PINK HEART SOCIETY COLUMN
I seem to be a rare bird in romance circles in that I’ve never experienced a look-down-the-nose snotty response when I tell people what I write. On the contrary, the usual reaction to my career change from high-level corporate life to romance writing, from friends and business acquaintances alike, has almost invariably been along the lines of ‘Good on you, I’m jealous’. Of course, I have a reputation for toughness, so it's possible they're not game to say anything derogatory to my face, but I choose to take them at their word.
In fact, I choose all sorts of things when it comes to attitudes about the romance genre.
I choose not to care that there are lazy critics out there who think flung out ‘heaving bosom' and 'throbbing tumescence' clichés are acceptable short-hand for the genre, despite never having read an example of what they’re writing/talking about.
I choose not to care when I read eye-rollingly outdated critiques of romance that are stuck in the 1980s with the old skool bodice rippers – which, I love, incidentally (they helped addict me to romance in the first place) but reading tastes do evolve, like just about everything else in life.
I choose not to take umbrage when I hear about a person who's never written a romance thinking they'll be able to pen one in a week or two and make a fortune out of it – hey, give it a try, by all means!
In short, I choose not to go on a temper-laden rampage defending our genre, because in my view it needs no defence except its dedicated readership and impressive sales figures.
But there's one thing I do choose to care about, and that is the future.
I care about giving the readers of tomorrow meaningful stories they can relate to. And I care about growing our genre to make it as diverse and inclusive and representative and relevant as possible for new generations.
There's a really fabulous movement to make romance more diverse. Here's just one article that gives a bit of perspective on that subject: Inside the Push for a More Diverse Romance Genre. I support this push 100 per cent, and for quite some time, I’ve been thinking about this issue in relation to Australian romance.
Where, for example, are all the Australia’s First People romance genre novels? Now, if I’ve missed the wave and you have stores to suggest, please let me know in the comments – but the answer, as far as I can tell, is that they’re locked in the heads and hearts of our yet-to-be published authors.
That’s the first reason I jumped at the chance to be an Ambassador for the Pen to Paper Challenge for the Sydney Story Factory, which offers free creative writing workshops to marginalised young people, including Indigenous youth. We all need more stories in our lives, and we need them coming at us from everywhere. So I want to know what our youngest writers are producing.I want to read their stories, and I want to know what's on their minds.
The second reason I jumped is a little more emotional. It has to do with the wonder of reading that I felt as a youngster growing up in South Western Sydney. My favourite stories were always romantic, passionate tales of love and adventure, but I read across the board – literary fiction, biographies and nonfiction, left wing propaganda (thanks, Dad!), crime (true and otherwise), and all up, every permutation of book known to humankind.
As well as being a voracious reader, I started writing at a young age – furtive efforts, dashed off on scraps of paper and hidden way from any eyes except my own, not knowing what I was doing. And let me tell you, those efforts were excruciatingly bad, because I didn't know how to tell them.
So how wonderful it is that we now have organisations like the Sydney Story Factory who can rescue such scraps of paper and story ideas, expose them to the light of day, and help the writers of tomorrow learn their craft and hone their talent – whatever they’re writing. I just hope there will be some romance genre writers among them.
If you feel like slinging a few bucks my way – which isn't really my way when you think about it – click HERE and do so, by all means. I'm aiming for 20,000 words by the end of September and a little sponsorship encouragement will do a lot to encourage me to actually get there.
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