Encouraging Diversity At LATFOB

May 1st, 2006 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

We spent a lovely morning at UCLA yesterday, enjoying the overwhelming sights and sounds of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books — including, of course, being part of the rollicking Tod Goldberg entourage* — and we were absolutely amazed at the number of readers there are in a town that we’ve heard doesn’t read. And then the conversation happened.

We were talking to Wendy Duren about important PaperbackReader stuff and then romance fiction in general. You know, little things like, “Wow, you’d think they’d bother to devote at least one measly panel to romance.” Then, “No, no, they don’t want that sort of thing here.” You know how it is — you let a few romance authors into the green room and there goes the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, the Washington Post was putting our hometown paper to shame with an article that looks at the current state of the genre and its impact on the publishing industry. Romance continues to command an extremely high market share; it’s pretty hard to devote a festival to the joys of reading without acknowledging the fact that people read romance. But the LAT managed to pull the trick off. Which is a shame because just as other fiction reflects cultural movement, so does romance fiction:

“Romance, as a genre, evolves and shifts, just as relationships and societal mores evolve and shift over time,” says Nora Roberts of Keedysville, Md., one of the genre’s most successful and prolific authors. “While the key to a romance novel is, and always will be, the relationship between the two main characters and the emotions that develop between them, the character type, the backgrounds and the personal and professional dynamics between them have evolved to reflect the times we live in.”

Another thing the LAT might want to recall is that in a city as diverse as Los Angeles, romance fiction addresses the struggles of members of so-called minority groups.

[Michelle] Monkou notes that in the African American sub-genre, “street fiction is the big thing, ghetto lit, urban lit . . . cautionary tales using gritty real-life examples. So instead of the hero being middle-income or a CEO, maybe the hero is an ex-drug dealer who is now trying to turn his life around and the street is calling him. It’s definitely not the type of story that would have fit in the romance guidelines of yesteryear. These books are flying off the shelves with fairly young ages, which is kind of scary.”

So, great festival, Los Angeles Times — it’s incredible to see so many people enthusiastic about books, reading, and writing — but we encourage you to think inclusive next year. We hear there’s this whole science fiction/fantasy thing that’s big, too.

* – Special thanks to Tod for showing us the secret lives of big-name authors, including the amazing Goldberg Family Writers (Tod, Wendy, Linda, Karen, and some guy named Lee).

File Under: Square Pegs

4 responses so far ↓

  • HelenKay // May 1, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Of course, the Post likely ran the article because the local RWA chapter Washington Romance Writers) had its annual writing retreat last weekend. The event brought editors, agents and bigwig romance authors running into town. Since the romance writing gurus had gathered in West Virginia (which, you are correct, is not in Washington D.C. – no one moved it while you were off enjoying your LAT book festival) the Post did have the advantage of being able to catch everyone without much effort. I’d like to think this was a case where the Post pulled out ahead of the pack, but I remain skeptical.

    And, if any of the PBR conversation with Wendy centered on throwing out your third member…yeah, don’t even try it.

  • Joan Kelly // May 1, 2006 at 11:29 am

    I was at the festival briefly yesterday morning and it never occurred to me that there *wouldn’t* be a panel and/or other stuff for the romance genre. Granted I was too busy noticing all the dogs (I’m dog-deprived and hence obsessed) and with getting in and out (last year I got lost for an hour trying to find my car, and so approached this year’s visit like a Mission Impossible challenge), but had I planned time to look around, I would have been happily reminded of my friends at Booksquare if I’d seen any romance-related stuff. Shame on the Times.

  • Rene // May 1, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    I too was at the festival yesterday and I talked to a certain writer’s organization that was trying to get members. When I mentioned I belonged to RWA, she had no idea what I was talking about. When I explained what it was Romance Writers of America, she got the oddest look on her face and I wondered if it was my breath. Unfortunately I think it was my genre because she told me I probably get all the
    support I need from that organization.

    I would have continued my quest for romance but I made the mistake of taking my children. After seeing Hi-5 perform on the Target stage, they were ready to go.

    Why does RWA not have a booth? Sisters in Crime was there as was Mystery Writers of America. I know RWA has had a booth before and considering the size of this festival, I would think it would be to their advantage. As for the Times….well, if it weren’t for the Sports section, I’d have stopped my subscription a long time ago.

  • Booksquare // May 3, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Joan — I noticed as I was being lead about in a docile manner (crowds overwhelm me) that I’d just missed your signing. I’m sorry. But I saw your picture!

    RWA doesn’t have a booth for RWA reasons. There is a long sordid story in here, but I won’t bore anyone. I will also resist commenting on Hi-5 for obvious reasons. I’m sorry you had to see that!