Dear fellow chapter members,
First and foremost, those of us on the board would like to express our gratitude for each and every one of our members. We have known for quite some time now, but the events over the course of the last week have shown us clearly that our members have faith and trust for the board they have voted in. This is something we have never taken for granted, but especially now, we humbly thank you. Your faith is what has gotten us through, and made us able to come together and calmly look at the multitude of information that has crossed inboxes and social media feeds. Your trust is what we honor now, by bringing to you what we know and asking- where do we go from here?
Last week, we sent out links to timelines of events surrounding the case between RWA National and Courtney Milan. While no time is a good time to wake up this this sort of news, the holiday season has made it extremely difficult to know if all of our members have had the time to familiarize themselves. If you have not, we urge you now to log on to your RWA accounts and read through the messages posted. We have done our best to copy and provide our members with the communications that have been happening at the chapter leader level. If you have any questions, we are here for you and are happy to provide any further information that we may have. Our mission, our goal, and one of the values we will always hold most important is complete transparency.
During this past week, as information unfolded around the case between RWA and Courtney Milan, it became abundantly clear that the RWA board made decisions not only going against what we as an organization stand for, but also did so in ways that have brought how they follow policy and procedure into question. Both the example of continued discrimination against marginalized authors, and questionable tactics at the executive level are something that concerns the Maryland board members deeply. Each of us has spent the last several days sorting through emails, social media feeds and documents detailing complaints. With every passing day, there has been an increased reason to push for a complete audit at the national level.
There have been an enormous amount of accusations not only towards RWA as a national organization but also toward individual leadership within it. As you are aware, there is a petition moving forward to recall the election of Damon Suede and Carol Ritter. Much of our membership has lost faith that these leaders can move forward with complete transparency and unbiased opinions. There is also a large movement of members who have decided to not renew their next membership with RWA. There are chapters that are considering disassociating with RWA completely.
That is where we are. So where do we go from here?
The Maryland board, both outgoing and incoming members, will continue to work tirelessly in this investigation. We intend on making sure that RWA answers for any violation in not only this particular matter but all others that have come to light within. We hope you’ll join us in calling for complete transparency and accountability from board and staff members at the executive level, as well as a thorough review of RWA’s bylaws, policies and procedures and how they are enforced. We will continue to push for answers to the questions that our members and the members of our sister chapters have asked that remain unanswered by the national leadership. We will monitor the process of the recall petition and election and keep our members informed, and engage with you in discussion of what each development may mean for us as RWA members and as a chapter.
We respect and support those members who have signed the petition for recall, those members who have decided not to renew their membership, and those who are waiting for better, clearer information before making a move at all.
As it currently stands, you cannot be a member of Maryland Romance Writers without being a member of RWA. There is an enormous amount of logistical work in creating an organization from the ground up that can stand independent from RWA. We do not want to lose what makes MRW a vibrant, supportive space for our members: our local writing community. We will do what we need to in order to make sure that our village survives. However, along with many other chapter leadership boards, we hope that we can move forward together at the national level with all of our sister chapters across the country. RWA is not just one board, RWA is not just certain leadership. RWA is its members, and it is our right to vote in leaders who have our confidence and will support advocacy at every level for every writer. Nora Roberts recently reminded us:
“Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.”
We will fight for you, and we will fight for nothing less.
The Maryland Romance Writers Board