Why Am I At An Academic Conference…

when one of my greatest fears has always been that the world (or the person to whom I am speaking) will suddenly realize I do NOT know what the hell I’m talking about? I’m spending three days at the Third Annual International Conference on Popular Romance Studies, but I am not an academic. I’m not even a wanna-be academic. I do like the way their minds work though.

Back in college I teamed up with a fellow English major and wrote a paper. It had something to do with feminist literary criticism and creative power. She was the literary critic. Since I majored in poetry-writing, I was the creative power. I think she hoped to somehow deconstruct how I did what I did when I wrote a poem. I’m sure she was disappointed because the answer then and now is I have no idea.

So there I was, listening to An Goris speak eloquently about “Rape as a Trope in the Work of Nora Roberts,” sitting in a room full of wicked smart people who are using words like patriarchy, telos and trope and I’m thinking Ah, patriarchy, I’m supposed to know what that means. All of the sudden, a question from the back of the room. I turn around. Eloisa James, NYT best-selling historical romance author, would like to know how, specifically, the author of the paper is using the word patriarchy. I love smart people. And I would die if I were giving a paper and Eloisa James asked me a question like that. Which I what I wrote in the note I was going to pass to the person sitting beside me, but alas, she was engrossed and not the note-passing type. The question was answered with grace and a simple Yes, that is one of the limitations of my paper and I’m still thinking about that.

That was one of my favorite moments yesterday. There there were some great papers and discussions – a round table chat with Raelene Gorlinsky, Cecilia Tan and Megan Hart, Catherine Roach discussing “I Love You,” He Said: The Money Shot in Romance Fiction as Feminist Porn, Jonathan A. Allan discoursing on Too Much and Too Little: On Flirting and Kissing – but that simple moment of I don’t know; I’m still working on that put it all in perspective for me. I joined the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance because I wanted to learn from people who think about romance a little differently than I do, people with a broader perspective who might, just might, be able to help me write better fiction by explaining how other authors write. I’m out of my comfort zone, but it’s interesting to realize I might not be the only one.

We are here in NYC to learn and to share what we know. Ten minutes into the first discussion, I was already all fired up to go home and write. Why? Who knows? Maybe someone will tell me today because I can’t wait to get back to the discussion.

2 Replies to “Why Am I At An Academic Conference…”

  1. I am totally intrigued and will be joining this organization. I have always regretted not writing my Women’s Studies thesis on romance novels. I had the topic on the tip of my tongue and then when it was my turn to share at seminar… something else popped out. Oh well… maybe for my PhD.

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