Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Romance Writers of America falls into bankruptcy amid allegations of racism

By admin Jun1,2024

The Romance Writers of America filed for bankruptcy protection this week following several years of infighting and allegations of racism that fractured the organization, causing many of its members to flee.

The Texas-based trade association, which bills itself as the voice of romance writers, has lost roughly 80% of its members over the past five years because of the turmoil. Now down to just 2,000 members, it can’t cover the costs it committed to paying for its writers conferences in Texas and Pennsylvania, the group said in bankruptcy court documents filed on Wednesday in Houston.

Mary Ann Jock, the group’s president and an author of seven published romance novels, said in a court filing that the troubles stemmed “predominantly due to disputes concerning diversity, equity and inclusion” issues between previous board members and others in the romance writing community.

The organization, founded in 1980 to represent and promote writers in fiction’s top-selling genre, said it owes nearly $3 million to hotels where it planned to host the annual meetings. In the court filings, Jock noted how the organization held its 2024 conference in Austin, Texas, and was working to pay off the contract owed to the local Marriott facility where the event was held. At the same time, the Marriott hotel in Philadelphia, where the organization was planning its 2025 conference, demanded a full payment of $1 million, Jock said. 

The association was pushed into bankruptcy “in light of the Philadelphia Marriott’s demand for immediate payment and without a consensual resolution with the Marriott Conference Centers,” Jock said. 

In court documents, the association listed between $100,000 and $500,000 in assets with between $1 million and $10 million in liabilities. 

Relationships within the group started to fray in 2019, over the way it treated one of its authors, a Chinese American writer who it said violated the group’s code with negative online comments about other writers and their work. The association reversed its decision, but the uproar led to the resignation of its president and several board members. The organization at the time had about 10,000 members,

Following allegations that it lacked diversity and was predominantly White, the organization called off its annual awards in 2020. Several publishers, including Harlequin, Avon Books and Berkeley Romance, then dropped out from the annual conference. The association later said it would present a new award in honor of Vivian Stephens, a pioneering black romance novelist and publisher.

The next year, the association faced more anger and eventually withdrew an award for a novel widely criticized for its sympathetic portrait of a cavalry officer who participated in the slaughter of Lakota Indians at the Battle of Wounded Knee.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

By admin

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