Monday, July 25, 2005

Three Events

There is such a difference between knowing and feeling. I know I should be unashamed of my reading tastes, and yet...

I deplore the fact that being woman-like, enjoying female things, is still denigrated and considered inferior in our society. I don't believe that romance novels are, of necessity, any worse than any other genre or form of literature, and they're certainly more entertaining than most. I just wish other intelligent, generally right-thinking adults could be made to understand that, as well.

There were a few turning points in my still-incomplete evolution as a reader (and burgeoning writer) of romance. The first was finding other intelligent women who were not ashamed to admit what they read in their free-time. My best friend, a marvelous young lady with whom you are well-acquainted, a doctor-in-training and history scholar, was the first of my friends to proudly discuss romance novels, and read them in public. Now I knew that this woman was one of the most intelligent people I've ever known. EVERYONE who meets her knows that. So anyone who could question her mind just because she likes romance obviously blinded by their biases.

Another turning point was an interview on NPR with Eloisa James. I've long been an admirer of hers. Of her books and of her ability to balance being a full-time professor of English with her writing and family life. Even Caroline Bingley would be forced to admit that Eloisa James is a truly accomplished woman. And yet the (woman) interviewer on NPR was laughingly dismissive of Eloisa's writing, labelling her books "bodice rippers" despite Eloisa's refusal to accept that term. The interview was polite, but I was shocked that a woman, a journalist with as fine an institution as NPR, could so obviously style herself as superior to a woman with Eloisa's background and successes just because she writes romance.

FInally, I was lucky enough to attend a romance industry convention in April and to meet many authors of all sub-genres of romance. Established legends, popular newer writers, up-and-comers and debut authors. College-educated women, graduate degree holders and those with only a high school degree. Women with full-time jobs outside their writing, with families, women who make their living writing full-time, and younger, single women. They were an amazingly diverse group, from all over the country. One thing they all held in common, though, was their excitement about and love of books and their intelligence. These women were friendly, warm and above all, interesting to talk with...about more than just writing.

I like to think that I've put together an informal support group for myself. And that each woman I introduce to romance (most recent convert was just last year) becomes another support bolstering up my fragile but determined resolve to stop feeling guilty and start feeling proud.

Maybe we can't change people's opinions about the genre in the abstract. But if people who know us, who know we're smart and motivated and sophisticated, learn that this is what we do, maybe they'll stop and think the next time they want to dismiss an entire sector of the publishing industry, or genre of film, or type of tv show without even checking it out first. And especially if they want to pretend to understand something fundamental about the people who enjoy said cultural product.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Question...and a Justification

Did I say uninterupted writing time? I must have meant uninterupted blogging time. Because the only thing worse than a young woman excited about staying in on a Friday night is a young woman who stays in to blog. Did I mention I live in New York? Night-life is a full time occupation in this city. And a demanding one at that. But the things that seemed so impossibly cool to me at 20-- getting past the doorman, having the dj comp your drinks-- now just seem like too much effort. (And yet methinks the lady dost protest too much).

So here's a query to Kate D. to get us started on this joint project of ours. What draws an intelligent woman to romance novels? It's a question I've asked myself countless times, usually when I'm in one of my shameful moods-- not quite the mean reds, more like the timid pinks. I'm a feminist, yes. I'm smart, yes (or at least my college degree tells me I am). And by every rule of conventional wisdom, I should despise these books as inferior fluff that are not worth their weight in paper.

But I'm so drawn to them, I not only read them at a gluttonous rate, I'm working nearly every night toward adding another one to the vast store already in existance. On top of having a fulltime job, and that's not an easy balance.

For the most part I've reconciled myself to the fact that if people want to judge me for liking Laura Kinsale or Julia Quinn or Eloisa James, they're more close-minded than I care to be. And it's perfectly alright to enjoy both War & Peace and Nicole Byrd's Gilding the Lady (the current reads...always more than one). And yet it's War & Peace I bring with me everyday on the subway. I shouldn't care what total strangers think of my choice in reading matter. But I do.

Weekends of the Young and Bibliophilic

My esteemed colleague likes to sell herself short. Her "rambling" reads to me like absolutely hilarious character-building. Not that I've had the chance to read Chapter 6 yet.

But God forbid this blog become a forum for critique partner backscratching. I don't even know if that would be interesting for the parties involved to read.

Chapter 14 is proceeding at a slow and intermitent pace. I was unfortunately Potterized for much of the week and studying for the GREs the rest of it. What was I thinking, telling myself I could read the last five chapters of Half-Blood Prince and then get any of my own writing done? The tissues came out about 50 pages before the "Fin" (who am I kidding, I never have tissues on hand-- the deli napkins, I should say) and I cried solidly for an HOUR after finishing the book. Then I went to the computer, sat in front of the keyboard, positioned my fingers for writing and wailed, "But he was my faaa-vooo-riiiite." And yes, I am 25.

But tonight, I have no distractions and no excuses. I am making a big bowl of lemon-parmesean angel hair pasta (courtesy of my girl, M Diddy), locking the doors, unplugging the tv, sending the boyfriend to a baseball game and settling in for what I hope will be hours of uninterupted writing time. On a Friday night. And I'm excited.