale and I to accomplish something they wanted to accomplish and I was stunned when I saw the penalties. I didn’t ever expect that, and I did not want that,” Davis said.
“We were used in order to make the eventual penalties happen,” she said.
Although Davis is paraphrased by Guardian reporter Lois Beckett as having claimed that “she never wanted Milan to be punished by the RWA,” Davis’ formal ethics complaint urged in its conclusion that “She [Milan] cannot be allowed to hold a position of authority, or to use her voice to urge others to follow her lead.”
Davis’ statements to The Guardian also conflict with – and undercut – a claim in the formal complaint that “Because Ms. Milan attacked me in what can only be described as cyber-bullying, I lost a three-book contract that has been promised to me.”
On Thursday, Davis, 64, clarified her discussions with the publisher, which she has declined to name. She told the Guardian that after the allegations in her original complaint to RWA were quoted in news reports, “the publisher in question is very upset”.
Davis clarified that she did not have and lose a written book contract, but that a publisher had delayed further discussion of a potential contract in the wake of the controversy.
In the complaint, Davis also seemed to imply that the publisher told her they were afraid of being publicly linked with Milan, but in fact the publisher “never said anything” to that effect, Davis said.
Two or three days after Milan tweeted about her book, Davis said, an editor at the publishing house in question advised her that the situation would probably get worse. “I was told to apologize to Courtney [Milan] and to remove myself from the controversy, and in that way to save both my reputation and that of anyone connected to me.
“I didn’t understand what I would be apologizing for unless it were for my 24-year-old book,” she said. “I did not agree with what [Milan] was saying and to apologize for something I did not agree with didn’t make sense to me.”
The editor was “not happy” with this response, Davis said, but the end of the call was not angry. In a subsequent conversation with the same editor about a week later, “it was offhandedly mentioned that discussion of the [new book] contract would have to wait until spring”, Davis said. The editor did not explicitly state there was any link between Milan’s tweets and the delay in the discussion of the contract, Davis said.
Davis said she still believed it was fair to say that she lost a three-book contract because of Milan’s tweets. “I am certain the discussions would have progressed into a contract had this Twitter explosion not occurred,” she said.
And although Davis devoted several pages of her complaint to defending the novel Milan had derided as a “fucking racist mess,” she told The Guardian the ebook has been republished with changes —
Meanwhile, Davis said she had decided to make some changes to the novel Milan had criticized, Somewhere Lies the Moon, and that she has republished edited ebook versions.
“Some people have contacted me and have told me calmly what it was that offended them, and it was very few things, and I have corrected those things,” she said.
Alyssa Cole responded to Davis’ statements in The Guardian. Thread starts here.
Courtney Milan’s commentary thread starts here.
RWA APPOINTS NEW DIRECTORS. The RWA announced President Damon Suede has filled some of the vacancies created by resignations: “New Directors Appointed to RWA Board”, posted December 31.
In accordance with our Bylaws and policies, the President of RWA nominated, and the Board of Directors (Board) approved, the appointment of four new members to fill the vacant Board seats.
Former Board Advisors Maria Powers (PRO), Mellanie Szereto (Chapter), and Barbara Wallace (PAN) will now move into vacant Director-at-Large positions. We thank them for their previous service to their constituencies and welcome them in their new roles as voting Board members. We also welcome new Board member Eliana West, filling a vacant Director-at-Large seat. All four will serve the remainder of the 2019-2020 term, which ends on August 31. Please find their bios below.
We are in the process of recruiting and nominating strong, diverse candidates for the remaining five Director-at-Large positions and the three open Advisor positions.
SUEDE DISINVITED BY CONFERENCE. RWA President Damon Suede has been ousted as a conference speaker at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference. The Greater Seattle RWA chapter tweeted a long explanation of the process followed in making that decision. Thread starts here.
Courtney Milan’s decision tree, in response to allegations there is more evidence that hasn’t been made public.
Alyssa Day, who has also been vocal on Twitter, gave a status report to her Facebook followers on January 2:
…I resigned my membership in protest at RWA’s actions against Courtney Milan but then withdrew my resignation when the time came that my voice would be important as part of a recall petition to force current leadership to step down. I am a signatory, with several past presidents and past board members, to a letter calling for a full forensic accounting and answers to the questions that must be addressed before RWA can move forward.
We can do better. We MUST do better. Love is love is love. The romance genre is about hope, and I must continue to believe and be hopeful, especially now, at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, that we can build a professional organization for romance writers that is inclusive and welcoming to all who agree with and live this belief.
Avery Flynn reports a RWA board conference call is scheduled for January 12, but there’s an issue in that the program has not been sent out even though it has to be posted ten days beforehand. Thread starts here.
RWA AUDIT. On January 1, Courtney Milan called for forensic audit. Thread starts here.
The RWA website announced on January 3: “RWA Hires Law Firm to Conduct Independent Audit”.
Damon Suede, President of Romance Writers of America, recently asked the RWA Board of Directors to authorize a review of the Member Code of Ethics and related enforcement procedures to ensure that these RWA policies support the organization’s mission to advance and protect the interests of all romance authors.
Today, RWA announced the hiring of the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm to conduct an independent audit of the recent matter involving its code of ethics and to make recommendations on appropriate adjustments moving forward on ethics policy and procedures.
Courtney Milan responded skeptically in a thread that starts here.
National Public Radio took a stab at telling the story in “Racism Scandal In The Romance Writing Industry” — January 4
BATES: Well, the membership didn’t know about it for a long time because, as I said, this happened at the end of August. RWA initiated, which people are still kind of freaking out about, a subcommittee of its ethics committee. I guess they appointed some people kind of like a grand jury – impaneled them. So this committee met in secret and decided that most of what they said about Milan wasn’t accurate but that they did think that because of the tweets, she should be sanctioned. And so they suspended her for a year. And they said she’d never again be allowed in any leadership positions. And this was a woman who had just received a service award the year before for her leadership in the organization.
Someone leaked it, and a lot of writers of color were like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. A lot of allies who were white women said this is ridiculous. A lot of people – and publishing is like, girls, you need to get yourselves together. And within a week, because this was blowback that RWA leadership had not expected, they changed their minds and said on the 30 of December, we’ve rescinded our decision about Courtney for right now because we need to have a fuller investigation, so she can keep doing what she’s doing for the moment, to which Milan said, as you can imagine, yeah, no. Bye….
Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching” — January 2
…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.
The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.
…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.
COMIC RELIEF. There is now a bingo card for this debacle:
Scott Lynch provided the Reader’s Digest version of the RWA’s explanations.
And Chuck Tingle has written a book.
Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.
After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.
Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?
This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.
[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Rick Moen, John King Tarpinian, Kendall, johnstick, and Cliff Ramshaw for some of these items.]