"The last several weeks have been a painful time for our community," the departing board members announced Tuesday. "We have decided to leave the Board with the hopes that it will foster some healing among our members and make way for new leadership that can build a stronger ITW community. This only works if the Board has the trust of the membership, and we believe our stepping away from the Board is the best way to achieve that.”
Because only two members remain, co-presidents Heather Graham and John Lescroart, the board lacks a quorum as required in its bylaws to name any successors, beyond interim executive director Kimberley Howe, who replaces the departing Liz Perry. An 11th board member, author E.A. Aymar, stepped down earlier this month.
The ITW has more than 4,000 members worldwide. “Over the coming weeks, Ms. Howe will be managing the process of establishing a Nominating Committee to recruit and fill the vacant seats on the Board of Directors,” the board announced.
The implosion of the ITW board mirrors upheavals this year at the Romance Writers of America, the Poetry Foundation and the National Book Critics Circle, all of which have had predominantly white leadership and have promised to diversify their organizations.
Criticism of the ITW emerged last week when novelist Laurie Chandlar announced on Twitter that she had stepped down from her position as Debut Author Chair. “I and another female author brought serious concerns to the ITW board regarding a male author’s behavior at an industry event. They were summarily and callously dismissed,” Chandlar wrote. "For years I’ve heard of women being harassed, groped, and cornered at industry events. And even with serious complaints involving a police report, it seems some leaders have preferred over the years to just sweep it all under the rug."
Other authors spoke out in defense of Chandlar and denounced as insensitive a statement the board issued on the protests against police violence and racism. “International Thriller Writers stands proudly with our Black members, as we do with all our members, whatever their color, ethnicity, gender, faith or orientation," the ITW board statement read in part.
By this week, more than 100 board members had signed an online repetition calling for the entire board to step down. In an email Tuesday to The Associated Press, Chandlar said she had “a lot of faith” in Howe and added that she was heartened by the response of her peers.
“I’ve always loved the crime writing community from the day I entered,” she wrote. “And to get to witness a massive rallying around me and all the other victims who have been silenced in the past has been absolutely staggering. Human kindness and decency is worth standing up for.”