Nora Roberts, RWA, Readers, Reading, and Jezebel: So Many Links

Seriously, my inbox asplode. Let’s get started with the a-to-the-href, shall we?

First: hear that sound? That’s the sound of champagne vendors wailing at the news that Nora Roberts will not be attending the RWA National Conference in New York this year, as I learned this morning. I’m a little bummed about this info, as her Q&A is awesome and who doesn’t love bumping into Nora Roberts in the bar? Alas, not this year. Maybe next year, I hope.


Benjamin Alsup in Esquire takes a look at sex in fiction, saying: Writing about sex is hard. Some writers claim the best way to do it is by not doing it at all. Focus on the furniture and leave the bodies out of it. But I think that desire is easy and bodies are what’s difficult. We need more bodies in our fiction. We need bodies on bodies in all the wack configurations that consenting adults will allow. Fucking matters. And when we ignore it or pretend it was something that can only be elided, or joked about, the joke is on us. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Besides, it’s only sex. Which is to say, it’s only the most important thing in the world, and nothing to get hung about.

Sing it, sir. Sing it. (Graceful curtsey to Melanie Greenberg for the link.)


Every now and again at a conference I’ll hear someone say that YA readers don’t read digitally – but this NY Times article seems to suggest differently: In their infancy e-readers were adopted by an older generation that valued the devices for their convenience, portability and, in many cases, simply for their ability to enlarge text to a more legible size. Appetite for e-book editions of best sellers and adult genre fiction — romance, mysteries, thrillers — has seemed almost bottomless.

But now that e-readers are cheaper and more plentiful, they have gone mass market, reaching consumers across age and demographic groups, and enticing some members of the younger generation to pick them up for the first time.
In 2010 young-adult e-books made up about 6 percent of the total digital sales for titles published by St. Martin’s Press, but so far in 2011, the number is up to 20 percent, a spokeswoman for the publisher said.

Do you know a young reader? Do they use an e-Ink device?

(Graceful curtsey to my mother in law for the link.)


Author Jenyfer Matthews was, until a few days ago, living in Cairo. Her blog for the past few weeks reveals an intimate (and scary) view of the current situation in Egypt. Matthews and her family was evacuated to the US, and I’m relieved they are all safe, as the State Department has advised all Americans in Egypt to leave now.


Here: spend some money! Out of Print Clothing has awesome t-shirts featuring out-of-print books, and I totally covet half of them.

You’re welcome. (Graceful curtsey to Courtney for the link.)


Harlequin, as usual, is doing funky things – and has good designers, too. Check this out: Patent Your Kiss – where you select two people (of either gender! Thanks Harlequin!) and arrange them into different types of kisses. I tried to create two men with long hair, but it was actually kind of difficult. Hair does get in the way.

(Graceful curtsey to Thalia for the link.)


And finally, in this stellar gleaming poo-fest of an entry, Morning Gloria on Jezebel writes a breathtakingly ignorant and insulting entry about a USA Today article profiling romance novels, questioning whether the romance heroes described by authors in USA Today really are models of behavior worth admiring. 

Act more like dudes in romance novels? Aren’t dudes in romance novels kind of… rapey?

I’m not a consumer of erotica or romance novels by any stretch of the imagination….

So why are you still talking? Wait, you have more to say? Oh, great. I cannot wait to read.

I am, however, passingly familiar with some of the plots of some of the more ridiculous romance novels floating around in the backpacks of America’s embarrassed readers right now, and it seems like what romance novel dudes actually are deviates sharply from how men who are functional members of any society should act.

You don’t read them but you’re passingly familiar with the plots? No, you’re not.

Romance readers are embarrassed about their reading habits? No, we’re not.

Here are a few of the plot summaries from Romance Club, a blog of sometimes embarrassed but always funny consumers of erotic literature who write book reviews summarizing their paper conquests….

Oh, yes, by all means, let’s go to a single blog about a single sub-genre of romance and look at plot summaries of books to determine whether heroes today are evolved from heroes past and worth emulating, or if they’re still rapey assnuggets – and by extension that the women who read them are dumb, embarrassed, and eager to be beaten down by only the most alphole men of them all.

Really? That’s the best you could do? You hit a trifecta of Bad Romance Journalism without even trying: Romance readers are shamefully embarrassed, the heroes are rapey so who knows why those readers like them, and here, let me cherry pick some examples to prove that theory right.

Many a romance author has come in swinging the WTF with a backup of OH NO YOU DIDN’T, not the least of which is is author Zoe Archer who brought the noise, the funk, and the smarts with her response. (Thanks for the link, too, Zoe.) Her blog entry contains what may be my next tattoo:

Deriding the choices of millions of women because it does not fit your conceptualization of feminism defeats the purpose of feminism. 

Morning Gloria, I see your shoddy piece of crap examination and your complete lack of knowledge, and I raise you some very, very fine examples of romance heroes indeed. Now, go away, and please, read a few excellent romances before you speak of the genre again.

ETA: but soft! What update through yonder Jezebel breaks? It is Sadie Stein with a counterpoint defending (some) romance heroes. Oh, thank heavens. Stein says, “[R]ather, the good ones — and there are a lot of good ones — are nuanced, intelligent and widely divergent. I hesitate to make generalizations about heroes today — that was one of my biggest peeves with that asinine USA Today piece — but the truth is, if you can generalize about today’s romantic hero, he’s kind, he’s honorable, he respects the heroine’s independence and intelligence, and he always, always goes down on her.”

I agree that generalizations can’t be made across the board (the comments to this entry bear witness to that fact) but this is a much better perspective on current romance heroes – from someone who clearly reads them. (Also – thanks for the compliment, there, ma’am).

The part that cracks me up? The number of people talking about RWA conferences and how awesomely welcoming they are.



The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Interesting news tidbits – how/where did you learn about Ms. Roberts’ absence from RWA?  Indeed, she will be missed.

  2. 2
    sara says:

    I have to say I kind of love when people write this kind of ignorant horseshit about romance novels and readers, because you get awesome people like Zoe and Sarah riding in on their white horses to kick some ass. It’s particularly barbed coming off a Steelers loss. INSULT TO INJURY OH HELL NO.

  3. 3
    Jennifer says:

    Sara – There’s a small bitter part of my soul that thinks they did for the hits. This is Jezebel’s second controversial mis-step in the last month or so and I want to think they did it to generate hits, rather than actual believing the idiocy they posted.

  4. 4
    sara says:

    Well, she’s also not one of the regular writers; Morning Gloria is just a weekend contributor. So she isn’t really on the hook for her ignorance.

    Also, for New York readers, many of those Out of Print book shirts are for sale at The Strand.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    @Jennifer, I so want to believe that’s not true. I can see where you’re coming from, but running crapola like this damages the “brand” they’ve established. I hope that wouldn’t be a deliberate decision!

    @Kim: Nora Roberts’ publicist confirmed the info when I asked her earlier today.

  6. 6
    Liz C. says:

    @Jennifer, I had the same conspiracy thought about the Jezebel article.
    It was nice to open my local paper this morning, and see a features piece on the same topic (what can we learn from romance novels), with a local RWA author, that provided a nice counterpoint.  (dis.claimer, I don’t know the author, I don’t even read contemporaries.)

  7. 7
    Amitatuq says:

    I just read that Jezebel article and also had a WTF moment.  Loved a lot of the responses, especially the ones directing her to here and Dear Author.  This was one of my favorite responses, by Deeby, I think:

    Judging romance novels by reading reviews of bizarre ones on a comedy site is like watching MST3K and concluding that all movies are low-budget schlock with poor acting and worse special effects.

  8. 8
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    I actually did laugh out loud, a huge, foghorn laugh, to read that Jezebel of all blogs think they have a place to complain about romance novels furthering rape culture.  They’re the ones who defended the “No means yes, yes means anal” douche bros at Yale:!5664883/yale-frat-boys-are-not-worthy-of-your-outrage

    They also ran an article about how sexually repressed the United States is because we get all hung up on that pesky “consent” thing:!5691871/american-guy-in-paris-freed-from-the-idea-of-consent

    This, however:

    Deriding the choices of millions of women because it does not fit your conceptualization of feminism defeats the purpose of feminism.

    isn’t quite correct.  Women make all sorts of anti-feminist choices, and yes, the absolutely should be called on them.  Being a woman doesn’t make everything you do automatically feminist, simply because you chose to do it.

  9. 9
    MissFifi says:

    I never understand when people slam Romance novels. There are good and bad novels of every sort out there, but Romance seems to be the easiest to kick around. I think part of the problem is there is this assumption that the characters are one dimensional and all it is about it purple prose and handsome, dashing men whisking helpless females away. I could say it is their loss, but in fact, we need more people to understand that “bodice rippers” is a term that no longer needs to apply.

  10. 10
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    I should clarify: I write books that aren’t always living up to a feminist ideal.  I still write them, because I enjoy writing them and people seem to enjoy reading them.  But I don’t believe that a woman’s every choice should be held up to the feminist lens.  I don’t believe that a book written by a woman, for a woman, to fulfill a woman’s sexual or romantic fantasy expectations, needs to be “feminist”, and we don’t need to defend our tastes in those arenas to other women.  So while romance novels might be unfeminist and perpetuate rape culture, it’s not unacceptable for women to explore that in the reading they do for pleasure.

    I guess the short version of this ramble is, I disagree that romance novels are feminist, but I disagree that they need to be, as they’re being consumed by the very women that are living in our anti-feminist rape culture.  Romance novels didn’t cause the problem, and not writing them won’t make it go away.  So let’s stop tying ourselves in knots trying to justify ourselves.

  11. 11
    Mireya says:

    Re: That post on Jezebel.  After reading it, I think that either she did that for the hits (nothing easier than to rile up lovers of the romance genre that frequent the internet) or she just chose the wrong way of expressing her dislike of that article in USA Today… or both.

    It is an obnoxious article, have to agree, but the tone is kinda sarcastic, which made me think about her actual intent.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    I disagree with you on two points, Jennifer. First, I think that the fact that a woman has a choice to choose something that someone else may label as “unfeminist” is itself a feminist act. Having the choice is the point of most importance, not whether it’s labeled.

    Second, I disagree that romance novels are unilaterally not feminist. There are some that adhere to varying sexual standards and you can locate different books all over the place on whatever spectrum of value you can create, but they are written by women for women – and edited mostly by women as well, they are about female sexuality and female self-actualization, and however that story is encoded, they are feminist at their core. I don’t think romances need justification, either. They are here and I like them so eat my shorts if you don’t like it. Candy and I debated whether romance was subversive back in 2006, and my position hasn’t changed much since them. Because of what they are about, who writes them, who reads them, and how they have been informed and affected by the changing role of women in the “real world,” I think romances are inherently feminist literature – because they repeat again and again the concept that women have choices and that both the woman and her choices have value.

    But then, I ran screaming out of grad school because I was told I wasn’t permitted to use a romance novella as an illustration of Eve Sedgwick’s homosocial triangle, so I have a few major choices invested in my position.

  13. 13
    The Duchess says:

    I agree with Sarah on this. Having a choice to make and making a choice that’s right for you, the choice that you want to make for yourself, for whatever your reason, without anyone calling you out on it—to me, that’s feminism in action.

  14. 14
    Renda says:

    On a totally different portion of your post, my 11-y-o daughter bought her own Kindle this past October and uses her weekly allowance to supply it. 
    I don’t even have one.
    But her problem is there is not that much for her to put on her Kindle.  She is not quite to the YA age yet. 
    She visited Sony and various e-reader outlets (and I pointed her to the DA posts as well as the posts here, comparing and contrasting).  One of her deciding factors was the belief, for better or worse, that Kindle would have the best/broadest selection for her.  When we travel, we have to bring and buy books for her.  The Kindle is making travel/packing easier for all the obvious reasons.  We still go to the great Powell’s and Tattered Covers we can find, but if a travel locale is bereft of such treasures, nothing beats an e-device.

  15. 15
    Liz M says:

    Well, you focused on the positive in that Esquire piece.  The bad part is that he thinks “no one is writing about sex” any more and cites ONLY MALE AUTHORS as examples.  Maybe if he’d read genre fiction and/or fiction by women, he’d find some good examples of people taking sex seriously and writing well about it.  But then, I don’t get the sense that Esquire takes women seriously.

  16. 16

    Wow! I’m glad I’ve never heard of this Jezebel site before and hope I don’t hear of it again. Now I’m off to do something positive with my life…like write and/or read a romance novel. Great rebuttal, Sarah!

  17. 17
    Lucy says:

    My daughter (22 y), my youngest son (17 y) and his two best (girl) friends all have Kindles. Although my daughter prefers reading on her iPhone she keeps the Kindle just in case. They have read classics for school and many novels of all types. I have a Kindle and an iPad myself so we are an eFamily! Lol.

  18. 18
    Barbara W. says:

    I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I personally think the best place to read some of Jezebel lately is from the comfort of Deadspin, where they can be endlessly mocked when they come up with some of their more insane bullshit. 

    On the subject of e-readers for kids, my 10-yr old nephew is a voracious reader.  He even scares me, he loves to read so much!  I’ve been thinking about pooling $$ with my other brother and getting him a Kindle for his birthday in April and putting some books on it.  I think he’d go nuts and since his dad already has one, it’s not like it’d be anything new to learn for the family.  He’d at least be easy to buy books for – he loves anything fantasy, dragons, warlocks and sorcerors, etc.  My brother has always been into that stuff too, so I imagine between the two of them, he’ll always have a reading list.

  19. 19
    Kristina says:

    My 15yo got a Kindle for Christmas this year. She loves it. There are at least 2 other kids at her HS that she’s seen with ereaders. Her only prob is that she’s afraid to bring it into school because they have a prob right now with people stealing things out of lockers.

  20. 20
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    The problem I have with labeling every choice that a woman makes as feminist is that “choice feminism” isn’t equality.  When a man picks up a book to read or a dvd to watch, he isn’t expected to make his choice in entertainment based on correct political ideals, so why should women?  If you handed a book to a man and said, “Feel free to read this, but know that there are anti-feminist themes in it.  It’s your choice.” is he going to care?  Probably not.  If you hand it to a woman and tell her the same thing, is she going to feel guilty about reading it?  Maybe.  I would.  And that’s why in the past I was very quick to proclaim that my books were different, they were feminist, the books I was reading were feminist, I was author, hear me roar.  But then, when I turned a more critical eye to what I was writing and reading, I realized that it didn’t fulfill the feminist ideology.  And that’s okay.  I don’t want to do the mental gymnastics required to convince myself that when I read a book where a woman needs a man to rescue her either emotionally or physically, it’s a feminist choice.  I don’t have the time, and it ruins the story.

    I will grant that the romance industry is, without a doubt, a feminist industry.  We’re largely women creating a product targeted at women, many of us have built amazing careers (mine apparently came from IKEA and now I have all these parts left over and it doesn’t quite work the way I thought it would), and we’re exploring female fantasies of emotional and sexual fulfillment.  In some cases, spiritual fulfillment as well.  I’m a sucker for those Amish romances.  But our romantic expectations are still informed by the culture around us… I don’t think we can have feminist romance novels any more than we can have feminist horror movies, because both require a certain suspension of logic and ask us to tap into things our culture shapes in us.

    Please don’t take my use of “rape culture” to mean that I feel all romance novels are guilty of the rapist hero trope.  I’m just referring to the reality of the culture we live and operate in, where women are valued as sex objects first and anything else second.  I write in the genre, I read the genre, growing up I was surrounded by strong women who loved, read, and wrote romance. 

    I would like for there to be some kind of middle ground between “Of course it’s feminist, a woman chose it,” and “It’s antifeminist so it’s bad,” because both messages are damaging.  Some things can be antifeminist and still ultimately useful to women on levels that don’t have anything to do with the equality movement.  But if we’re going to say, “Having a choice is all that matters, any choice a woman makes is feminist by virtue of it being her choice,” then we have to accept that in even the most extreme cases all women (pro-lifers, women who belong to radical antifeminist groups) are feminists , and I’m not willing to do that.

    At the same time, I’m not entirely keen to self-apply the feminist label in the first place, as third wave feminism is still white-washed and exclusionary.  But that’s a whooooole different topic.

  21. 21

    Duchess, is that you? Are you back?

    I read the article but decided not to reply, because I totally think it was put up as a cynical call for hits.

  22. 22
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    And I have to say, it’s times like this where I so, so love this site.  Because you guys are one of the few blogs that get people actually thinking about romance.  Not like, “I think I’ll look for Maggie Shayne’s new book at Meijer,” but actually thinking about it in terms of how it plugs into our lives as women.  I heart you guys.

  23. 23
    esotaria says:


    But if we’re going to say, “Having a choice is all that matters, any choice a woman makes is feminist by virtue of it being her choice,” then we have to accept that in even the most extreme cases all women (pro-lifers, women who belong to radical antifeminist groups) are feminists , and I’m not willing to do that.

    I think there is a critical difference, though, between choosing apparently anti-feminist things for yourself and trying to make that decision for others. The majority of the “pro-life” movement and the radical anti-feminists aren’t simply making choices for themselves; they are trying to force their personal beliefs on ALL women.

    If you believe abortion is a sin but are willing to grant that it shouldn’t be outlawed because not all women share your religious beliefs? I would call you a feminist.

    If you think a woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom rather than getting a job has betrayed everything that feminists have fought for, then at least from my personal understanding of feminism, you are not a feminist.

  24. 24
    ev says:

    Which is why I don’t read Useless Today. Even when it’s free at the hotels.

    And pooh about Nora.

  25. 25
    Sylvia Sybil says:

    I think Jezebel picked up on the problem pretty quickly; they had a rebuttal from another writer up this morning.!trueromance/5754218  Not .happy with their need to put (some) in the title, but oh well.

    And yay to all the Jezebel readers who jumped on the offending article and pointed that a feminist blog should be the LAST place we see dissing of a genre written by women, for women.

  26. 26
    Sylvia Sybil says:

    @Jennifer Armintrout I remember that crap-tastic article, written by a man, about the French are so sexually liberated even the women encourage men to date rape.  I know Jezebel had a rebutting article up soon afterwards.

    I can’t remember if it was the rebuttal or a comment on the original article, but I distinctly remember a woman talking about how she lived in France and she lived in fear of men like the original author.  How when French women smile at catcallers, it isn’t flirting, it’s basic safety trying to avoid violence from them.  So if nothing else, I appreciated how the original POS article prompted discussion of the importance of consent.

  27. 27
    SB Sarah says:

    I would like for there to be some kind of middle ground between “Of course it’s feminist, a woman chose it,” and “It’s antifeminist so it’s bad,” because both messages are damaging.

    I agree – there absolutely needs to be a middle ground, and I wouldn’t grab the widest brush and say every last novel is the pinnacle of feminism forever and ever a-women.  Also, I love that the comments here can discuss something like What Feminism Is without setting each other’s bras on fire while we’re wearing them. I’m still pondering the idea of romance and feminism, hours after my comment. Thanks for that, y’all.

  28. 28

    @Renda Sounds to me like Toni LoTempio’s MY SUPERHERO SISTER might be up your daughter’s alley. The author is a friend of mine, but I read the story, enjoyed it, and thought it appropriate for the MG/YA age group.

    It’s also very affordable: $1.99. Here’s the buy link for Smashwords:

    but you can also get it at Amazon & B&N.

    See a post I did at The Galaxy Express for more details:

    Hope that helps!

  29. 29
    lorelai says:

    Sidenote: The blog they reference in the Jezebel article posted a response:

    Apparently the rapey review they posted that was picked up by Jezebel was just a coincidence. Way to do your research, Jezebel!

  30. 30
    eggs says:

    My 8 YA daughter started reading via a kindle app on her i-thing.  I was poking around on it one day and realized that, because her i-thing is authorized the the family itunes account, she has every ebook I’ve bought via the kindle app stored in her kindle “archived” folder – apparently they get sent automatically to all ‘authorized devices’ on the account.  I’ve had all her princess diary books archived on my i-thing as well.

    She has no idea the archive exists, so I just deleted the kindle app from her i-thing and sent her back to paper books.  I didn’t think she was ready to stumble on The Devil in Winter at 8 years old! 

    To stop this unwanted sharing from happening I would need to de-authorize her i-thing, and set up her own itunes account – but she’s really into music too, and I don’t want her to loose access to our huge itunes library, and I don’t want to pay for all those albums again for a new account. So, no ebooks for her.  This account sharing thing is going to be a huge problem when the first i-thing generation leaves home and discovers they can’t take all their music, movies and books with them.  I wonder if parents have already started de-authorizing their teenagers instead of grounding them?

    I would suspect that many YA readers are in this same position of shared accounts and it’s just easier for mum to keep buying them paper books than find the work around.

    Presumably, people can also use this “flaw” in the itunes system to share the cost of books bought via the kindle app.  A group of up to 5 heavy readers could buy ipads to use as dedicated ebook devices, all authorized to one itunes account.  Each book purchased could then be read by all 5 at once.  Cheap, eh?

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