The Implosion of the RWA

Dec 27, 2019 | The Publishing Industry

Update January 12th, 2020: With the resignation of Damon Suede, and the eventual departure of Carol Ritter, this clusterfuck has finally started to slow down. This is a pretty damning indication of public sentiment. The real story here was never that one or two villainous masterminds tried to set up the RWA for their own benefit and got caught, much as many would like to believe that; it ascribes a level of competence that simply doesn’t exist, and assumes the blithe ignorance of too many people.

The real story here is that the RWA, and the publishing industry at large, is infected with systemic bigotry. The removal of a few bad actors will not change this. There is so much more work to be done, and my personal opinion is that those left in the RWA are not prepared to do it, regardless of their good intentions. I hope that whatever comes next will be better.

Update January 6th, 2020: Considering all the events that have unfolded since I first posted this, I’ve made some edits to present everything as a timeline in list format. Where possible, I have made corrections and additions. I have tried to place everything as accurately as possible.

It’s interesting to watch a major organization collapse in real time. I’m not involved, thankfully, but seeing the fall of the Romance Writers of America has been something. Whether it truly does cease to be still remains to be seen—a lot of its members are not on social media, and probably have no idea what’s going on—but for the online writing community, it seems the RWA will come to an end, going the way of all dinosaurs.

But to those authors on Twitter who are aghast—AGHAST, I tell you—that there could racism and bigotry in the RWA, I have to ask: why is this news to you? Courtney Milan has been fighting for marginalized romance authors in the RWA for quite some time. What exactly do you think she’s been fighting against?

But I digress.

Here are the facts, as best I can compile them, as they unfolded. Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply bear witness.

The Timeline

October 14th, 2018:

  • President HelenKay Dimon asks Courtney Milan to become the Chair of the RWA Ethics Committee. The RWA Board approves her appointment in the November 11th meeting. During her time as Chair, Milan oversees one ethics complaint. (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 13/14)

June 14th, 2019:

  • Allison Kelley, Executive Director of the RWA, sends a memo to President HelenKay Dimon and President-Elect Carolyn Jewel, expressing the following (bold is mine; source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 7):

“RWA has problems because it now has multiple policies that govern behavior… Members are likely not aware of all of them, and the policies themselves are not consistent…. Complaints are increasing, and usually allege discrimination based on racism. The board has charged staff with reviewing complaints to determine if they should be escalated to the Ethics Committee.

July (exact date unknown)

  • The RWA Board meeting occurs. Events as follows (bold is mine; source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 7/8):

    • The Board adopts a motion from HelenKay Dimon to amend numerous provisions in the member Code of Ethics, including revising the prohibition on “engaging in conduct with the intent of harming a member’s career, reputation, or wellbeing” to exclude “non-RWA operated social media posts,” rather than all social media posts.

    • The Board votes to add a provision prohibiting a “violation of the anti-discrimination policy as set out in Section 6.1” of the Board Policy Manual. That provision, which had not previously been incorporated into the Code of Ethics and thus had been outside the jurisdiction of the Ethics Committee, provides in part that “In order to create a safe and respectful environment, invidious discrimination is prohibited in RWA.” The term “invidious discrimination” is not defined. Allison Kelley has since stated that she “never had a clear understanding from the Board as to what would constitute invidious discrimination.”

  • Courtney Milan is awarded a Service Medal by the RWA for her work on inclusion and diversity in the organization. (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 13)

August 7th:

Well, I saw that someone who’s been YEARS in the publishing (not writing) business liked a highly problematic tweet and when I checked if that was an accident, their timeline was full of likes of hateful, racist tweets. Sorry, but blocked.

August 16th:

  • HelenKay Dimon shares her thoughts on RWA’s Code of Ethics approach to member social media posts with Carolyn Jewel (incoming President), Damon Suede (incoming President-Elect), Allison Kelley (retiring Executive Director), and Carol Ritter (incoming Executive Director). (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 14/15)

I just wanted to bring up a few things because, while I hate when our members misbehave on social media and I get that other members see it and it causes a problem, I’m concerned about what the parameters would look like if the social media exception is taken off…. [M]embers have differing levels of tolerance on what is ok and not okay….

Most importantly, we need some sort of standard for the ethics committee to apply to make their determinations – is it one instance, is it subjective, is it what an ordinary person would fine discriminatory, etc. There isn’t any guidance right now and I see the potential for this issue to blow up and be very messy because everyone comes at this from a very personal place, and we now have different ethics panel[s], which means no two cases should get the same people. The potential for accidental unequal application of the ethics rules seems pretty big.

  • Courtney Milan tweets about Sue Grimshaw’s activities as the romance buyer for Borders in relation to the news that Grimshaw liked tweets that are considered racist, anti-immigrant, and supporting Trump. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 15) Milan says:

[Sue Grimshaw had] the ability to break [someone’s career] by not buying the book at all. We don’t know. We don’t KNOW. But for decades, Black romance authors heard there was no market for their work. But we heard that in a time period when one of the major bookstores was being headed by a person where we now have serious doubts as to whether they could review their work. If you were not in Borders, you would not have a career.

Milan is not alone in criticizing Grimshaw and raising questions regarding bias while she worked for Borders.

August 17th:

August 19th:

  • Allison Kelley responds to HelenKay Dimon regarding the social media exemption (bold is mine, source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 15-18)

I don’t know if you heard, but apparently Courtney attacked Sue Grimshaw on Twitter this weekend, and Sue lost her job…. Courtney also alluded to the fact that RWA might take action against Sue. I am posting this update to HK’s thread because it may make a difference as to how the board will move forward or not.

[Tweet from Milan] “Hey, here’s one tiny place to start: Sue Grimshaw is (I believe) an RWA member as an industry professional. There is a Code of Ethics for industry professionals that includes a nondiscrimination clause.”

Sue is not a member. That non-discrimination clause was recently added, so it wouldn’t apply to past actions by an industry professional. Sue is no longer acquiring. How does this help RWA or its members? I seriously don’t know.

The email chain continues with discussions among the participants, as follows (I’m removing some parts for brevity):

Carolyn Jewel:

So disclosure: some days prior to Courtney naming names I subtweeted that I had found Sue’s liked tweets and was horrified and blocked the account. I did not name her except in private DMs to people who asked. … There were a lot of people discussing this. I’m only saying what I know and said not taking a position. Sue’s account prior to her sanitizing it supported anti-Semitic, racist tweets.

Damon Suede:

… I see this as the big problem with RWA wading into the social media police role. It SHOULD be something we can enforce with all our member[s]: basic tolerance unbiased professional behavior, but historically we have no (or deeply problematic) precedents.

Ultimately (though I suspect the lawyers will be more cautious) I’d bet Courtney and Co. can make a pretty watertight case against Grimshaw [for] problematic discriminatory behavior in public with ugly receipts and zero self-awareness. BUT [Grimshaw and others] are the most likely to pipe up with, “Members were mean to me on Twitter and I wasn’t marching in Klan robes so all of this is hearsay.” How do we navigate that honestly and properly? What I’m imagining is sort of a Kaiju conflict playing out symbolically via our evolving CoE: on one side “FREE SPEECH” from the apparent racists and on the other “OBVIOUS BIAS” from the outraged folks who know what our bylaws say about discrimination. It’s a legitimate conflict: RWA must advance the careers of professional romance authors fairly but ALSO will not tolerate discrimination by its members. Core question: how much is RWA implicated in racist behavior by industry professionals? How far can/do/should we go?

Allison Kelley:

Damon, I think the last question you posted should be discussed with the attorney because I honestly believe there are antitrust implications if RWA denies membership. I am honestly not trying to sway things one way or another. I do worry about the staff and committee members having to spend significant amounts of time dealing with complaints. Members have options. They can stay or go.

Carolyn Jewel:

I feel that RWA can’t and should not police like that. What we can do is have a process for members to lodge a complaint against other members. Sue is entitled to her beliefs. But she cannot, within the bounds of her RWA membership (if she had one) act in a discriminatory, harassing etc. way to another member at an RWA event.

Allison Kelley

… My concern is the implication that RWA can or should do something to Sue. We can bar her from future conferences if she did, in fact, deny to work with someone based on [RWA’s code of conduct for industry members]. IMO, if complainants can supply proof of the reasons any industry professional denies someone an opportunity based on the author’s race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, or religion, they should be barred from participating in RWA but some members are now expecting RWA to take immediate action to discipline members and industry professionals without proof or due process. I don’t think it should be RWA’s job to do extensive research in order to determine motive, nor should RWA assume motive.

August 24th:

  • Suzan Tisdale posts a video in support of Sue Grimshaw and her choice to keep her on as an editor at her company, Glenfinnan Publishing. The video is roundly criticized by the Twitter community at large. Courtney Milan says the following:

Why is @SuzanTisdale gaslighting us? … Nobody is saying [Sue Grimshaw]’s a skinhead or a member of the KKK. They’re saying that she was a gatekeeper who may have kept marginalized people out of stores and publishing deals. And if your video says that Sue is no more a racist than you, you sound EXTREMELY racist. Nobody wants anyone to hate anyone, but like if someone used institutional power to discriminate on the basis of race, I don’t think they should continue to have institutional power. And if your institution insists on giving that person institutional power, I hope your institution fails. And like, if your line of acceptability is “calling for the annihilation of a group of people” but you don’t have an issue with systemically excluding a race of people from bookstores and publishing contracts? Then you are DEFINITELY a racist. And like, @SuzanTisdale is entitled to be a racist and to run her publishing house as a racist, but you know, we’re entitled to just not read or review her books because I hate racist books.

August 25th:

  • A book written by Glenfinnan’s other editor, Kathryn Lynn Davis, is brought to Courtney Milan’s attention. She describes this book, Somewhere Lies The Moon, as a racist mess, and heavily criticizes its portrayal of half-Chinese women. (Note that Milan is half-Chinese.)

August 26th:

  • Sue Grimshaw emails Carol Ritter (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 19-20):

I need your advice about a situation that’s been brewing over the last few weeks. There’s a group of authors that seem to have an agenda. It started earlier in the year, as you may know, with a few New York Times bestselling authors accused of being racist and now the accusations are being flung on me…. A small group of authors got very loud on Twitter deciding that I was not open minded enough to acquire for [my employer’s publishing] company. Their ridiculous claims and rationale ended up costing me my position at [the] company. I was very disappointed to have lost the job, but what is affecting me more is the hurtful lies this group of ladies are spewing. The comments they are making are so far from the truth it’s defaming, and now they are even becoming more vile…. [T]heir lies and hateful talk is affecting another publishing house I’m working with, and have been working with since June (Glenfinnan Publishing, Suzan Tisdale). The author spearheading the hate toward myself and Suzan’s company is Courtney Milan, along with a handful of her followers…. Please share your thoughts and suggestions, I’m not sure what I can do at this point….

Note that Sue Grimshaw is not a member of the RWA; no further action was taken by her.

August 27th:

  • Carol Ritter shares Sue Grimshaw’s email with Allison Kelley. The email is also forwarded on to RWA legal counsel. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 20)

  • Suzan Tisdale calls the RWA office asking about options to seek redress for the social media comments criticizing her and Glenfinnan Publishing. Allison Kelley and Carol Ritter inform her that the RWA cannot take action outside of the ethics complaint process and direct her to the member Code of Ethics. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 20)

  • Kathryn Lynn Davis calls the RWA office; Allison Kelley and Carol Ritter have a similar conversation with her. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 20)

  • HelenKay Dimon emails Carolyn Jewel, whose term as RWA President is due to start in five days, regarding complaints against Courtney Milan; she copies Allison Kelley and Carol Ritter (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 20-21):

Because we are not capable of having a quiet week in RWA, we have this issue… Courtney is chair of Ethics Comm. She has been on twitter complaining about Sue Grimshaw and talking about how members should complain about her, etc. I’m paraphrasing, but the point is we’ve had complaints. In general, complaints about not liking Courtney generally don’t sway me, but I think we have a problem here.

In social media policy we say: “… RWA Directors, chapter officers, committee members and task force members should understand that by virtue of their leadership positions, their communications might be perceived by third parties as being made on behalf of RWA. While RWA embraces freedom of communication, that freedom must be balanced against one’s duties to RWA.”

As Ethics Chair I do think we have a potential perception problem and an issue with this Courtney speaking on ethics related issues in this way. I think we need to write to her, advise her of this section and spell [out] the concerns. The problem, of course, is timing. Whatever happens – if Courtney wants to apologize or step down or whatever – will likely fall under your presidency. Do you have a preference or thoughts on how to proceed? I don’t want to launch a grenade and then have it explode on you during the first few days of being president and you get stuck handling it all, but oversight likely requires we do something. Should you handle, should we do it together…thoughts?

Allison Kelley responds:

FYI, the complaints continue and authors are alleging defamation and injury to their careers.

The email exchange continues. Carolyn Jewel suggests notifying Ms. Milan that RWA is “worried that the current discussions about the Sue G matter, which has spiraled to at least one other author, are running afoul of” the policy on use of social media by committee members. Carol Ritter emailed the group to alert them that she and Allison Kelley “are on the phone” with RWA’s corporate counsel, and that he “thinks RWA is at risk b/c Courtney has an official capacity with RWA.”

  • Suzan Tisdale files an ethics complaint against Courtney Milan on the basis of her criticism of Tisdale on Twitter for keeping Sue Grimshaw on staff at her publishing company as an editor in spite of Grimshaw’s history of being racist, anti-immigrant, and a Trump supporter. Tisdale asserts, with no supporting documentation, that several authors refuse to work with her publishing company because they fear a backlash from Milan. Tisdale further asserts that Milan helped to put an exclusion into the Ethics Policy for social media posts in order to bully others with impunity on Twitter. (Note that his exclusion was added by HelenKay Dimon, as per the July Board meeting.)

August 28th:

  • Dimon, Jewel, Kelley and Ritter continue their discussion. RWA legal counsel says the following over email (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 21):

I don’t think you are going to have any choice but to proceed with the ethics complaint against [Ms. Milan]… Here, a temporary chair of the Ethics Committee will need to be appointed as Courtney will need to recuse herself from the Committee’s proceedings (if she doesn’t resign as chair first).

The RWA does not engage in any further discussion regarding the ethics complaint against Courtney Milan until December 26th.

August 29th:

  • Milan is asked to resign (not recuse herself) as chairperson of the Ethics Committee by outgoing RWA president HelenKay Dimon.

August 30th:

  • Allison Kelley recuses herself, stating the following (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 21-22):

I respectfully ask to recuse myself from this particular complaint. I will send the letter to notify Courtney, but after that, with your permission, Carol will work with the review panel. After defending Courtney’s right to free speech to members for at least four years, I have reached my limit. I honestly and sincerely appreciate that Courtney opened my eyes to problems I was blind to, but I simply cannot defend her tactics.

Allison Kelley played no further role in handling the complaints. (She was involved in identifying possible candidates for the Ethics Committee pool.)

August 31st:

  • Courtney Milan responds to HelenKay Dimon and Carolyn Jewel (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 23):

I hereby officially disagree with those claims for the record. … For Carolyn: Now that I have had a chance to review this complaint and think about it in depth, we are going to have to talk at some point about the fact that staff did not follow their usual procedure for Ethics complaints in this case—a thing that I am personally aware of, since I have had discussions with Allison about usual procedure, which I suspect very few other people have.

I can only guess at the reasons, and while I’m sure that the thinking was that this was in the institution’s best interest and not anything personal to me, I am also not okay with the fact that I have not been given the same procedure as others.

Usual procedure in this case refers to the staff practice of vetting ethics complaints; as Milan had made the criticism on her own social media accounts, it falls under the Code of Ethics exemption for non-RWA social media, and the complaint should not have been forwarded to the Board as a result.

September 1st:

  • HelenKay Dimon’s term as President ends. Carolyn Jewel becomes President. Damon Suede becomes President-Elect.

  • Carolyn Jewel identifies a replacement chairperson for the Ethics Committee who agrees to serve out the remainder of Courtney Milan’s term. She notifies Allison Kelley. Jewel also decides to constitute an entirely new Ethics Committee panel and to establish a firewall between it and the existing Ethics Committee. In a phone call with Carol Ritter, Jewel raises two concerns (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 24):

    • She does not want to ask current Ethics Committee members who had served on the Committee under Ms. Milan’s leadership to consider ruling against their former Chair

    • Even if current Ethics Committee members felt they could review the complaints fairly, there would be the appearance of a conflict of interest that might lead the complainants to perceive that their complaints had not been fairly reviewed.

September 4th:

  • Courtney Milan submits a response to the complaint from Suzan Tisdale. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 24)

September 10th:

  • The Board appoints an interim Ethics Committee Chair in Executive Session by phone call. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 24)

September 11th:

  • Kathryn Lynn Davis files an ethics complaint against Courtney Milan on the basis of her criticism of Somewhere Lies The Moon. Davis asserts, with no supporting documentation, that she lost a three-book deal because the publishing company feared a backlash from Milan. Davis also accuses Milan of violating her intellectual property rights, as she posted screenshots from Davis’ book for commentary, and violating the RWA social media policy.

    (Note that as per US copyright law, posting excerpts of a work for the purposes of criticism and analysis is considered fair use.)

  • Courtney Milan submits a response to the complaint from Kathryn Lynn Davis. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 24)

September 13th:

  • The interim Ethics Committee Chair decides not to serve, citing their fear that the Board may reveal their identity and they would be subject to a backlash that could damage their career. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 24)

September 25th:

  • Carol Ritter sends a list of potential new candidates for the Ethics Committee, chosen by her and Allison Kelley, to Carolyn Jewel. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 25)

October 1st:

  • The RWA emails membership calling for volunteers to join the Ethics Committee. Email transcript excerpt as follows, courtesy of She Read, He Said:

Committee Volunteers Needed! RWA is looking for volunteers for our Policy Advisory and Ethics Committees. Read on to find out about the important work these two committees perform. Committee members will be selected soon, so if you would like to volunteer for either, please fill out the volunteer form by October 11. Questions? Contact


Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee is tasked with reviewing, investigating, and providing recommendations to the Board for complaints filed pursuant to the Code of Ethics, and handling any election challenges. Note that this committee does not review complaints against Industry Professionals.

General members, Honorary members, and Lifetime Achievement Award winners are eligible to serve on this committee. Ideal candidates are individuals who can review complaints fairly, by keeping an open mind during the review process in order to make decisions based on established policies and the facts related to each complaint.

Members of the Ethics Committee are appointed by the Board to serve a two-year term, and the committee is required to have a minimum of 10 members at all times. Complaints received by RWA are reviewed by a panel usually consisting of 5 individuals selected from the pool of committee members. Our current goal is to add 8 to 10 members to the existing committee so that RWA will always have a full contingent of qualified members to serve. Due to the sensitive nature of all complaints, committee members are required to sign confidentiality agreements. Identities of committee members are known only by the board, RWA’s staff, and other members of the Ethics Committee.

October 5th:

  • At the RWA Board meeting in San Francisco, the members present amend RWA Policy relating to the Ethics Committee as follows (underlines indicate additions, strike-throughs indicate deletions); documentation again courtesy of She Read, He Said: The President-Elect in consultation with the ED shall select and present a candidate for chairperson for approval by the Board at the FirstFourth Quarter meeting every other year. The chairperson shall serve a two-year term. The candidate should be a former member of the Board. In the event, after reasonable efforts have been exhausted, the President cannot find a candidate who was a former Board member then the President may coose a candidate with RWA Ethics Committee experience. The President-Elect in consultation with the ED and chairperson candidate shall select and present to the Board for approval a slate of candidates for membership on the
committee and appointment to a two-year term, which can be extended at the Board’s recommendation. The committee shall consist of no less than ten (10) members. Those members will then make up the Ethics Committee pool and in each action before the committee during its term the chairperson, in consultation with the President and PresidentElect, will choose the members from the pool to hear a particular action, taking into consideration committee member expertise for the action and whether the committee
member has been used in another action during that term. The committee members shall be chosen using the requirements set out in Sections 10.5.2. through 10.5.5. below. In the event a Chairperson resigns, is not performing the duties of the office, has a conflict of interest, or is unfit to serve, the President shall appoint an interim chairperson to serve the remainder of the term.

  • At the same Board meeting, the Board approves a motion by then-President Carolyn Jewel to “create a Task Force to present the Board with a report of recommended updates to the Policy & Procedure Manual sections, including but not limited to, accountability of members and chapters to ensure the P&PM is internally consistent, and in line with the recommendations of RWA’s legal counsel.” Ms. Jewel appoints Ms. Dimon, the previous President, to chair the Task Force. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 8)

  • At the same Board meeting, the Board approves a slate of new Ethics Committee members, and a new Ethics Committee chair, in Executive Session. The Board is not told that the expanded pool was for the purposes of establishing a new Ethics Committee panel, nor that ethics complaints have been filed against Courtney Milan. Carolyn Jewel makes the decision to hold back this information. The new Ethics Committee Chair did not choose those who would become part of the panel handling these complaints; she was told of them when she was informed of her appointment. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 25, bold is mine)

October 7th:

  • Carolyn Jewel emails the new Ethics Committee Chair, informing her of the following (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 25):

Our plan is to have two forums – one will be the existing forum and its current members and another consisting of the new members. I feel it’s important to maintain a firewall between committee members who were working under the previous chair and the new members.

October 9th:

  • Carolyn Jewel further clarifies to the new Ethics Committee Chair (source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 25):

“…on the chance that the original committee members have an issue with the subject of the pending complaints we wanted to keep the new members separate. We didn’t want unintentional comments or remarks by the former group regarding that subject to affect or influence the new members.

October 9th – October 21st, exact date unknown:

  • The RWA staff establishes a private loop for discussion and file-sharing related to the complaints against Courtney Milan. The loop is a forum where only specified members have access. The loop is limited to the Ethics Committee panel, the staff liaison (Carol Ritter) and the President (Carolyn Jewel). The panel are all required to sign the Combined Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest Form. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 25)

October 22nd:

  • In light of her involvement (the tweet from August 7th), Carolyn Jewel recuses herself from any further activities to do with the ethics complaints against Courtney Milan. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 26; bold is mine) She states the following:

I spoke about this with Carol and we agreed that we do not want even the appearance of a Board Member/President having a preconceived opinion or any degree of conflict when it comes time to vote. Nor do we want there to be any question about the fairness of the conduct of the matter or its conclusion, whatever that might be.

Damon Suede replaces her in the private loop. Suede was not aware that formal ethics complaints had been filed against Courtney Milan prior to this.

November 1st:

  • The Ethics Committee panel engage in some level of discussion surrounding the complaints prior to their scheduled meeting on November 19th. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 26-27; bold is mine) The Chair asks the following:

Are we all satisfied with the information that has been provided, or do we wish to have additional documentation? Is there anything we already have that needs clarification?

One member responds:

In terms of info, I would like to know if everyone who can view this committee’s posts is required to sign the confidentiality agreement we received. In other words, can other board members review the posts, or members of the staff, and if so do they first have to sign the agreement?

As for information regarding this complaint, I believe I have what I need already, and do not need more. It seems to me that considering the board did exclude social media – for whatever reason – in doing so they pretty much gutted that provision of the ethics policy that has to do with harming another member’s business, career, etc. I’m not sure why we even have that clause now.

Carol Ritter and Damon Suede sign separate confidentiality agreements similar to that signed by the Ethics Committee panel.

November 2nd:

  • Carol Ritter responds to the member (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 27):

I can confirm that every member of this committee has signed the combined confidentiality and conflict of interest form. I am the staff liaison and Damon Suede is the board liaison. We have both signed the confidentiality and conflict of interest form for RWA staff and board liaisons. We are the only two people outside the committee that are allowed access to this forum. Our role on the forum is to respond to questions or assist in gathering additional information when requested. Our role is not to participate in the discussion or be involved in the decisions made by the committee.

November 8th:

  • Carol Ritter provides the Ethics Committee report template to the panel. She also states (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 27):

[the] ethics report template … should help. The committee should decide in favor or not and if need[ed] (based on decision) should also make a recommendation.

November 19th:

  • The Ethics Committee panel has a conference call to discuss the complaint. As follows (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 27-32; bold is mine)

    • Damon Suede and Carol Ritter are present.

    • The discussion begins with a review of confidentiality expectations. Some Committee members express concerns about the danger of online vilification if anything leaked.

    • The Committee reviews no evidence other than the documents in the Tisdale and Davis complaints, Courtney Milan’s responses, and the supporting exhibits, which they discuss in light of the policy violations that each complainant had asserted.

    • The Committee find in favor of Ms. Milan on all alleged violations but one: the prohibition on “Repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.” The Committee interpret that provision as incorporating the RWA’s statement of its “General Policy” in Section 6.1 of the Policy Manual: “In order to create a safe and respectful environment, invidious discrimination is prohibited in RWA.”

    • The Committee focus on the definition of “invidious discrimination.” One member looks up the online definition of the phrase. The panel defines it as follows: “By word or deed likely to arouse, inflame, or incur resentment or anger in others; tending to cause discontent, animosity, envy; words that created an unjust comparison or were unfairly discriminating.” (Note that this appears to come from partly from the definition of the word invidious, and not specifically invidious discrimination, which has an actual legal definition.)

    • The Committee concludes that it could consider Milan’s social media posts with respect to the “conduct injurious to the RWA” provision, because the exclusion of social media related only to the Code provision prohibiting member-to-member harassment or intimidating conduct.

    • The Committee does not engage in discussion of whether Ms. Milan’s social media posts were racially motivated or otherwise discriminatory.

    • The Committee focus on the attack itself and the specific language that Courtney Milan used, including the use of swear words. The Ethics Chair says that, if Milan had more calmly and in less “incendiary” fashion expressed her opinion that certain conduct or a novel was racist, that would likely have resulted in a different decision by the Committee: “I think that probably would have cast it very differently, the language itself was so incendiary, it was so problematic, so horrible. It was considered a very horrific thing to go after another member of RWA’s publishing house, and the reputation of RWA would suffer probably as much as anything else.”

    • The Committee does not regard the tone of Ms. Milan’s comments as “safe and respectful” for a community of writers.

    • One member of the Committee states the view that this kind of intentional online hostility undermined RWA’s best efforts with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

    • The Committee does not give particular weight to the alleged loss of a book contract.

    • The Committee’s shared view is that Courtney Milan’s methods, rhetoric, and apparent intentional targeting of other RWA members with “incendiary” language injured the interests of the RWA as an organization and damaged the kind of community that RWA aims to be.

    • It finds against Milan on the point of conduct injurious to the RWA.

    • One Committee member proposes a lifetime revocation of membership, but that suggestion was quickly rejected.

    • The Committee recommends a censure of Courtney Milan, a one-year suspension of membership, and a lifetime ban on holding leadership positions within the RWA.

December 11th:

  • The Ethics Committee Report is finalized and delivered to the Board. The Ethics Chair uses the template provided to her by Carol Ritter. No documentation or exhibits are included with the report. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 32)

  • Carolyn Jewel posts in the Executive Session RWA Board loop that a Board meeting had been set to review the report. She further says (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 34; bold is mine):

The Board’s duty is to consider the report and either accept or reject the findings. The committee considered extensive documentation and engaged in hours of discussion prior to producing this report. The Board should not relitigate, change, or modify the conclusions the committee reached.

…I have recused myself from discussion of this matter, and Damon was added to the forum to manage and oversee the matter… Damon will direct the discussion, but I will be assisting in keeping the discussion on track and from diving into weeds.

December 17th:

  • The Report is presented to the RWA Board and discussed. Discussion as follows (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 35-38; bold is mine)

    • Carol Ritter also attends the conference call.

    • Carolyn Jewel reiterates that she is recused but does not give the reason for her recusal.

    • Board members ask repeatedly for more specifics from the Ethics Committee discussion and specifics from the evidence.

    • Board members press Damon Suede for more information, as he had observed the Committee’s deliberations. Suede states that he and Carol Ritter had signed confidentiality agreements with the Ethics Committee, so he did not feel comfortable answering questions about evidence that was not described in the Report.

    • Suede states that the Committee had taken hours in their deliberation and assures the Board that the Committee had gone line by line, sometimes word by word, through the complaints and the Code.

    • Board members express frustration that as “jurors” they are not being allowed to see the case unfold fully in real time, to review the evidence themselves. Several Directors ask why confidentiality was so important: if they had the report, why could they not review all the materials the Ethics Committee panel had seen? One Board member asks whether the Board was expected to “rubber stamp” the findings.

    • Carol Ritter cites to the Policy Manual and states that the Board’s job was to accept or reject the Report, and if it was accepted to then decide on appropriate punishment.

    • Several Board members point out that for previous ethics complaints, the Board indeed received excerpts of the referenced conduct along with the Ethics Committee report.

    • Suede says that in this case, it would be impossible to cherry-pick such screenshots, and besides it was unnecessary to do so.

    • At some point during the meeting, Suede describes the evidence as both “overwhelming” – with “reams and reams” of documents – and “egregious.”

    • Suede states his confidence that the Committee had reached the correct conclusions.

    • One Board member asks why the findings acknowledged the social media carve-out, but still sanctioned Ms. Milan; if her tweets were not the primary focus, how did the Committee come to any conclusions at all?

    • Damon Suede states that the decision had involved more than tweets seen publicly. He checks with Ritter about what he could say, and she suggests he keep the explanation general.

    • As some point during the meeting, Suede stated that Ms. Milan’s behavior was analogous to a boss repeatedly “whipping his ***** out.”

    • Suede states the Committee had found that Ms. Milan’s behavior could not be acceptable from any member because it went against RWA’s mission, which includes advocacy for all romance writers. He also states that Ms. Milan had made RWA an unsafe space for members with the hostility of her attacks.

    • Two Board members say that the violation was not clear at all. Mr. Suede reads aloud from the Report and states that it seemed perfectly clear to him, that the Report spoke for itself. Several Board members express that it also seemed straightforward to them, because the Committee had found that Ms. Milan engaged in invidious discrimination.

    • Suede says that there was “extensive evidence” that Ms. Milan’s conduct was “very bad.” Other directors again ask for corroborative detail to help them make sense of the report.

    • Carolyn Jewel states that, if the Board trusted the panel to do their job, then it had to consider the report as it stands and respond with any appropriate sanctions if necessary. The dissenting members say they trusted the panel, but they need to know why and how they had made each decision. Jewel says that doing so was by definition not trusting the Committee. One Board member says that the Board itself had voted in every member of the Ethics Committee and should trust the Committee to have done its work.

    • Suede states that no recent board had ever rejected an Ethics Committee’s findings.

    • Carol Ritter says that, while the Board could send the report back to the Ethics Committee if they felt it was invalid or incomplete, the Ethics Committee could only reexamine the complaints, and that the report could not be sent back with an expectation of a different finding.

    • One member asks what would happen if, when the Ethics Committee report was returned, they reached the “same result.” Damon Suede suggests that the Ethics Committee would not provide the Board the full complaints if the Board sent the matter back to the Ethics Committee.

    • Suede reminds the Board that they could also vote “no” if they didn’t accept the Committee’s report, and he tells the Board members to vote their conscience. (Several Board members nonetheless report to the independent audit team that they felt pressured not to take the approach of returning the report to the Ethics Committee, based on the tone of the responses to their questions.)

    • A Board member asks if RWA’s attorney had been contacted about this and, if so, what the attorney had said. Ritter says that yes, RWA’s attorney was aware of the complaints. She further says the attorney had been concerned about Ms. Milan’s actions and recommended that “action should be taken,” and that RWA faced potential litigation because of how it looked for Ms. Milan to have engaged in this conduct while Chair of the Ethics Committee.

    • As per his interview with the independent audit team, Damon Suede states the following:

I explained that the ethics panel had reviewed material that wasn’t visible online, and that private communication had played a factor. [One Board member] asked again if this evidence involved discussion that wasn’t held in public on social media. I confirmed that was so. I also pointed out that the panel had expressed repeatedly a strong hope that the Board would deal with the social media loophole because that exception in the harassment policy had left their hands tied; [the Committee] stated plainly multiple times that Milan’s behavior was so abusive and egregious that any professional organization should have policy in place to protect members, especially from its leaders. I pointed the directors to that explicit concern in the report. I spoke in generality about the discussion and the panel’s concerns about a “hostile workplace.” [Board members] asked me to explain the logic of the ruling and I compared it to coming into an office where you are threatened, harassed, and attacked every day by people in authority.

  • The Board motions to accept the report’s findings. (10-5 for, with one abstention.) Several Board members who voted in favor of a finding against Couryney Milan later say that they were uncomfortable with the lack of evidence but felt pressured to “trust” the Committee. They say that they relied on the characterization of Ms. Milan’s conduct as egregious, and on Damon Suede’s statement that the finding of violation included conduct outside of social media. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 38)

  • Carolyn Jewel later states that her impression had been that the Ethics Committee considered not just social media tweets but also direct messages and emails, and that somehow those direct messages had caused the complainants to lose contracts – although she acknowledged that nothing in the Ethics Committee report said that, and that Suede did not describe the content of the direct messages. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 41)

  • The Board discusses the imposed penalties. As follows (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 38):

    • Carol Ritter reads from the policy manual about censures, suspensions, and bans.

    • Damon Suede states his view that if the Board did not censure Milan, there would be no way for the RWA to explain clearly to the membership what she had done or why she had been found culpable.

    • The majority of Board members disagreed, saying that ethics complaints were never made public, and so by not censuring Milan the Board was giving her a graceful way to avoid conflict.

  • The Board votes to impose the penalties of a one-year suspension of membership, and a lifetime ban on holding any RWA leadership positions. (12-2 for, with two abstentions.) (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 38)

December 18th:

  • One Board member posts in the Executive Session loop and asks the following (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 38-40; bold is mine):

I’d like to ask that we have a discussion regarding information that should be included in committee reports – specifically, those that require Board approval and action that could have legal ramifications or dire consequences – and if we need to consider adding language about this in the P&PM. After the lengthy meeting last night, it appears evident that a nebulous report makes it extremely difficult for board members to do their jobs or carry out their fiduciary duty without reservation.

Various board members respond with their similar concerns.

Last night’s meeting was uncomfortable on several fronts, but mostly because it felt as if I had to make an extremely important decision with insufficient facts. We’ve had several Ethics Reports brought before us during my board tenure but none were as nebulous … as this one.

I believe the report should be presented in such a way that the Board can vote without as many questions (about the content of the report, etc.) as voiced. Also, I admit that my decision needed the clarifications/[anec]dotes provided by those in attendance at the Committee’s meeting on this issue.

[I was] exceedingly uncomfortable last night because I was asked to make an important decision – when I had only the most surface level idea of what I was making a decision about.

…I think a summary of facts – that doesn’t have to be exhaustive – that would *not* have been questioned or relitigated – would have gone a long way to helping us understand what we’re making a decision about… If we’re not allowed to ask questions, or to understand what is going on, then what is the point of board approval? … I voted yes last night because I suspected that even if we sent the report for clarification by the ethics committee, we would reach the same conclusion. I do trust the ethics committee, and I didn’t want to waste their time or the board’s time. At the same time, I am exceedingly uncomfortable.

Carolyn Jewel responds and closes the discussion.

I feel this discussion may be premature. The P&PM committee is supposed to be rewriting the Ethics section (among other things) with the assistance of our attorney. If we have a March motion to amend that section, this discussion could be entirely mooted by those changes.

December 23rd:

  • Carol Ritter (RWA Executive Director) emails the findings of the Board to Courtney Milan, Suzan Tisdale, and Kathryn Lynn Davis, attaching the Ethics Committee report and the minutes of the Board’s decision. She informs Milan of her right to appeal the decision within ten days. Milan responds that she will be requesting a refund of her RWA membership fees. (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 40)

  • Courtney Milan gives the complaint documents, her response, and the Ethics Committee report to Alyssa Cole.

  • Alyssa Cole breaks the news on Twitter that the RWA is censuring Courtney Milan for violations of the RWA Code of Ethics. (I highly recommend reading all the documents posted by Cole, because they’re short and relevant.)

  • Twitter explodes, predictably enough, with universal condemnation. A few hours later, authors who contacted the RWA looking for an explanation got the following letter, which I am transcribing here for accessibility:

Dear Carrie:

Thank you for writing regarding this matter. The complaint that was made public was only the starting point and does not represent the totality of what the Ethics Committee considered. The work of the Ethics Committee is strictly confidential so I cannot comment on what portions of the complaint were found to be relevant to the Ethics Code. The Board and Committee followed procedure outlined in Policy for this matter.

The standard disciplinary process that we follow when a member or members file a code of ethics complaint is outlined in section 6.6.4 of our Policy manual. Members accused of Code of Ethics violations are notified of the complaint and given 30 days to provide a written response. The Ethics Committee then reviews the complaint, the accused’s response, and any evidence provided and conducts a thorough investigation of the matter. Once the investigation is complete, the Ethics Committee files a report with the Board of Directors with their recommendations. The Board then votes to accept or reject the Committee’s recommendation.

I want to assure you that RWA is committed to its DEI efforts and that this specific decision was not made lightly or without due consideration. I came onto the Board at the same time Ms. Milan shone a bright light on the ways RWA had failed authors of color or from marginalized groups, and I will always be grateful to her and to everyone who demands that we do better.

Again, thank you for writing to me.

Carolyn Jewel

RWA President

The interesting point here is that she says what was made public “does not represent the totality of what the Ethics Committee considered.” In the complaint documentation itself, specifically in the Ethics Committee’s report, it says the following:

The committee reviewed all the material provided by both parties and discussed the matter in full and for over two hours in meeting. The determination was that no additional information was needed to arrive at conclusions on each point… The committee made its recommendations based upon the evidence provided in Part A and B of this report,and the consequences of Ms. Milan’s words and actions are applicable to both complaints.

Bold is mine. No explanation has been given of this discrepancy. Other people have noticed this as well. (See below under December 27th; a possible explanation has been found.) (See also below under December 31st; another version of this letter with more information has been reported.)

December 24th:

  • The RWA Board finally has access to the complaint materials, and begin posting on the Board loop with questions. One Board member asks why the full documentation had not been shared with the Board, referencing Policy Manual Section, which calls for all voting Directors reviewing an Ethics Committee report at a meeting that is not held in person to “have copies of all documentation and full access to discussion before voting.” Discussion as follows (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 43, bold is mine EXCLUDING the final bolded sentence, which is from the original):

This is a crisis of epic proportions.

I need to know what other harassment there was outside of what went down on Twitter. I specifically asked this in our meeting last Tuesday and was told that it was “far beyond” social media. Is that true or was the board blatantly lied to?

Damon Suede replies (comments abbreviated by me):

Since Courtney has breached the confidentiality we promised to all the people involved in this complaint, [Ms. Ritter] said that I should feel free to share what I know as long as I maintain the anonymity of the committee itself and its deliberation process…. I was not lying to anyone and I shared as much as I felt I could given the circumstances.

…The committee weighed this so carefully they actually softened the recommendations and tossed out the more egregious section of the complaint: the attacks on social media (because they were hamstrung by the P&PM).

…To be blunt, having a contract terminated because of internet pillory is in the complaint and right there in the public record. Is Courtney trying to claim that no one emailed or spoke to each other as a result? Is anyone online pretending that a job wasn’t terminated or a contract wasn’t canceled?

…The issue here is one of professional safety and the right to do business in Romance. But let’s be clear: No one has said members can’t call out racism in word and deed. This lie is already spreading online, including the DEI forum…. Twitter will always have lots to say when juicy outrage is in the offing, but the truth is…the ethics committee reviewed the evidence and issued a ruling. We accepted their findings and we issued a partially mediated punishment after a lot of discussion. As I reminded y’all several times, voting to NOT accept that report was an option.

The issue is not that she was “mean on Twitter” but that she attacked members in any way possible while working for RWA and then scurried behind the social media figleaf for cover when someone complained. Worse, she did it KNOWING that that rule was in place. Why? Because she voted on it.

Our job is to keep the ship steady and follow our own rules. We did exactly that. Outrage is not a strategy. What we need to do now is have confidence in our process and stance. We have continued to stand against bigotry, but neither are we allowing that to act as a get-out-of-jail-free card to break the rules. Courtney’s positive actions do not negate what she did here.

  • The RWA Board meets in emergency session. As follows (Source: Feb 18th 2020 audit report pg 43);

    • Board members are upset that the general public had more information than the Board did when the voted on the ethics complaints.

    • Board members criticize Damon Suede and ask him to point to the non-social media evidence of a violation by Courtney Milan. Suede states that there was “no smoking gun.”

    • Board members express deep anger and dismay that their votes had exposed them to ridicule and hostility on social media.

    • Board members point to inconsistencies between how the complaint was handled and Policy Manual provisions, and also stated that they would have voted against the finding a violation if they had seen all of the evidence.

    • Several Board members accuse Damon Suede of lobbying them to vote against Courtney Milan. Suede reminds them that he had repeatedly told the Board of its option to vote “no” and to vote their consciences, and Carol Ritter reminds the Board that she had advised them of their option to return the Report to the Ethics Committee if they felt it was inaccurate or incomplete.

    • The Board members maintain that they had been persuaded by Mr. Suede.

    • A motion is presented to rescind the penalties against Courtney Milan, with the rationale as follows:

The board was not allowed to review the full complaint submitted by Suzan Tisdale nor the response from Courtney Milan as factual evidence. The original complaint does not fall within the requirements of a valid Ethics Complaint and should have been rejected and recommendations should have been declined.

At a meeting today that identified a gap between policy and process, RWA’s Board of Directors rescinded its vote accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee report and the consequent penalties against Courtney Milan pending a legal opinion… RWA reiterates its support for diversity, inclusivity and equity and its commitment to provide an open environment for all members.

RWA Twitter Feed

December 25th:

December 26th:

December 27th:

Dear Chapter Leaders,

I’m sorry for the delay in responding. The past few days have been…extreme, and I’ve spent most of that time on the telephone and in meetings trying to get answers and find solutions to keep RWA from further agita. To be candid, voting my conscience and upholding our Bylaws and policies, as well as applicable law and procedures, isn’t a cakewalk right now, but it is the only appropriate course of action.

Regarding the ethics complaint and board deliberations. I was asked to serve as the board liaison to the committee that reviewed the complaints against Ms. Milan. As the liaison, it was my responsibility to deliver the final report to the board and respond to questions. Due to the confidential nature of the complaints I felt that I could only share what I could to clarify the report. I also reminded the entire board at several times that they must vote their conscience.

FORMATION: There was no calculation in the formation of the committee aside from appointing a group to handle complaints credibly and equitably. Because of the high caseload as well as normal turnover, the need to expand the committee had already been discussed. Because alleged violations occurred while Ms. Milan was chair of this Committee, it did not seem appropriate that the people who had served under her should review the complaint themselves due to the potential appearance of a conflict of interest. The board had no part in that selection process of a slate of impartial outsiders who were familiar with policy and fiduciary duties; we merely approved the submitted slate. The committee operates like a jury, and the panel is selected for a case. Every ethics panel is impaneled from appointed members of the Committee as complaints come in. Members of the Committee asked to review specific complaints are required to attest that they have no conflict to serve on a panel, and in consideration of potential additional complaints arising while another matter is under review. The only “control” exercised in any panel selection is to guarantee representation of diverse backgrounds.

RESIGNATIONS: Following the backlash on social media, several board members, including the president, have resigned and issued coordinated statements. Under our Bylaws, the president-elect (me) automatically moves into the office of president, and then I must nominate replacements for those vacancies, such nominees who are then subject to the approval of the existing board members. My only desire in my board service has been to help the organization and advance it and the profession’s interests positively. At every point, I have followed our policy consistently and vigorously, protecting the confidentiality of the parties involved and the members we serve.

CODE: RWA has a single code of ethics. Our code cannot be selectively or inconsistently applied on a situational basis. The complaints filed, the Committee’s review, and the board’s actions must reflect that Scree single standard consistently and equitably. The Committee deliberated carefully and at great length over the service has been to help the organization and advance it and the profession’s interests positively. At every point, I have followed our policy consistently and vigorously, protecting the confidentiality of the parties involved and the members we serve.

CODE RWA has a single code of ethics. Our code cannot be selectively or inconsistently applied on a situational basis. The complaints filed, the Committee’s review, and the board’s actions must reflect that single standard consistently and equitably. The Committee deliberated carefully and at great length over the recent ethics complaints and it made its recommendations to the board, which initially voted to accept them but later voted to reject them. That is where things stand and where they will remain unless a future board decides to revisit the issues.

Again, RWA is fully committed to the confidentiality and integrity of the ethics process at all levels. Please know that the board and RWA staff knows how much stress and uncertainty this situation must inspire at the moment, and for that we am deeply and truly sony. We are speaking with RWA’s attorney today to get further cladfication and advice. I’ll provide updates as I’m able.


In the interest of maintaining transparency within VRW, I want you all to know that I have signed the recall petition. 

VRW continues to be committed to providing quality programming and support for ALL of our members. We will remain a place where all (non-discriminatory) voices will be heard. 

In light of all that is happening, I think that the January 4th State of the Chapter discussion is more important than ever. I hope that as many of you as possible will attend. If you are unable to attend but have questions or statements, you can email me at any time before 8:00 a.m. on January 4 to have your concerns included in the meeting. 

Meanwhile, reach out to your fellow members. Communicate. Remind each other that none of us are alone.

With much love to you all,

Chan Cox Elder
President, Virginia Romance Writers

December 28th:

To the membership of AKRWA:

I would like to issue a statement to the membership of the Alaska Chapter of RWA regarding the ethics complaint against Courtney Milan and national RWA’s responses to that complaint. The AKRWA board held a conference call on December 27th to discuss this developing situation, and have agreed that at this time our best course of action is to continue monitoring the Chapter Leadership Forum and other official channels for further information as the organization works toward a solution. We will share official news about the situation as we receive it, but please keep in mind that addressing the raised issues will take time. Our top priority has been and will continue to be supporting our members regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other class which may make them feel marginalized by the industry. If you would like to review our chapter’s policy and procedure manual, you can find it in our RWA forum files via the link at the end of this letter. Please contact a board member if you have concerns about the manual.

I appreciate the calm and thoughtful discussion that has been happening so far in our private AKRWA Facebook group, and want to commend everyone for refraining from vitriol during this highly tense and emotional time. The board discussed comments shared thus far, including concerns regarding a past comment that made fellow authors feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. We heard your request for board members to speak up regarding such comments and publicly acknowledge they are unacceptable. We as a board will attempt to be more vigilant on future posts. However, I would like to take this opportunity to state that board members are not monitoring Facebook posts, and frequently do not see them for days (or even at all). Given the small and intimate nature of our chapter, we rely on members to self-moderate themselves in a kind and respectful way. In tense situations such as those coming to light over the last several days, many of our members are feeling understandably hurt and vulnerable, but keep in mind that hateful speech only shuts down the discussion and drives people away. Level-headed discussion educates and encourages growth and positive change. If an issue arises in our chapter that is of concern or which you do not feel comfortable responding to in public, please bring it to a board member’s attention and we will work to find a course of action to resolve the situation.

As noted in a Facebook group post, a group of chapter leaders have drafted a letter calling for the resignation of national board members. We are also seeing RWA board, committee, and other members resigning and leaving RWA as a form of protest. The AKRWA board worries these responses may hinder actions that could bring positive, needed change to RWA. We encourage you to give the remaining national board and committee members time to reorganize and respond to this crisis. Please keep in mind that many of our remaining national leadership have been generous with their time and efforts to help other writers, including under-represented authors, advance in the industry as you encounter potentially heated opinions about them and the situation. We will attempt to keep you informed as new information surfaces.

I hope you all agree that our local RWA chapter is a treasure; however, it would not exist without the umbrella of a national organization. Let’s give them a reasonable amount of time to respond to the crisis. As your local board, we are committed to the integrity of the organization, and will be monitoring RWA policies and procedures and the equity with which they are being applied. Thank you for staying positive and strong, for asking hard questions and taking time to consider honest answers, and most of all for being an example of respecting and embracing diversity and inclusivity. Only through your help and support can we enact positive change. Let’s make AKRWA the best, most inclusive chapter in the organization.

Sincerely, Tamsin Ley

AKRWA Chapter President

December 29th:

Statement from HVRWA Leadership and Membership:

It saddens us that we must reiterate what seems obvious but recent events require that this must be emphatically restated:

While we do not believe in condemnation based on social media postings without a fair hearing from both sides, The Hudson Valley Romance Writers stand for diversity and lack of bias in writing, in membership and truly, in all aspects of life. We stand with those who promote diversity and call out bigotry in all forms. We call for transparency in leadership and in process. We also stand against publishers who do not pay their authors for their work and for those who would defend such publishers. We call for the resignation of any and all at RWA National who, by words or action, have violated these values and thereby have lost the faith and support of the membership.

Full disclosure: I (HVRWA President) submitted a manuscript to Glenfiddan Publishing in early November. It was for a novel that was not a romance and included a multicultural group of characters. I never heard back. I pulled that submission today (my first day back in the country after a vacation that started before the RWA debacle was made public.) The public statement above was made with the consensus of our membership and in no way reflects any ill will based on a manuscript’s acceptance, rejection or lack of response.

Dawn M. Barclay
Award-Winning Fiction/Non-Fiction Author
Writing as D.M.Barr
Chapter President HVRWA, Board Member Sisters in Crime-NY, Member MWA

ACTION REQUIRED. Petition to Reran Damon suede from RWA


Thank you for completing the request for a petition to recall Damon Suede from their board position of president of RWA.

Today we learned that there are efforts coordinated by RWA to ultimately invalidate and reject the petition that all of us signed calling for the recall of Damon Suede. While we are not surprised that our current national leadership has resulted to these actions, we are executing due diligence to ensure our voices are heard.

In an effort to ensure that the final submission of the petition is in compliance with all RWA policies and procedures, please complete the following form here or clink this link: (link removed)


C. Chilove – Chapter President

December 30th:

Ms. Davis, who filed one of the complaints, said she was “stunned” by the R.W.A.’s judgment against Ms. Milan and said the penalty “far exceeded the substance of the complaint.” “We asked for an apology. That was what we wanted,” she said.

Note that the request for an apology appears in Suzan Tisdale’s complaint as follows:

If the board does not demand that Ms. Milan immediately cease and desist with this online bullying, with the hateful tweets against me, my company, my authors, and acquisition editors, I will not remain quiet and I will move forward with legal action.

Additionally, I will accept nothing less than a full, public apology from Ms. Milan not only to myself, but to Ms. Grimshaw and Ms. Davis, as well as all the Glenfinnan authors. Authors Ms. Milan and her ilk are referring to as ‘privileged white women’.

Davis says of Milan in the complaint document itself:

She cannot be allowed to hold a position of authority, or to use her voice to urge others to follow her lead.

In an abundance of caution over confusion regarding RWA’s policies and procedures, the complaint against Courtney Milan has been closed and no action is being taken at this time. Ms. Milan remains a member of RWA.

RWA affirms our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are in the process of recruiting and nominating strong, diverse candidates for the vacant Board seats to foster a Board culture rooted in transparency and accountability; all candidates are subject to Board approval.

RWA will authorize a full, complete, and transparent review of the Member Code of Ethics and enforcement procedures. 

RWA is hiring an independent, outside law firm to conduct an audit of the process and these events to provide a clear report of the facts.

We note that this statement does not clarify whether Courtney Milan will be allowed to hold any leadership positions in the future, and also does not specify whether any future action will be taken in relation to the complaints. This statement also implies that Milan had a duty of confidentiality, but she has stated that the RWA confirmed she did not at the time. Further, the statement is problematic on its face and is roundly criticized as an abdication of their responsibility to their marginalized members.

December 31st:

Tisdale, the author of more than 20 romance novels, told the Guardian on Friday she had been furious to have a friends’s book labeled as racist by someone who admitted to not having read the entire thing. She said that it was especially unfair to launch this kind of criticism against a book that had been published decades ago.

At the same time, Tisdale said, she had been shocked by the severity of the punishment RWA initially imposed on Milan.

“I think it was a little harsh, I really, truly do,” Tisdale said. “The ban for a year was too much. All we wanted was an apology.”

Although she did not agree with the RWA’s original response to her complaint, Tisdale said, she also disagreed with the board’s choice to “rescind” its punishment of Milan after widespread criticism on social media.

“I feel like it was giving the wrong message,” she said. “You’re rescinding a decision, not based on new evidence or something you didn’t know about before, you were caving to the climate that is Twitter.”

She herself had left RWA after it rescinded its decision, Tisdale said. She said she had also been asked to leave her local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and had done so.

“My emails, my text, my phone, everything has just exploded,” Tisdale said. “And they all said the same thing: ‘We support you, we don’t agree with what’s happening, but I can’t say anything publicly.’”

Again, we note that Suzan Tisdale herself threatened to take legal action against either the RWA or Courtney Milan if she did not receive a full public apology.

Dear Melissa

Thank you for writing regarding this matter. The complaint that was made public was only the starting point and does not represent the totality of what the Ethics Committee considered. In addition, RWA specifically excludes social media posts from the Ethics Code so, to the extent that the complaint included such claims, they were not considered a violation The work of the Ethics Committee is strictly confidential so I cannot comment on what specific portions of the complaint were found to be relevant to the Ethics Code, but I can say they were not related to Ms Milan speaking out about racism.

This is not to say that racism does not play a role in this matter. It clearly does. The complaint that was made public speaks loudly as to the complainants views and understanding of racism in America today and their own privilege. As a point of clarification, RWA does not draft a complaint or alter the language of what the member submitted.

If it happened that someone filed an Ethics complaint against you for your social media posts, the response would be that by policy such posts cannot be the subject of a complaint. The situation involving Ms Milan went beyond her social media posts and included factors that would not apply to you or your social media posts.

I want to assure you that RWA is committed to its DEI efforts and that this specific decision was not made lightly or without due consideration. I came onto the Board at the same time Ms. Milan shone a bright light on the ways RWA had failed authors of color or from marginalized groups, and I will always be grateful to her and to everyone who demands that we do better.

Again, thank you for writing to me.

Carolyn Jewel

This addition of the letter confirms that the Ethics Committee reviewed additional material beyond the complaint, thus breaking RWA policy, and the judgment of violations of that policy was based on material unrelated to Ms. Milan’s activism. (Again, Courtney Milan has confirmed that she received nothing except for the complaints by Tisdale and Davis.) The additional material referred to here remains unknown.

  • Cecilia London reports a third, abridged version of the December 23rd letter, similar to the first but excluding the second paragraph on procedure. (I will not transcribe this one as it has no new information.)

  • Deborah Blake, Secretary of the Romantic Women’s Fiction RWA Chapter provides a statement (sent directly to me by email):

We also wanted to make it absolutely clear that the Romantic Women’s Fiction chapter is committed to including any and all writers, no matter their race, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. All members will be treated equally, and with courtesy and respect. If anyone has ever had an experience otherwise, we hope that you will contact us and let us know. We are writers and we are here for each other.

  • Eliana West posts a statement on the Writers for Diversity Facebook group (transcript provided for accessibility, provided by Rebel Carter):

Hello Writers,

Since its founding, I have always strived for a level of complete transparency when it comes to everything that involves Writers for Diversity, even indirectly. With that spirit in mind, I want to let everyone know that I have accepted a board position with Romance Writers of America (RWA).

I want to make it clear that Writers for Diversity is not a part of RWA and will continue to operate as a separate organization. Writers for Diversity is not a romance organization — it is open to all writers across all genres.

I am extremely proud of the safe space we have all worked to create and the thoughtful and respectful discourse that takes place within the group. Writers for Diversity sets an example that hopefully inspires other groups within the writing community.

I look forward to our continuing dialogue as we enter the new year and a new decade.

If you have any questions or concerns I am happy to address what I can. Please feel to reach out to me privately. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, this will be my only post regarding the matter within this community.

Thank you,

Eliana West

January 1st 2020:

January 2nd:

At 6pm MST, 19 past presidents and board members, including myself, sent the remaining board a letter detailing questions we have regarding the proceedings leading up to the announcements made on Dec 23rd with regard to the ethics complaint.

At the same time RWA leadership was departing from prior Ethics Committee practice to conclude she violated the anti-discrimination policy, it was striking out the specific safeguards against discrimination in RITA judging that have been codified for the 2020 RITAs.

January 3rd:

January 4th:

She now feels she had been “used” to secure a political outcome that she had never intended.

“They encouraged us. They wanted us very badly to file these complaints,” Davis said.

…She told the Guardian that after the allegations in her original complaint to RWA were quoted in news reports, “the publisher in question is very upset”.

Davis clarified that she did not have and lose a written book contract, but that a publisher had delayed further discussion of a potential contract in the wake of the controversy.

In the complaint, Davis also seemed to imply that the publisher told her they were afraid of being publicly linked with Milan, but in fact the publisher “never said anything” to that effect, Davis said.

The editor was “not happy” with this response, Davis said, but the end of the call was not angry. In a subsequent conversation with the same editor about a week later, “it was offhandedly mentioned that discussion of the [new book] contract would have to wait until spring”, Davis said. The editor did not explicitly state there was any link between Milan’s tweets and the delay in the discussion of the contract, Davis said.

…“I do feel that the Romance Writers of America perhaps used Suzan Tisdale and I to accomplish something they wanted to accomplish and I was stunned when I saw the penalties. I didn’t ever expect that, and I did not want that,” Davis said.

“We were used in order to make the eventual penalties happen,” she said.

…Davis now says that she never wanted Milan to be punished by the RWA. She declined to say who precisely within RWA had encouraged her to file a complaint against Milan, but said it was “the administration at RWA” and that it was “not the membership” and “not the members of the board”.

Commentary on this is extensive and critical, noting (again) that despite Davis’ assertion that she was stunned at the penalties, her and Tisdale’s complaints threatened legal action and stated that Courtney Milan could not be allowed to use her voice to lead others. She is also criticized for tone policing, and being misleading in her complaint that she had lost a book contract.

Newspaper articles about Ms. Davis note that she has since conceded that she had no written contract for the three-book deal. In her interview with Pillsbury, Ms. Davis explained that she had accepted an oral offer for a three-book deal, had discussed and come to agreement on all the terms but one, and was awaiting receipt of the written contract to review. The publisher then told Ms. Davis it was withdrawing the offer because of the accusations of racism against her.

January 5th:

  • Courtney Milan calls for support for the CIMRWA, who spearheaded the original recall petition.

  • The Georgia Romance Writers RWA chapter posts a statement condemning the RWA.

  • Lisa Lin reports that the website of Glenfinnan Publishing, Suzan Tisdale’s company, has been scrubbed of all pages relating to their books, editors, newsletter, and blog.

  • Additional issues are noted with Damon Suede’s eligibility for the position of RWA President-Elect; the position requires that the applicant have published novel or be contracted to publish a novel within the two years preceding filing for office. As Suede’s last release (Lickety-Split) was in March 2017, this requirement should have been fulfilled by Suede contracting with DreamSpinner Press for the release of Prince Charmless in January 2020, and the President at the time (HelenKay Dimon) was told as such by RWA staff. However, as per statements made by Suede’s partner, Geoff Symon, this book does not exist and will not be published by DSP.

  • Courtney Milan notes that even if the recall succeeds, this does not mean that a new President/Board will be elected.

  • Adriana Herrera reports that Damon Suede intends to serve his term as President. RWA staff have hired a crisis management firm in the hope that current events will “just blow over”.

  • Olivia Waite details the process for the recall petition, as follows:

    • The Executive Director certifies the petition within 14 days of receipt, then presents it to the President-Elect (in the case of the President being recalled).

    • If the ED does not certify the petition, it is kept on file for 60 days and then destroyed.

    • The President/President-Elect has 14 days after receipt to call a Board meeting and setup a recall election.

    • The accountant counts the votes, informs the ED, and the ED announces the results to the Board within two days.

  • Romance Sparks Joy posts apparently contradictory statements by Nan Dixon, RWA Treasurer, and Barbara Wallace, RWA Director-at-Large, that were made on the RWA PAN loop; transcript as follows, bold is mine. The statements are roundly criticized.

It is very hard to respond to things that are plainly incorrect. And because of social media – people can spread rumors without having any factual basis.

This is one of those times.

Here are the facts.

* I have received letters from members that all the Board Members should resign. Some have threatened lawsuits. No one on the Board has talked to me about resigning en masse.

* No one on the Board has mentioned or suggested putting RWA into receivership.

* You were the first member to threaten board members with lawsuits if we did resign. You were the first person to mention receivership.

I take my fiduciary duty seriously, but I only react to facts. Please don’t pass on rumors that are not true.

Nan Dixon

“Yes [redacted] – I did say it. That if THE ENTIRE board resigned en masse that I thought receivership was possible. I also explained that I wasn’t a lawyer and not to take that as fact.

I also deleted it (with an explanation ) because after talking with people I realized that it could give a false impression and felt it best removed.

I am doing my best to answer questions as honestly as possible and as openly as possible. I have no desire to mislead anyone. But I do sometimes make mistakes.

Barbara Wallace

Barbara Wallace had originally stated on January 2nd that if the entire RWA Board resigned, the RWA would go into receivership and cease to be.

January 6th:

January 7th:

January 8th:

…my duty of obedience and my duty of loyalty are at odds, and when I can no longer keep my fiduciary duty, it’s time for me to resign.

Questions are raised regarding fiduciary duty, and the reasons why Alward resigned.

  • Barbara Wallace and Renee Ryan, both RWA Board members, also resign.

I have heard from multiple sources that Damon is demanding personal loyalty to him from the remaining board members, as opposed to the organization. I believe new bo mems may not understand their fiduciary duty, and this is a result of that.

January 9th:

Damon has offered his resignation, effective immediately, and the Board has accepted it.  Damon, who has served on the RWA Board of Directors since 2015, as President-Elect from September 2019 through late December 2019, and then as President for the past two weeks, has been a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion issues for his entire life.  We thank Damon for his service and wish him all the best in the future.

…The Board also has accepted the resignation of RWA Executive Director Carol Ritter, who has decided to step down from the role she assumed in November.  Carol, who has been a steady senior member of RWA management for well over a decade, has offered to stay on over the coming months to support a smooth transition to new staff leadership; the Board has accepted this offer.  Carol has been instrumental in keeping the operations of RWA running and we are deeply grateful to her for the commitment and leadership she has brought to our association.  The Board will appoint an interim Executive Director upon Carol’s departure and will form a search committee to identify Carol’s permanent replacement.

January 10th:

January 11th:

January 12th:

  • Information regarding the independent audit is posted by Cate Eland; the scope of the audit is confirmed to be related to the ethics complaints against Courtney Milan alone, and the legal firm retained to conduct it answers to the RWA’s Executive Director, Carol Ritter.

  • The Rose City RWA chapter cancels the Golden Rose Contest in light of recent events.

  • Kelly Maher, one of the chapter presidents who signed the December 26th letter, releases a statement highlighting bigotry in the RWA and the work of the CIMRWA in recent events.

  • Rachel Grant/Tessa Dare posts to the RWA PAN loop raising questions about whether Carol Ritter and Allison Kelley are still receiving a salary, if the unknown second Ethics Committee is still operating, and why Carol Ritter is overseeing an audit that ostensibly covers actions by RWA staff and her personally. Ella Drake reports that the thread was repeatedly pushed into moderation.

January 13th:

  • The story hits CNN.

January 14th:

January 15th:

Davis, in a statement to Jezebel, protested that Milan didn’t read the whole book and her protagonist wasn’t submissive, but rather “strong and determined.” She continued: “You can understand how publicly, loudly, and abrasively levying accusations of racism based on such details taken out of context would cause me deep pain. As a result of these accusations, I have suffered both financially and personally.” Hence she turned to RWA, she said, and was told that her only option was a formal complaint.

…Milan’s efforts and high-profile position made her a lightning rod, the “diversity scapegoat,” as she puts it. In Tisdale’s complaint, she pointed out, “there’s these pages and pages of screenshots from all these people who aren’t me.”

…Allison Kelley also recused herself, and turned the matter over to deputy executive director Carol Ritter. On the last day of Dimon’s tenure, she told me, she referred the issue to incoming president Carolyn Jewel, telling her “that I had concerns with this being an ethics case at all, and that now unfortunately I had to pass it on to her,” because Dimon’s term was over.

…Suede, who rose to prominence in the romance world as an “own voices” author of queer romance, quickly became the focal point of criticism for the board’s decision, given his role as committee liaison and everything that followed once he stepped into the role of president. That’s one of the central ironies of this story—he was widely presumed to be someone who would work for diversity and inclusion. “I considered him an ally, as someone that would advocate for marginalized voices,” said Adriana Herrera.

[Regarding DreamSpinner Press]…But Herrera revealed on Twitter the authors received a disappointing response, “saying RWA counsel had advised them not to make public statements, that they could not provide legal advice and that if people felt like they needed a lawyer they should get one.”

…When I contacted Dreamspinner Press, CEO Elizabeth North told me that Stud Planet was a republication of a previous work, Grown Men. “After the contract expired with its first publisher, reader requests were strong, so we published an updated version,” North explained. She attached a screenshot of the book on their website, as well as PDF and ePub files; those files contained Grown Men, clocking in at roughly 30,000 words, as well as a previously published prequel, plonked at the end. She confirmed that she had updated the Books on Print entry—to reflect that it was out of print. When I asked if she could forward correspondence that confirmed publication from April 2016, she told me that correspondence was confidential, but that Dreamspinner “didn’t promote it as a general release. It was done as a limited edition for the fans of the universe, but the book doesn’t match Damon’s brand so he didn’t want it available wide.” When I asked how it was made available to those fans, she told me that I should direct any future questions to Suede—who did not respond to Jezebel’s request for more information.

…“We believe that Mr. Suede made his submission in good faith, and that Ms. Ritter verified the book’s eligibility in the standard RWA manner,” which did not involve actually viewing the contents of the books in question, just checking the word count, according to an RWA spokesperson via email. “We now recognize that there are questions as to the eligibility of this book. These questions likely will prompt an examination of RWA’s verification procedures and eligibility policies, but as Mr. Suede is no longer in office, we do not plan on further investigating STUD PLANET specifically.”

…“Publishers like Avon & Harlequin are big sponsors [for the conference]—tens of thousands of dollars worth,” HelenKay Dimon explained via email. Losing publishers loses RWA both money and attendees, which jeopardizes the conference itself and puts RWA in an even worse position: as Dimon explained, cancellation of the conference would result in “significant” penalties from the hotel where it is booked.

TJ Klune, one of the authors affected by DreamSpinner Press’s continuing inability to pay royalties, reports that he was contacted by Jezebel for this piece and gave a large amount of information on the situation with DSP, none of which was actually used in the article. (Kelly Faircloth has said that she will be writing about DSP in the future.)

January 16th:

  • Adriana Herrera and many other former RWA Board members, members in good standing, and RWA chapter presidents release a statement on a letter sent to the RWA demanding immediate answers to a number of important questions and issues, chiefly related to RWA staff, the current makeup of the Board, and the independent audit. They also demand that the RWA give serious consideration to and respond to Courtney Milan’s January 14th letter.

January 17th:

January 18th:

  • Courtney Milan releases another letter sent by her to the auditors handling the RWA’s independent audit, highlighting significant issues with the RWA’s previous statement, specifically that the policy cited only references existing Board members, the former Board members have not been informed that they are released from confidentiality restrictions, and the policy does not allow for the release of any information to the community at large. She also notes that the RWA has chosen not to respond to her offer, sent January 14th, to release the RWA from legal liability arising from current events in exchange for the RWA waiving the confidentiality of its executive sessions relating to them. In light of this, she says the following (from the transcript, bold is mine):

I am therefore urging RWA to amend section 3.11.12 to include the language “current and former Board Members,” to pass a resolution releasing the above-named directors from the requirement of executive session confidentiality, while maintaining RWA’s indemnification of those Directors, to personally inform those above-named directors that they have been released from executive session confidentiality and to provide the text of the resolution that was passed, and to further amend policy to commit to releasing audits of RWA behavior in their entirety to the membership, even when the contents of those audits contain a description of actions taken in executive session.

Until RWA commits to the above, or to actions that have a substantially similar effect, I must unfortunately decline to participate in this audit. I have, however, high hopes that the Board will be able to meet these conditions, and that their failure to do so at this point is mere oversight.

January 19th:

January 20th:

  • Courtney Milan again posts a response from Nan Dixon to her after she sent her concerns to the RWA. She recommends that the RWA speak to their legal counsel regarding this issue.

  • Milan also asks for transparency from the RWA regarding these events going forward.

  • It is confirmed that the RWA Nationals has not been cancelled.

  • The Las Vegas RWA chapter chooses to disband, citing issues with the RWA and their unwillingness to be affiliated with it.

  • Melanie Greene and a number of DreamSpinner Press authors, chapter leaders, and members in good standing contact the RWA and demand action in relation to DSP’s non-payment of royalties, and an investigation into possible conflicts of interest among the RWA Board in relation to DSP.

January 21st:

January 23rd:

  • Shree C. Aier and other RWA members send another letter to the RWA Board questioning whether the RWA is in compliance with Texas law if they do not intend to appoint any interim President, who is the DEI consultant referenced in the January 21st update, and how many members are currently in the RWA.

January 24th:

  • Solarina Ho reports an addendum to her article on CTVNews. Kathryn Lynn Davis contacted her to state that the Guardian misquoted and misrepresented her comments regarding the book deal. She states that she never backtracked from claim that she lost the book deal. As follows:

The verbal 3-book offer I received previous to Ms Milan’s Tweets has been withdrawn permanently. I have not backtracked on that at all.

January 27th:

January 28th:

  • It is reported that Damon Suede posted on Facebook some time around January 21st in response to a friend. Transcript as follows:

Thanks, sweetheart. I’m doing fine. Tired, sad, but calm. The truth will come out. That’s all I care about. As far as my purported “crimes,” no one has actually pointed at anything concrete or factual. It’s all insinuations and spectral evidence that I might be an “evil tyrant” because I did my job and told the truth. Dunno. I was only prez for 14 days, and somehow I’m to blame for everything wrong in RWA’s history and romance publishing as well. People like to be mad at shit, and I think I was an easy target.

I just wanted to get the audit started, the Rita handled, and a messaging team in place. The bomems remaining will make sure the truth gets out. Right now there is a hard push to quash or hinder the audit. The mob DOESN’T want the truth out. Or evidence made public. The hardest part is being savaged by “friends” who are apparently doing it for attention. Ugh.

But Geoff and I? We’re okay. Thank you for reaching out and for having faith in me. It means the world. And I’m not going ANYWHERE.

January 29th:

  • Avery Flynn reports the following:

    • that RWA2020 registration will open on March 10th

    • A DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) consultant will be hired to assist the RWA in designing the membership programming and events

    • the delay in conference registration will allow the RWA time to secure speakers who are beneficial to and representative of the community

    • RWA Member and chapter dues extensions are being offered

    • The RWA Board will appoint an interim President and interim Secretary in order to be compliant with Texas law

    • A Board meeting is scheduled on the 9th of February

January 31st:

February 1st:

February 2nd:

February 3rd:

  • Adriana Herrera, LaQuette and the board of the RWA NYC chapter write to the RWA Board demanding an explanation for their seeming unwillingness to address issues of racism and bigotry within the RWA, on the basis of Jessie Edwards’ interview on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast. Edwards is heavily criticized for avoiding answering questions regarding issues of racism and bigotry among the membership of the RWA, preferring instead to lay the blame on policy and communication problems.

  • Smart Bitches Trashy Books posts the final podcast in their RWA: One Month Later series; Courtney Milan is interviewed.

  • Jodi Payne notes that DreamSpinner Press has not communicated with authors since January 17th, and the RWA has still provided no help to authors affected by their non-payment of royalties.

February 5th:

February 7th:

  • The DEI consultant promised by the RWA is still not hired. Melanie Greene reports that the RWA are reviewing proposals.

  • Reports begin to increase of resignations from the RWA, most citing current events and lack of faith in the organization.

  • Olivia Waite reports that RWA members are not automatically opted-in to the new DEI forum, and provides some further solid figures on actual RWA membership numbers.

February 8th:

February 9th:

  • The scheduled RWA Board meeting occurs. Elizabeth Schechter provides a live tweet stream with the hashtag #RWAMeetingLivetweet. Points highlighted as follows:

    • The RWA is close to retaining a DEI consultant. The independent audit will identify holes in the ethics process.

    • Their goal is to make sure that things are ready for the new Board in September.

    • The Board plans to appoint a new President and Secretary with the help of the future DEI consultant.

    • Bylaw conflicts are to be resolved (these conflicts result from almost the entire Board resigning at once). RWA legal counsel recommends that the Board switch to staggered 2-year terms.

    • Member refunds will be approved; policy will be amended to allow the Board to approve refunds under extraordinary conditions.

    • An addendum to the Secretary’s report includes information on Leslie Scantlebury’s appointment as Interim Executive Director, changes to policy to allow former Board members etc to talk to the audit team, the signing of a transition, separation and release agreement with former Executive Director Carol Ritter, and the publication of the full audit report to membership.

    • The RWA’s total assets are over $2 million dollars.

    • Membership as of the 20th of February is 8,714, and membership overall has been declining in the last five years.

    • The RWA have pushed back the registration date for RWA Nationals to March 10th in order to allow time to repopulate the Workshop Committee and have the future DEI consultant involved in the creation of the conference program.

    • The RWA will authorize staff to explore healthcare marketing for membership. It will be acting as an access point for authors to get healthcare, in concert with other writing associations. (This is not authorization to start any such program; information gathering only.)

    • The RWA will waive 2020 chapter affiliation payments.

    • The Board discuss bylaw issues relating to the position of President as there are currently no candidates for the position.

  • Olivia Waite notes that RWA material relating to current events frequently references the original complaints as “the ethics complaints against Courtney Milan” without mentioning Suzan Tisdale or Kathryn Lynn Davis.

  • Stephanie Scott notes that the RWA Nationals conference rate has been drastically reduced.

  • CIMRWA votes to dissolve as a chapter.

February 11th:

February 12th:

February 18th:

  • The independent ethics audit report is released by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, filling in many important details in the knowledge of these events. It is swiftly used to criticize the RWA for gross mismanagement of recent events.

February 20th:

  • Courtney Milan notes that the audit report shows that the Board was not informed of the Ethics complaints against her despite policy stating that they must be informed, and that it is unknown if the RWA will actually be following the recommendation of the report according to real RWA policy or according to policy that was apparently invented during the December 17th meeting.

February 21st:

  • Courtney Milan notes that there was precedent during the CopyPasteCris scandal in early 2018 of her being recused due to her involvement in an ethics complaint; that instance was one where she herself filed an ethics complaint against Cristiane Serruya for plagiarism.

February 22nd:

If you have any additional information or corrections, please use my contact form or reach out on Twitter.

Shoutout to Steve Ammidown, who’s working to archive this mess, and Dr. Laura Vivanco, who’s studying it FOR SCIENCE.

Additional major thanks to Raimey Gallant for providing extra chronological details and notes, especially related to the different resignations.

Thanks to everyone who has contacted me either on Twitter or through my contact form, especially Aztec Lady, Tymber Dalton, and many others.

If you’d rather get updates from Twitter alone, Romance Sparks Joy also has a Twitter Moment that’s being updated daily with the latest information on this.