Friday, July 27, 2018

Diversity and Inclusion at RWA 2018

Diversity and inclusion were important themes of this year's Romance Writers of America conference. Avon have announced the creation of "The Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship [...] to encourage Own Voices writers to be more fully represented at the RWA annual conference" in coming years. Prior to the event the RWA had announced that
In continuing its commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion within the organization and the romance industry, Romance Writers of America will hold its second Diversity Summit at the 2018 RWA Conference in Denver on Friday, July 20. The Summit is a meeting that gathers high-level publishing professionals, key contacts at major retailers, members of the RWA staff and Board, and selected committee and chapter leaders who are registered for the conference. A summary of the Summit will be provided to membership by August 6, 2018.

The Diversity Summit will once again be moderated by 2016’s Librarian of the Year recipient Robin Bradford. We'll be discussing the results of a survey RWA commissioned from NPD Book focusing on the buying habits of readers across ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, as well as revealing initiatives within RWA to promote inclusiveness within our own organization and the industry. We will be inviting publishers to share their ideas, in-house initiatives, and ways in which RWA can be a resource for them.
Key speeches given during the conference were also indicative of the depth of the Board's commitment to "increasing diversity and inclusion".

The 2018 Librarians Day Luncheon Keynote Speech from award-winning author Sonali Dev (this is an audio file) called for librarians to think about the voices which have been silenced and pledge to help them to be heard, because librarians have power when they make decisions about which books to order for their libraries.


From something Dev says in the speech, I think it was given after Suzanne Brockmann's Lifetime Achievement Award Speech (link to a transcript on Brockmann's website) in which Brockmann recounted how, at the very beginning of her career, she was asked by an editor to make a gay secondary character straight. She acquiesced, but vowed that in future she 'would not write books set in a world where gay people [...] were rendered invisible, [...] erased “because that’s just the way it was.”' Brockmann also referred to current US politics.

The video below is of the entire awards ceremony. The section relating to Brockmann begins at 45:35 minutes (Brockmann herself appears just after the 56 minute mark).


Lisa Lin relates that "During her speech, I saw some who did not appear to react well, and I have seen some negative reactions on social media". Lin is among the many authors who have responded online in support of Brockmann's speech. Nicki Salcedo's response includes examples of how her writing has been marginalised:
Much of the feedback on my books was related to race. There weren’t comments on plot or pacing. No issues with dialogue or themes. The feedback was:
“We don’t have an African-American imprint at this time…”
“Your manuscript might find a better home with [insert publisher of Black books in completely unrelated genre]…”
“Are your main characters Black?” [I pondered this for a long time before responding and decided to say yes. I did not get another response.]
“I find your main character completely unbelievable…” [She was Black from an affluent family]
“We don’t know where to shelve your book in the store…” [With fiction? Or maybe romance? Just a guess…Or somewhere near the Colored People’s water fountain?] [...]
and then there's this, about the different ways the same novel was treated when Salcedo
removed all references to race in the novel. I did not revise or alter my manuscript in any other substantive way. All I did was make the main character “not Black.”

In 2012, that same manuscript became a Golden Heart Finalist. I wish I could say I was surprised. But I wasn’t.

I submitted my manuscript for the final round of judging and included my characters as I intended. Black, brown, and white. At the RWA National Conference, I sat in an appointment with an editor from a Big 5 publisher. She was a final round judge for the Golden Heart Contest. “I read your manuscript,” she said. “I hated it.” This is a direct quote.
Individual contest judges who are biased would seem to be an ongoing problem. This year, for example, Alana Albertson reported that her inter-racial romance received a very low score for the ending:

The RWA Board had already made changes to the rules governing the judging of the RITAs but these will only come into force next year:
RWA responded swiftly to concerns about this year's judging process with the following post:
RITA scores went out to entrants last night and we have heard the concerns of those who believe their entries were subject to biased judging.  ​This year, one of the major focuses of the RWA Board has been to evaluate procedures for the RITA Contest in light of the existence of bias among some judges. This bias results in an unfair scoring of books representative of marginalized populations, and harms the integrity of the award. ​At the July board meeting, the Board passed a new policy that we hope will allow patterns of biased judging to be identified and for actions to be taken against those judges if deemed necessary. [...]

While these policies only apply to the 2019 contest and beyond, we can begin documenting judging patterns this year. If an entrant feels their submission was judged unfairly due to invidious discrimination against content, characters or authors​, we ask that the entrant reply directly to the scoring email with this information. Deputy Executive Director Carol Ritter will review the complaint and will make a record of possible biased judging. These files will be carried over each year and if a pattern is identified, action can be taken as set out in policy.

It is the Board's goal to create a RITA Contest that allows for fair and equitable judging of all entries, and we hope the changes made put us on a path to that reality.

Friday, July 20, 2018

New to the Romance Wiki Bibliography: Lots of Free Items (including some in Spanish) on Australia, Cover Art, Publishing and more


Fletcher, Lisa, Beth Driscoll, and Kim Wilkins, 2018. 
"Genre Worlds and Popular Fiction: The Case of Twenty-First-Century Australian Romance", Journal of Popular Culture. Online First 16 July 2018. Excerpt
Golubov, Nattie, 2017. 
El amor en tiempos neoliberales: apuntes crĂ­ticos sobre la novela rosa contemporĂĄnea. Ciudad de MĂ©xico: Bonilla Artigas, 2017. [Free from a variety of sites, including the Universidad Nacional AutĂłnoma de MĂ©xico, Amazon and Academia.edu.]
GonzĂĄlez Cruz, MarĂ­a-Isabel, 2018. 
"Hispanismos en el discurso romåntico de Harlequin y Mills & Boon. Ámbitos temåticos y funciones socio-pragmåticas". Moderna sprÄk 112.1: 163-184. Abstract and link to pdf
Nelson, Elizabeth, 2015. 
"The Romance of Self-Publishing". Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries. Ed. Robert P. Holley. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2015. 149-157.[Whole volume available as a pdf here]
 
O’Mahony, Lauren and Olivia Murphy, 2018. 
'From polite society to the Pilbara: The ingénue abroad in Evelina and The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots', Outskirts 38:1-23. [Abstract and Pdf]
PĂ©rez Casal, Inmaculada, 2018. 
"The Romance Novel as Bildungsroman in the Works of Rosamunde Pilcher and Lisa Kleypas". Taking Stock to Look Ahead: Celebrating Forty Years of English Studies in Spain. Ed. MarĂ­a FerrĂĄndez San Miguel and Claus-Peter Neumann. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2018. 139-144.[Whole volume available as a pdf here]
 
Spears, Jessica D., 2018. 
The Romance Novel Cover. MA Thesis (Art History). City University of New York (CUNY), Hunter College, 2018. Abstract and link to pdf.
Washington, AlTonya, 2015. 
"An Indie Author in a Library World". Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries. Ed. Robert P. Holley. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2015. 139-147.[Whole volume available as a pdf here]

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Call for Papers: PCA/ACA 2019

From https://pcaaca.org/area/romance


Conference of the Popular Culture Association (PCA/ACA)
17-20 April 2019 – Washington, DC

In response to the 2019 conference’s location in Washington, DC, the US capital, this year’s romance area will foreground the topic of popular romance and politics. Romance has arguably always been political, but recent years have seen political engagement in romantic spaces become more explicit.
We encourage you to define “politics” broadly, not simply as party politics in a particular national or regional arena, but also as the ways that power dynamics among social groups are reproduced or challenged, naturalized or destabilized, along such faultlines as gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion, and class, among others.  In the world of romance, such politics often has to do with inclusion and representation.  Consider the pins Alisha Rai distributed at a recent author event, which proclaimed, “HEA belongs to everyone.” 
If we think about the romance “genre world” as a “social and industrial complex in which people work together to create and circulate specific types of texts” that functions at the industrial, social, and textual level (Fletcher, Driscoll and Wilkins 2018), we can see everyday politics in action at every level:  Which authors and works get published?  Who gets taught in college classrooms?  Who gets awards?
 Paper topics on this special theme might include the following:
  • The politics of the popular romance novel, romantic comedy, or any medium involving romance
  • The multicultural romance as antiracist pedagogy
  • M/M romance and the straight female readership/viewership/etc
  • Racial segregation in the romance industry
  • Politicians, activists, and elections in popular romance
  • The academic politics of studying popular romance
  • Party politics and military romance
  • Romance as resistance and romance writers/creators as activists
  • Politics within the RWA or other writers’, creators’, or makers’ organisations
  • Pushing historical romance beyond the straight, white, and narrow
  • Making consent hot
  • The dialogues between romance and specific social movements, such as #metoo
  • Mapping politics among romance readers, viewers, consumers, etc
  • The politics of publication and the current industrial status quo
  • Romantic love in a time of political upheaval
If you are sick of politics, or simply want to pursue your own intellectual passion, you are very welcome to do so. The Romance area invites any theoretical or (inter)disciplinary approach to any topic related to romance. We would like to emphasise that you do not need to write about romance novels to participate in this area (although that is obviously welcome!): the Romance area is open to engagements with all forms of media and culture that are concerned with romance, including, but not limited to, the following: art; literature; philosophy; radio; film; television; comics and graphic novels; videos, webzines and other online storytelling.
We are deeply interested in popular romance both within and outside of mainstream popular culture, now or in the past, anywhere in the world. Scholars, romance writers, romance readers/viewers, and any combination of the three are welcome: you do not need to be an academic to be part of the Romance area.
As we do every year, the Romance area will meet in a special Open Forum to discuss upcoming conferences, work in progress, and the future of the field of Popular Romance Studies. All are welcome to attend. In addition, if you wish to organise a roundtable, special session, or a film screening, please contact the Area Chairs, Jodi McAlister and Heather Schell.

Submit 250-word abstracts to https://pcaaca.org/node/add/presentation by October 1, 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Romance Paper Wins the Roberta Gellis Memorial Award

Bowling Green State University Libraries have announced
that Kathleen Kollman, a Ph.D. student in American Culture Studies, has been named as the inaugural recipient of The Roberta Gellis Memorial Paper Award. Kollman’s paper, titled “Contemporary Paranormal Romance: Theories and Development of the Genre’s Feminism (Or Lack Thereof)” was written for a seminar on romance novels taught in the Spring 2018 semester by Dr. Kristin Rudisill in the Department of Popular Culture, and was also presented at the Researching the Romance conference sponsored by the Library in April 2018.
An abstract of the paper and a link to download it as a pdf are available here.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Romance Conference in Palma de Majorca

Romantic E - Scapes: Popular Romance in the Digital Age
(University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca)
9 - 11 July 2018


The conference programme can be found here. Since (a) the programme's available, (b) there are a lot of papers and (c) I don't have any additional details about them, I'll just list a selection of the ones which seem as though they could be about romance as defined by the RWA (though they might not be).

Prof. Deborah Philips (University of Brighton): “In Defence of Reading ‘Trash’”

Ingrid Pfandl-Buchegger (University of Graz): “Romantic E-scapes: The impact of digital communication on the writing of popular romances”

Elina Valovirta (University of Turku): “The stuff of which fairytales are made: The formula, readers and writers of popular e-romance”

Paloma Fresno-Calleja (University of the Balearic Islands): “100% Pure Romance? Rosalind James’s ‘Escape to New Zealand’ Series”

Astrid Schwegler Castañer (University of the Balearic Islands): “Devouring Textual Love: The Culinary Metaphor in Contemporary Historical Romance”

Marta MarĂ­a GutiĂ©rrez RodrĂ­guez (University of Valladolid): “Love and Witchcraft: Contemporary Historical Romances about the Salem Witch Trials”

David RĂ­o Raigadas (University of the Basque Country): “Western Romance Novels: Escapism and the Cowboy Myth”

Silvia MartĂ­nez Falquina (University of Zaragoza): “Her Land, Her Love: Navajo Captivity and the Romance Novel”

Pilar Villar-ArgĂĄiz (University of Granada): “History, Exoticism and Romance in Popular Fiction set in Ireland”

MarĂ­a-Isabel GonzĂĄlez Cruz (University of Las Palmas): “Exploring the Exotic Other and Paradise Discourse in a Sample of English Romances set in the Canaries”

Aurora GarcĂ­a-FernĂĄndez (University of Oviedo): “Between Exotic Postcards and Green Activism: Environmental Preoccupations in Contemporary Australian Romance”

Lynda Gichanda Spencer (Rhodes University, South Africa): “ ‘A New Kind of Romance’: Romance Imprints and the Digital Age in Nigeria”

Manasi Gopalakrishnan (University of Cologne): “The quiet native: colonized women in historical romances”

Alejandra Moreno Álvarez (University of Oviedo): “De-exotifying Romance Novels in Postcolonial India”

Carolina FernĂĄndez RodrĂ­guez (University of Oviedo): “Nora Roberts’ Inn Boonsboro Trilogy: Fuelling the Myth of Romantic Love, Stoking the Fire of Consumerism”

Inmaculada PĂ©rez Casal (University of Santiago de Compostela): “A Study in Contradictions: Feminism in Lisa Kleypas’ Ravenels Series”

Irene PĂ©rez FernĂĄndez (University of Oviedo): “Atoning the Colonial Past in Contemporary Caribbean Romance: Female Characters Challenging the Norms”

Elin Abrahamsson (Stockholm University): “Mas(s)turbatory Readings: A Queer Theoretical Analysis of Popular Romance”

Prof. Hsu-Ming Teo (Macquarie University): “Falling in love with the past: History and the romance novel”

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

HQÑ - a Harlequin Imprint for Spanish-speaking Authors


At the recent IASPR conference Jennifer Hallock was discussing how "within English-language romance sold in the United States and written at least fifty years after the events described"
mainstream bestsellers are disproportionately: (1) set in Great Britain; (2) overpopulated with nobles; and (3) selective in their historical accuracy.
So I was very interested to see that Harlequin now has a special imprint which publishes romances written in Spanish (i.e. not just translations from English): HQÑ - HarperCollins IbĂ©rica

It publishes a range of sub-genres, and one of them is historicals. I haven't looked at all the historicals they've published so far, and although there are quite a lot which are set in Great Britain and/or contain nobles, there definitely seem to be a fair number set in Spain, in a variety of time-periods, from Roman Hispania in 154 BC onwards. I'm pretty certain there are a lot more set in the Iberian peninsula than one would find in the equivalent set of historicals written in English.

Does anyone know more about this imprint? I couldn't find a lot of information about it and don't know when it launched or whether there are specific guidelines for its authors.

Monday, July 02, 2018

PopCAANZ 2018: Byron, Disenchantment, FBI, Feminism, Gender, Italy, "Magical Negroes", Names, South-East Asia, Telenovelas, Twitter, YA

Details are available for the PopCAANZ conference which is currently taking place at Auckland University of Technology. This year there are lots of papers on romance and I'll include excerpts from their abstracts. The conference continues tomorrow, and I'll add links to Twitter threads as they appear.

Donna Maree Hanson - Popular romance fiction: flirting with feminism
popular romance fiction regularly depicts feminist social issues. In this sense, the concept of Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ applies — ‘this partly unconscious “taking in” of rules, values and dispositions...’ (Webb, Schirato, & Dahanher, 2002, p. 44). Contemporary popular romance novels are set in the everyday context and as such cannot but help portray the world in which the authors and their characters exist, including social issues present in the mind of the author, whether consciously or unconsciously. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s and since, the woman’s movement has been politically active and concepts of feminism have entered into everyday discourse. [...] research indicates that writers as well as readers of popular romance fiction have no issue reconciling their concept of feminism with writing and reading in the genre.
Lucy Sheerman - “Exempt from all affection and from all contempt”: necessary evil and the figure of the Byronic hero in romance novels
Two hundred years since his first appearance in print, the Byronic anti-hero - ‘that man of loneliness and mystery, / Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh’ - is a figure who continues to define representations of the hero in romance novels.

The influence of this angry and defiant fallen angel on the writing of the BrontĂ«s has been well documented. In my paper I will consider four Governess novels, published by Mills & Boon in 2016 as a homage to Charlotte BrontĂ«’s iconic romance novel Jane Eyre, and the Byronic traces of the heroes who feature in them.

The romance novel’s continued preoccupation with the Byronic anti-hero is central to the genre’s staged encounters with otherness and its exploration of emotional affect. The literary device of the anti-hero shaped the development of romance tropes such as plot, conflict and point of view, and also (as I will argue) gave rise to the Byronic anti-heroine.
Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud - Cross-cultural romance, feminism and femininity in Southeast Asian fiction
In this paper, I explore how the negotiation of cross-cultural romance also elicits a particular Southeast Asian feminism in three texts: Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (2012, Malaysian), Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls (2016, Singaporean) and Ayisha Malik’s Jewel (2017, Bruneian). [...] I argue in this paper that these novels construct a feminist femininity that allows the heroines to remain connected to and sanctioned by their individually patriarchal heritages, while also allowing them to critique and expand existing expectations of feminine identity through the negotiation of cross-cultural relationships.
Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread on Hanson, Sheerman and Daud's papers.

Ellen Carter - What’s in a romance hero/ine’s name? a corpus study of gay and straight romance character names
The first names parents give to their female versus male children have different phonological (sound) characteristics. My work extends this from the real to the fictional world, studying names given by authors to their romance heroes – gay and straight – as well as to straight heroines. My corpus contains 2,536 contemporary romance novels: 1,668 with a male/female pairing and 868 with a male/male couple, resulting in 3,404 heroes (1,668 straight; 1,736 gay) and 1,668 (straight) heroines. My results demonstrate that the phonological characteristics of names given to gay heroes are statistically significantly less masculine/more feminine than the names of straight heroes. Given that gay romance is a fast-growing romance sub-genre predominantly written and read by straight women, I explore possible cultural implications of this finding and how it may feed stereotypes and shape perceptions within (straight and queer) societies.

Eden French - Loving invisible bodies: transgender representation in popular romance
The few novels that do feature trans heroines and heroes — niche even in small LGBTQ presses — are hailed as daring simply for permitting trans protagonists to be plausible subjects of love and desire. [...] romance’s historically heteronormative politics of gender has constrained writers and even scholars from treating transgender themes; mainstream discussion around trans bodies still manifests routinely in fetishistic and dehumanising ways. Moreover questions of embodiment (for example, the politics of gender-affirming surgery) remain contested even in the trans community. Speaking as a scholar and writer, I will discuss existing examples of trans embodiment in romance, and outline possible reconciliations for the challenge of bringing trans love into the mainstream.

Francesca Pierini - “He looks like he’s stepped out of a painting”: The idealization and appropriation of Italian timelessness through the experience of romantic love
Marina Fiorato’s The Glassblower of Murano (2008) tells the story of Eleonora, a young woman who travels to Venice in search of her genealogical past and existential roots. Coming from London, Eleonora incarnates a “modern” outlook on what she assumes to be the timeless life and culture of Venice. At one point in the novel, admiring the old houses on the Canal Grande, Eleonora is “on fire with enthusiasm for this culture where the houses and the people kept their genetic essence so pure for millennia that they look the same now as in the Renaissance” (2008, 15). [...] Within narratives centred on this notion, “falling in love in Italy” occasions the appropriation of a privileged relation with history and the past, often contrasted with the displacement and rootlessness that seem to characterize the modern places, people and lifestyles of England and North America. Through a discussion of two Anglo-American historical popular novels set in Italy, this paper proposes an exploration of the notion of romantic love as a force reconnecting displaced and fragmented souls with a supposedly timeless and unbroken society; a society perceived as holding a privileged relation with ancient traditions and the past.
Pierini has a paper freely available online which is quite similar, though lacking the focus on romantic love.

Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread about Carter, French and Pierini's papers.

Maria Ramos-Garcia - This is not a romance novel but a telenovela”: metafiction and bilingualism in Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telenovela, is at the same time a parody and an homage to the popular Latin American television genre. Among the many unusual features that contribute to the originality and success of this TV series are an omniscient narrator, a metafictional discourse, a bilingual and bicultural setting and an unapologetic, unabashed, and explicit use and abuse of the conventions of the soap-opera, with a touch of Latin American magical realism. [...] This paper will provide an overview of the series, concentrating both on the Latino socio-cultural aspects that rarely make it into mainstream US television, and on the metafictional discussions of the telenovela and the romance novel — both as genres and as philosophies of love — that permeate the narrative.
Angela Hart - Combating the romance genre stigma: reading romance in the digital age
Avid readers of the romance genre can find their voices in the online sphere using social media platforms such as Twitter, utilizing the hashtags #amreadingromance and #romancelandia. Romance readers utilize the technological affordances of the platform to form groups, post about novels, and find relevant information on their specific genre. By using anonymous user login information, unidentifiable profile pictures, and unique hashtags, romance readers are turning to Twitter.
Jodi McAlister tweeted a thread about Ramos-Garcia and Hart's papers before stopping so she could present her own.

Jodi McAlister - Not quite YA, not yet adult: the short but complex history of “New Adult” fiction
This paper will trace the history of the new adult genre category, using the notion of the “genre world,” as theorised by Lisa Fletcher, Beth Driscoll, and Kim Wilkins (2018). [...] this paper will explore the generic roots of new adult fiction in young adult fiction, popular romance fiction, and fan fiction, and how these parent genres have given shape to popular forms and structures of the new adult category. It will provide a much-needed scholarly framework for understanding this emergent genre category, its gradual formation, and its complex place at the borders of several different genre worlds.
Eric Selinger - Disenchantment and its discontents: Weber, Illouz, and popular romance fiction
Modernity and romantic love make uncomfortable bedfellows. As Max Weber explains, modernity is marked by “disenchantment,” not just of the natural world, but also of the inner life and of interpersonal relations. Building on Weber, Eva Illouz argues that we now live in an “ironic structure of romantic feeling, which marks the move from an ‘enchanted’ to a disenchanted cultural definition of love” (Why Love Hurts). This talk will look at how several contemporary authors negotiate and resist “disenchantment.” Of particular interest will be Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Side of Happiness, a pair of “hijabi chick-lit” novels that take both sides in this great debate, Courtney Milan’s Hold Me, which casts a cool, modern eye on romantic love without yielding to the irony that Illouz describes, and/or Alexis Hall’s Glitterland, which deploys religious discourse to redeem both love and popular media culture.
Nattie Golubov - The surveillant gaze in FBI romance
This paper is my first effort at thinking through several issues recurrent in the subgenre of the romance police procedural: the configuration of the spaces of home, homeland and nation as domestic territories, besieged not by a foreign but a home grown threat that violates the integrity of the boundaries between private and public, interior and exterior; the role of individual trauma as a mark of the vulnerability of the self and the foundation of an affective investment in the protection of national territory; the "Americanness" of the values and practices that govern social dynamics in the workplace, the self-chosen family and the couple. National character is defined in opposition to the rendering of the criminalised enemy and, together with collective, institutional agency and cooperation, is also the best safeguard against social disorder. Eventually I intend to show that this romance subgenre mediates and manages social fears and anxieties by highlighting the strengths of a systemic framework and ignoring the negative aspects of surveillance: anxiety and fear lie at the heart of romantic relationships and the novels offer a means of managing them with the emotional investment in family and trust in law enforcement.
Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread about Selinger and Golubov's papers.

Kecia Ali - Writing while white: black martyrs as “Magical Negroes” in Nora Roberts’ novels
Roberts’ heroes and heroines are nearly always white; occasional Black characters are typically what Ikard (2017:94) describes as “magical negroes ... whose raison d’ĂȘtre in white redemption narratives is to support/heal/enlighten/inspire the white character(s) in crisis.” This paper explores four Roberts’ novels in which the violent murder of a Black character serves as the catalyst for vital emotional developments between a white couple or among a team of white characters [...] the single-title adventure romance Hot Ice (1987), the category romance Convincing Alex (1994), the stand-alone mystical romance Three Fates (2002), and Morrigan’s Cross (2006), the first installment of a paranormal romance trilogy.