writing for womenI had my blog all prepared weeks ago, but I've been doing Nanowrimo (3855 words today!) and almost forgot to post! Not that my post is so cutting edge that the world would miss it if they blinked. It's just a bit of irony from my visit to the library a month ago.
See, the local library was hosting a discussion group last month, for Women’s History Month, and promised readings and discussion about books by women, for women, about women. Hey, I thought. I’m a woman. And this might be a nice way to meet new, like-minded people, since I’m new to the town.
Funny thing was, when I sat down and looked at the display of books they’d set out, I started to feel, well, like some of these things were not like the others. I'll admit I went prepared to be the token Romance Reader, but honestly, I didn't think it would be this obvious that romance is the illegitimate love-child of literature.
Not to say people weren't nice to me, because they were. Very. The gals running the show introduced themselves, talked about what they hoped to accomplish with the meeting. It was meant to be informal, just a chance to look at what women have and are contributing to literature. They read beautiful poetry, and excerpts from wonderful non-fiction books. And fiction of course, lots of fiction: mysteries, Oprah pics... So many wonderful ways that women contribute.
"But what about..." I wanted to say, but the conversation turned to other things. Recommended reading lists were handed around. I couldn't wait to hold those lists! I don't know what kind of validation I expected to find by seeing (or not seeing) romance on those lists, but I felt it was awfully important to *know*
When I got my turn, I skimmed past poetry, local authors, biographies, children’s books and hit detective stories--not my genre, maybe it doesn't matter I didn't recognize anyone. I glanced at chick-lit. You know what? Most of the names I know in this genre are new writers. It’s understandable why they might have been overlooked. But when someone asked for a definition of "Chick Lit," and someone else said, “It’s cutting edge, contemporary literature," I wanted to say, “Lot’s of it is written by romance writers. It’s women writing for women, either way. Does it matter what you call it?” But I was distracted because there *it* was. Love Stories.
Now, I’m not saying the titles I saw don’t have merit, but they weren’t even written by women. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The Horse Whisperer. The Bridges of Madison Bleeding County. I was so disappointed.
A break was suggested and I knew I’d lost my chance to speak out, but then a miracle happened. Someone suggested we introduce ourselves. Being the shy, retiring type, I blurted out, “I’m Dani Collins and I read and write romance. I’m looking at this list and...where’s Jennifer Crusie. Where’s Barbara Samuel? Where’s Nora? Where are my friends?"
Okay, this might not have been the best way to win friends and influence people, but I am truly baffled by this completely 'cut direct' to romance. I give the library gals credit for being sweet and listening and suggesting I make up a list of titles and authors (which I will.) And I understand that the resolution of conflict at the end of a typical romance pretty much kills any need to discuss the story, so they aren't necessarily the best pick for book club reading. But I'm still wondering why romance wasn't even represented as Books Written By Women For Women. Can anyone help me with this?
Because, and this part's funny...once we began talking about romance, someone mentioned the Outlander series. Mainstream, right? Not ‘just’ a romance. But I'll tell you something. The gals who had read it did NOT wax poetic about the stunning historical detail. Nor did they discuss the significance of dropping an independent woman with a nursing career into a time when women didn’t have any rights at all. No. They talked about Jamie. They loooooved Jamie. And what does that tell you about stories written by women, for women?
Back to Nano,