#romanceclass at IASPR 2018 Sydney
There will be a session on #romanceclass at this year’s conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, at Macquarie University in Sydney. Kat Mayo of Bookthingo and I will be talking about #romanceclass as a community producing, reading, and supporting books by Filipino authors.
Here’s background info on #romanceclass and 5 ways to support the community. Everything else about it is documented here on my author website, and the books are at romanceclassbooks.com.
I’ll try to post a summary of the conference, or at least tweet regularly while I’m there, but here are some thoughts on the session anyway since these are in my head right now.
On the agenda for the discussion:
1. The evolution of the community from a writer development initiative to one that includes live readings, trade stalls at book festivals, and inclusion in high school reading lists.
The community that formed because of the class was already composed of writers and readers. Everything that came after? Was a response to “now we have a dozen new books…we should make sure readers know about them.” Alongside this was a declining support from trad pub for English-language romance, and lessons learned from authors who were successful as indies and online. Every new thing attempted has been about helping authors write better books, and helping readers find the books. The live readings are a happy example of those two goals being met simultaneously, plus fun.
2. Gaps in the market that #romanceclass has actively sought to fill: how were they identified, and how effective was the community in meeting readers’ needs? In what ways do cultural enablers or roadblocks influence the creation, production and consumption of Filipino romance fiction?
The class and community was formed precisely because the authors who joined wanted to contribute to a genre that they didn’t see themselves in. Me, I want to see me: that was the very first gap. We get new members every time we open a class, five years on, and this is still the case. And it continues, because say an author does write one book that allows them to feel seen…well there’s so much more to a person and one book can’t cover it. Or this particular thing isn’t experienced by another person the same way. By listening to readers we also found out that gaps are everywhere, not just in featured characters. We need romance books set in more places, that are more inclusive, cover more age groups, etc. I’ve tried to help it along by issuing challenges every class. “Must have a sex scene.” “MC can’t be a writer.” “Choose from one of four tropes.” “Cannot be set in Manila.” The authors in the community have stepped up every time. Some end up forming the habit of challenging themselves, which I think is what we need right now as we’re helping each other grow.
3. Reactions by the broader literary community, local and abroad, to #romanceclass, and the efficacy of online channels to reach a global audience for Filipino authors.
As much as the live events have been fun and so affirming, this is a community that is based online, and thrives online. It’s thriving because of readers who discovered us and keep reading the books as they come out, and authors who use their platform to boost a book they feel is relevant to their own readers. Finding out who the readers are and where they are has been awesome and humbling, and the next initiative is to give back, and make it easier for Filipinos to read books that are diverse and inclusive too.
4. Key lessons learned through #romanceclass initiatives, data collection methods, and some initial findings from this data.
Lessons learned: Readers are smart. Readers are everywhere. Work with people who get it. Give readers choices, and when they do choose, think about what went into the choice.