Monday, June 02, 2008


This is a Call For People, rather than a Call For Papers. It is time for an academic society for the study of popular romance fiction, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto, like a journal and conferences. So we have decided to start one! "We" being myself, Eric Selinger, and a few other people who are already interested in being involved.

The society will be called The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and the journal will be an online, open-source journal called The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS).

So, we're looking for people who might be interested in helping us build these institutions. Do you want to get in on the ground floor? Do you already have experience in the hierarchy of an academic organization or with an academic journal that you'd love to share with us, even if you don't want to be involved in the day-to-day aspects of running either? Please let us know! For minimum involvement, for example, we're going to need people to act as peer reviewers for the journal, so please let us know your specific area of interest in romance novels (paranormals? inspirationals? Regencies? heroes? romances published in the 1950s?). For maximum involvement, we're going to need journal editors and IASPR board members. We especially need the input of people who might have done any of this before, so you can at least tell us what to avoid! :)

For now, the contact person for both the society and the journal is myself, Sarah Frantz. Comment here with a way to contact you and I'll email you post-haste. (Or you can contact me at my Gmail account, which is my full first and last names as one word.)

Let me know what you're interested in doing (A highly-valued affinity for numbers? You could be Treasurer! Technical Know-how? We need Web Gurus! Organization? We need a Membership Chairperson!). Or if you don't know specifically what you might be able to contribute, but are really interested in being a part of the process, let us know that, too! We promise, we'll find a use for you.


  1. We especially need the input of people who might have done any of this before, so you can at least tell us what to avoid! :)

    Eh, you'll make a few mistakes, but what you're doing is exciting and important.

    I imagine one issue may be the small size of the academic romance community. Creating a professional society early in the development of the field has some unique challenges. For one, it's so important that the journal have solid peer-review and editorial policies. Of course you'll strive for that, but having a small group can give the appearance (and sometimes, unintentionally, the reality) of favoritism or a blinkered viewpoint.

    There's a recent extreme example in paleontology. A close-knit group at a natural history museum appear to have rushed an article into print in their in-house journal in order to beat a grad student to publication. (The student had been studying one of their fossils, and had a paper in press elsewhere that would have named a new genus. The museum journal editors beat him to the punch and got naming rights.) The point isn't that paleontologists are evil, but that the small community and vested interests of the editorial board made it impossible to satisfactorily refute allegations of misconduct.

    There's a lot online about this case; here's one post by Janet Stemwedel discussing the findings of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology's ethics committee, and implications for how professional societies and journals foster or derail budding research communities. For example:

    "[T]he editorial practices of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin have left the authors vulnerable to the appearance of impropriety. Authors, including volume editors, have commissioned reviews of their own manuscripts; manuscripts have been reviewed in-house by other Museum personnel; and journal editors have made decisions about whether to accept their own papers for publication. These procedures do little to protect authors from charges of inappropriate conduct, should such charges be made in error."

    Anther point in that post concerns the role of the professional society and the journal in developing the field by developing younger researchers. Stemwedel calls it the principle of "Don't eat your young":

    "To the extent that the discipline's future health -- and its very existence -- depends on the training of new generations of scientists and the integration of these scientists into the activities of the community, they need to be nurtured. Collaboration with and support of other workers need to be nurtured."

    These points all stem from one grim example, but you did ask what not to do :)

  2. I just sent in my offer for support/recommends, etc. on the Web side of things.

    It is best to look Web-wise after all the due diligence has been done.

    Web work should only begin after you all have answered all your off-line questions and have written your mission, charter, established policies, processes and procedures, identified a Board, gained support from some academic institution or allied the IASPR and its Journal with an association or organization of note...etcetera and etcetera...

    RfJ, how long were the folks in NM working on the Journal before publishing?

  3. how long were the folks in NM working on the Journal before publishing?

    Do you mean the journal staff? The first author on the preempting publication (Lucas) is interim director of the Museum. His name appears as an editor of the journal since its inception in 1992. He's also a frequent contributor to the journal--he's listed as an author in 14 of 49 articles in one 2006 issue. Which makes sense, as it's the journal of the Museum and Museum staff have primary access to its fossil collection.

    If you mean the general chronology, the graduate student (Parker) apparently asked the Museum for access to the fossil in 2003. Stemwedel organized some of the chronology, and the student's statement (part of an expose site by a group of paleontologists) lists a number of dated publications.

    The student finished his thesis in 2003; in it he asserted that the fossil had been misclassified as a dinosaur, and was in fact a new genus of early crocodile. He asserted the new genus in two conference abstracts in a journal in 2003-04 and three full-length journal articles in 2005-06 (one in the Museum's journal). He submitted his first formal (non-thesis) publication *naming* the genus in 2005; it came out in 2007. Meanwhile in 2006 the editor of the Museum's journal published a short article asserting a new genus name, scooping the student.

    It's a story with trainwreck fascination, but the most relevant point here may be that editorial practices have put the Museum under a cloud. I think the moral of the story is that editorial processes must be both judicious and transparently so--particularly in a small field where a single journal may be a de facto gatekeeper. I'm certain Sarah et al.'s intention in creating this society and journal is to *expand* the field, *not* play gatekeeper; this is simply a cautionary tale about the importance of being "seen to be done".

  4. Thanks!

    Also, how long did it take the museum to stand-up the Journal? I'm assuming more than a year....

  5. I am such a clod.

    I never said the most important thing:

    Folks at Teach Me Tonight, congratulations on taking the plunge. It is exciting and it is needed, especially as this genre is read so widely.

    So, a belated Kudos to you all.

  6. I'd love to play!!! I could help with editing/writing articles. Please feel free to contact me at -- and congrats on the fantastic idea! Best to you on this endeavor!

  7. "how long did it take the museum to stand-up the Journal? I'm assuming more than a year...."

    I'm not sure what you mean by "stand-up the Journal". If you mean how long for the museum director's paper to get published in the museum journal, I don't know. That question appears to be central to the complaint. You may want to check out the links above for more details. It's not my field, and my interest is only in the implications for professional societies and their journals--not in getting to the bottom of that specific situation.

  8. I have four-plus years (at age 25, so that means something) of membership-coordination for a smallish academic journal (as in, only one title). So I'd love to be in behind the scenes, or possibly involved with copy-editing if you need something.

    No romance street cred, though.

    Contact me at steph AT readalready DOT com.

  9. RfP, this is actually exactly one of the things I'm worried about doing, so thanks for bringing it up. It gives me something to think about!

  10. I am thrilled at this idea and totally want in.

    Use me.

    jennontheisland at hotmail dot com

  11. having a small group can give the appearance (and sometimes, unintentionally, the reality) of favoritism or a blinkered viewpoint.

    Yes, this is something that worries me much more than the idea that someone might try to steal someone else's ideas as in the fossil example. Since it's perfectly possible for many critics to write about the same book and still find something interesting and original to say, I don't think there would be the same incentive to try to get in first with a "discovery."

    But the "blinkered viewpoint" could be more of an issue. I'd imagine that most people involved with JPRS would be people who think of themselves as romance readers, and with it being such a denigrated genre there might be a temptation to want to print only articles which say something positive about the genre. It would be disastrous from an intellectual, academic point of view if we all stuck to the "if you haven't got something nice to say, don't say anything at all" line.

    The problem is almost certainly going to present itself in more nuanced forms than that, though. I suspect the temptation would be to exclude someone with views like those of Janice Radway or Julie Bindel because the editors/reviewers might feel patronised or insulted by what someone like that had to say. So if the paper was, at most, sent back for revision, but the person couldn't/wouldn't change their mindset, would that paper be rejected?

    I hope not, because even if I didn't agree with her, Bindel's argument did provide the rest of us with a lot of material to think about and/or push against.

    In addition to accepting criticism of aspects of the genre which are homophobic, racist, sexist etc. I think there may be a need to actively seek out/encourage submissions and participation as reviewers and editors from a wide range of people working in the field of romance studies. As you say, "favoritism" can be a problem and it would be extremely damaging to the integrity of the journal and the association if there was a reality, or even a perception of, cliqueyness or discrimination.

  12. What Laura said, too. We've got a couple of essays in Mind of Love that aren't all hearts and flowers about romance, so we're doing okay so far! ;)

  13. "[blinkered viewpoint, etc] is something that worries me much more than the idea that someone might try to steal someone else's ideas as in the fossil example."

    It's true that JPRS can't act as a *research* gatekeeper--unless IASPR somehow acquires a collection of rare books or other materials :) However, JPRS could be a gatekeeper to peer-reviewed publication. Purely editorial gatekeeping may be more subtle and perhaps even easier to get away with. It's not as clear-cut as denying access to an artifact; it's about intellectual property and heritage--being cited as a contributor in a field.

    That's why, in the fossil example, I think the editorial practices and in-house reviewing short-cuts are even more damaging than the access issue. Credit and citation are enormously important, and not only in paleontology. All told, three grad students were shut out of an important chain of citations, potentially damaging their future careers. The professional society concluded that murky practices left the journal unable to clear its name--which leaves the journal looking responsible for "eating the field's young" as Stemwedel put it.

    The fossil example also shows some downstream benefits of having different leadership for the professional society and the journal. Some paleontologists grumble about the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology's limited findings, but the professional society seemed able to investigate with greater objectivity than was the state's Dept of Cultural Affairs--which includes some Museum staff. Equally importantly, the research community appears to accept the society's role and ability to do so.

    "even if I didn't agree with her, Bindel's argument did provide the rest of us with a lot of material to think about and/or push against." as tied to "accepting criticism of aspects of the genre which are homophobic, racist, sexist etc...."

    That's a great example. I thought Bindel had some important insights, though she expressed herself with such vitriol that it tainted her message. When these contentious pieces come up in future, it'll be an advantage having both a journal and an active online community--having forums in which to dissect ideas both in a broad-audience, quick, reactive timeframe and in a less time- and attention- pressured mode. Of course each form can cross over into the other's space, but I think they'll be complementary.

  14. I'd love to help out in any way possible. My skills are more organizational, but I'm flexible so use me wherever you need me. I haven't had much academic experience, but will be studying popular romance as a graduate student this fall. I'm so excited romance is getting the attention it deserves!

    Here's my contact info:
    Mallory Jagodzinski

  15. I don't really know anything about romance novels other than this blog, so I can't participate. However, I am the managing editor of a language learning journal and we've been open access for 12 years now. We're just moving this summer from a home grown journal system to an open access/freeware bit of software called Open Journal System (just type it into Google). If you'd like to find out more about that system, I can happily answer questions (though I'm really just starting myself). This is only useful if you want to automate much of the editorial review and publishing of the journal. Of course, you can always just email stuff around and have someone write some html pages for the journal as well. That's what we did for years. But now we've got 150 mss a year coming in and 300 active reviewers. I don't know how many submissions you are expecting in the first year, but you might want to spend some time exploring at least a part time person as an editorial assistant or managing editor (that's me for my journal - it's a GA-ship). The time can really mount up.

  16. Is this what you're talking about, Pacatrue?

    It says there that

    # OJS is installed locally and locally controlled.
    # Editors configure requirements, sections, review process, etc.
    # Online submission and management of all content. [...]
    # Email notification and commenting ability for readers.

    It does sound good, and if the reviewing/commenting is done online then I suppose it gets round the problem of different people running different operating systems on their PCs/Macs. Would that be right?

    I'd imagine that JPRS would be quite small to start with, but it seems to me that it would be prudent to think ahead a bit, and if this system would make expansion easier in the future then it might be a good idea to look into it.

  17. Oh, I think it's a wonderful idea and I'd love to be able to help out with the behind the scenes techie part. After spending the last months investigating Open Source material and Content Management Systems, I know you're going to have a lot a fun picking and choosing there. Oye. ;)

    Oh, don't get me wrong. There are a lot of great "free" stuff out and a lot of it is already geared towards academic journals because many were developed at universities. What's hit or miss is whether any given program is adequately user friendly or not while still having all the bells and whistles each group wants.

    I'd suggest at least initially finding a program that the academics signing on are already mostly familiar and comfortable with and let the techies who join catch up. Techie types can do that a lot easier cause their brains are wired that way. They may bitch and complain - a lot - but they can do it. ;p

  18. Hi Laura,

    Yes, that's the system we are exploring. I can't provide a review yet. In a few weeks, yes.

  19. I'd suggest at least initially finding a program that the academics signing on are already mostly familiar and comfortable with and let the techies who join catch up

    I know nothing about any of the programs that might be available, so whatever's decided on will be new to me.

    I can't provide a review yet. In a few weeks, yes.

    I'm not sure I'd understand the review if it's detailed, and in any case I'm not one of the people making any decisions about this, but I would be interested in hearing more about it if you can explain it in simple, non-techy terms.

  20. How awesome is this? I'll jump on board if more hands are needed--reading, writing, reviewing, organizing, whatever.

    I have academic and non-profit experience and I'm an organizing nut. Let me know what kind of holes you're still trying to fill.

  21. I'm very much interested in being part of the process...somehow....

    Paranormal Romance Author
    Candace Sams

  22. web person willing to help...

  23. After 17 years earning BA sociology, MA anthropology, PhD Ed Psych, I quit to be a full-time mother. I read plenty of romance for over 20 years. Now I write it. I can offer expertise and experience in designing/evaluating survey instruments and in peer review of academic papers.

  24. I'm an undergrad English student as well as a member of RWA. I have plans to go to grad school and want a combo career of teaching and writing... is there a role in your new journal for someone like me? Thanks! --Laura

  25. My name is Laura Baumbach. I write M/M erotic romance, one of the largest growing sub-genres in romance today. I also own MLR Press a small press for the print publication of this genre, and an authors advertising co-op. Can I be of help?

  26. Interested, not sure how I can contribute, but like you said, I am sure you will find something for me.

    Kerry Sutherland

  27. Congratulations on your new venture! I'm a Ph.D. student and would very much like to participate. I can help with organizing, editing, helping with the creation of the Web site (XHTML and CSS skills), etc. I'm a long-time romance reader and a fan of Regency romances. Please contact me at

  28. I have a mere BA in creative writing and journalism, but I've set type, laid out newspapers, designed book and booklet interiors, and can digitize material into the most popular formats.

    I'm trying to carve out my own niche of religion and sex together in romance (by self-publishing), which is like trying to force 2 magnets together at the same pole.

    I can edit and proofread. Currently, I'm writing about writing (POV and more specifically, defining genre terms) at my blog.

    My romance tastes are pretty narrow: I like contemporary romance without a whole lot of suspense elements and I like historical romance. I'm a fan of the old-skool 70s historical romances and Kathleen Woodiwiss is my favorite one of those. In fact, I have a stack of Valerie Sherwoods just waiting to be re-read.

    I'm willing to help in any way I can.

    Email: Moriah Jovan

  29. I'm a regular lurker and finally have something to contribute.

    I'm a scholarly journals publisher at a university press. If my knowledge and experience would prove useful, please feel free to contact me. bookgirlsd(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Good luck!

  30. If you were to submit this for publication by our program, here are some of the questions I'd ask you:

    --What is the audience, potential readership/subscriber base. (Beyond your start up association, who else would read the journal)
    --What is the competition? Other journals or serial publications with a simlar editorial focus? Think about it from the perspective of where else are your potential authors publishing their work.
    --How does this journal differ from any competing journals or journals that also publish articles relating to your topic?
    --Statement about the journal and its position in the field
    --Statement about the need for the journal, or what need/gap if fills
    --How large is the author pool of potential contributors?
    --List of members on the editorial board, include their institution and field
    --Biographical statements about the editor(s), including their publication history. C.V.s would be helpful.
    --If there are several editors, some statement about how the responsibilities are divided would be useful. That is, will each editor lead the effort on a single issue, or would it always be a joint effort?
    --Editorial policy & brief descriptions about the sections in the journal (if it’s not self-evident; for instance, if you have a special section, describe its purpose).
    --Is the journal blind peer reviewed?
    --Do you have funding, or are you seeking funding? Do you have the necessary financing for ongoing publication? (What would be your expenses? Copyediting isn't free.)
    --Is there an official sponsoring organization, and will their commitment be on-going or for a limited time?
    --How many issues per year do you anticipate and do you have the author base for that level of sustained publication?

  31. hi! i think this is so great and so needed!

    as a doctoral candidate, i have been around a well established journal (JAPA) and so have some insight...

    let me know how I can help! I would love to be a part!

    e-mail me at kelly {at} theunionrecords {dot} net

  32. I am not affiliated with a university, nor do I have a graduate degree or any real, useful, experience. Having said that, I loved the lit classes I took as an undergrad (I was a Spanish major, not English...same stuff different punctuation) and am thrilled that someone is organizing an academic organization/journal for romance--one of my passions (lol) from as long ago as I can remember (much earlier than my mother probably believes...I used to hide her historicals under my bed in JR high...)

    What I can offer (and do) is a little computer know-how. I'm a software engineer by day, and would be interested in helping, even if it's only to create the occaisional mail merge and lick a few (virtual) stamps.

    You can contact me at yahoo using britelord if you need me.

  33. Hi,

    I just found this and would love to help. I am an aspiring writer, struggling through my first novel. I've always loved to write, in high school I was on the paper, eventually becoming editor. I have a master's degree, though not in journalism, lit. or anything as such. However, I've written a ton of academic papers.

    I'm most interested in paranormals, cowboys and contemporary. I would love to help in writing, editing or whatever you need.

    Please feel free to email me at

    Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing from you.