Recap: What is Love? Symposium

My apologies for the delay in getting this to you. I meant to have it up last weekend.

Overall, the symposium by the Center for the Book and the Popular Romance Project was very successful and very interesting. There were four panels, although I was only able to attend three of them. The event was live tweeted by a number of people so if you want to check out the Twitter stream the hashtag was #poprom, which will give you a pretty good idea of the conference.

The morning started with a panel called “What Belongs in the Romance Canon” and featured authors and academics. The panel quickly put out that there is no single romance canon but three: historical, literary, and reader. The discussion covered a great number of topics, including why romance is so popular, what is a romance novel, and the scholarship of romance literature.

The second panel, and the one I had to miss, was “What Do the Science and History of Love Reveal?” If the Twitter stream was any indication, this was the only panel with a panelist who didn’t understand the genre or why so many people were at the event.

The third panel was “Community and the Romance Genre” which I was very interested in but ended up going off topic quickly. While the topic in question was under discussion, the fact that the romance community is very open and welcoming seemed to be universally understood. The panelists and many attendees seemed to agree that the romance genre is the most open and responsive to readers and that real relationships develop between readers and authors, something that social media has only increased. Another idea that I found interesting, and accurate in my experience, is that the romance community is a “pay it forward” group. Established authors are often open and helpful to those starting out and frequently give advice on writing, editing, and publishing.

The final panel was “Romance in the Digital Age“. This was a wide ranging topic, covering e-books, self-publishing, libraries, and multimedia. Multiple publishers were on this panel and discussed the fact that romance readers were some of the earliest adopters of e-readers and e-books. The idea that the romance genre isn’t tied to a platform so much as to excellent content as well as the fact that the main driver of discoverability is word of mouth by readers. Another key to discoverability is libraries and librarians (woohoo!) was a nice statement given that the event was at the Library of Congress. Finally, two messages that I thought were key from this panel were that self-publishing still requires professional editing and cover art in order to attract readers and that, in the digital age, publishing is driven more and more by readers, rather than publishing company “gatekeepers”.

Again, check out the Twitter stream for some great quotes from the event. Also, the entire thing was recorded and will, at some point, be available online. I’ll post an edit with links when that happens. One last thing, the film that helped spark this event, Love Between the Covers, was screened during the symposium. While I didn’t get to see it all, what I saw was very good and I recommend everyone check it out when it is released.

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