Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Academia == Kerfuffles

The conference on romance scholarship Love as the Practice of Freedom? at Princeton University had barely ended when Romancelandia was rocked by a war between factions on what behaviors and opinions are appropriate for academics as opposed to the producers and consumers of romance fiction.

Here's the background... The closing panel of the conference Romance Reads the Academy featured the RWA president, an editor, and two bloggers. The idea behind the panel was for these folks, who've been identified as knowledgeable in guaging the pulse of the romance fiction soceity, to comment on the work done so far by the researchers and to identify some of the paths scholarly exploration should take next. As such, it was for the natives to inform the social scientists about their society, not the individual spokespeople, but the society as a whole.

The publication of the panel speech by Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance B(u)y the Book set the fur flying. Here's the rebuttal by Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Also read an account of the conference by reader Karen W on Dear Author, an essay by Janet/Robin of Dear Author, and comments by author Barb Ferrer and by Sandy of All About Romance.

The blog reader commentary follows along drawn party-lines with each group supporting their candidate, but in fact, it illustrates my thoughts precisely...

1. The romance reading public is a supportive community of courteous, intelligent people who enjoy voicing their opinions with confidence and respectfully analyzing dissenting hypotheses. (Erudite-sounding, much? Ahem.)

2. The freedom to say what we think is every person's fundamental right, as is the right to freely exercise that right.

3. Academic investigation has to be unfettered for it to have any value.

4. The Internet is an even playing field, not a zero-sum game. Every viewpoint only generates more weight to the topic/field at hand.

5. Ethics and morality issues of conscience handled in a top-down approach rarely succeed in a society of infinitely varying notions of right and wrong.

Romance Extravaganza

Hey Seattle-area Romance Readers! You can meet some of your favorite best-selling romance authors on a day dedicated to romance book lovers.

On Saturday, May 2
From 11:30am–2:30pm
At Covington Library

  • 11:30amKeynote Address by Jayne Ann Krentz (w/a Amanda Quick & Jayne Castle)
  • NoonBook Signing Party with all participating authors; books will be for sale at this event
  • 12:30pmHistorical Romance Panel with Amanda Quick, Gerri Russell & Elizabeth Boyle**
  • 1:30pmParanormal Romance Panel with Cherry Adair, Stella Cameron, Yasmine Galenorn & Alexis Morgan

    In addition, the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America chapter is throwing open its regular monthly meeting to the public. Speakers will be Jacquie Rogers and Wendy Kunkle-Munk on Pre-Published Promotion: Get a Jump Start on Your Career at 10am.

    Sponsored by the Covington Friends of the Library and the Greater Seattle Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

    ** Elizabeth Boyle will not be making an appearance. Her doctor wants her to stay bed and not be out and about.

  • Monday, April 27, 2009

    RWA Schedule & Workshops

    RWA 2009RWA has announced the schedule and workshop line-up for its 2009 conference.

    The schedule is unchanged from 2008 as are the workshop tracks.

    The special guest speakers this year are Donald Maas and Nora Roberts. In The Fire in Fiction, Maas'll talk about the techniques of master contemporary novelists. "Some authors write powerhouse novels every time. What are they doing differently on the page? This workshop will show you how." I always attend the Chat with Nora. Conference doesn't feel real unless I get a pep talk from her and a hug. It's my annual pilgrimage and blessing. Note: Get there early if you want a spot on the floor to rest your backside upon, otherwise expect to not even find a space to lean your back upon as you stand.

    Here are a few other workshops that caught my eye...


  • 15-Minute Synopsis: Jessica Faust and Sharon Page reveal the techniques to quickly build a synopsis that will catch an agent's or editor's eye and sell your book.
  • Do You Really Know What a Bigger Book Is?: Mary Buckham, Dianna Love, and Lauren McKenna share the nuances of the bigger book. Bring your questions and come prepared for a high-energy workshop on how to expand a good story into a much larger one.
  • Don't Let The Plot Get In The Way Of Your Story: HMB editors Joanna Grant and Kimberley Young discuss characters, clichés, and cliffhangers, and offer advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of plotting a romance novel.
  • The EDITS System: Margie Lawson teaches how to dig deep into analyzing passages. This is absolutely a not-to-be-missed workshop. I've attended Margie's online blog-shops, and they've all been winners.
  • Emotion: The Heart of the Novel: Join Brenda Novak for an in-depth examination of how every aspect of writing relates to heightening reader emotion.
  • Got High Concept?: Lori Wilde will lead you through the steps to create a high-concept story that will razzle-dazzle publishing insiders.
  • How to Make the Perfect Pitch (without striking out): Make sure you’re pitching to the right agent/editor, learn to condense your novel down to its essence, understand how to take cues from the agent/editor on whether your approach is working, and survive it all without a major meltdown.
  • Turning Points: Jennifer Cruise explains how turning points and beats are the key to pacing and plot development. Explore ways to use them to tighten and focus plots and scenes.
  • Using GMC for Pitches, Query Letter, and Scenes

  • 21 Years and Counting: This is of interest to me because Jo Beverley is my personal god.
  • A Look Inside the Editor's Mind: Harlequin Editor-at-Large Leslie Wainger will cold-read up to 25 synopses and analyze their strengths, weaknesses, chances of being requested, and more.
  • How to Sell to Harlequin's London Office: Keep up with the beat on Modern Heat, Harlequin Presents, Romance, Historical, Undone (short, sexy historical e-books), and Medical Romance.
  • It's Not the Hottest Genre, So How Do Debut Historical Romance Authors Get Six-Figure Deals?: I'd attend any seminar by Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare.

  • The Billionaire Tycoon's Secret Promotional Baby: With three authors, Smart Bitch Sarah and Dear Author Jane to talk about online promotions. It'll be factual, informational, and wildly entertaining.
  • Honing Your Pitch: Winnie Griggs, Wanda Ottwell, Michelle Grajkowski
  • On Professionalism and Choosing your own Business Reputation: Laura Bradford and Jennifer Schober offer a commonsense guide on how to publicly comport yourself as a professional author. Come hear their suggestions as to what to do, what not to do, and the career benefits that come from being the kind of author people want to work with.
  • What Agents Really Want from an Unpublished Writer: How do you capture an agent’s attention, make your query stand out, and entice one to say yes? Literary agent Laurie McLean unveils ancient agent mysteries and tells you how to give these elusive creatures exactly what they want.

    Writer's Life
  • 12 Stages of the Writer's Adventure: Creativity coach and author Beth Barany examines ways to increase self-knowledge and write better by learning from the 12 stages of the hero’s journey.
  • Breathe, Focus, Achive: Stacia D. Kelly, a doctor of holistic health, discusses relaxation techniques and hypnotic suggestions, which will help participants to move past fears and frustrations to connect to their creative muse.
  • Prioritizing Life, Setting Goals and Time Management: This hands-on workshop by Robert Perini, looks at practical steps to regaining control of your life, tips and techniques for setting priorities, methods for establishing long-and short-range goals, and approaches to managing time.

  • How to Live in Another Century of Just Sound Like You Did: Lauren Willig offers strategies for acquainting yourself with another century’s sights, people, and politics, and how to create the illusion of a specific time period, while maintaining the balance between historical accuracy and demands of the narrative.

    Romanistas, which workshops are you looking forward to attending? Or does your ambition go only as far as the lobby bar?

  • Friday, April 24, 2009

    Romance Conference

    Conference on Romance ScholarshipYou can now follow the panels at the Romance Conference in Princeton University — Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture — through the live-tweeting of conference attendees.

    Picture Day Friday

    Cardiff Castle in Wales

    Cardiff Castle Wales

    Cardiff Castle with its original motte-bailey style Norman keep built in 1140

    Cardiff Castle Wales

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    I Dream the Dream

    Susan BoyleIs there anyone who can listen to Susan Boyle at her audition for Britain's Got Talent and not have a smile on their face, tears in their eyes, and goosebumps on their skin?

    Her story is the stuff of dreams. A woman plucked from obscurity, her buried talent uncovered, the transformation waiting to be wrought. So what if she's 47 years old, has never been to a big city before, and dresses in an out-moded fashion. That smile of hers lights up her face in pure beauty and her voice causes souls to shiver in delight. This brave soul took her courage in her hands to pitch her one hope of having her singing talent recognized and met with success beyond anything she'd ever dreamt possible.

    Ask authors Anna Campbell or Trish Milburn or Diane Gaston whether it was worth pursuing the publishing dream in the face of year after year of fear, rejection, and despair. And they will come back with a resounding, "YES!" The fruit of their work—the printed books on the shelves, the awards, the accolades from readers—has been infinitely sweeter than anything they'd imagined possible.

    Like Susan Boyle, we, aspiring writers, have to take our talent in our hands and courageously step forward to the computer day after day to write and send our pages out in the world...so that, one day, we, too, may receive our own standing ovation.

    An aside...

    Disney Princesses Fantasy FaireDisney Sleeping Beauty CastleLast week for Spring Break, we were on our first trip to Disneyland, a place "where happily ever after happens every day," because Disney professes to be in the "dream-making business." Disney hiring Susan Boyle permanently for their show would be the awesomesauce of win!

    Another aside...

    Twelve-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi wowed the judges at Britain's Got Talent audition.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Barouche Mothers

    On Monday, I volunteered to assist on a school field trip. We visited the Children's Museum on a yellow school bus. I may have permanent hearing loss as a result; I have never heard such a din in a confined space before. To say that the kids were excited would be like stating that the sun rises in the east. This was my first such outing, and I was sideswiped by the intense, hyper-competitive parenting of the mothers who'd accompanied the kids.

    (Meh. Let your children live a little, explore, invent, discover for themselves, or learn from each other. They'll learn resiliency and flexibility—good life skills.)

    This got me thinking. Stepping back 200 years, Barouche Mamas™ would be the Regency equivalent of these modern-day helicopter moms. However, since most of us write about the aristocratic classes, nurses, nannies, and governesses abound. Children were to be only seen between the hours of three and four and never heard. There're stories about neglect rather than coddling, fear and anger rather than spoiling and pampering.

    Have you ever read of an alpha hero who, over the course of the novel, breaks free of the silken web of maternal smothering to find himself? To grow from a gamma to an alpha?

    How about a heroine who's brought up to a cushy life, but decides to make a bid for independence, not because of circumstances, but rather a realization of her own shallowness?

    We read of external impetus for internal change, but no epiphanies through observation, conversation, reading, etc. Where were the self-help gurus of yesteryear?

    Romanistas, if you have any recommendations for books that have self-motivated heroes and heroines, I'm all ears.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Romance Scholarship Comes of Age

    Conference on Romance ScholarshipOn April 23 and 24, Princeton University will be hosting a historic event—Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture.

    This two-day symposium will be the first national conference to focus on the multiple ways that romance novels—long the most maligned of literary texts—can provide rich critical insight for the interdisciplinary study of American culture, politics, and society. This explicitly contextual, interdisciplinary, and American focus represents a rich new direction for the field of romance fiction studies. It will examine the ways in which romance fiction might be understood to resist rather than perpetuate oppression, but also to liberate romance scholarship from the need to defend the genre against all comers and at all costs.

    The conference is co-organized by Dr. William Gleason, Department of English, Princeton University, and Dr. Eric Murphy Selinger, Department of English, DePaul University. The schedule includes sessions, such as Love and Faith: Romance and Religion; Memory and Desire: Romance, History, and Literary Tradition; The Sweetest Taboos: Romance and Sexuality; and Whispers in the Dark: Romance and Race. Panelists include, author Dr. Mary Bly (w/a Eloisa James), Esi Sogah (editor @Avon), Dr. Sarah S. G. Frantz, author Jennifer Cruise, RWA president Diane Pershing, and SBTB blogger Sarah Wendell.

    IASPR and JPRSDr. Frantz is also taking steps to further romance scholarship by setting up a society and journal respectively called the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and the Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS), an online, open-source journal.

    In Dr. Frantz's own words: State of Romance Scholarshippart I and part II.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Gathering of Like-Minded Litterati

    Lady Jane's SalonEvery first Monday of the month from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock, Manhattan's Madame X lounge (on 94 Houston St between LaGuardia and Thompson) comes alive with heaving bosoms, throbbing nether regions, and love.

    Madame X LoungeLady Jane's Salon, a reading series devoted to romance fiction, is in session. With foreplay, indecent proposal, and passion on the drinks menu and set in the midst of red velvet couches and candlelight, the scene is ideal for a passionate reading of romance novels. "Everyone's temperature rose a little bit during the Rodale reading," said one romance-reading husband of a romance-reading female fan who attended the April 6th reading together.

    Share the LoveAdmission is five dollars or one gently used romance novel to benefit Share The Love, a non-profit organization that provides romance novels to groups helping women in transition, such as homeless or domestic violence shelters. Why? Because everyone deserves the pleasure of a good story and a happy ending. Founded by Hope Tarr, Leanna Renee Heiber, Ron Hogan, and Maya Rodale. Sponsored by Beatrice.Com and Share The Love.

    Romanistas, would you be brave enough to read your love scenes out loud in front of a mixed crowd? I can't listen to an audio book without my face going hot.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Where Is My Time Going?

    Every once in a while, I take a break from being completely-connected, hyper "on" the Internet and find it a blessed relief.

    Well, not for the first day. That day is riddled with anxiety. I'm sure I'm the missing the new cool thing. I'm sure if I don't trash-talk with friends on Twitter, they'll forget about me, or worse, think I'm not savvy enough to hang out with. And let's face it, I miss those friends like crazy and wonder what/how they're doing. I take the edge of that first day by reading and keeping up with my other job, aka hoome, hearth & family.

    Then the next day, I find myself diving into my research books. Anything to keep thinking about the Internet. The second day has circular thoughts of, "I'm so far behind, I'll never catch up."

    By the third day, the relief of not having to stay up-to-date with everything has kicked in. And, most importantly, the story percolating in my head from the two days of reading is now in the active mode of "what-ifs". I'm feeling good.

    The upshot of such a detox is I go through my Twitter followers and my Google Reader and cull what I'm reading. I slowly let the Internet back in. Life stays manageable for a while.

    Then the creep starts. Someone will mention a piece somewhere. I'll read it, find it interesting, and add that blog to my Reader or that person to my Followers. And it goes on. Soon, I'm spending more and more time attempting to keep abreast.

    The reset follows when I go cold turkey without the Internet. And thus, the cycle continues. Today, is my cull day.

    Romanistas, am I the only one here with Internet mood swings, or do you find yourself in the same rocky, leaking boat?

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Cooking the Books and Eating Them

    [Hover your mouse over the pictures for the titles.]

    Middlemunch by Andree Larson at Seattle Edible Book FestivalAn Edible Book can look like a book, pun on a title, refer to a character, or just have something to do with books—whatever the inspiration, it must be edible. Bee Season by Diane Barker at Seattle Edible Book FestivalThe 2009 Seattle Edible Book Festival is a fundraiser for the fabulous Seattle Center for Book Arts.

    Dictionary by Amy Broomhall at Seattle Edible Book FestivalThe festival works like this...
    1. You come up with an Edible Book entry (or entries).
    2. Register your name, contact info, and Edible Book title with the festival.

    A Comedy of Pears by Amelia Miller and Emma Sheehan at Seattle Edible Book Festival3. From noon to 1:00 pm, Saturday, April 4, 2009, you bring your entry to the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle's Wallingford district.
    4. From 1:00 to 2:00, judges, entrants, and visitors will admire the entries.Cookies Codex by Janet Fryberger at Seattle Edible Book Festival

    5. From 2:00 to 2:30, Celebrity Judges will award prizes.
    6. From 2:30 to 3:30, we will ingest literary culture together (i.e., eat them).

    Grapes of Wrath by Emma McIntosh at Seattle Edible Book FestivalThe International Edible Book Festival is a yearly event that takes place on or around April 1 throughout the world—inviting bibliophiles, book artists, and food lovers to celebrate the ingestion of culture and its fulfilling nourishment. Grapes of Math by Rose Freidricks at Seattle Edible Book FestivalIt is in honor of the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book Physiologie du goût, a witty meditation on the taste of food. Also known for saying "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are" used on Iron Chef.

    One Hundred Spears of Solitude by Janet Fryberger at Seattle Edible Book FestivalThe Unbearable Lightness of Bean by Ellen Zeigler at Seattle Edible Book FestivalA quick reminder, hover your mouse over the pictures for the captions. For more chuckles and more photos of entries, visit FryBooks.

    Romanistas, what entry would you submit to such a festival?