Frustration with lack of diversity grows at Romance Writers

FILE - This June 28, 2011 file photo shows people waiting to attend an autograph signing event during the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference...

FILE - This June 28, 2011 file photo shows people waiting to attend an autograph signing event during the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference...

NEW YORK (AP) — Turmoil continued Thursday at the Romance Writers of America as it faced another high-level departure and several publishers announced they would not participate in this summer's annual conference.

Writers, editors and publishers have been furious with the RWA over allegations that it has failed to address a lack of diversity in the organization. Long-term frustration became widely known over the holiday season after the RWA initially reprimanded author Courtney Milan for calling a novel by Kathryn Lynn Davis racist.

Numerous RWA board members have left, including President Damon Suede on Thursday. Also this week, the Romance Writers of America canceled its annual RITA prizes and confirmed that the Harlequin, Avon Books and Berkeley Romance are among the publishers who dropped out from the conference in San Francisco.

“We have lost the trust of our membership and the romance author community and we are taking steps to rebuild that relationship,” the RWA board said in a statement Thursday. “We have a difficult road ahead, but we are committed to traveling it together and building a stronger, more inclusive organization with all of you— and for all of you.”

The RWA is a trade organization that represents thousands of writers. A spokeswoman said Thursday that the association's conference was still planned.