“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.” Walt Whitman
Today I read on my RWA chapter loop that RWA has suspended their graphical standards. They created a committee to come up with suggestions, who will solicit opinions from the membership and report back to the board.
The building has burned down and now suddenly, the fire department has shown up.
The graphical standards disturbed me, especially because they came from a professional writer’s organization that is supposed to advocate romance, not censor its members. I still think RWA is the best organization for a romance writer to learn the craft, network and possibly get published. I got published through an RWA contest. Yet I seriously wonder what was in the board’s mind when they arbitrarily (seemingly) imposed those standards. And why they were so frantic to slap a brown paper bag over the genre that is flourishing (erotic romance) while ignoring the one that is dying?
I’m talking about the decline of the sweet romance.
Erotic romance is currently the fast-growing romance genre. Several publishers have started new erotic lines, including Avon. At the same time, romances featuring little or no sex are gasping for oxygen (except for inspirational romance). Yet there ARE readers out there who enjoy them (I’m one of them).
As a reader, I love having a variety of romance genres available. I write sensual books. I savor reading them as well, but sometimes I want a sweet romance with little or no sex. However, the market is declining, sales are dropping and my reading choices are limited. Harlequin is dropping two of its sweet contemporary lines next year.
Instead of rebuking the genre that’s thriving, why doesn’t RWA say, “Our authors who write sweet romance need help. Let’s find out what we can do.” It’s like a mother scolding one child for being well-nourished and ignoring the starving child begging for attention.
Why can’t America’s largest romance writers organization start lobbying FOR authors instead of against them?
Why doesn’t RWA start taking action to encourage reader sales of sweet romances? Form a new chapter just for sweet romance writers and promote it heavily with a big dose of PR, even a splash at National next month? Devote ad space in RWR to promote sweet romances? Find a great PR hook and get the media interested in covering it. There’s a reading group named after Betty Neels. Why not create an award named after her (She died in 2001) to spark interest in sweet romances?
Let’s stop thinking censorship and start thinking support.
RWA may say all they want about how they didn’t mean to censor authors. Yet they prohibited an Ellora’s Cave author from signing her book in their booth at BEA because of its “inappropriate” cover. That’s censorship, plain and simple.
Censorship of books disturbs me on a very deep level. When an organization like RWA imposes standards of what they think is acceptable, it can lead to extremes such as book banning or even book burning. Where does it end? Am I making too much of this? I don’t think so.
Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite books. It contains some of the most beautiful language I’ve ever read. Some might call it purple. I call it lyrical. Here’s a sample: “I delight to rest in his shadow, and his fruit is sweet to my mouth… On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him. I will rise then and go about the city, in the streets and crossings I will seek him whom my heart loves.”
And there is plenty of sex, violence, even rape, adultery, references of homosexual sex in the earlier chapters. Would some consider this book a candidate for censorship based solely on its content? Yup.
What’s the book?