Wednesday, September 23, 2009

RomanceUniversity.Org ScholarBlog: Empower. Entertain. EnShug.

CONTEST!!! Head to RomanceUniversity.org to find out when Michelle's lecturing, email mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com with the date, and you're entered for a chance to win a 6-pack of new romances! RBTB CE Tracy Montoya lectures at RU October 19.

From Michelle: RomanceUniversity.org (RU) is ingenious. Long before unis taught/studied romance, authors/industry folks educated up-and-comers. Kelsey Browning, Tracey Devlyn and Adrienne Giordano carry on that tradition at RU, where you'll love visiting and learning. I'm honored to have them with us today -- and adore that they remember men count in the romance equation. Please offer the professoras a warm Bella buongiorno...
From the Romance University Faculty: Good morning, Bellas and Michelle! The Romance University faculty is thrilled to be at Romance B(u)y the Book today.

For those unfamiliar with our blog, our tagline is:

“Empower Writers. Entertain Readers. Understand Men.”


That’s a tall order and not a venture we undertook lightly. We spent six months brainstorming the concept and content for Romance University because we wanted to provide an educational forum exemplifying the true nature of romance readers and writers—smart, savvy, professional, loyal and unfailingly generous. So our contribution to this selfless community is a virtual classroom where talented authors, publishing professionals and other subject area specialists pass on their hard-earned knowledge.

Our readers have an opportunity to meet, network with and learn from these experts. Experienced authors like Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan and Bob Mayer. Literary agents like Lucienne Diver and Lois Winston. Editors like Leah Hultenschmidt, Theresa Stevens and Leslie Wainger. Booksellers, librarians and therapists. These and other visiting professors have graciously lectured at RU for which we are profoundly grateful!

Mondays are “Crafting Your Career” where visiting professors answer questions about the business side of writing. Fridays are “Chaos Theory of Writing,” where our guests discuss the writing craft. Since writing is a lifelong learning experience, these topics appeal to both new and experienced writers. Monday and Friday posts also introduce readers to new-to-them authors and provide insight into their favorite authors’ careers. For example, how does Lori Foster (L.L. Foster) balance writing contemporaries with urban fantasies?

A favorite segment is “Anatomy of the Male Mind.” Each Wednesday, we explore the male psyche, which never fails to entertain. Even if it is somewhat scary. If female writers want to portray men correctly, we need to understand them. Or at least try to! We recently consulted with RU’s “man panel” on the male hug and discovered an entire language behind the male hug, or shug. Hint: Don’t forget the shoulder slap and absolutely no lingering!

We’ve also recently launched three “Lab” sections: Ask an Editor with Theresa Stevens, Managing Editor at Red Sage Publishing; Query Writing 101 with C.J. Redwine, urban fantasy author; and Wayne Wednesday with Wayne Levine, Director of the West Coast Men’s Center.

Bellas, we would value your input. What can authors—pre-published or bestsellers—learn by listening to the romance reader community? Should Romance University invite readers to be visiting professors? If you could write a how-to post for writers, what would you title it? -- and -- How do you think the tradition of folks w/in the romance industry educating up-and-comers has strengthened the genre?

42 comments:

debbie haupt said...

Good moring Bellas and esteemed professors of romance.
Michelle I love how you make my brain wake up early in the day, my bosses probably should thank you too since I'm usually always at work when I read your columns. Now on to the question.
Romance novels have been around for a long time in fact according to Wikipedia one of the earliest recorded was written in 1740, buy a man named Samuel Richardson. And from there on started the love/hate relationship between romance readers and writers.
I think and I'm speaking totally as a reader because I couldn't write a novel if the words suddenly appeared on my computer screen already edited and ready for publication. Any way I think the romance writers already take a great deal from the readers by being in so many e-communities together and just discussing reads and anything else on their minds and I think they (the writers) already take a great deal to heart with what we (readers) have to say because, well we buy the books. I think it would be a good idea for readers to participate in the program. Authors of this and any genre have to have very thick skins or they would just stay in bed all day after listening to their work(s) being constantly torn apart. And if I wrote a post I would title it "Don't Give Up and Never Take No For An Answer"
Ciao Bellas

Princess Bumblebee said...

Welcome, University Faculty! How exciting that the romance novels we so love and enjoy are studied so diligently. Especially those tight pants, hehe.
I absolutely think that readers should be visiting professors. I think they have a lot to learn from each other, different view points, different things they might have enjoyed for varying reasons.
And educating up-and-comers I definately give a green light to. After all, they don't always know what to expect from the publishing world and what the publishing world is looking for , for that matter. So, it really helps to have someone that knows and it does strengthen the genre at the same time by getting even more great books out there by talented new authors

amy kennedy said...

Good Morning (teachers)this is great, read about the man hug/shug, what I loved best was your guy panel on the validity of the shug and when to use it. Brilliant.

Readers as visiting professors? Yes, I always love to hear what other readers have to say about trends or controversies -- and writers are readers as well, no?

We always learn from each other, and the romance genre is no different. Romance today is more diversified and open and accessable. All good things

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Debbie, I'm assuming your post, "Don't Give Up and Never Take No For An Answer," wouldn't be for the Anatomy of the Male Mind Day! But I love the idea of readers being encouraging of authors.

Somewhere along the line, readers have gotten the message online that being supportive and offering praise = A Very Bad Thing. So many fear the 'fangirl' pejorative. It's a shame.

In the classroom, there are a lot of differing attitudes about how one encourages learning. A very old-school approach is that withholding approbation engenders motivation.

Others believe that constructive criticism builds confidence that there's at least raw material to work with which can be improved upon.

I think the former is destructive and the latter allows one to build confidence, which is pretty much the only place real grown can stem from. The latter engenders bravado and arrogance, and a lot of energy wasted that could be used to improve skills and increase confidence.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Amy, I like the ideas of readers being able to note little pitfalls writers and editors miss often. Like cliches, words that get so overused they turn into trends, etc. Now, they're not going to be correct on all points, because some 'cliches' actually are comforting to a lot of readers. But sometimes readers pick up things folks in the biz miss cause they've been in the biz so long. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

'morning, principessa! you wrote: After all, they don't always know what to expect from the publishing world and what the publishing world is looking for

That's the amazing thing about the romance industry, Romance Writers of America organization, too: Folks who do the stuff, help smooth the way for others. Sure, not everyone is generous, but many, many are.

I love RomanceUniversity.org because they gather so many of the most generous folks in the industry and offer up FOR FREE information one would have to work years to find on one's own.

It's as simple as that.

The other thing I adore about RomanceUniversity.org is that they remember that men are part of the romance equation. How can one write about heroes if one doesn't know how they think/act/talk, etc? Well, what we end up with is guys who think like we do which, ok, is a great fantasy, but doesn't always ring true.

I just can't say how important I find the fact that they give a nod to men. Sometimes I'm befuddled by the lack of attention paid them w/in romance.

Becke Davis said...

Is Bob Mayer teaching the male mind class? Because I've read some of his books -- and the ones he's written with Jenny Crusie -- and this could be interesting!

Is it possible to understand the male mind? If I were a guy, I might think that was presumptuous -- I would love to sit in on a class teaching men how to understand the female mind! But, of course, we need all the help we can get.

Seriously, the concept of a Romance University is long overdue. The romance genre has been made the butt of too many jokes, by people who have never so much as opened a romance novel. They can snicker and call them "bodice-rippers," but judging by the number of women buying these books, romance is no joke.

I used to be embarrassed to be caught reading books with hot covers, but no more. I now think hiding my interest in romance was a form of enabling.

Remember the battle cry from the movie "Network" -- "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more." I think that's how the millions of us who buy romance should respond when the media fails to show the genre the respect it is due.

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hi Debbie. Wonderful idea on having readers be visiting professors. Of course, we are readers ourselves so there are times when one of my favorite authors blogs with us and I get downright starstruck!

Princess Bumblebee said...

Michelle, I know, as a unpublished writer, I'm constantly amazed at how much information and support there is out there to help us who aren't in the know, as it were!
And I am shocked at how men are portrayed, but, especially here, I see more references and even inviting men into the romance community to offer their support and opinion. I think that it's great that we are getting more insight into their minds!
Becke, I totally agree with you. How can a person who has never read romance make any sound judgment on it? Adn romance has come a long way, baby! I think they should at least TRY to read a romance novel before making any remarks. And, yes, romance sells more than any other genre, so what does that say about it? It can't be so bad, then.
Romances Rule!

debbie haupt said...

Adrienne, what a novel idea. I as a reader don't think about authors being startstruck, but I feel that way every time one of my favs pays a visit to one of the many on-line communities I visit.
Hmmm authors are people too, that should be another post at the U.
Deb

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hello Princess Bumblebee. The romance community is a generous one. Writers in general seem to be willing to share their knowledge with a new writer, but I find it particularly so with romance writers.

I can't speak for Kelsey and Tracey, but when I first started writing I didn't know what I didn't know, so how could I possibly know where to look for an answer? Wow. That was a lot! LOL.

When we were developing the idea of Romance University, I tried to think back on those times when I needed to understand a technique, but didn't know where to begin. Our hope is that Romance University will give new writers that starting point.

David B. said...

I appreciate the whole encompassing effort to figure out guys. It's even in your tagline!

Hhmm, Anatomy of the male mind... I love the concept, but frankly, there aint a whole lot there. As one myself, I'm constantly amazed at my lack of depth, insight, and overall consideration of others. The impulses are simple: "Oh, TV. Need to watch. Stomach growl, Need food. Cute wife. Time for bed."

If you could simply think what we think for 15 minutes, you'd know everything you need. The phrase "anatomy of the male mind" gives us way too much credit.

Male Perspective Guy

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hi Amy. Yes, we do love our man panel. They always give us something to laugh about.

debbie haupt said...

Princess, I agree with your statement that those who don't read the genre shouldn't comment on it.
And Romance Rules should be yet another post at the U. ;-)
Deb

debbie haupt said...

MPG I think 15 minutes inside your mind would drive us all to the funny farm.
And I'd like to see you put that statement out somewhere a lot of the male species could see it and I don't think you'd be too popular wether it's true or not.
Michelle you're one lucky lady ;-)
Deb

Adrienne Giordano said...

Careful, David. We may recruit you to be a visiting professor!

All the reasons you state are why we wanted to do a segment on men. A woman's brain is wired so differently from a man's, and as female writers, we need to understand that men don't care about certain things.

That's why I was so fascinated with the concept of The Shug. When a woman hugs someone, we just do it, no thought involved. Who knew you guys had to think so hard about how to hug someone?

Becke Davis said...

David - While drooling over a bare-chested book cover, I commented to my husband that I wa beginning to understand the male obsession with breasts. (Okay, I know not all guys are the same, but you know what I mean.)

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head. He said, "Unless your brain stops functioning at the sight of bare chests, it's not the same thing."

Hmm. So, possibly not.

Princess Bumblebee said...

David, thanks for your prospective! A thing I did learn from living with two guys for a week at my brothers was that they are pretty straight forward thinkers. They don't get muddled down with the details, as it were, although they can appreciate things. All I would have to say is "i wanna do this or go here" and I was taken or we did that. Very straight-forward. Which I find kinda nice, actually, since I tend toward the same thing.

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hi Becke. Bob Mayer was with us on July 27 and 29. I'll try to paste the link here. http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/07/29/bob-mayer-part-ii/

I am a Bob Mayer fan myself and had one of those starstruck moments when he was with us.

And good for you for not being willing to take it anymore! A recent RWA (Romance Writers of America) report shows that romance fiction had the largest market share (13.5%) in 2008.

A romance novel is a story about a relationship and we all have relationships. What could be so bad about that?

Becke Davis said...

I grew up with two brothers, which hasn't helped much at giving me insights into the male mind, because they are polar opposites of each other.

And Debbie, how cool that you were first up today!

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hi Debbie. Allison Brennan did breaking rules on July 31. Here's the link:
http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/07/31/allison-brennan/

If you come up with more suggestions feel free to email us through our contact page at www.romanceuniversity.org. We love to hear from readers.

Kelsey Browning said...

I'm sending a quick hello to all the commenting Bellas, with a promise to respond right along with Adrienne! Since I'm on the other side of the world from the U.S., dinner with my DS and DH was on my "early morning" agenda.

Kelsey

Kelsey Browning said...

Debbie -

I thought this was an interesting comment: "I think and I'm speaking totally as a reader because I couldn't write a novel if the words suddenly appeared on my computer screen already edited and ready for publication."

First, the reader is ultimately queen (or king) because without the reader, why do we write?

However, I'm curious if you've ever read a book, picked it apart and thought "I can do it better?"

I'd love for a long-time romance reader to do a post on RU about how their reading habits and preferences have changed over the years. I know mine have!

Thanks for your comments!
Kelsey

Kelsey Browning said...

Princess Bumblebee -

Any specific suggestions on topics romance readers might teach? Specifically topics that would impact the as yet unpubbed writer?

I think I've lost a lot of my objectivity as a reader since I've started writing so I can see where a "straight reader" perspective could come in handy!

Kelsey

Kelsey Browning said...

Amy -

I'm still amazed at the generosity of the romance writing and reading community. We want each other to succeed. After all, who doesn't want more great books to read??

Every so often, I try to talk myself into stopping the writing insanity and just going back to enjoying all the wonderful books written by so many talented romance authors. Apparently, I don't listen to myself :).

You can be sure you'll see some reader taught lectures at RU in 2010!

Kelsey

Kelsey Browning said...

Becke -

We're fortunate to have ahem...attracted a number of male lecturers. Adrienne recruited Wayne Levine, a men's counselor, and he does a monthly column with us. We also have an amazing "Man Panel" that helps us with posts like the Shug and Man Rules (http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/06/10/guy-rules-what-the-men-think/).

Look for a column this fall where our panel tells us about their "Perfects." Perfect woman, perfect car, perfect job, perfect sexual position. You get the picture!

Thanks for joining us,
Kelsey

Kelsey Browning said...

David -

What can I say? Adrienne, Tracey and I are ever the optimists when it comes to men. After all, we're each married to a great guy!

Seriously, men may not be particularly complex in their thoughts, needs, etc. But that's precisely what makes them so complex for women to understand.

What do you mean that you didn't think for two hours about what to say at that client dinner? What do you mean you think she would've looked as sexy wearing a plastic grocery sack as a $400 cocktail suit? What do you mean that you're actually interested in having sex on a day when the washing machine has exploded and the dog puked all over the floor?

To you...simple, perhaps. To the ones with the other chromosome configuration, not so much.

And be careful, Adrienne's not joking when she says you could be next in line to lecture on AMM day!

Kelsey

Becke Davis said...

Thanks for the link, Kelsey. I'm following you on Facebook now (I use my pen name there: Becke Martin) and I also bookmarked the Man Panel -- I love it!

debbie haupt said...

Kelsey to answer your question, no, I've never picked apart a book and said I could do better. And I've only not finished a few books in my years as a reader and none of them were romances. I have read a few romances that I didn't like, but none that I thought I could wright better.
Deb

Rosie Murphy said...

What a great discussion!

I love that the university exists! I agree with Becke, romance has taken too many hits, but the university's existence encourages me to believe that it has come such a long way.

As for the importance of understanding the male mind, Michelle makes a great point. How can we authors write convincing dialogue or deep male POV if we assume to know how the male mind works? I've lived with my husband for almost 18 years and I’m still struggling.

I once tested a bit of RU wisdom (about how men usually process information) on my DH. I approached him with a problem I was facing at the day job. He immediately started offering solutions. I sat back astounded that he automatically wanted to FIX my problem (as RU syggested) when I just wanted him to listen or God forbid, comfort me. My hero shot into rescue mode without hesitation. *SIGH*

And I still resist believing that not much more exists within the male mind, Mr. B., but maybe that's my problem. I need to just accept it! BTW, I shared your male impulses example with my male students and they all agreed. "Yep, he got it down." Loved it!

Princess Bumblebee said...

Kelsey, I can't really think of any topics at the moment for readers to bring up, except, maybe "More angels" or "more vampires" or, better yet, "Write Faster. We're Dying Here!" hehe

Adrienne Giordano said...

Hi Rosie. I can't remember who said it, maybe a comedian, but he said that when a woman asks a man what he's thinking, and the man says "nothing" that he's telling the truth. He may literally be sitting there thinking about nothing. I laughed at that one. Once in awhile I'll catch my son staring off and I'll ask what he's thinking and he always says nothing. I guess they start young!

David B. said...

Glad to read that my comment has spurred on a some discussion here. And to Rosie Murphy, make it easy on yourself. Really. Just accept it as one of those undeniable truths of life. Give up hope for anything beyond the primeval "ug" from men and improve your quality of life immediately.

Becke Davis said...

Oh Rosie, truer words were never spoken. I've been married almost 38 years (next week!) and my DH and still have trouble trying to come to terms with his instinct to fix the problem when all I'm doing is bitching to get it off my chest.

Becke Davis said...

And let us not forget the whole issue of guys and their toys. My husband has to have the latest of EVERYTHING, and that includes the latest version of every application/browser/etc. on the computer and internet. And he's not satisfied with that, he wants ME to have all the latest updates, too!!

It drives him insane to see me using an old version of anything, and it drives me nuts that new versions keep coming out when I've just finally figured out the old ones.

Rosie Murphy said...

David, LOL doesn't quite describe my response. Thank you for helping me see the light. I think I'm coming around.

Adrienne that's so funny! I really need to just work at not assuming my husband's monosyllabic responses mean so much more.

And Kelsey, that panel sounds intriguing--I'm there!

Adrienne Giordano said...

The man panel is back next Wednesday (9/30). We always have fun with them.

My favorite man panel post is the guy rules one Kelsey listed above. That one made me laugh out loud.

debbie haupt said...

Yes I agree with Becke, I've been married over 30 years to the love of my life, mr fix it, mr neanderthal knuckle dragger.
It always amazes me when I just spew to get things off my chest and he just starts itemizing solutions to problems that don't exist.
You gotta love em though !!!!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas and professoras! I'm so enjoying catching up on the discussion, and really pleased you're diggin' on RU like I am.

What Adrienne said about the generosity of the romance community is very true. I remember every person who's helped me in some way, some who aren't even in the industry any longer. Remarkable, really, how some folks use their success to give a hand up to others. So many of those already are on the faculty at RU -- and I notice a few FOBs there, too.

But RU is a digital microcosm of what goes on among pubbed and yet-to-be-pubbed authors and industry folks 'in real life,' and the information already archived within it is invaluable. Folks who write romance are nutty if they don't spend time there regularly. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Tracey Devlyn said...

Hi All,

Sorry I'm late to the party. My darn day job gets in the way of my fun!

I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by to chat with us. We've worked our collective bums off to make RU a dynamic, educational, and relevant blog. As my blogmates have already said, the support we've received from readers, publishing professionals, and our male victims, er, guests has been overwhelming.

Becke, I've been following you on FB and B&N. You're doing a great job! Oh, happy almost-anniversary!

David, you're crackin' me up. We'll have to figure out a way to recruit you for one of our Wednesday slots.

We've had a great time with Anatomy of the Male Mind. Stay tuned during the upcoming months. We'll have some intense, emotionally charged interviews for you. Writers will take away fantastic research material and readers will gain insight into some heavy issues.

Michelle, thank you so much for inviting us to RBTB. We really appreciate the support!

Adrienne Giordano said...

Thank you, Michelle for having us today. It was fun! We are looking forward to your visit with RU.

Kelsey Browning said...

Michelle & Bellas -

Thanks so much for having us at RBTB! We'll look forward to seeing some of you over at RU. Believe me, we'll continue the man discussions over there on Wednesdays!

Kelsey