Romance Writers of America is considering changing the rules for its RITA and Golden Heart contests.
Two things concern me.
First the proposed change to the inspirational category:
9.2.11. BEST INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE – romantic novels in which one or more characters’ religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the developing relationship between the hero/heroine. These books may be set in any time period or setting. The level of sexuality is usually non-explicit but may range from sweet to extremely hot.
Judging guidelines: In this category, one or more characters’ religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are integral to the hero/heroine relationship.The end of the book is emotionally satisfying. These novels may or may not contain a high level of sexuality.
No one I know believes this change should be made. Inspirational romances have always been Christian romances or at least “religious” romances. Apparently, in this year’s contest, there were a few entries by Wiccan authors and those were entered in this category rather than paranormal because Wicca is a religion. As my husband pointed out, you can find a definition on Wikipedia.
Christian writers will find themselves without a category, I believe, if this change occurs. The contests are supposed to mirror the marketplace, and if other belief systems, with no taboos against unmarried sex, graphic sex or even any kind of sex at all, continue to label their work “Inspirational,” I believe that Christian publishers will stop putting that label on their work.
There may come a day when a reader, stepping into a commercial bookstore and finding a book labeled “inspirational” may shy away from picking it up. She will have no way of actually knowing how much sex is inside or even what kind it will be!
I would be hesitant.
Related to this concern is this one:
9.2.5. BEST YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE – Novels with a strong romantic theme geared toward young adult readers and in which the level of sexuality may range from sweet to extremely hot.
Judging guidelines: In this category, the love story is an important element of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The minimum word count for YA novels is 40,000 words. These novels may or may not contain a high level of sexuality.
I have the same concern here. One of the first people I heard do a workshop on YA was Niki Burnham and she said that if you don’t want to write sex, YA is a grew place to go. Also, P.C. Cast, in a workshop at RWA Nationals last year, said that in her YA’s, she is always aware that some of the girls reading her books (she is a high school teacher) don’t have good role models and she feels a responsibility to her readers to not suggest that teenage girls are ready, emotionally, for an “adult relationship.”
I don’t know what will happen when and if these changes go through, but I fear it won’t be a good thing for the hordes of readers out there who have told me and other writers that they enjoy reading books that DON’T have graphic sex in them and the mothers who want their daughters to read good books without graphic, casual depictions of sex.
What’s your opinion?