Romance Takes a Hit

Earlier this year I read in our local newspaper about an assembly at the middle school that featured writers. Of course, my son, who goes to the middle school, didn’t mention the assembly to me, so I asked him about it. He said there were several writers and he couldn’t remember what they talked about. That’s about all I got out of him.

At the time I read the article, I wondered who set up the assembly and why I wasn’t invited. After all, I do have a son at the middle school (even though he doesn’t like to read and thought the assembly was boring). I can’t recall the writers who spoke at this assembly except for one who writes for our little local paper – which consists of mostly real estate ads, articles about the high school football team, and pictures of kids at the local Easter egg hunt.

I didn’t think about it again until this past weekend when I was sitting with a bunch of other parents watching a fall ball game (that’s off-season Little League baseball). I don’t remember how my friend and I got onto the subject of that assembly, but I groused about not being invited to speak when a small-town newspaper journalist was invited. My friend, who volunteers a lot at the school, told me that she lobbied to get me invited to the assembly, but the woman who was organizing it responded, “She writes romance. The middle school kids wouldn’t be interested in that.”


Our middle school comprises 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, which puts the range of ages for the kids at about 11 -14 years old. Does she really believe that 12, 13, or 14-year old girls aren’t interested in reading romance? While I don’t write Young Adult, I know those girls are reading it. Has this woman ever heard of Stephanie Meyer? I started reading Victoria Holt’s books at about the age of 13, and those stories inspired me to write.

Even if the kids don’t read romance, which I imagine almost none of the boys do, I wouldn’t have attended the assembly as a “romance” writer (and definitely not as Mia Varano), but rather as an author. I would’ve talked about the joy of reading – anything – and how reading makes you a better writer. I would’ve given them all kinds of examples of different word choices and how one word can change the tone or meaning of a sentence. I would’ve explored their imaginations with them and the stories that they have in their own hearts. I would’ve talked about the revision process, the editing process, the cover process, and the millions of other processes writers go through to reach a finished product.

Was she afraid I was going to talk about SEX? Does she think I’m stupid? I’m a parent! Was this yet another slight against romance writers and our genre? My friend assured me that this woman is completely out of touch and doesn’t know what she’s doing.

I think because of this woman’s bias or ignorance, the kids missed out. I’m also a former English teacher, so I have all kinds of tricks up my sleeves for keeping kids interested in the subject matter. I also think the kids would’ve enjoyed listening to someone that many of them know because they know my son.

I don’t know if the school plans on another writing assembly this school year, or if this same woman will be involved again, but maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t invited. My son informed me that if I had been speaking at that assembly, he would’ve gone to the bathroom and not come out until it was over...snort.


Donna Marie Rogers said...

Carol, too funny about your son saying he would've hid in the bathroom. *G*

But I have to say, I was impressed with you just from this blog post. Do you present workshops? If not, you should probably start because I would love to hear you speak. And I would be honored to have a romance author speak to my daughter's school. :-) Her teacher last year tried to talk me into speaking to the class, but that's not my forte...although I'm getting better since I have no choice but to speak at conference (I tried to get out of it, but Stacey will only do so much...LOL).

Carol Ericson said...

Liza, thanks for your comment. I've thought about presenting a workshop, but haven't hit on a topic yet that I think would be beneficial to people. I've gone to too many workshops that state the obvious and aren't very helpful. Yeah, my son cracks me up. I mortified him once when I picked him up from a birthday party and started singing karaoke with the girls. He poked his head in the room, his eyes got big and round, and he disappeared. LOL I live to embarrass my boys.

Amy Atwell said...

Great topic, Carol. I've heard too many stories of literary events of all types that manage not to include romance--like it's somehow an ugly stepsister. I prefer to think of romance as Cinderella--after all, we're the most highly sought fiction genre.

But I love your point that first and foremost you're an AUTHOR--not of any genre or style, but someone who paints with words to elicit emotions from readers. And this is such an important topic for our schools to teach students of all ages to use words. I hope you one day get your assembly presentation together--even if it means your son spends an hour hiding in a bathroom!

Nicole North said...

You would be a great speaker at the assembly, Carol! I hope they become more openminded and allow you to do your thing next time.

Carol Ericson said...

Amy, you're so right - romance is the Cinderella! And we are the fairy godmothers!

Thanks, Nicole. I'd love to talk to the kids about writing.

Lexi said...

Wow, Carol! How rotten! I bet you'd be a GREAT speaker! You should pursue it!

Sandy said...

That's a terrible bias on that woman's part. I think you should talk to the principle, the board, or someone at the school who can get something done. Those kids missed out on a wonderful program, and I think you should the higher ups know what they missed out on. The kids were probably bored to death with what they had to listen to.

Sandy, who's really irritated by that kind of nonsense

Carol Ericson said...

Thanks, Lexi. Someone said the school was going to cut back on assemblies this year, so I don't know if they'll even have it. Although the kids do this writing program called WAVE, so they are emphasizing writing.

Sandy, I agree. She had a definite bias against romance, but I also think she's clueless as to what middle school aged girls like to read. I believe she has two sons. LOL

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I give you so much credit for being able to state this so well. I'm just finding my feet when it comes to fielding ignorant questions and comments. I hope you do get booked for a future program with the school. :)

Jill James said...

Carol, what a bummer that the kids missed out on hearing you speak. I love listening to you talk.

Terry Spear said...

That's so sad, Carol! And funny about your son. Mine, who is in college now was thrashed soundly by one of his female friends for not telling her that I wrote romance. Then she asked if he read my work. Red faced, he said no. LOL
Though I've read him scenes to make sure I have my hand-to-hand combat worked out properly. He's got a 2nd degree black belt in 2 different martial arts so is my tech advisor. LOL

Good luck on future speaking engagements! I've signed up to do my FIRST in person workshop at Shreveport in March. Really excited, but it'll be a little different than teaching Happy Hookers online. :)