I have had a revelation. I have had a revelation that I might have had in part before, but I didn’t GET it until this weekend. This amazing weekend.
People, I am a romance writer. And that is a fine, good thing to be. I am no longer semi-quasi-just-a-little-bit ashamed of that.
Isn’t it awful that I was a little bit ashamed before? I’m embarrassed and a little ashamed NOW, thinking of how I went into the Romance Writers of America conference. I was excited about it, yes, but there was a small, cheap part of myself that reserved the right to mock. I wondered how many gold puff-paint tee-shirts I’d see. How many sweatshirts covered in applique animals. I’d heard about the Ritas/Golden Hearts awards night, and I wanted to see housewives dressed up in ball gowns. I reserved the right to send mockalicious text messages to friends.
If I’m totally, completely honest (and this isn’t pretty, my darling readers, be patient with me), there was a small part of me that looked down on these women, and that same part looked down on myself for attending. (Not a big part: I WAS really excited to attend.) But in my head I thought, romance, schmomance, what about literary ideals? Had the attendees checked all literary tradition at the door? Was I going to have to do that?
What a jackass.
My mind was blown at the conference. BLOWN. I met a gajillion really, really, really smart women. Beautiful women. Together women. Women who had already worked all of this out and were kind enough to talk to me and help me while I struggled to overcome my prejudice. They were patient and sweet and SO SMART. (Hello, Ravelry sockgirl Sara — thank you for explaining to me what urban fantasy was!)
I have an analogy for all of this. When a lesbian first comes out, generally, she’s very stupidly excited. Picture a young woman moving to San Francisco and finding out that IT’S OKAY TO LIKE GIRLS! Oh, my god, YOU DO, TOO! ISN’T THIS GREAT? DID YOU KNOW THAT WOMEN ARE GREAT? THERE ARE BOOKS, DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE BOOKS? I CAN WEAR THIS? I’M SO EXCITED!!! There are a lot of capital letters and excited hoorays, and the lesbians who already get it smile and nod and support that new gal as she finds out that it’s all good, the water’s just fine out here, and no one is doing anything wrong: in fact, they’re all doing it just right.
I think I was that person this weekend, the MFA writer coming from a strictly literary tradition finding out that there is so much more to the romance writing industry than I ever knew. You could see it in their faces, the women I spoke to, here’s another one. Isn’t she cute? She’s a new kid, be nice to her.
There was no gold puff-paint or appliqued animals. Just frighteningly smart, nicely dressed, very together women who were sharp as hell. Many of the woman I met had an advanced degree. Or two. And this wasn’t because I was actively seeking them out: I just happened to stand next to them in the Starbucks line, sat next to them in seminars, stood in line with them in the bathroom.
Yeah. They’d already figured this out. Romance scholarship is not new, but it’s gaining popularity. There’s an amazing blog that provides a good jumping-off point called Teach Me Tonight.
But it’s more than just that the fact that there is now increased academic interest in the study of romance fiction — that’s not what legitimized romance for me. The women I met legitimized it for me. I want to be one of them. Someday, I want to be on that stage on Saturday night. And I didn’t see dowdy women dressed in ballgowns last night, I saw writers who reveled in their deserved spotlight who looked absolutely gorgeous. The inner geek in me arrived early to the hallway where people gathered before the ceremony. I curled up, mostly hidden, in an armchair where I had a direct view of the fountain of women cascading down the escalators. I didn’t even knit or try to pretend I wasn’t sitting there gawking. I just gawked. They were all writers, anyway. They knew what I was doing. Probably knew it was my first time. Probably could see MFA branded on my forehead as they smiled kindly at me. The inner geek also loved that many of the women with beautiful hair and gorgeous gowns also wore glasses. HOW COOL IS THAT? A geeky, romantic Oscars ceremony!
Best thing ever. I am so proud to be a romance writer. Bring it on!
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