Conversations about Romance - at the Smithsonian!

Fabulous reader Dr. Frantz, herself a professor of English and romance fan, brought this fabulous event series to my attention:

Conversations about Romance, an ongoing seminar at the Smithsonian.

Suzanne Brockman, Diana Gabaldon, Mary Jo Putney, Carly Phillips and Jennifer Crusie are each booked for a seminar to discuss their writing, and the host, Dr. Pamela Regis, interviews them with a book signing following each session. If the next session wasn’t 9 days after my due date, I’d be in the car driving to DC, no question.

What gets me is the description on the page itself:

Romance novels were created to celebrate women’s control over their own destiny, with the promise of enduring happiness at story’s end. The popular genre’s established pedigree includes such venerable writers as Jane Austen.

The form allows for tremendous latitude in expanding on the basic theme of the heroine and her man…. However, they all share an abiding sense of the heroine as the winning centerpiece.

“The heroine as the winning centerpiece?” “Celebrate a woman’s control over her destiny?” I am so on board with that.

Dr. Frantz also mentioned in her email to me, and on her LiveJournal that the session she attended with Suz Brockmann was fantastic.

I went to Suz Brockmann’s interview this week (drove all the way up from NC!), and it was just fabulous—although it was Suz, and she’s such a great person, it’s difficult to imagine it going any other way.  And while the whole evening was immeasurably improved by the dinner afterward with 20 fans, Suz, and her husband, I still think the interview itself was wonderful and worth attending.

What was truly great about it was that you’re in the Smithsonian, for heaven’s sake.  Surrounded by signs advertising classes about Opera and Native American Culture and Far Eastern China dildoes painted with flowers (not really), and all these “high culture” things, and then there’s conversations about romance novels in the same space, given the same attention and respect.

I thanked the woman in charge and she shrugged it off, but I thought it was important to recognize her for having the balls to put on a program like this.

I concur – it is so important to consider the development of the romance novel alongside all the high-academe topics such as the development of women’s rights in the 20th century. We certainly touched on this idea during the monster conversation about rape in romance.

But romance novels in the Smithsonian? I’ll have a grin on my grill the rest of the day – that is fantastic!

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  1. 1

    Isn’t it nice to see some positive momentum for the romance industry? I hope they keep up with this and add a few more names to the line up, like Laura Kinsale.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    Positive momentum – in a mega-scholarly venue! Boo yah!

    And yeah, Laura Kinsale should totally be on that list. Along with Candy’s fave, Loretta Chase.

  3. 3

    I haven’t read Loretta Chase. I’ll have to add her to the list.

  4. 4

    This news is enough to bring a smile to one’s face.  I hope the Smithsonian magazine, which I get each month, will include some coverage of this event.

  5. 5
    azteclady says:

    It’s a wonderful first step – the only thing that sucks (from a very selfish point of view) is not being able to attend any of the lectures/interviews/talks.

  6. 6
    Sarah F. says:

    Hey, are you the same azteclady from Suz’s BB?  ;)

  7. 7
    Sarah F. says:

    And thanks for the really cool words, SB Sarah!  I’m glad you thought it worth posting.

  8. 8
    HelenKay says:

    And, it’s not the first time.  Smithsonian has had romance writer lectures for a few years now.  One of the first ones included Nora and, at the time, it was one of the best attended programs ever.  Ever since, the romance writers are welcome. 

    Of course, when there is a Nobel Prize literature seminar, Smithsonian serves sherry and cookies (I’m not kidding) but, alas, no sherry for the romance inclined. Just a book signing.

  9. 9
    CindyS says:

    Okay, so Gabaldon does *not* hate having her books called romances?  I’m confused but then I shouldn’t believe everything I read.  I’ll just ask her when I go to her booksigning up here in Canada (holy crap a bigwig in Canada!).  Uh, no.  Not that brave.

    CindyS

  10. 10
    Angela( from DC) says:

    Sarah,
    you snark-lette I KNEW there was a reason I liked you.  Since I didn’t make it to the lecture the intrusive Nascar-esque shirt wearing fans brought back memories of Kathy Bates in the movie “Misery” and ruined my after-party hopes of a few minutes of REAL conversationwith Ms. Brockmann. Just goes to show truth IS stranger than fiction. For those of you who might not know, Ms Brockmann has done something most, not ALL,  African American romance writers have yet to do well, IMHO, and that is write an African American character with flaws whom you respect and admire that don’t make you want to say “honey you life is soo screwed, you should just end it now”.

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