Friday, July 31, 2015

The Changing Face of Romance Fiction


Last week, I attended Romance Writers of America's national conference for the second time. This was a sold out conference in New York City featuring hundreds of published and unpublished writers and industry pros. There's a glitzy awards banquet where big names like Lisa Kleypas and Nora Roberts hand out trophies. Attendees are predominately women, and the atmosphere is empowering.



And yet ... not everyone felt empowered at this conference, where shifting cultural focus and values led some to feel threatened or excluded.

And yet ... women are often belittled for their interest in romance books.

And yet ... romance readers are labeled as lonely, bon-bon-stuffing, Fabio-loving, losers

And yet ... mainstream articles regularly devalue romance, or even if the article is good, the trolls come out to remind us that fans are fat, lonely, desperate, or at best, their interests are "guilty pleasures."


We have a problem in our culture when women-dominated anything is picked apart and devalued. When legitimate critical conversation turns to dissect the woman who authored the book, and what she looks like, and how much she weighs, or how intelligent we believe she is. The issue becomes less the content of the book, and the value of the author.

A lot of this is coming to light because authors and readers are pushing back. 

At the 2013 Atlanta RWA conference, you saw far more racial diversity walking out of the hotel to the Atlanta downtown streets than within the conference walls. Seriously, it was noticeable. Flash forward to 2015, and I sensed a shift. An author-generated #WeNeedDiverseRomance twitter campaign began long before the conference, with a diversity T-shirt day initiated for the first full day of the conference. See some pics here on K.M. Jackson's blog. There were multiple workshop panels addressing diversity, and industry and writing craft workshops taught by writers of different nationalities, races, sexual orientation. Yay!

And yet with this positive shift, some writers felt like they attended two different conferences. Read this blog post by Suleikah Snyder for her experience. For anyone who feels like "diversity" is an overused buzzword, or is talked about too much, I'm guessing those complainers haven't been on the receiving end of someone walking away with no explanation after you introduced yourself. I'm guessing they see themselves reflected enough in the books they read and the awards given out that they don't need to advocate for representation.

As writers, we have an opportunity to support those voices who aren't being heard. Listen. Be an ally. I'm a white lady who doesn't tend to face much discrimination. No matter your background, we can be a part of this shift by not silencing the voices that ask to be heard. Support by buying books and tweeting about books by diverse authors, Promo "diverse" books the same way you promote any other book. If you like X you will love Y. 

It's important we're unified here, because the rest of publishing and mainstream culture already thinks we're a joke. Check out some of these fantastic articles pointing out how others see romance:



Aren't you sick of seeing a female-dominated industry get crapped on? I am. I used to dis romance too. I didn't realize I was reading romance because my reading choices involved vampire hunters and plucky detectives, and just happened to you know, feature some romantic relationships. Why the shame? It's time to stop the shame.

NPR Books is currently featuring a summer of romance. Check out their list of 100 recommended romance books. They asked readers and authors for their favorites across all subgenres, and then solicited top romance industry bloggers to cull the list. That's respect. Check out blogger Bobbi Dumas' Read-a-Romance Month starting in August. 

If you want to support these writers, spread the respectful journalism. I think much of the change in how romance--and to a larger degree, women's writing--is generated by readers and authors themselves. We're still going to see lame Fabio articles and references to women stuffing their faces with chocolate until we point out we're sick of it.
Photo collage: Pixlr Express, All photo credits: Stephanie Scott 2015

Talk to me! I love comments. What frustrates you about how romance fiction is viewed? Do you see discrimination in other avenues of literature?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ready. Set. Write! Week of July 27

Ready. Set. Write! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. All the details are HEREAlso check out #RSWrite on twitter.  

Now it's time for GOALS and CHECK IN!

I'm a day late because yesterday I was so wiped, I slept half the day to recover from my conference. 

How I did on last week’s goals: My goals were all focused on the Romance Writers of America's national conference in NYC! 

Successfully meet up with roomies Brenda Drake and J.Leigh Bailey at LaGuardia so we can cab it into Manhattan! 
Brenda Drake in I in Times Square when it wasn't crazy

Yes! Meeting Brenda was easy, but we had several mishaps with the room, getting our bags, and general stuff that comes along with conferences like these. Nothing major. I've only known Brenda from online pitch contest stuff, so we had lots of time to get to know each other in personal ways, like sharing a hot cab (why no A/C cabbie?!) and middle-of-the-night blanket wars as we shared a bed.
Brenda is also constantly brainstorming how to help writers through her contests. I witnessed this first hand, and saw so many people come up to her with stories about the pitch contests.


Make new connections at the Bradford Literary agency dinner (including getting to hang out with my agent Sarah!) 
Yes! We ate well and I sat with Sarah the Agent and Tessa Bailey, who is hilarious and you should all read her books. I met their new agent and chatted with new and familiar faces. 
      Sarah LaPolla and me!
  • Celebrate and support #WeNeedDiverseRomance with my custom tee & search out new-to-me authors at all the signings.
  • Yes! I noticed a huge shift in focus from when I last attended RWA in 2013. More diverse representation in attendees and in presenters in workshops. This shift is still largely author driven, and as this blog post by Suleikha Snyder shows, we still have work to do. This is an era of growing pains. I think it's really important to keep pushing for change in the industry so that we no longer need campaigns telling people they should support authors of all races, nationalities, and sexual orientation.  
  • Determine workshops I'll benefit from most, including PRO retreat, Leadership retreat.
  • I'm so glad I attended the Chapter Leadership sessions. Not only did I meet leaders, but I got a little choked up at how dedicated people are to supporting writers. Many business cards were exchanged. 
  • I get to be a moderator for a workshop! Let's hope I don't flub the panelist's names.
  • OK you guys. Most of the workshops I attended were hosted in what I would call a meeting room. The workshop I moderated was held in a BALLROOM with a STAGE and about a gazillion people. I got nervous. No mishaps other than the a minor microphone issue for Q&A and one of the presenters ran in at the last possible starting minute. Whew!
  • Help the YARWA Evening of YA event go off without calamity!
  • I am SO impressed by our chapter and the volunteers. I showed up ready to work and had one little task because everything else was nailed down already. We had a tight fit in the room size we were given (ergh) and I have another minor issue that I hope was not a disappointment to the attendees, but other than that, we had a great event. Some pics here.
  • Meet other Pitch Wars mentors for lunch
  • Yes! So fun. We talked industry most of the time and I learned about different genre trends and what's going on with agents and books and conferences--SO good to connect with people. 
    • Pitch Wars 
  • Eat amazing NYC food 
  • Yes! Carmine's (Italian), Sardi's (old timey supper club style) Junior's amazing NYC cheesecake. I also stopped by a deli for lunch and had a really good cuban sandwich, served by dudes who could not give any ounce of caring about customer service. It was laughable how bad they were, especially given their tip jar was empty. No tip for you. 
  • See at least one NYC site either on my first day in or before I leave for my flight
  • Not a typical tourist attraction, but just the thing I like to do when I'm on vacation--do something the locals do. We visited Books of Wonder, an independent children's and YA bookstore in midtown. Brenda Drake's agent had his client signing, middle grade author Soman Chainani for the third book of his School of Good and Evil series, which is apparently being made into a movie--like, it's in production with a release date and all. Now I can say I've been a fan before the movies!
  • Ship books to my high school bestie who loves romance fictionYes ! Despite hiccups, my packing and shipping plan worked! I sent her a whole box and kept about 20 books for myself. 
  • Celebrate the Rita award nominations with Chicago chapter members Sonali Dev and Clara Kensie
    • You guys--Clara Kensie WON!! A YA book won Best First Book, across all romance genres. It's the last award of the night, kind of like Best Picture at the Oscars. Nora Freaking Roberts announced the category. Can you even believe?! I love Clara's suspense YA Run to You. Go ahead and buy it, it's awesome. 
    • The whole awards is a lot of fun. People get really dressed up. 

    • Members of the Chicago chapters with Clara and Rita nominee Sonali Dev
That's a lot of posting for me. For next week, my only goal is to get my edits done and sent to my agent. I hope to catch up with you all through the week!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ready. Set. Write! Update July 20



Ready. Set. Write! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. All the details are HEREAlso check out #RSWrite on twitter.  

Now it's time for GOALS and CHECK IN!

1.  How I did on last week’s goals:
  • Make it at least 2/3 of the way through my edit checklist. Ideally, I'd like to finish edits, but I want to be realistic! YES! I hit every bullet point on my list, though there's still work to do and loose ends to tie up. Saturday afternoon and evening I blocked off for edits and it was sloowww going. But progress. 
  • Submit my critique chapter, read critiques prior to meeting Wednesday YES. We had a spirited and very productive critique meeting.
  • Submit Spring Fling proposal YES! This required more work than I expected. I literally made myself get everything together--panelist bios, pics, wrote up an agenda, clicked submit. Whew!
  • Get a jump on packing for RWA National Conference next week in NYC! Sort of. I had one of those nothing is going right experiences. I realized my RWA conference awards dress is a mislabeled petite gown (I'm 5'8"). I managed to track down a returned dress with my size at Macy's (none of the stores carry it, it's online only for some reason). It's now being altered for me by the tailor at my cleaners. That same day a purple pen leaked in my purse which is still spreading purple love.... I bought the wrong prepaid shipping box to take with me to the RWA conference. I've never returned anything to the post office before, but here goes. Also we just got a letter from our homeowner's association that we need to replace the wood frame around our door basically immediately or we're fined. Ughh. But today is a new day!
  • Gym 3 days, other exercise 1-2 days. YES to gym, no to other exercise on off days. 
2.  My goals for this week:
  • My goals are all focused on the Romance Writers of America's national conference in NYC! Ya'll should see my schedule--the conference app is one giant conflict because there's so much to do. I don't like to limit my options. Pilates at 6:30 a.m.? Sure! Add it to the schedule! So, here are my conference goals:
    • Successfully meet up with roomies Brenda Drake and J.Leigh Bailey at LaGuardia so we can cab it into Manhattan!
    • Make new connections at the Bradford Literary agency dinner (including getting to hang out with my agent Sarah!)
    • Celebrate and support #WeNeedDiverseRomance with my custom tee & search out new-to-me authors at all the signings.
    • Determine workshops I'll benefit from most, including PRO retreat, Leadership retreat.
    • I get to be a moderator for a workshop! Let's hope I don't flub the panelist's names.
    • Help the YARWA Evening of YA event go off without calamity!* 
    • Meet other Pitch Wars mentors for lunch
    • Eat amazing NYC food 
    • See at least one NYC site either on my first day in or before I leave for my flight
    • Ship books to my high school bestie who loves romance fiction
    • Celebrate the Rita award nominations with Chicago chapter members Sonali Dev and Clara Kensie
*there's that word again!

If you're curious on the world of RWA and its mega-awesome Rita and Golden Heart award ceremony, the awards will be Live Streamed this year! Check it out Saturday July 25. We clean up good. 

That's it for me this week! Let me know how you're doing in the comments. Don't forget to visit a few other RSW blogs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pitch Wars Updates!


Pitch Wars, the mightiest of mighty of the online pitch contests is back! I'm returning as a mentor, this time with my writing friend Valerie Cole. Valerie has talked me down from various writerly crises, has offered a ton of support and advice, and she works with the wonderful agent Lauren McLeod on gritty, heart-wrenching contemporary YAs.

Pitch Wars dates of note:

Aug. 3: mentor blog posts go up. So many details will be given!
Aug 5: Whiskey, Wine, and Writing YouTube chat will feature YA Pitch Wars mentors
Aug 12: Whiskey, Wine, & Writing YA Pitch Wars mentor chat part 2
Aug 17: Pitch Wars submissions (stay tuned to Brenda Drake's blog for details)
Sept. 2: Mentors pick mentees (writers they will coach through to an agent round)

MORE STUFF:

TODAY I'm on Brenda Drake's blog critiquing a first page submission.

Ongoing, check out the auction to benefit Pitch Wars mentor Veronica Bartles who has a major family hardship. This is a chance to bid on query and page critiques by agented and published authors, agents, and editors, along with signed copies of books. Auctions are really good ways to get some feedback by those in the industry.

And this Thursday, I'll be part of the Bloomsbury Spark author chat on twitter talking about summer reading. Join us!





Monday, July 13, 2015

Ready. Set. Write! Update July 13


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. All the details are HERE

Also check out #RSWrite on twitter.

Now it's time for GOALS and CHECK IN!



1.  How I did on last week’s goals:
  • Camp NaNoWriMo: Add 5-8k words. I have some after work stuff and weekend plans , so I may need to do adjusting. Slight chance I could be gone all day Saturday.
    • No; I added about 1k to the Camp Nano project. After I posted these goals last Monday, my agent sent me notes on another manuscript, so my priorities shifted! I have a checklist of edits that I'm roughly half-way through. Busy editing now rather than new words.
  • Send out chapter sample for critique group next week, read & critique work
    • Not yet; I plan to do this today after figuring out which section from my current edits to send. Will read critiques tomorrow for meeting on Wednesday!
  • Turn in workshop proposal for RWA Spring Fling (Chicago area May 2016)
    • Haha...nope. BUT I have the outline. I need to do a little more coordinating with the panelists first.
  • Read for fun 1/2 hr to 1 hour a day (either lunch or before bed)
    • Yes! I read every day except yesterday.
  • Gym 3 days, other exercise 2-3 days
    • I made it once and I walked one day. I got sick for a few days which threw off everything. This was a week of adjustments!
2.  My goal(s) for this week:
  • Make it at least 2/3 of the way through my edit checklist. Ideally, I'd like to finish edits, but I want to be realistic! 
  • Submit my critique chapter, read critiques prior to meeting Wednesday
  • Submit Spring Fling proposal
  • Get a jump on packing for RWA National Conference next week in NYC!
  • Gym 3 days, other exercise 1-2 days.
3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised:

  • In edits: Too many named minor characters. As usual. Goodbye and delete!
4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week:
  • I didn't mind switching gears with different projects, but I didn't feel well for a couple days and I hate having to take it easy when I have stuff to do. Such is life.
5.  Something I love about my WiP:
  • I'm glad my agent sees promise in the MS she turned back to me. Her editorial notes are so helpful. I really needed a fresh perspective.
One more thing! Chat about summer reading on Twitter this Thursday 7/16 8pm EST with myself and fellow Bloomsbury Spark authors:



Please share what you've been writing, reading, or plan to do for the next week. Don't forget to check the other blogs linked above and provide support!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bloomsbury Spark Updates

Most of you know, my debut young adult novel Alterations will be released in 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark, I've been getting to know Sparks fellow authors and have some updates!

TODAY the YA Contemporary Song of Summer releases by Laura Lee Anderson:

The thirteen qualities of Robin’s Perfect Man range from the mildly important “Handsome” to the all-important “Great taste in music.” After all, Westfield’s best high school folk musician can’t go out with some shmuck who only listens to top 40 crap. When hot Carter Paulson walks in the door of Robin’s diner, it looks like the list may have come to life. It’s not until the end of the meal that she realizes he’s profoundly deaf.
Carter isn’t looking for a girlfriend. Especially not a hearing one. Not that he has anything against hearing girls, they just don’t speak the same language. But when the cute waitress at Grape Country Dairy makes an effort to talk with him, he takes her out on his yellow Ducati motorcycle.
Told in first person alternating perspectives, language, music, and culture go along for the ride as Carter and Robin find their song. 
Available from Amazon for under $4 and B&N for under $5!
Add to Goodreads here

The soon-to-be-released Hollywod Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda is featured in Barnes & Noble's TEEN Blog

From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them.
Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team.
But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California.
Together they're ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that's what witch hunters do.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Goodreads & pre-order links (releases July 20)




Plus: The B&N TEEN blog lists  7 YA Books You Can Read in One Day featuring a few Spark authors.


JOIN US ON TWITTER:

Join Bloomsbury Spark authors for a twitter chat on summer reads next week July 16, 8 pm EST. Hashtags: #SparkAuthors #BloomburySpark moderated by @BloomsburyKids

Hope to see you there!


What are some upcoming book releases you're excited about? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ready. Set. Write! Check-in July 6


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman. All the details are HERE

Also check out #RSWrite on twitter.

Now it's time for GOALS and CHECK IN!



1.  How I did on last week’s goals:
  • Start Camp NaNoWrimo! Get 5-8k written 
    • YES! 11k words! Planning paid off. I wrote every day except the 4th and got a lot done on Friday and Sunday.
  • Submit entry (completed WIP) to RWA chapter contest; deadline June 30
    • YES! And I sent same manuscript to my agent to read.
  • Host the first #YARWAChat on twitter, Tuesday 6/30 9 pm EST
    • YES! We had between 15-20 participants. Not too bad for the first chat and on rather short notice. I'm looking forward to another one and will be scouting other hosted chats for topic ideas.
  • Attend 3 classes at gym and/or 1-2 days of walking, biking, fitness video. Use My Fitness Pal for tracking during the week.
    • YES! 3 classes, and I needed 2 days of rest after last Monday's Boot Camp class which really took me down. Yikes. I used MFP during the week most days... :)
  • BONUS: finished reading two books
2.  My goal(s) for this week:
  • Camp NaNoWriMo: Add 5-8k words. I have some after work stuff and weekend plans , so I may need to do adjusting. Slight chance I could be gone all day Saturday.
  • Send out chapter sample for critique group next week, read & critique work
  • Turn in workshop proposal for RWA Spring Fling (Chicago area May 2016)
  • Read for fun 1/2 hr to 1 hour a day (either lunch or before bed)
  • Gym 3 days, other exercise 2-3 days
3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised:

  • Calamity!
4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week:
  • Not getting stuck on details in drafting new novel. Sometimes I need to look up info right away to keep writing, and other times I can highlight with a note to check on it later. 
5.  Something I love about my WiP:
  • I'm having fun writing my characters! I really hope their different personalities come off the page. This is 3 character Point of View and I'm trying to make each of them distinct.

Please share what you've been writing, reading, or plan to do for the next week. Don't forget to check the other blogs linked above and provide support!