Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Writing Awards

Yesterday I was watching Medium and part of the story line was about the daughter writing a speech to deliver in front of the assembly. The speech was about discrimination. In her class one of her schoolmates had a better speech. She questioned the teacher about it and he said he felt her speech was presented better; however she could read his inner thoughts and he said he didn’t like the boy because of the way he looked and acted. He didn’t want him representing the school.

I thought this was ironic considering they were writing speeches about discrimination. Wasn’t what he did discrimination?

It made me think about writing awards. On another blog the subject of RWA awards and the lack of African-Americans winning them was a hot topic. The author of the blog entry wanted to know why there were never any African-American writers in the award listings.

Is this a form of discrimination I wondered?

As an African-American I’m not surprised by this, at first I questioned it myself. What was the deal? Then I found out this particular award, the writers submit their own books. Most of the writers I knew who are in this organization, chose not to submit their books. They didn’t believe their book had a chance.

I once questioned the first African-American President for RWA about this and she felt the multi-cultural books shouldn’t have a separate category. They were romance books they should be included in the romance books.

Unfortunately if this were true, I never would have had an online magazine that featured multi cultural books. The books weren’t included. It’s been ten years and they still aren’t included. I honestly believe they never will.

I believe there should be a separate category for Multi-cultural books. Why? Because the publishers felt a need to make our books a niche then we should have a niche award, just as they have a separate award for Inspirational/Christian books.

As a reader of romance, I’m proud of the multi-cultural books. I enjoy reading about people who look like me. I love reading about men I could dream about marrying one day. Why? Because since I was eight years old and read my first romance, I enjoyed them, but I wished the man had caramel skin and dreamy dark brown eyes instead of blue eyes and blond hair. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to read about someone who looks like you. I like the idea of having a choice. If I want to dream about Brad Pitt or Will Smith I can. I’m not stuck with one choice, like it use to be.

I know the awards system has a ways to go before we see a multi-cultural author in its mists, but I believe we can help it along by submitting our books. At least we can say we did enter its up to the judges to read the book and see we’re great writers too.

You can’t win if you don’t enter.

Speaking of awards, I have to say something about the awards SORMAG presents each year. I’m amazed at how many authors don’t vote for themselves. It’s a simple form. You type in the names and books. We tally the votes and the author and books with the most votes is the winner.

However each year many authors don’t vote. As I said before you can’t win if you don’t enter. Many times an author is one vote away from winning, their own vote could have taken them over the top.

You can’t win if you don’t enter.

1 comment:

Patricia W. said...

Okay. Once again I have learned something about the writing world from you, LaShaunda. It never occurred to me that we were underrepresented in the RWA awards, although it probably should have. I've looked at enough RWA chapter sites and seen few, if any, pictures or even names of AA authors, at least ones that I'm familiar with (and I read pretty extensively, both in breadth and quantity).

So I had to go to RWA's site and do a little research. Yup. Just as I suspected, not one AA author on any of the comprehensive listings of past winners nor this year's current nominees, with one exception. Shirley Hailstock will receive the 2006 Emma Merritt Award for outstanding service to the RWA organization this year, likely for her work as president. (Congratulations Shirley!)

So usually when underrepresentation is the case, we, the affected group, do one of two things: create our own or get involved (increase membership and move into positions of influence/leadership in order to make change). I think the Romance Slam Jam awards serve the first purpose. I do agree, however, that RWA should create a separate Multicultural award. Yet, this is more complex than it sounds because multicultural authors will get shafted by having to compete for a single award when their works span the same subgenres that are already recognized by multiple awards. (The same thing is true of inspirational/Christian fiction.)

What about the second purpose, getting involved? Maybe someone can comment on whether there is an increasing number of AA authors getting involved in their local chapters, and more importantly, for the purposes of influence, at the national level. Michelle Monkou is now involved nationally, I believe. Maybe she has some insight.

I've said all that to say RWA is pretty much like many other organizations in America. As an aspiring romance author, I guess it will matter more to me when I'm actually published. A little disappointing (who doesn't like to get awards?) but it doesn't affect my desire or motivation to write and become published, nor even whether I will become an RWA member (which I intend to do this year).

I'd love to hear some AA authors, who are also RWA members, weigh in.

Patricia W