Really. Why the f*** should you?
See, this all started a couple of weeks ago (of course, thanks to delays and laziness, I’m once again blogging well after the excitement has died down) over at Romancing the Blog. This post started a kerfuffle about the Ritas, which, for those of you who don’t know, are awards given every year at the RWA National convention. Best Long Historical, Best Paranormal, Best Contemporary, etc.
The awards are judged by volunteer RWA members, who I believe need to also be published (by an RWA-recognized publisher. More on that another day. I probably don’t think about publisher recognition the way you think I do, just a warning.)
So there you go. The Ritas are awards given by authors, to authors, at a private ceremony. And readers are supposed to care about this why?
The wonderful Smart Bitches did a post the following day, entitled Why I don’t Care About the Ritas. Which has some excellent points. In general, the taste of the RWA membership tends to differ from that of many romance readers and other writers. With all due respect, a lot of the Rita judges are ladies who prefer not to have some elements–like, for example, lots of graphic sex–in their books, and enjoy elements–like, say, amnesiacs or secret fucking babies or whatever–which make the rest of us want to throw up.
They did another post about fixing the Rita, cleverly titled How do you solve a problem like the Ritas? More good comments are made, more excellent suggestions, particularly, I think, mine (what a shock) about making the judging less subjective. All judging is subjective, yes, but breaking the book into elements and giving individual scores based on those, rather than an overall 1-9 with no explanation given, might make a difference.
But ultimately…who cares?
See, I think there’s three great misconceptions at work here: One, that most readers are even aware of the RWA; two, that most readers give a shit about the RWA or their politics/policies if they are aware of them; and three, that the RWA really matters to anyone in any way, aside from holding what I hear is a pretty good convention once a year and publishing an intermittently interesting magazine for members once a month (the only reason I’m still a member.)
Before I started writing romance, I read it. I’ve read it all my life. But not once, as I sat down with a juicy Connie Mason or Catherine Lanigan or whomever I was reading at the time, did I think, “I wonder if other writers find this book good enough to give it an award in a private ceremony in Texas?”
Maybe the Ritas are like the Oscars. Maybe. But you know what? I don’t really care that much about the Oscars, either. And the only reason why anyone does care about the Oscar is because they’re on TV, and we get to wait eagerly for someone to wear a terrible dress or make an outrageously offensive comment about Zionists or something. We don’t really care that much about the awards, because they’re usually so predictable and lame. Maybe we’re excited to see Scorsese finally win (yeah, I admit I totally was), but that’s the extent of it.
The problem is, when you’re a member of the romance writing community (or a publisher or agent), this stuff seems important. What RWA does and thinks, ooh! The Rita or the Golden Heart (unpubbed writers), wow!
But if you’re a reader? You have your own life, your own stuff you care about. Internal squabbles about artistic standards for covers or whatever mean nothing to you, absolutely nothing. Just like the deal-making behind the scenes that gets the movie made means nothing.
The fact is, the RWA membership and readership is too wildly disaparate to effectively judge an award. And the fact is, readers just like to read. None of this matters to them if they have a good story in front of them. And all of this business about why we should care about the Rita feels to me like writers and RWA memeber getting in a snit because nobody’s paying attention to them, frankly. You’ll care about what they TELL you to care about, damn it!
(Note: Of course I want a Rita. That still doesn’t mean I think you should care about them. But when I win an Eisner Award, the whole world better care!)
And by the way…this does NOT alter or make less my heartiest congratulations to the finalists. Seriously. They worked hard and they deserve to feel good. I just don’t think the readers should be forced to care about the awards as a whole if they don’t.
Edit to add: One, if this topic interests you at all, you should go read Susan Wilbanks’ posts about the Golden Heart. Very interesting.
Two, I had added an RSS/Atom feed (I have that SmartFeed thingie there so it should be compatible with all of them, and I plan to add Bloglines as well if you can have both. If you subscribe to my feed, let me know it works okay, please, as I am a dunce with all things like that.)
Three, that leads me to ask again if you guys would bother to occasionally click on ads if I had them, or would you ignore them? I’m thinking about getting them, but I don’t want it to be a waste or disruptive. Maybe this should be a separate post? I’ll see how comments go.