07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Young Adult Romance and the RWA Rita.

Hi everyone!
I am YA author B. A. Binns. For the end of 2013, I thought I would talk about being a YA writer in this time of change. 

NEBULA® is to Science Fiction as RITA® is to _________

If you know the answer is Romance, feel proud. Not many people outside the RWA world does, and most of those are related to romance writing, publishing or reading.  I have no trouble finding librarians who know about the Nebula or Hugo or Edgar. Seldom do I find one, even in my own library, who knows what a RITA is. Even many avid romance readers have trouble naming more than one Rita winner. But ask a mystery fan about the winners of last year's Edgars and you usually an enthusiastic list.

In a recent library display of award-winning books I saw six Hugos and eight Edgars. And one Rita. Gosh it felt good to see at least one.

My bet is that is one of the things RWA hopes to alter with their changes to the 2013 RITA contest that include a focus on romance and a the requirement of a higher number of entries for a category to proceed.

RWA established the RITA awards to promote excellence in the romance genre. I belong to a number of writers groups and email loops that have voiced their dismay about changes in various award categories to ensure alignment with that purpose. RWA did not understand YA, many said. There was talk of a growing alienation between RWA and it's YA writing members.

Those protests grew especially loud last week when word came that the Young Adult category of the Rita awards was cancelled due to lack of entries.  Many complain that this proves the RWA was wrong to require the YA novels entered in the Rita to have romance as the primary focus.  Many of those protesters also admit they chose not to enter their books in the 2013 Rita and somehow the cancellation of the category because too few books were entered is proof they were right.

While I am sorry the category had to be cancelled this year for lack of entries, I applaud RWA for saying that all categories, including Young Adult, must make romance a preeminent ingredient to be eligible for a romance based award.  As someone said, many great books will be excluded from consideration because of this.  That is possible, even likely. But many deserving YA romances will win awards here where they could not anywhere else. And that is RWA's mission, to enhance the romance genre, in Adult and in YA.

I think it is fitting that the 2014 RWA RITA Awards ceremony Emcee is Simone Elkeles, winner of a Young Adult RITA for her teen romance, Perfect Chemistry.  

RWA wants to specialize in Romance, just as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America hand out juvenile and/or young adult awards to novels that have those genres as their main core  while being designed to appeal to teen and young adult readers. 

Here's the good news. There are other awards out there for YA books that do not require a heavy dose of science fiction or fantasy or mystery or even romance. My 2013 novel, Being God, was nominated for the 2012-13 Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award by some of my favorite people, Indiana readers.   It has also been nominated for the 2013 Cybils Award, the Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards and in the Young Adult category of the SPARK Award created by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize "excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.".

I have discovered that I have to play to have a hope of winning, but I also need to carefully select the games, and contests, I enter. 

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

So true, B.A. You do have to enter (or buy that lottery ticket) to win. At least in the RITA and Golden Heart, you are told if you final and then win. With a lottery ticket, if you don't check the numbers - well, why bother buying the ticket.

I do believe that a romance should be at the core of a story if entered into an RWA contest whether on the national or chapter level, however, I do believe you can write a romance without the hero being introduced within a certain page count and some of the other "definitions" I've heard constitute a "romance".

Good luck on "Being God" winning some if not all of those contests!