The Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship

by Erika Tsang



On behalf of Beverly Jenkins, a romance trailblazer and one of the most active supporters for diverse authors, Avon is working with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) to encourage Own Voices writers to be more fully represented at the RWA annual conference, which takes place July 18-21, 2018 in Denver.  The publishing team at Avon Books believes that Beverly’s vision is the future of the Romance genre, and as such, announces they will sponsor a diverse voice entrant in the RITA® and/or Golden Heart® Competitions to attend upcoming RWA conferences.  The sponsorship will include registration fee, travel and lodging (up to $2,500).  The recipient will also receive a one-on-one meeting with a member of the Avon Books editorial team, plus an invitation to several exclusive Avon events during the annual conference.  The imprint has made an initial commitment to support this sponsorship for five years, from 2019 through 2023.

The active fostering of diverse voices in Romance is the current top priority for the genre.

Beverly Jenkins, who received the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA in 2017, notes that “plenty of diverse romances are being written, but too little of it are acquired by major houses.”  Jenkins continues, “There are hundreds of women of color who are writing romance.  The issue is getting them published so they’re seen.”

Avon Books embraces authors of all gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin and ability.

Avon is working closely with the RWA to identify possible recipients for the Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship.  The sponsorship is available only to current members of RWA who have entered the Golden Heart or RITA Award Contests and been verified by RWA to qualify as “diverse voice” authors.  (The purpose of RWA’s Golden Heart® contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding manuscripts written by members who have not published a novel or novella.  The purpose of the RITA award is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas.)  RWA will send such entrants an application for the sponsorship, which must be completed and returned to RWA.  The RWA Diversity Committee will select the recipient from among the eligible applications.

Per RWA’s Policy and Procedure Manual, “Diverse Background” refers to a member of RWA who comes from a historically underrepresented background. These backgrounds include, but are not limited to, underrepresented communities of race, color, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.

Application Deadline: February 22, 2019.


Words of Wisdom and Inspiration from Beverly Jenkins

(Extracted from 2016 Keynote Address at the RWA National Conference in San Diego)

“I’ve also learned–here comes the hard part, some people–African American is not a genre!  Hey, if I don’t say this, who’s going to say it, right?  The young women writing African American romance should be in the damn romance section, not in the blue-light section next to titles such as Pimptress, Secrets of a Side Bitch, and For the Love of a Hood Chick.  It’s about discoverability!  How are romance readers going to find them if publishers and booksellers don’t care enough to make sure they are marketed correctly?  This ensures low sales and fulfills the stereotype that black romance doesn’t sell.  ‘I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me’ is a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  Stop refusing to see AA romance as the moneymaker it can be!  A recent Pew Research Center survey found that the person most likely to read a book is a black woman with two years of college.  Hello!  Do better, publishers and booksellers.  Do better.
And for those who feel intimidated by this, or think that bringing more diversity of all kinds to the table will somehow negatively affect their career or push them off the stage?  It won’t.  I promise.  Romancelandia’s table is very large.  There’s enough light, silverware, plate, tables, and chairs for everyone.”