Harlequin isn’t giving the Romance Writers of America any love, as they pull their sponsorship and participation from this year’s RWA national conference, scheduled to take place July 29–Aug. 1 in San Francisco. The two divisions join several other U.S.–based publishers in the boycott, including HarperCollins imprint Avon Books.
The decision follows widespread criticism that the RWA is not inclusive. In particular, the organization’s RITA Awards have been called out by the community for its lack of BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ nominees and winners. The organization decided to cancel this year’s awards after numerous judges and hundreds of authors pulled out.
In a letter to RWA, HCC and Harlequin CEO Craig K. Swinwood says the divisions are not participating because “it is important that all authors feel included, respected, and heard.”
In addition to the RITA cancellation, RWA executive director Carolyn Jewell, president Damon Suede, and seven other board members have resigned. Their departure follows an incident that took place in December when the RWA accused romance writer Courtney Milan of an ethics violation and suspended her for calling Kathryn Lynn Davis’s novel Somewhere Lies the Moon a “racist mess” on social media. Milan is the former chair of RWA’s ethics committee.