Thinking about this Unsuitable discussion coming up Monday (previous post), I’m curious what you all would say. Do you remember your first romance? One book specifically or just discovering someone’s Harlequin stash?
Did anyone make you feel it was unsuitable in some way? (Was it a conscientious mom saying, Hey, you’re too young to read something with sex in it, or was it a more insidious kind of judgment?) Have you always felt free to read what you want without judgment from others, or have you sometimes felt self-conscious?
The title of this talk series came out of the memories so many people here on campus had of that kind of judgment, so I’m curious what your own experiences are.
Announcing the start of our Unsuitable series at Duke. This event and the whole series of events are open to the public! Best visitor parking options at Duke for this event are at the Bryan Center or Parking Garage IV (side by side parking areas). Parking there is $2/hour. Come join the discussion!
UNSUITABLE #1 ~ Women, Fiction & Popular Perception
October 20, 2014 – Free & Open to the Public
The inaugural event of the “UNSUITABLE” series that engages students and the local community in a discussion of women’s interests & popular fiction.
Genre romance fiction and feminism are often seen as antithetical to each other. The authors and scholars on this panel will speak on the role women played in the rise of the novel as a popular form of literature as well as about their participation in recent public conversations about feminism and popular culture today.
Guest Panelists for “Unsuitable #1″
Jackie C. Horne, blogger of Romance Novels for Feminists
Maya Rodale, best-selling romance novelist and author of Dangerous Books for Girls: The bad reputation of romance novels, explained
Professor Rachel Seidman, creator of Who Needs Feminism?
When: October 20, 2014, 5:30-7:00pm
What: Presentations and Q&A
A buffet dinner will be served.
This event is FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
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Jackie C. Horne worked for a decade in children’s book publishing before returning to academia to earn a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and a PhD in 18th and 19th century British literature from Brandeis University. As an Assistant Professor at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College, she taught courses on Fantasy and Science Fiction for Children and Young Adults, Multicultural Literature, and Writing Pedagogy. She is the author of History and the Construction of the Child in Early British Children’s Literature (Ashgate 2011), as well as the co-editor of two essay collections in the Children’s Literature Association’s Centennial series. She became (re)interested in romance after researching the genre for an essay about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, and began her blog, Romance Novels for Feminists, in 2012.
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the award winning author of numerous smart and sassy romance novels. A champion of the genre and its readers, she received her M.A. from the Draper Program of Humanities and Social Thought at New York University, and is the author of the non-fiction book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels, Explained. She is also a co-founder of Lady Jane’s Salon, a national reading series devoted to romantic fiction. Rodale lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.
Rachel Seidman is a U.S. historian specializing in women’s history. With a B.A. from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. from Yale, Seidman is particularly interested in connecting history to current concerns through civic engagement and community-based research. The author of The Civil War: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press) and several scholarly articles about women in the Civil War, Seidman was previously the Associate Director of the History, Public Policy and Social Change program at Duke University. At Duke she founded and co-directed The Moxie Project: Women and Leadership for Social Change, and directed the Poverty, Ethics and Policy Lab. She continues to work on projects related to women’s activism and poverty in North Carolina in her position as Associate Director of the Southern Oral History Program at UNC Chapel Hill.
What are you reading? Me, not much–my head is completely spinning at the moment, between moving SHADOWED HEART into production and the Romance Novel course and Unsuitable talk series that Katharine Ashe and I are putting together here at Duke. (Have I announced this here? For those of you in the area, the first UNSUITABLE talk is Monday at 5:30–author Maya Rodale, blogger and scholar Jackie Horne of Romance Novels for Feminists, and Rachel Seidman of Who Needs Feminism? join with us to discuss questions of women’s fiction and popular perception. It should be fascinating, AND there’s a free dinner, so…you should come! Here’s more info.)
I did curl up with Nalini Singh‘s ROCK COURTSHIP the other night, which she kindly wrote as a novella so I could cheat on my rule about not letting myself read a novel until I get ONCE UPON A ROSE done. It was so good! Just sweet and sexy and fun and comforting, and the hero David…yum.
And not to be terribly and horribly pretentious, but I do teach French literature, language and culture, despite my tendencies to focus on chocolate (gastronomy! that’s a cultural focus!), so I picked up last week’s Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano’s Herbe bleue. (Someone told me this one was particularly lovely for its descriptions of various quarters of Paris at night, and you know how much I love that.) I have yet to get a chance to crack it open, though.
What about you? What are you reading? Anything you recommend? Anything you’re looking forward to?
People are asking me nervous questions about SHADOWED HEART. I will go ahead and confirm that NO I did not mess up anyone’s happy ending. Every author has a certain story she tells over and over. My story, the story I care about and like to tell, is a love story where people find happiness and truly love each other and truly try their best for each other, through their various issues. They might be messed up, but they’re truly giving it their all. Sometimes that lends to a sweet, cute variation of my story and sometimes to something more heart-wrenching.
I think SHADOWED HEART has some of both, but definitely some heart-wrenching, if you like this couple.
I don’t know. These are some of the things beta readers said, so you can think about whether you want to read it or not:
“Wow, wow, wow. I cried multiple times while I was reading it. It was so beautiful, and so emotionally true. I love, love, love the arc of this story. I always loved Luc and Summer, and I really love seeing them here, fighting their way to a grown-up, loving, solid relationship after their rocky start. I really love the way you brought in the other characters in such a natural way that felt so right for the story. (And I laughed at Sylvain’s….” [not telling what!]
“My pillow is still wet, thank you very much….It feels true and real and valuable. And it’s hard and claustrophobic and painful – until it’s not. And then it freed me from the pain: soothed it, accepted it, kissed it, and then set it free.”
“We loved it. We both definitely think you should publish it. It’s a great story; and it’s very moving. We’re convinced that most of your fans would want to read this book. You are definitely pushing the boundaries of romance, as you did quite successfully with Snow-Kissed and Turning Up the Heat. In this book, you take us beyond the first crisis couples typically face in romance to arrive at HEA and vividly portray how HEA requires that a couple continuously work at their relationship. Centering the new crisis in the first year of Luc and Summer’s marriage when couples have to do so much adjusting and having them also face the scary challenge of parenthood is so true to life that it will resonate with many readers. It was also fun to see the old gang of characters fleshed out in new ways.”
But there are also multiple comments about wanting to smack these two or lock them in a room together with nothing to do but talk to each other! So…see?
In my personal angst star system, if I were to give 1-5 stars for angst in my books, Chocolate Thief would be a 1 or 2, Chocolate Kiss a 3, and SHADOWED HEART and The Chocolate Heart a 5. (And Snow-Kissed a 20!) But I personally think there is a lot of sweetness in it, too, some characters and moments that *I* thought were fun and funny, and a lot of trying. (I introduce a new future hero, here, in fact, to whom I am quite attached. At least I think he will get his own book some day.)
So…that’s me and the beta readers. They convinced me to put it out there so you could decide for yourselves! (It’s in edits now.)
And I want to offer them, again, a huge thank you for the patience and support in reading it, and for taking the time to articulate their reactions in ways that had meaning for me, and could help me think through the fact that sometimes you just have to put things out there and let others draw their own value from it. And thanks again also to all of you who have asked for it, wanted to read it, all of those who said, Hey, that’s not fair, you can’t talk about it and not publish it.
I value that value that you are offering to this story. I hope it means something to you!
The LUC AND SUMMER novel. All the beta readers say I really should publish it. (Although some say that, yes, it will probably be polarizing.) What do you think?
Three words, to shake a man’s existence.
Three words, to call on all a man’s strength, all his courage, all his love, and all his ability to hope and dream…and trust.
Three words, to wake up every fear a man has ever had.
“I’m pregnant, Luc.”
Now how could a man be perfect enough for that?
Amazon pre-order here:
Shadowed Heart: A Luc & Summer Novel (Amour et Chocolat)
And we’ve put a button for it up on Goodreads:
What are you reading this week? I’m *deep* in edits of LUC AND SUMMER 2 and in trying to get ONCE UPON A ROSE finished. (These blasted last 20,000 words. I write them. I rip them up. I write them. I rip them up.) So I am not really reading.
But…what about you? Anything you recommend for when I get these done and can go gluttonously read?
One particular book I am really looking forward to is Theresa Romain’s SEASON FOR DESIRE. As you all know, I’m a big fan of her work, and this one sounds like a perfect combination: a blunt American, an earl’s daughter, a treasure hunt. I want to read this one so bad!
And Virginia Kantra’s CAROLINA BLUES came out this week, but fortunately for my reading sanity, she shared an ARC of it with me back in August. Or else you know I would be going crazy trying to resist.
How about you all?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad would it be to have a cover with Luc in it with a different cover model than the one on THE CHOCOLATE HEART? I hated having that couple represent those two so much. There is NO WAY I will use them over again when I have control of the cover.
I may be forced to do the naked male torso to avoid conflicts. I know how much you all would hate to have a hot male torso on the cover, of course.
I’m happy to confirm that with Katharine Dubois (aka Katharine Ashe), I will indeed by teaching a course on The Romance Novel at Duke University Spring 2015.
This is an undergraduate course, taught from the History Department and part of Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate. However, we will be opening some events to the wider community.
Working with our Forum for Scholars and Publics and the support of other departments and programs at Duke, we will host a series of events around the theme of Unsuitable, primarily student-driven events in which we will invite authors and scholars to join us in discussions, when we will open the classroom to everyone interested. Our event title UNSUITABLE was coined in discussions with scholars across multiple departments on campus as we pulled this together, when we repeatedly came back to the memories so many people had of being told that romance, in particular, “wasn’t okay to read”, in whatever way they first encountered that message. (Not smart enough, trashy, etc.) Some people often also remembered hearing similar judgments for other things they liked, such as comics or cosplay or writing fan fiction, and our discussions kept growing the more we met with professors and program administrators here. We believe our resident dramaturg, Jules Odendahl-James, in Theater Studies, may have first used the word Unsuitable in a way that really resonated with us and became the title for our site and for these events, as well as our Twitter handle for this (@UnsuitableDuke).
We have been thrilled and even stunned at the widespread support and enthusiasm for this course from so many people we met with here at Duke, from deans to program directors to artists and scholars.
The course itself will have a website, where you can check out events (here), but I will try to keep people informed of the events open to the community also on this site. The first such event is October 20, 5 pm. (You can find out more here and I’ll post another announcement soon.)
This brings me to another point: we are very honored by the interest the community has expressed in this course and delighted to engage beyond university walls. Duke University, too, has a strong desire to engage widely, to lower the walls between academia and the rest of the community, which is expressed in the creation of the Forum for Scholars and Publics (one of our major sources of support, as noted above).
That said, while our writing informs everything we do, “the hat we are wearing” here is one of professors. Our goal is to support the intellectual inquiry and creative endeavor of our students. The content of the site will be student-driven, as will our discussions.
Since we have received a lot of inquiry about this course, I’m happy to share our course description.
HST 248S.01, The Romance Novel
This course explores the history, development and form of the modern commercial novel through a study of the most popular fiction in the world today: the romance novel. Throughout the semester we will analyze the romance novel’s role in popular American culture, its rise to dominate fifty percent of the U.S. publishing market, and the dramatic changes that have occurred in the past several years in the publishing industry, largely driven by changes in romance fiction. We will examine romance in its context in the larger publishing and entertainment industries, how creative projects become commercial products, and the gender politics of both the reception and rejection of romance—a women-driven and controlled industry—in the broader culture. We will address issues of female agency as well as models of femininity and masculinity that often seek to define and constrict creative work in the commercial world. We will engage, in short, in a critical, active discussion of a massive cultural phenomenon that is often overlooked in university studies.
Simultaneously, this course teaches the tools to better understand writing as an act of entrepreneurship and how to make a viable, successful career out of creative endeavor. Our studies include the choices a writer must make in shaping her or his career in publishing (publication with a traditional publisher? self-publish? ebook only? print distribution?), marketing (branding, social media, packaging, networking, platform), and the development of an artistic career with conscious intent through the determination of long-term career goals and the establishment of a plan to reach them. Students will begin work on their own novel as their major project for the course.
Katharine Dubois and I have worked hard over the past year to bring this course to Duke and will doubtless be working even harder as we get it off the ground. We’re excited to teach it and excited to be able to open so many of the events to the wider community. We owe a huge thank you to the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, the History Department, Dean Lee Baker, my own department of Romance Studies for releasing my from other duties to teach this course, and many individuals within these programs and without who invested fully in helping us develop this course. We also owe a huge thank you to the writers and scholars who have agreed to take part, and will be posting more about those as we finalize dates and our syllabus.