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Archive for January, 2020|Monthly archive page

When Life Kind of Explodes

I became the president of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America on January 1, 2020. No big deal, right? Should be able to keep writing to provide a good role model for my chapter members, as our chapter is happy, healthy, and functioning well. Unfortunately (you may want to have a snack for this; I recommend popcorn)….

On December 23rd, the RWA national office sent out an announcement of an ethics censure of a prominent former board member and current chair of their ethics committee, including revoking her membership for a year and banning her from holding a leadership position forever. All Heck broke loose, mostly on Twitter.

It must be noted that this particular woman is an Author of Color (specifically, her mother is ethnically Chinese by way of Hawaii–I had an uncle, may he rest in peace, who was ethnically Filipino by way of Hawaii so this doesn’t sound at all odd to me) with a large Twitter following who had spoken out about what she perceived as racism. Her private account, her opinion. I’m an extremely white woman of a certain age who does not get to decide what is racist to someone else.

Then, on Christmas Eve, when the national office is supposed to be closed and after the circumstances around the original complaint came out, the national office announced the ruling was rescinded pending a review of some stuff that might not have been done according to written policy and procedure.

What the what?

The more information that came out, the more sketchy the whole thing began to appear. By December 26th, half of the board of directors had resigned, including the president, possibly in total fury at being wholesale-lied to, but I don’t actually know. Merry Christmas!

RWA members began pulling entries from their prestigious writing contest, The Ritas, and began resigning their memberships in droves.

Now the way RWA’s corporate direction works, there’s a president and a president-elect who becomes the sole candidate for president in the next election, and takes over as president if something happens to the president, such as resigning.

The new president appointed five board members to replace the eight who had resigned. Then it came out that he might not be eligible to be either president-elect or president, as he hadn’t published enough books. Who approved his nomination? The executive director is in charge of vetting election eligibility (this will become important).

Fast forward by a week. The national office hired a law firm to audit the process and procedure that had or had not been followed on the original ethics complaint. A petition to recall the new president was sent to the national office. The Ritas were cancelled. Prominent agents and large publishers pulled sponsorship and participation in the national conference.

Somewhere in the middle of this, my chapter (Coeur du Bois), held its first meeting of the new year and discussed the situation for nearly an hour. We were remarkably civilized, given that we were all appalled and furious at the same time.

The same day as our meeting, one of the people who had filed the original sketchy ethics complaint said she had been strongly encouraged by a staff member, and that some of her statements in the complaint might not be true–okay, she admitted she had lied about material harm to her business.

Dear Lord, give me strength.

By last Thursday (January 9, 2020), both the new president and the executive director had resigned.

It had turned up that the new president had convened a secret second ethics committee to take up the now-claimed-untruthful ethics complaints and presented their findings to the board without any supporting documentation. It also turned up that he hadn’t published five books in the last seven years, which is one of the basic requirements to hold the office of president-elect and president.

The executive director had passed the ethics complaints to the new president in spite of several sketchy things about them (even before one of the complainants admitted she lied). She also had deemed the new president eligible to run for president-elect when he hadn’t been.

I had already made popcorn and spiked my tea, so I laughed hysterically and revised my chapter statement to the board yet again.

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive or detailed history of what happened over the last 3 weeks, just a brief discussion of the high points that I remember.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more, a Google search on “RWA Courtney Milan” will give you an entry into the whole thing. Yes, Courtney Milan is the pen name of the author who was originally censured. She writes very good historical romance.

Also last week, Spooky man requested I drive to his lair with a snow blower, as it was scheduled to dump 1 to 3 feet of snow over the weekend and he was already having difficulty negotiating the driveway. He drives a Hummer H3 (the smallest version, but still…). I had to be winched out of the driveway to return to the big city on Saturday as it had snowed at least 12 inches overnight and the snowblower had missing parts.

And the winching was after more than an hour of snow shoveling to be able to get into my small SUV. I did not have spiked tea for that little mishap, but the cats were more attentive than usual when I got home, after which it immediately started snowing in the big city. I think they can smell stress and realize it could mean extra treats.

Of course, they got extra treats.

And three more board members have resigned since I last checked. Lovely.

At this point, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the corporation Romance Writers of America. If it folds, I have no idea if it’s going to take our local chapter with it. We’re independently incorporated, but we’re incorporated as a chapter of RWA, Inc. We could lose everything, including every dollar in our bank account, and be forced to start over from the articles of incorporation.

And that’s why I haven’t had a blog post since well before Christmas. Non-writing life grabbed the wheel and drove the bus, possibly over a cliff.

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