The Oscars are coming soon. And so are the Ritas. What? You've never heard of a Rita? It's only the Oscar of the romance writing world! Sure, there's no glitzy TV coverage, but there will definitely be a red carpet for the nominees at RWA Nationals in Nashville this summer. This is the contest for published authors that's judged by our peers and our readers. It carries a ton of prestige in romance circles.
And yet, I hear grumbling from some about the fact that the same superstars' names end up being nominated and they usually take home the trophy year after year. Well, they would, wouldn't they? This is about publishing excellence. Of course, the leading authors in each category are going to be well known.
But why after winning time and again do these authors keep entering? Why, I've heard some moan, can't they give someone else a chance?
First, not all authors enter themselves. Some of their publishers do it for them. If they are nominated, the exposure is terrific and doesn't cost the publisher a dime. Sometimes, fans have even been known to enter a book.
After she won her second Rita, Susan Elizabeth Phillips announced that she wouldn't be entering again. She got lots of "Wow! Isn't she gracious?" buzz over it. But I would argue that not having her in the contemporary category cheapens the award for the next person. Eliminating the competition eliminates the value of the Rita.
Nora Roberts takes lots of criticism for being nominated each year, usually in multiple categories. How could she not be? She's the 800 pound publishing gorilla. If, please God, I'm ever nominated for a Rita, I would hope to see the names of the most popular authors in my sub-genre nominated with me.
When I used to sing professionally, each time I auditioned, I knew I was competing against not just the others in the cattle call. I was competing against every soprano who could sing that aria in the world. In the case of books, it should be every title ever written but the Rita limits it to those published in one calendar year.
Romance authors are the most supportive bunch of people you'll ever want to meet. They typically out-nice Minnesotans (which is saying something!) But when it comes to the Rita, let the bloodbath begin. The best book should win, regardless of whether or not the author already has so many of those coveted little statues she uses them for doorstops. Rock on, Nora.
What do you think? Feel free to disagree.