I was super excited to be attending the RWAustralia Conference this year in Adelaide. It’s been three long years between conferences for me (babies!), and I was so thrilled to finally be back.
Although I should’ve expected it, it did feel very much like returning to work after maternity leave – there were heaps of new people, and everything has moved on. I did feel a bit out of step with things (just the reality of an extended absence), but overall I had a fabulous time, and I look forward to being far more engaged in the wonderful RWA community now that the tiny baby phase is definitely behind me 🙂
For me, the highlight of the conference (apart from meeting new people and catching up with so many lovely writing friends and the wonderful people at Harlequin Australia and Jo Grant from Harlequin International) was the University of Love: Popular Romance Studies conference on Saturday. I hadn’t even intended to go to the Academic conference (run concurrently with the main conference), but after a fantastic long conversation with academic (and fellow Harlequin Romance author) Michelle Douglas, at the Harlequin author party I was very keen to attend. Anyway – it was brilliant.
Since having my girls I’ve become far more aware of the patriarchal nature of our society, and also of my own feminism. A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have called myself a feminist (due to ignorance), but now I proudly am. I follow several feminist commentators on Facebook and have reflected on what being both a romance author and feminist means. I’ve also wondered what it is about romance novels that I love so much, and what it is about them that threatens so much of society (ie that labels these wonderful books as trash). So – in reality – attending an academic conference that discussed exactly these themes should have seemed obvious!
I have paraphrased (possibly poorly), but here are my key takeaways from papers by Amy Matthews, Michelle Douglas and Dr Sandra Barletta:
- The laughter society directs at romance novels is sexist and reflects society’s ingrained misogyny
- Romance takes women’s challenges and makes them heroic
- Romance novels plots featuring an alpha male are always about gender roles – and at some point the heroine always brings the hero too his knees (sometimes literally!), and they end the book as equals.
- Romance novels give women a voice and are a form of activism (I love this!)
- Romance takes the problems experienced by women in a male dominated world and challenges/explores them.
- Romance novels are an inter-generational conversation between women that tells women how they should be treated
See! Awesome stuff 🙂 I’ve also discovered the Journal of Popular Romance Studies and look forward to lots of reading in the very near future.
Another highlight of the conference was seeing my long time writing friend, Rachael Johns, win the RuBY for The Patterson Girls. Rach is one of the most determined and talented people I know, and I am just so inspired by her continued success.
In other news, the third Molyneux sister book (April) is due in a month, and I’m really enjoying writing her story so far. It’s been a great experience to write linked books, and to have each sister pop up in each others novels 🙂 The second book (Mila) is out in just a few weeks!
I also had a fabulous time presenting my Introduction to Romance Writing workshop at AH Bracks library earlier in August. Fortunately the feedback was fantastic, and I’m in discussions with the library to return and cover more writing topics. I’m really excited by this, it was such a buzz to share my love of the romance genre, and of writing, with such a fantastic, engaged audience.