RWA Controversy Over Courtney Milan

I will be back later today with more on this. Unfortunately, this morning is going to be busy and I don’t have enough time to do the full research this deserves. However, I wanted to give everyone a head’s up and give you a chance to read some of the documentation and get your initial thoughts.

Some background. Romance writer and RWA member (in fact, she has been a director-at-large and member of the ethics committee) Courtney Milan has been removed from the Romance Writers of America organization following several formal complaints against her. Basically, she’s been accused of cyber-bullying, potential violation of author IP rights, possible libel, and more. In my opinion, her actions, especially on Twitter, rose to a point where they negatively impacted the RWA and the public’s perception of the organization (and I honestly believe that is probably why the organization took the action it did).

From one of the complaints, is this:

Because of these outlandish, false, and vicious attacks, Ms. Davis lost a very lucrative contract with another publishing company. Please note that she didn’t lose the contract because the publishing house believes the lies Ms. Milan is spreading. Quite the contrary. Ms. Davis lost the contract because the publishing house is afraid of the backlash that could be thrown their way should Ms. Milan learn that Ms. Davis is now working for them. The other publishing house is afraid of getting into Ms. Milan’s crosshairs.

Additionally, I have lost three of my Glenfinnan authors—not because they agreed with Ms. Milan and those of her ilk, but because they are afraid of any backlash from Ms. Milan. These authors are afraid that if Ms. Milan starts attacking them, they will lose future contracts and sales. It boils down to them needing to make a living and these kinds of attacks have proven to be detrimental to those on the receiving end of this malicious behavior.

This, so much this, and not just with regard to Milan and the complaints against her. Those of us who were active with Sad Puppies saw this sort of behavior aimed at us by members of the SF/F community, members who were (or currently are) officers with SFWA. However, unlike RWA, SFWA turned a blind eye. But that’s another story.

Looking at Milan’s Twitter feed, it is clear she is furious with what happened and that she has her supporters. Looking at the screen caps in the complaints (linked below), it is also clear that she has no problem taking to Twitter and attacking those she doesn’t feel meet her standards. I would also say it swirls down the internet toilet to become cyber bullying.

However, I feel compelled to note that Milan isn’t always the villain. If you do a search of our archives, you will see we’ve reported on her efforts to stem plagiarism. She has gone after serial plagiarists and helped other authors do the same in an attempt to protect their IP.

That said, she clearly stepped over a line here, one the RWA wasn’t prepared to turn a blind eye to. It is also clear she is doing her best via Twitter to cast aspersions on the organization in an attempt to undermine their action against her. That’s what a lot of us would like to do. I would hope we’d stop and think before hitting the enter button.

Any way, I will be back later with more on this, but it is too important to do an in-depth post without doing the research. In the meantime, check out the following links:

Complaint by Suzan Tisdale

Tisdale screenshots regarding the complaint

Kathryn Lynn Davis complaint

RWA Ethics Committee report

Until later this morning. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

22 comments

  1. I always love the “well documented” argument on social media. It’s almost invariably just something that someone pulled out of their backside waste disposal orifice and then someone else spread it around.

  2. Aw man, you just had to mention Sad Puppies . . . 😀

    I notice that “#IStandWithCourtney” is trending on Twitter this morning. I guess just about anyone can have supporters, no matter what,

    1. I’ll admit, I considered not doing so. You know as well as I do there will be certain folks who will glom onto that and ignore everything else.

      As for the supporters, everyone has them–even Sad Puppies. ;-p But most of them are having the same “WTF!?!” sort of reaction I did initially but aren’t then taking a step back and considering what she posted, the RWA rules and the “evidence” presented by both sides and why the committee ruled as it did.

  3. Based on the Ethics Committee’s report, it sounds like they have done what they could do, given the information at hand and the situation. I sympathize with their point that private communications on social media aren’t something the Ethics Committee can really do anything about. (Parents have in the past called Day Job complaining about what one students said about another student on social media outside of school. *kitty shrug* There is 0 the teachers and administrators can do about that.)

    1. Yep. The interesting comment to me was in response to the second item in the complaint. The committee noted the way the rules are written, rules that were written and accepted while Milan was an officer, they could do nothing. But they didn’t leave it at that. They went on to basically say she probably knew when she posted what she did that they could do nothing about her tweets. You want to make a bet on how long it is before the committee re-examines those rules with an eye on closing that loophole?

        1. Courtney Milan is the nom de plume of Heidi Bond. She has a law degree and clerked at the US Supreme Court so it is reasonable to assume she has significant knowledge and skill and strategic thinking.

    2. There is 0 the teachers and administrators can do about that.
      I would say there are things you can do about it. But you shouldn’t. Because it’s not your jurisdiction.

  4. She’s got pronouns on her twit-feed and she’s a racism hunter. Not my cup of tea. Going after publishers because they didn’t publish -enough- non-White authors? Idiocracy.

    1. Going after a publisher because she didn’t actively inquire and find out and pre-categorize authors submitting by their race.

      1. That does seem to be the accusation.

        Here we are, in [current year] making lists of who is what race/sex/etc. to determine who gets published. Kinda makes me nauseous.

  5. RWA went around their own Ethics committee, created a 2nd ethics committee, without telling the main committee, to vote in favor of this movement. it was a 10-5 vote.
    And RWA has since rescinded their motion against Courtney, who is a lawyer, because of the shitstorm they created.
    No matter the position held based on author preference, RWA completely shit the bed on this.

    1. But wasn’t the original ethics committee hand-selected or recommended by Milan herself, requiring recusal and the appointment of a special committee for this vote? It’s hard to get a clear picture of what’s going on as most of the information is being filtered and directed via the Milan-Dare-Cole triad. I tend to take anything coming from that quarter with an entire salt mine given their history of vicious attacks.

      1. You hit the nail on the head. It is hard to get a clear picture of what happened and in what order. Hopefully, things will become more clear in short order.

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