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the RITA Prizes for Romantic Fiction

RITA awards are given yearly by the Romance Writer's of America (RWA) for Romance writing in various categories. In this context, a Romance is a love story in novel form written for today's reader of romanticized pulp fiction.

RITA award winners

  • See lists of current and past RITA Award winners. Visit the RITA Awards page at the RWA web site: click here.

Background and history of the rITA awardsRita Award

RITA Awards are presented annually for the best published romance novels of the year. The award, seen at the right, takes the form of a golden statuette named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada.

From time to time the RWA changes the categories in which RITAs are awarded. Categories seem to reflect reader changes in taste, reading patterns, and buying habits.

Current categories:

  • Best Traditional Romance.
  • Best Short Contemporary Series.
  • Best Long Contemporary Series.
  • Best Paranormal Romance.
  • Best Inspirational Romance.
  • Best Romantic Novella.
  • Best Regency Romance.
  • Best Short Historical Romance.
  • Best Long Historical Romance.
  • Best Romantic Suspense.
  • Best Contemporary Single Title.
  • Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.
  • See a complete rundown on the Rita at the RWA web site: click here.

other RWA awards

The RWA also presents awards for writing and for other categories of accomplishment in the field of romance writing.

  • See a complete rundown on all RWA awards at the RWA web site: click here.

Romances as the rWA sees them

Classically, a romance is a novel or other prose narrative; it is a long, fictitious tale of heroes and extraordinary or mysterious events, a literary work depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, and romantic exploits, usually in a historical or imaginary setting. In medieval times, it was a narrative in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory.

What about modern romantic novels? A modern romantic novel is a tale about a love affair, about an ardent emotional attachment or involvement, usually between two people, especially one that is characterized by a high level of purity and devotion. It may be set in time present, past, or future. Its style may be indeterminate or it may emulate other genres, such as Gothic, Historic, or Fantasy. But in all cases, it is written to appeal to a modern audience with modern tastes.

Are romance novels as the RWA sees them the same as the genre of the romantic novel as seen by scholars, literary critics, and others? Is the present-day romance genre literature? Is the RITA an award for literature or is it an award for a form of industrial production? The answers to these questions seemingly would depend on the quality of a particular romance novel that has received a Rita and on one's definition of literature:

According to RWA’s official definition, a romance is a book wherein the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is "emotionally satisfying."

Typically, in the RWA context the romance is a mass-production novel aimed at one of two target reader categories: 1) a specialized audience of avid romance pulp fiction readers, many of whom read virtually nothing elsea romantic novel a week, or in some cases even one a day, or 2) a wider audience of so-called mainstream readers who do not limit their reading to romances but who, as a special case, follow a particular author of romances whom they favor. This author writes for this audience in a particular style or fashion which has a unique appeal for its readership.

why RITAs?

Clearly, works like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, or Gone With the Wind fit the RWA's description of a romance; just as clearly, most mainstream readers would agree that the Ritas have yet to find and honor works of this type or caliber. Nevertheless, there's always hope. And because there's always hope, The Muse has included the Ritas among the prizes for literature treated in these pages.

  • To get a better idea of what the RWA means by romance and its sub-genres, visit the RWA web site page on the romance genre: click here.
  • See The Muse Of Literature's definition of Literature. Visit The Muse's home page: click here.

About the RWA and its members

The RITA is awarded by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).

According to the RWA, as of 2007 their membership consisted of over 9,000 published and "wannabe" authors whose commercial output makes up over 55% of all popular paperback fiction and accounts for over $1 billion in sales annually. Clearly, we're talking about one of the most successful components of the publishing industry.

  • Learn more about the RWA at its web site: click here.

about the RWA and the romance publishing industry

The RWA works hand-in-glove with the romance publishing industry. Although they are an independent agency that represents its romance writer members, in effect the RWA is the romance writer's interface to this sector of the publishing industry. The two are symbiotic. In this industry, the Ritas fill a role analogous to the role filled by the Academy Awards in the movie industry.

Since you've read this far down the page, The Muse thinks you might enjoy hearing more about the Romance publishing industry. You may be surprised by what you learn.


visit the RWA web site

  • For a complete rundown on the RWA, visit the Romance Writers of America web site: click here.

ETAF Recommends

Modern-day romance writers manufacture a prodigious quantity of pulp novels. It is not unusual for a popular, successful author to produce five or even ten novels per year; some even more.

Most romance novels fall out of print after their first printing and are never reprinted. Consequently, although there is a thriving used book market in this field, even used bookstores specializing in romantic novels stock only a small fraction of prior years' output. This phenomenon characterizes the nature of the recommendations ETAF can make.

In cases like this, it's a good idea to go along with the winners. The RWA web site is an outstanding source of references to romances of the kind honored by the RWA. If you like this type of reading or even if you only want to explore it, the RWA's winner list is an excellent place to start.

Get ideas for romance novels and romance authors you might like to read:

  • Visit the RITA Awards past winners pages at the RWA web site: click here.
  • Visit the Authors & Books pages at the RWA web site. There you'll find links to best seller lists, a best-selling authors list, a list of links to author's web sites, and a list of current releases: click here.

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