Saturday, April 14, 2018

Day 2: Bowling Green State University's Romance Conference

As I mentioned in my last post, more details about the conference, which is being held on April 13-14, can be found here and you can follow events as they happen on Twitter, via #bgsuromcon18.

Today's papers are:

Contemporary Paranormal Romance: Theories and Development of the Genre’s Feminism (Or Lack Thereof)

Kathleen Kollman, Bowling Green State University


Paranormal romance is a contentious subgenre that some critics have castigated as being anti-feminist. Linda J. Lee writes that this subgenre features “male protagonists [who often] come from a cultural background in which men are dominant over women” (61), and Sandra Booth argues that paranormal romances featuring a monstrous hero and angelic heroine hearken back to highly patriarchal forms of gender roles, including consensual sex that reads like violent rape (96-99). However, as the genre proliferated beyond its initial surge in popularity in the 1990s, it—like romance novels generally—matured beyond its beginnings and manifested more complex ideologies. As Lee Tobin-McClain writes, the concept of “collective authorship” of romance causes it to be even more influenced by audience expectations than other literary genres (296), resulting in the need for heightened levels of feminist relationships in popular titles. In this essay, I will be exploring Tobin-McClain’s thesis, along with positioning paranormal romance as a twin heredity form sharing more features of horror and urban fantasy than may initially be apparent. As data points, I will be examining contemporary paranormal romance in the vampire subgenre, specifically Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris, 2001), A Quick Bite (Lynsay Sands, 2005), A Shade of Vampire (Bella Forrest, 2012), Immortal Faith (Shelley Adina, 2013), The Art of Loving a Vampire (Jaye Wells, 2013), and Bite Mark (Lily Harlem, 2016). Each of these six books represents an even more specific subgenre within vampire paranormal romance (urban fantasy, family saga, young adult, Amish romance, mystery, and ménage, respectively), and each was first published within the past two decades. By taking into account the scholarly genealogy of paranormal romance pre-2000, I will be seeking to assess whether the work written since that point continues to reflect those themes or if, in fact, several popular exemplars of the genre have grown to exhibit a more overtly feminist sensibility.
Love in the Time of Twitter: Identity, Relationships, and Fantasy in Modern Young Adult Romance
Patricia Ennis, Bowling Green State University
Social media has become pervasive in our society over the last 10 years. It has transformed the way we communicate and interact, has turned strangers into friends, and has allowed us to maintain a multitude of personalities, specifically curated for the platform in question. Who we are online is different than who we are in public which is itself different from who we are in private. Online we can be whoever we want to be. We can be idealized versions of ourselves. We can accept parts of ourselves we might otherwise deny or hide away those parts we — or others — might find objectionable. As the popularity of social media has increased, and as the internet has become less frightening and more widely seen as a tool of communication, so too has it become much more prevalent as a facet of young adult romantic fiction. In this paper, I analyze a number of recent novels in which social media and the internet plays a vital role and look critically at the way we construct identity and relationships online and the concerns, hopes, and anxieties modern teenagers face in these interactions. 
Not Cosplaying Around
Nicole Drew, Bowling Green State University
Novels like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell have begun bringing fandom to the forefront of the romance genre. Cosplay, as a part of fandom, is also becoming more relevant in romance novels, but the depiction of the hobby is not always favorable. The goal of this paper is to compare the depiction of cosplay in romance novels from kink to hobby and to examine the treatment of cosplay in the romance industry and what impact it could have on those who actually participate in the hobby. I will use novels like Don’t Cosplay with my Heart by Cecil Castelucci (2018), Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert (20150, and A Different Kind of Cosplay by Lucy Felthouse (2015), as well as synopses for other novels like these with cosplay as an important part of the plot (or lack thereof). I will be comparing the way each novel addresses, utilizes, and treats cosplay and whether it is an accurate depiction of the cosplay community as a whole. There is plenty of study on the way audiences receive the content of romance novels; this paper will repurpose those studies for this particular subgenre to decide whether the portrayals could result in a fancified idea of those who participate in cosplay, including Stewart Hall’s audience reception theory and Ann Snitow’s example of literary analysis. I argue that most depictions are not accurate to actual cosplayers and that readers come away with false expectations of what cosplay is and how it operates.

Seriously Becky Don’t You Know Hallmark Christmas Movies are Just Romance Novels on Film?
Alexander Lester, Bowling Green State University
According, to Pamela Regis the conventions of Romance Novels are Simple and Finite. Each romance novel has eight essential elements that permeate throughout its plot. In this paper, I look at the correlation between two Hallmark Christmas Movies that were adapted from romance novels The Christmas Cottage, A Bramble House Christmas and compare them to Hallmark's made for TV movie Fir Crazy. I argue that the 8 essential elements are seen in made for TV Hallmark Christmas Movies as well as novels adapted for film thus making them Romance Novels are written for television.
I Found Romance at the Spinner Rack: The History & Evolution of Romance Comics
Charles Coletta
Following World War II, comic book publishers soon realized that sales of their superhero titles were starting to decline as the once-prominent genre was diminishing in popularity. To retain their readers’ interest, the publishers cancelled many of the superhero titles and diversified into other genres, such as science fiction, war, Westerns, crime, horror, and romance. Young Romance #1 (1947), which was created by the legendary team of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, is widely regarded as the first romance comic. The pair produced and oversaw numerous romance comics for twelve years until Kirby left and transitioned to Marvel Comics. Young Romace gained great popularity and spawned numerous other titles featuring work by some of the industry’s top writers and artists. Aimed primarily at teen girl readers, the romance comics genre remained vital until the mid-1970s when the rise of the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution caused the comics to seem overly innocent, bland, and accepting of traditional patriarchal concepts of women’s behavior and gender roles. This presentation will offer a history of the romance comics genre from the 1940s to the 1970s by looking at its creators, themes, and readership; it will also include an in-depth examination of the Kirby-Simon stories that helped establish the genre.

Romance covers in Brazil: online interactions between fandom and publishing houses
Giovana Santana Carlos, DePaul University
Book covers are very important for romance fandom (RODALE, 2015). They express the stories and the genre through images and design (MCKNIGHT-TRONTZ, 2002) becoming an important factor for the readers when buying a book. But not always the fan is content with the cover. While is possible to observe that sometimes the writer does not have power of decision related to the covers (GREENFELD-BENOVITZ, 2012), it becomes more complicated when the book is published in foreigner countries, depending on contracts between publishers. In Brazil the romance book market is formed by most of international titles and writers translated to Portuguese. Not always the books can have the same cover as the original, so they are adapted or completely changed. However, as Brazilian romance fans follow their favorite writers and know how the original cover was published, they use social network websites to express their opinion and interact with the publishing houses. These companies also have learned the importance of covers to fans and interact with the readers (JENKINS, 2008). Thus, in this presentation I intend to show cases of online interactions on Facebook between fandom and publishers in Brazil that depict two perspectives: first, covers changed after fan complains and, second, publishing houses posting options of cover for fan voting. The collected data on Facebook regards books from Megan Maxwell, J. R. Ward and Leisa Rayven. These interactions present the importance of fandom for the development and establishment of romance book market in Brazil.
She’s an Athlete, but Don’t Worry, She’s Still Beautiful; Images of Female American Football Players on Romance Novel Covers
Joanna Line, Bowling Green State University
This paper analyzes the portrayal of female American football players on the covers of the three romance novels in The Cleveland Clash Series from Crimson Romance and compares these covers to two Crimson Romance novels that portray male American football players, to explore similarities and differences between how female and male athleticism are depicted. While the storylines of The Cleveland Clash novels provide a space to challenge the American cultural ideology that femininity and athleticism are conflicting concepts, the covers of the romance novels affirm the femininity of the female athletes while indications of their athleticism are absent. On the other hand, the portrayal of male athletes affirms the association of masculinity with athleticism. The relationship between gender performance, athleticism, and visual portrayal will be explored through Butler’s concept of gender performativity, Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze, Duncan’s theory of discourse within sport photography, and Goffman’s framing theory to assert that the portrayal of female American football players on the covers of The Cleveland Clash Series demonstrate the conflicting ideology of femininity and female athleticism.

Wherefore Art Thou Fabio? 50 Years of Romance Novel Cover Design
Andrea J. Briggs, McDaniel College
The art of the romance novel cover is just as important in reflecting consumer desires as the material contained within its pages. This presentation provides a comprehensive look at cover art trends and tropes of popular romance novels ranging from the 1960s to today, as publishers have adapted to the changing market of readers, visually differentiating and defining subgenres of popular romance literature.
How Amazon has shaped the future of the Self-Published Author
Constance M. Phillips, MVRAI Published Author
Not that long ago self-publishing was looked down upon and referred to as vanity publishing, insinuating the author had more ego than talent. All that has changed over the last decade. When Amazon launched the Kindle, they made ebooks easily assessible to everyone. The voracious appetite of the avid reader created a high demand and savvy authors began looking at independent publishing.
This turned the traditional publishing industry on it’s ear and created a new business model for the independent and hybrid authors.
In this presentation I will look at how Amazon, and the success of their Kindle ereader, has forever changed the publishing industry—especially in the romance genre. I will also examine the lasting effects these changes have had on traditional romance publishing companies.

Researching Contemporary Settings without Traveling
Jill Kemerer
Authors don’t always have the option of researching a setting in person. Time, financial and physical constraints prevent many writers from heading out west or spending weeks in Paris. A novel’s setting shapes the story and influences the characters’ thoughts and actions. Readers want to experience the mountains or city where the book takes place, and extra care must be taken to get the details right.
One way to get an overall impression of an area is to read a memoir of someone who lived there. Another method is to use online tools such as Google Earth, weather data sites, cost of living comparison tools, historical websites and visitor guides. For sensory details and local flavor, social media networks can connect writers with people who reside in the area. For instance, Google+ has groups for photographers in many states. They’re generous with their knowledge and share great pictures.
With modern technology, memoirs and help from people who live there, any setting can come alive, and readers will feel transported to another place.

Romance Law School is Now In Session
Jill A. Smith, Georgetown University Law Center
Plotting a murder, divorce, or even a trip to traffic court for your novel’s characters? Do you know how to make that realistic? You already know what state your characters are in, but do you know what jurisdiction you’re dealing with? State? Federal? Is this a criminal matter? If so, has your character committed every element necessary to successfully charge them with a crime? Are you sure the law that you know about in your home state is the same as the state where you’ve set your book?
If these questions are making you panic, never fear, you need to consult a law librarian. But you should also be prepared for that encounter.
In this session, Georgetown Law Librarian Jill Smith (a.k.a. romance novelist Adele Buck) will teach you how to structure your research queries, both for research on your own and for interacting effectively and efficiently with law librarians (and how to find those sometimes elusive creatures so you can ask for their assistance). She will show you some free legal resources available on the internet and how to begin to navigate them. She will also cover common pitfalls and misunderstandings about how the law and civil and criminal court systems operate to ensure that your manuscript is lawyer-ready and librarian-approved.
The value of wearing two hats: Reflections of a romance writer by night/feminist media scholar by day
Jessica Birthisel, Bridgewater State University
By night, I’m likely to be tucked behind my computer, writing the spicy passages of my next contemporary romance novel under my pen name. By day, I’m likely to be teaching, analyzing or researching similar content as a professor of media studies and a feminist media scholar at a public university in New England. In this session, I’ll wear both hats, sharing my experiences of hopping across this line between producer and fan, between author and media critic, and how I’ve found these unique perspectives to inform one another in essential ways. First, I’ll share how my academic training in feminist media analysis has prepared me to join a vibrant (and growing) community of romance authors writing feminist, intersectional, women-centered and diversity-conscious romances, which I argue play a vital role within our current social and political climate. I’ll also discuss my process – and rationale – for applying a feminist critique to my own works-in-progress. Conversely, I’ll share how my experiences as a romance author and as an active member in the professional romance writing community (including the Romance Writers of America) have shaped my academic media scholarship in important and positive ways. Key considerations of the session include: the role of self-publishing in the diversification of the romance genre, romance’s potential for subverting social and cultural norms, and the increasingly blurred lines between production and reception.
Keynote- Dr. Kate Brown, Huntington University
Kate Brown, Huntington University
Originally from a suburb of Buffalo, New York, Dr. Kate Elizabeth Brown received her Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University in 2004 and her Ph.D. in American History from the University of Virginia in 2015.
She specializes in American legal and constitutional history, politics in the colonial, early republic, and antebellum eras, as well as English legal history.
Dr. Brown was a 2017 recipient of an academic research grant from the Romance Writers of America for a project which explores how English common law and constitutionalism give fundamental structure and substance to the historical romance genre. She will be discussing her work and research.
Guest of Honor- Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins is the recipient of the 2017 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the 2016 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance. She has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature, was featured both in the documentary “Love Between the Covers” and on CBS Sunday Morning.Since the publication of Night Song in 1994, she has been leading the charge for multicultural romance, and has been a constant darling of reviewers, fans, and her peers alike, garnering accolades for her work from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and NPR.

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