I’m going to eat a small dish of crow (best served quickly so it’s still hot), but only a small dish.


There are NO rules in the RITA or Golden Heart contests that explicitly state LGBT fiction cannot be submitted to the contest.


However, the current industry standard is that LGBT romance is only featured in erotica, and while publishers like Kensington are working to change that, it is not widespread. In fact, so many romance authors who want to write LGBT romances have had their manuscripts (their babies- you writers know what I’m talking about) rejected simply because those manuscripts happen to involve a male/male or female/female relationship that many of these authors are afraid to submit unless it is expressly stated by a publishing house that they accept LGBT romance (erotic or otherwise). Erotica is NOT accepted in the RITA or Golden Heart contests. Read this for yourself below, and RWA does not state that the RITA or Golden Heart contests welcome a group of stories to any genre (paranormal, fantasy, contemporary, et cetera) that have been ignored in the past. This is akin to being back in the South during the time of the Jim Crow Laws. So many signs read “whites only” on fountains, bathrooms, etc., that signs had to be actively posted where integration was allowed. Authors of LGBT romance cannot assume welcome just as African Americans could not assume welcome back before the Civil Rights Act. To do so invites anguish, despair, and trampled hopes.


Please read the categories the RITA and Golden Heart Awards accept.


Categories accepted in the 2011 RITA Contest (Copied directly from the website): Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure, Contemporary Single Title Romance, Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, Paranormal Romance, Regency Historical Romance, Romance Novella, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult Romance, Best First Book

Categories accepted in the 2011 Golden Heart Contest (Copied directly from the website): Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure, Contemporary Single Title Romance, Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, Paranormal Romance, Regency Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult Romance


Crow has been almost consumed. One bite left. I apologize to RWA for falsely representing their contest rules. I relied on information given to me by others instead of verifying the information myself directly.


One more thing (the garnish, you might say). Despite my mistake, I still stand by my original belief, modifying the words, not the spirit, to be in line with the correct facts above: RWA needs to add erotica to both contests and actively encourage and assert that LGBT fiction may be written in all genres, including inspirational romance. Gay Christians exist too. This way there will be a truer cross-section of romance in America.



7 thoughts on “Regarding the RITA and Golden Heart: my small dish of crow

  1. The RWA requirement for Rita and Golden Heart is that the work must meet the definition of romance. Some, not all, erotica does not meet that definition because there’s nothing but a bunch of sex scenes strung together with no real plot or character arc. But a m/m novel or f/f novel that meets the criteria for romance can be entered. So can hetero erotica. RWA doesn’t need to assert that LGBT fiction can be written in all genres. All one has to do is read the rules. Just as this country is growing in acceptance of LGBT individuals, so will the romance community grow in its acceptance of LGBT romance novels.

    1. Ah, but I disagree with your definition of “erotica.” That definition- sex scenes strung together- is the definition of porn. All of the sex scenes in an erotic novel must have a reason for being there- forwarding the plot, character motivation or development, or forwarding the romance between the characters. In good erotica (as in all other good romance) the sex scenes should do at least two of these three things, if not all three. I agree with your last sentence, but I have an experiment for you to try. This assumes you haven’t tried a similar experiment. If you have, and if you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear about it. (I’ll share mine soon.) Find a conservative coffee shop, house of worship, street corner (they do exist), or other location of your choice, and openly hold hands with a member of the same sex. Kiss that member of the same sex (just on the cheek). See the reaction you get. Then let me know if America will be ready for LGBT fiction soon without being pushed in that direction by law. We’re standing on the brink of another civil rights movement (or in the midst, depending on who you’re talking to). It’s scary being on the outside looking in. Just ask Oscar Wilde. Or Elton John.

    2. Aii, and forgive me for sounding so direct, Allyn. My blood’s up today. I’ve tried to be direct and fair without being brusque. I love chatting with you! I’m just not sure if I accomplished what I wanted, which was to be polite while stating the facts of erotica and a suggestion. If I’ve offended, I apologize.


  2. No offense taken. And I said some, but not all erotica. I qualified my statement and I’ll stand by it.

    No great change has come overnight and without struggle. Ask women who were denied the right to vote. Ask blacks who had to ride in the backs of busses and were also denied voting rights. Change came (and is still coming).

    We grasshoppers must be patient despite how much it hurts.

    1. I love the grasshopper analogy. It’s definitely true.

      I can sort of see where you’re coming from with your idea about erotica, except the definition of erotica is that story has to come first. That’s what makes erotica different from porn. In fact, that’s the ONLY difference between erotica and porn. Check out the “Best Gay Erotica” and “Best Lesbian Erotica” series (they’ve been running since, I think 2009, although maybe earlier). These are stories first, classified as erotica because they are stories where sex is an integral component, not sex scenes where the story is incidental. If you Google Richard Labonte (accent on the last e, though I doubt that makes a difference to Google) you’ll find the clear-cut line between erotica and porn, not just in the LGBT community, but in the straight community as well. (Richard Labonte, by the way, has been compiling the Best of Gay Erotica and Best of Gay Romance since their inceptions. He separates the two series because not all of the stories in the romance collection include sex. My favorite story in the romance collections is “World’s Best Dads” about two men arguing about what to name their son.)

      Out of curiosity, would you mind if I posted our discussion on Facebook? It’s really interesting, and I’d love more people to see it. I’ll pull our names out, if you want, and just put Side X and Side Y.

      Thanks for being so understanding!


  3. Sure, it’s okay to post. And please do use Side X and Side Y.

    I’ll concede the erotica point even though there’s a lot of porn out there with an erotica label on it. I won a free download of some erotica a couple years ago and it was what I’d mentioned before — a series of raunchy sex scenes strung together and not even well written. I guess anyone can call what they write anything they want. Doesn’t make it so.

    But I still don’t think the RITA needs a separate category for erotica.

    1. I don’t doubt you received fiction like that! That’s the number one reason that porn and erotica still get confused. Sometimes professional publishers and those who don’t know the distinction perpetuate the idea that porn and erotica are the same thing. There are disclaimers here though. I’m not knocking anyone who doesn’t know the distinction because it’s currently hard to tell the difference between porn and erotica based solely on labels, as you demonstrated. Certain professional publishers are muddying the line between these two very different kinds of fiction. However (disclaimer two), none of the big publishing houses, 99.9% of the LITTLE publishing houses, or any of the epublishers that I know of personally (basically any that turn out real romance, in other words) confuse porn and erotica. They’re the ones who made the distinction in the first place.

      Thank you so much for your permission and for this lively chat! It’s been wonderful and exciting! I haven’t had such a great conversation since a friend asked me to explain why two of the Ten Commandments seemingly contradict.

      Thanks again,

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