Friday, April 24, 2009

Light 'O Love

Hey! Check out my new weekly romance fiction column at's new Book Clubs blog, 'Unabashedly Bookish' here! And please visit me there every Tuesday. Unfortunately, your still stuck with me here as well. Too bad; so sad, as my daughter says.

Since you couldn't be with me at the Princeton Romance Scholarship Conference in the flesh -- although you most decidedly were in spirit -- below you'll find the text of my presentation during the "Romance Reads the Academy" panel. Grazie mille to everyone who sent suggestions and well wishes. Please understand that my being there was all about you, and couldn't have been w/out you. Hope you enjoy, or can at least tolerate it...

If I may, I want to share with you a cool announcement. As of today, I’m bringing romance to another major digital platform as BarnesAndNoble dot com’s, romance expert on their new Book Clubs blog, “Unabashedly Bookish.” If you pop online today, you’ll see my first post, “Re-reading the Romance” in which I dish a little about this conference, the state of romance scholarship, and a topic Mary Bly discussed yesterday, shame among romance lovers, albeit from a different angle. I hope you’ll join me every Tuesday at Barnes and Noble,com to help me support romance fiction.

This conference is a victory for nerd girls and boys everywhere -- we who strong-armed our ways into the front-row seats of English and Lit classes, yet at some point were enticed by the other love that dare not speak its name – the love of romance fiction.

I’m not so presumptuous as to thank you on behalf of all romance readers. But on behalf of my online community of readers – from those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates and everyone in between – I thank you for welcoming to Princeton and acknowledging as important the books about which we care deeply.

My viewers – The Bellas – have sent with me many messages of gratitude today, as well many suggestions of topics they’d like you to consider taking a crack at. Just a few: First, A study of how romance fiction is used to help women recover their sexualities after sexual abuse; Second, how female empowerment in heterosexual romance isn’t about a woman *needing* a man to feel complete, but choosing a man because she's happier with’m than w/out him;

Third -- and Gwendolyn Pough and Esi Sogah addressed this earlier, thanks, please study why there seems to be a large crossover audience of African-American romance readers who read books written by all ethnicities, but we don’t seem to see the reverse unless it’s by established authors like Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson; And, finally, my favorite: the reader who’d like someone to study “the proliferation of headless heroines and heroes on romance covers” which she said she prefers, so she can plug in her vision of the characters. She describes this as “a sort of visual Derridean gap. lol.” You see why I love my Bellas.

No other medium of communication since telephony has had a greater impact upon the landscape of American culture than the Internet. It allows real-time connectivity -- and with WEB TWO DOT OH’s emphasis on creating a digital commonwealth, anyone with an Inet connection hooks up instantly with tons of folks they may never meet -- to talk about things they've never seen, books they've never read... Because of the Internet’s “long tail,” we can find sites where the nichiest topics will find life even with just a few viewers. But relevance is created when we build – as I and others have – what Tania Modleski yesterday referred to as an Intimate Public – a group we speak to w/the assumption they feel as we do.

How many of you use the Internet to communicate? Well, you know then that the beauty of the Internet is its being a conduit for First Amendment-type discourse at its “freest.” The Internet’s also ugly for that same reason. Most of us wouldn’t give up the former to eradicate the latter, and as scholars I’d imagine the Internet’s made your jobs by turns easier and more challenging.

As someone whose job is working IN Internet – as opposed to hanging around ON the Internet -- I may bring a different perspective to the value of the online romance reader and community to romance scholarship – and why the way you choose to build relationships with the Intimate Public actually can make your research among online readers more efficient – and affect positively the online community.

While some readers hang online at romance blogs and sites, the larger portion does not. And in general, we make romance more relevant online when we regularly present it outside the romance community on platforms whose viewership includes non-romance readers.

But for the small portion of romance readers online, the immediacy with which we access information and content at romance sites can give us the impression that what’s being written about is a) true, and b) important.

Which is why – especially in the online romance community – we’ve noted the phenomenon of “Perception as Reality.” Basically, the Internet user who isn’t media savvy believes mostly that if it’s written online it must be true. That includes content written by anybody with the impressive skill it takes to register for and own a url -- and even User Generated Content (UGC), otherwise known as blog comments.

As academics, you know to take everything with a grain of salt, right? But that doesn’t mean you don’t fall prey to the biggest trip-up folks face when looking online for information – and even entertainment, which sometimes passes for information – the brutal problem of not being able to separate the heat from the light.

For instance, in online romance commentary, what gets the juices flowing of a small group of the small group of romance readers who hang online, probably won’t get you much viable research product, since it flashes, crashes, then burns after it’s bounced from blog to blog, been ranted and screamed about, then forgotten once something – or someone else – comes along to get riled up about.

What’s that worth, all that unbridled, uncontained sound and fury? Well, you tell me what sound and fury signify...

All that heat and no light to be found, let alone the illumination we strive for as scholars and lovers of erudition. And speaking of love, if, as belle hooks says, it’s the practice of freedom, and in loving we move away from oppression? Then dayum, why is it that reading books about love – reading romance – seems to piss people off so much and makes em end up trying to oppress readers and authors online, cyber-bullying folks about perfect-right choices like how much sexual aggression they dig in a love scene, or whether a book is the worst or next-to-worst book of the year.

Yeah, I sed it! When those who gather romance communities nurture heat, they invite and instigate their viewers to reactionary, inflammatory commentary that doesn’t just ‘feel bad’ to a lot of people, it literally reduces the commentary’s relevance.

Because in Internet, we want content that's search-engine friendly and interests more people for a longer period. High-impact, topically short lived content – especially tempests in teapots more about the emotional needs of the community gatherer than anything else -- doesn’t interest many folks in the long term. So fewer people interested in romance information are gonna search for it repeatedly – and fewer eyeballs’ll see your ads if your monetized.

And for researchers, it means you’ve gotta dig through the heat to get to the meat of any romance discourse you might want to study.

All’s I’m saying is this: In the online romance community, there’s room for dissent, there’s room for having fun by mixing it up. But there’s also room for civility that doesn’t muck up the information that we want and need and would be silly keeping readers from giving us for any reason.

What if we were to encourage readers to work through the light toward illumination? Well, here’s how it works @ Romance: B(u)y the Book. It’s meant wooing readers who love romance, but feared commenting about their knowledge cause they’d seen the digital carnage elsewhere. To woo them, I earned their trust by letting them see me respect those who did comment.

I showed them how I gently redirected commenters who tried to rile others up – or suggested simple language to folks who wanted to disagree with comments, but didn’t know how to do it in a constructive way or any way at all. Those who wanted to learn and play, stayed. Those who were disappointed they couldn’t get a good bitch on were happily welcome to leave and take their mean spirits with them.

But rather than my self-aggrandizing, what I want you to understand is what I got from the tricky, arduous practice of empowering viewers and giving them ownership in the digital commonwealth that is RBTB: I struck flippin’ illumination pay dirt. And I got big gigs with major companies, bringing romance every day to a broad audience that includes non-romance readers, not just members of the choir. I like to think of that as Pollyanna’s revenge.

Seriously. What I have is a digital record of thoughtful commentary about romance fiction and related topics without miles of vitriol and anger to wade through to get to the gems of reason and respectful dissent and thoughtful counterargument.

If we nurture the heat, we instill fear in online readers and they don’t comment. They fear being jumped ugly on. And we lose viewers and the opportunity to build trust and learn what they had to teach us.

When we go to the heat to study or research, we miss the illuminated, considered information of romance readers who’ve been nurtured and given language so they can offer you invaluable information about the romance genre that might take you years to learn otherwise. Because often, these folks have been reading and considering romance longer than us, and some longer than we’ve been alive!

You know, the first fan letter I got after RBTB went online was from a woman who apparently never met either Strunk or White. But she was eager to let me know she appreciated having a place to go online where she could talk about romance without anyone making her feel embarrassed – especially not other romance readers. She told me how much she learns from romance novels, and how she works that into dinner conversations with her romance-eschewing family.

This woman whom some might deem ‘limited,’ considered romance novels in a literate way, and had more to say about them when we began exchanging emails. She knew way more than I.

I learn every day from my viewers, yet they call me the expert. In fact, we generally think of illumination as private property of ‘the learned.’ But I challenge you: The next time you go close to the ground to research, check out the light and look to sites where the readers say things with simplicity and dignity. I challenge you: When you interact with your viewers, try giving them the tools to move through the heat toward illumination.

You may find the thought of doing so unappealing and woefully na├»ve. Still, in the words of the heroine of one of the best works of romance fiction, Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels,” --

“I should like to see you try.”

(The recorded version of this will differ because of errors in my presentation).


Santa said...


Thank you for bringing us, your faithful on-line commenting romance readers to the table. I could not have said it better!

Portia Da Costa said...

Wonderful! Distills the essence of RBTB... a place where one can talk romance without fear.

Manda Collins said...

Outstanding, Michelle!!! One of the first things I loved about RBTB was the welcoming and accepting attitude here. We might come at romance from different angles and with different likes and dislikes, but every last one of us can talk about what we like without shame or fear of being slapped down. I learn something every time I come here.

And Yay! You used my Derriddean gap:) I feel like I was there!

And CONGRATULATIONS on the new gig at B&N! I love it when the cream rises to the to speak;)Well done!

Lisa Hendrix said...

Oh, drat...*another* terrific blog to read. //g//

Congrats and best wishes for much success in the new gig, Michelle. I'm glad you found a new "big media" place to land. One blogspot blog is just not roomy enough to contain the outrageous wonderfulness of the Bella-in-Chief.

amy kennedy said...

Oh Michelle, I loved it. I want a copy of it to hang in my office.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Really, Ames? What, did your kid shoot out the paneling again w/his Daisy air rifle? Seriously. Thanks.

Buona sera, Bellas! It was good to get back home today, but soooooo great to be back East. And can I tell you that the Princeton campus is gorgeous. There's a mix of architecture, and at one point while walking across campus (note to Billy: Your idea of a walkable distance varies a bit from the idea of a suburban housewife who doesn't much leave the front of her computer. Just sayin is all) I glanced up quickly to catch a glimpse of a wizened-looking prof in tween and a bow tie,and I swear, it was like I flashed into the 20s or something. So cool.

Anyways, you're very welcome, Santa! Jersey was great. And several of the "scholars" I hadn't met asked a lot of questions about what goes on online among us and romance, and they were pretty amazed.

I'm very glad you felt that way, Manda. And your Derridean gap got huge laffs! :)

Thanks so much, Lisa! I really wanted to write "Big LOallthewaytothebankL" media jobs, but it seemed like overkill. Eloisa James talked the first night of the conference about how you'd think the the bank principle would make authors shirk the shame (if they feel it) of writing romance, not 'real' books. At the same time she was saying it, I was thinking, getting paid goes a long way toward making one not care.

Also,for me, it was spending so much time w/the sister Bellas and rom community that made me certain there's everything right about reading romance. I noticed a long time ago here we stopped expressing disgust or exasperation over getting dissed by the outside and trying to figure out ways to combat it. We figured out early on how to simply define w/out giving away our power, and that's made a lot of difference.

I'm very glad you feel that way, Portia. And thank you for visiting UB @ B/ :)

orannia said...

Congrats on the new blog Michelle - and can I just say you look lovely in the photos :)

amy kennedy said...

Okay, maybe--Maybe there was an accident with a super powered Nerf gun, but I'm not naming any names.

And I visited B&N, but they didn't like the way I registered--you know that won't stop me, but I did love your post and I loved your accidental second post as well!

Anonymous said...

You borrowed my title! You can find Light o'Love at
Never mind, you can have it freely as I too am very, very keen to see more books that are both romantic and 'good' novels. I am not at all embarrassed about writing romance, but pine for readers who want some thing more than the old-fashioned Mills 'n' Boon throwaway stories.

Here's to the thinking romantic woman!

Julie in Ohio said...

Terrific, Michelle!! You truely have a way with words. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Jules!!! You're welcome. Can't wait to see you at Lori Foster's Get Together in June!

Thanks, orannia, and you're always welcome to say so (umm, are you shamelessly angling for free books and/or advance book tidbits? I feel so (delighfully) used.

ooo, Jaqueline, them's almost fightin words -- if we didn't like you so much already! Not about L 'o love (just thought I was goin after the cyprian contingent on that riff.) :)

But we've got great respect and admoration (adoration + admiration and is a word if I say it is, dammit) for Mills and Boon/Harlequin categories, especially those Presents with the FABulous titles!

In fact, one scholar at the P'ton conference presented a paper about Harlequin sheikh romances and sort of their Arabic geopolitical themes (or lack thereof) vs their heroines bringing Western/American ideals to the table in the relationship. :)

ev said...

Nice job Bella!! You did us all proud!

How about posting the link to B&N every Tuesday. It's the only way I will remember to pop over there and I can go from here to there.

Anonymous said...


I did say 'old-fashioned' Mills 'n' Boon, which lets today's writers off the hook. I meant the small books you used to see at supermarket check-outs, which were literally throwaway items.

I reckon that if you don't try to write books that people really want to keep on their bookshelves, you are not trying hard enough.

Of course, that's not the whole story. I think most publishers believe their readers are too stupid to enjoy anything that ventures into three dimensions. Arrogant b*****s!

Unknown said...

What a lovely presentation. Thanks so much for posting it.

Annette Blair said...

Wonderful, Michelle. I'm looking forward to the Barnes & Noble blog. Go you.

E. M. Selinger said...

Michelle! Clearly there's something wrong with your camera. There's no way that I have that much gray in my beard. Seriously, though, it was a treat to meet you in person, and I can't thank you enough for putting me back in touch with Bill after, what, 18 years? I got goosebumps listening to Ann Herendeen thank you for raving about Phyllida when it was still privately published; now it's on syllabi and talked up at conferences, thanks to you & the Bellas. Brava!

Christine Wells said...

Wonderful speech. Thanks for doing us proud, Michelle!

Holly said...

Very well said, Michelle. It is wonderful to see someone take a stand against all the insane, adolescent vitriol in this industry. And we're thrilled to see you succeeding on a national level. Your success, integrity and intelligence is what this business needs. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

As a published romance writer for fifteen years, I had to comment on how much I enjoyed this post. It was smart and refreshing.

Sorry I'm posting anon, but I've learned how to protect myself from the vultures in the romance world who bully, instill fear and make the internet a very mean place to be sometimes. Most of my experiences have been positive, so I'm not complaing.

But I really did enjoy this post. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to comment with my name :)

sephera said...

Someone pointed me to your blog and I'm happy I came. What a great post! I second Anonymous' comments, although I've been professionally published in several genres, along with romance, over the past ten years.

I'm book marking you!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,

I found it odd that you welcomed "those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates"--but you didn't welcome the actual PhD.s.

I have my Ph.D., and I hope you'll welcome me, regardless. I also have more than 20 papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in biology and anthropology as general subject headers.

I have to say that your blog surprised me. Primarily, I was surprised because academia is the most argumentative place I know. Wow, we scientists fight. We fight in public, we fight in NSF boardrooms, we fight in the forums as BBS and Science and Nature. If you want to see fur fly, get a bunch of academics together and ask them why their pet idea is wrong. If you want to see fur fly, try reading the review of your grant after the panel is finished with it.

You said: "The next time you go close to the ground to research, check out the light and look to sites where the readers say things with simplicity and dignity."

I have to tell you, when I "go close to the ground for research," I either hit up Web of Science or collect my own data. The last thing I'd do is look for a site where somebody else has given their (usually unscientifically tested) opinion.

I go to blog sites for entertainment or ideas (even wrong ideas), but the last thing I'd do when I want to do actual research is check out a blog site. I love to read the comments, but I wouldn't do research there--and if I were, I wouldn't want to exclude sites with flame wars, necessarily. Even if I were doing some sort of meta analysis of what bloggers across the net were saying, I wouldn't want to exclude contentious sites. They are data points.

I'm glad you're proud of your blog. I'm glad you're proud that picked you up. I'm glad you welcome people who haven't read Strunk and White (as many other romance blog sites do--when readers on those sites fight, it's rarely about the education of the people leaving comments; it's usually about an idea).

You should be proud of all those things.

But really, your lack of contention among your readership isn't a selling point for academics doing research. At least, it isn't a selling point for me.

And no, I'm not signing my name. My colleagues would use the fact that I spent my time answering this blog against me.

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

How refreshing it is to have a romance commentator who can rise above all the childish "mean girl" behavior that seems to be the driving force behind so many other romance-related sites and blogs. You are so right---there is a big difference between intelligent discourse and "entertainment." Too many romance bloggers are bullying and nasty because they believe being a 'mean girl' online makes their blogs more entertaining. In truth, those "mean girls'" audiences are very, very small.

Congratulations on your national platform and success. It's well-deserved and a refreshing change.

Jamaica Layne

Anonymous said...


Aren't you being mean to the "mean girls" right now? I mean, you did call them childish.

Who are the mean girls, anyway?

Anonymous said...

This is a darn good post. All your praises are well deserved. I'm just a simple, uneducated person who loves to read romance to escape. I like tame romance, and I like steamy erotic romance. I like it all.

I've been a romance reader for a long time, and some of those bitter, mean "review" sites have left me cold. And, they are the reason the internet is always getting such a bad rap. You can't take them seriously.

Rachel Kenley said...

I was directed here by recommendation and it was definitely worth the trip (click?). Thanks for your great post, Michelle. I'm certain it was a powerful presentation

As a romance reader - and defender - since I was fourteen, it's wonderful to read about more people taking romance readers (and the industry) more seriously and I hope that your post encourages more people to share their positive experiences and, hopefully, quiet some of the negative voices that appear.

I'll be back here to read more. As Lisa Hendrix wrote, "another great blog to read".

Again, many thanks,
Rachel Kenley

David B. said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm Michelle's husband. My name is David Buonfiglio.

Anonymous writes "I found it odd that you welcomed "those who didn’t make it through high school to the doctoral candidates"--but you didn't welcome the actual PhD.s. I have my Ph.D., and I hope you'll welcome me, regardless."

I sincerely hope you don't think that Michelle had written that line to subtly exclude those who had actually earned a Ph.D.? That would be a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

Of course you are welcome here. Everyone is. Even me, a middle-aged guy who doesn't read romance. If you spend one minute here, you get it. I invite you to do just that. Spend some time here and get to know the group and the way they communicate. It's enlightening, fun, thought-provoking, rational, safe, spirited, and at times, even a bit "earthy". Sounds like a good place to me!

Anonymous said...

@Dave B: My apologies. I wasn't trying to imply that your lovely Michelle was trying to exclude those with advanced degrees. I was actually trying to imply that perhaps Michelle's site isn't a place where academics would hang out for research.

To be as accurate as possible, with that line, I was subtly implying that one reason academics might not want to hang out here for research would be a lack of accuracy. (It was easier than pointing out the various misspellings, especially of names, throughout the posts.)

I also apologize for giving the impression that I was new to the site. I am an avid lurker at many, many romance blog sites. I live to compare and contrast, and I prefer some blog sites over others.

I'm glad you like it here. It's proof that there's something for everyone. It's also proof that Michelle has a loyal husband--and that is something to cherish.

Anonymous said...

While the vocabulary is impressive, I find the exclusivity that this speech promotes frighteningly similar to the exclusive academic community. A bit of an oxymoron, no?
Also, as a romance reader, I would like to ask, who gets to draw the line on who or what is appropriate? Because, frankly, if it is someone like you, that would be quite scary.

Kaetrin said...

Clearly, you have some sites in mind when you describe them as "nurturing the heat".

What other romance blog sites would you recommend? Not recommend? And why?

Mara said...

Wow. Big words. But I have a problem with some of your foundations. Those of us who participate in blog conversations are NOT "viewers" as you put it.

In fact by calling us viewers you're showing how little you understand about how blogs work. They're communities, not shows or presentations. I'm not your "viewer" I'm having a dialogue with you. Or maybe I'm not? I guess I'd have to say something "simple and dignified" to garner your attention?

I'm sorry, but I think you're missing you're missing the point entirely.

Lisa Hendrix said...

Wow. I should have read further before I posted congratulations that first day. When I finally did come back today and take a good look, I have to say I'm more than a little disturbed by what you said and how you said it.

The women you were clearly referring to (even though you neglected to name them) love romance every bit as much as you do. They want to improve it and promote it every bit as much as you do, they just chose to do it via critical review and the occasional dose of heat instead of blatant adoration. Criticism and heat are good; they improve and temper. Adoration, on the other hand, feels great and sometimes gives you the courage to take the heat. Both are necessary. I enjoy and learn from their take -- just as I do from yours -- every day.

Putting down other bloggers because they chose to approach romance in a different way than you is not cool. And implying that your way is somehow better and more worthy of academic study is even less cool. But worst of all is implying that readers and authors can't enjoy and profit from both viewpoints and attitudes.

While I'm absolutely pleased for your new gig and wish you every success, I am very disappointed that you felt the need to denigrate other bloggers. Very disappointed, indeed.

Dana Fredsti said...

I think it's possible to disagree without vitriol. There are discussions, there are arguments, and then there are flame wars. I don't think people should be afraid of expressing disagreement, but I do think that the internet has encouraged some behavior that wouldn't be tolerated in any other forum, barring the audiences for Jerry Springer et al.

Peaches said...

This woman whom some might deem ‘limited,’ I'm sorry, did you mean for that to sound like "This woman whom some might deem retarded"? Because that is what it reads like given the context and the word choice.

You specify that "some" might consider this person "limited", meaning that you don't. This reads to me as though you are raising yourself up by pushing negative attention one someone else. You probably didn't mean for it to read as such, but I see this line as akin to you pointing to a person in a crowd and saying "I know some of you think this person is mentally challenged, but I don't. Isn't that fantastic of me?"

You do not name this fan, but she knows who she is. Perhaps she does not feel offense, but if I were in her position I believe I would.

You also raise up your own position on blogging by insulting the methods of your peers--again, without naming names. This seems like jeering from the sidelines without being willing to throw your hat into the ring. If you have a problem with specific bloggers, than do what scholars do when writing the academic papers you endorse and show your work. Say "I have a problem with so and so for the following reasons..."

A researcher who does not site sources and provide examples will not find validation in a committee. You are very free to give your own opinion in your own blog and write whatever you like, but I have to respond with unease. You seem very willing to polish your own image at the expense of others, yet you do not name these people so they can properly defend themselves, nor do you site examples of what they have --in your opinion--handled wrong. You seem to have a career and reputation that lends respect--but I see no reason why someone with such respect within the community should be afraid of healthy debate with specific opponents.

Lori said...

Thank you, Peaches, for taking the words out of my mouth. I would have said them myself, but unfortunately, I'm not an academia. I'm just one of those not-trying-hard-enough category authors who is not only "Big LOingallthewaytothebankL" on her throw-away novels, but is also still waiting for Michelle to do that "gently redirected commenters who tried to rile others up" thing that she professes to do so well.

Anonymous said...

I am in no way, shape or form an academia but I can usually recognize passive aggresive BS even it is cloaked in "light"! Wow so many things about your "nice" little speech made the "mean" girl in me want to stay in the so called dark forever especialy if "nice" girls like u are running the show. What really gets me though is you had the chance to bring the most disrespected, underated genre of writing to the forefront of Princeton Academics and you wasted it on promoting your own site and talking about the meanies on other blogs! Talk about a wasted opportunity, even my "limited" mind saw that!

amy kennedy said...

And me without my pitchfork...

Why don't you join us at the top of the page, we're about 4 blogs past this.

Anonymous said...

That's the beauty of internet time. There's no such thing as "4 blogs past this." ;-)

Ironically, when we're not writing blazing-hot books, a lot of romance authors have a tendency to censor themselves online (or post Anonymously - mea culpa) lest their indelicate opinions negatively impact sales or annoy ones's agent or editor. There are certain websites where sharing an honest, perhaps dissenting, point of view doesn't automatically make you a pariah, and many of us find these sites to be an oasis in the desert. I perceive your recommendation that people seek out sites where "the readers say things with simplicity and dignity" to be the latest twist on the age-old expectation that the ladies (and face it, Romancelandia IS largely comprised of women) should always play nice, shouldn't express themselves, and really, should just shut up already. Is that what you meant by your (passive agressive) attack on these nameless websites with their so-called irrelevant commentary? Because that's what it sounded like out here.

(eye roll) Please.

Anonymous said...

Here, here.

I find it ironic that the very topic of this blog is being tested here as commenters come out of the woodwork to express that they're offended or disagree, and the only response is "Ignore them and hope they go away."

Seriously not impressed.

Kristina said...

Thank you Peaches, Lori, and a couple of the Anon posters. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across someone so condescending and patronizing to her own readers and the romance community at large as Ms. Buonfiglio.

Jacqueline – When you referred to those two-dimensional “throwaway” stories written by authors who aren’t trying very hard (i.e. category romances), were you referring to Jayne Ann Krentz? Or maybe Anne Stuart? Perhaps Jennifer Crusie? Oh, I know, you were talking about Nora Roberts. Curse those evil publishers for believing readers to be stupid and forcing these untalented hacks upon us! Seriously, though, I think I’ll stick to the two-dimensional hacks even if it means suffering the disdain of renowned authors such as yourself.

And I’ll stick to the blogs where readers are allowed to have opinions and not expected to behave like sheep. I’d never make a good sheep anyway—too capable of thinking for myself.

Julie in Ohio said...

Hey, suit yourself. Pull up a chair, pitch a tent, stay as long as you like. Let us know if there's anything you need; a drink, a blanket, a pacifier....

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I discussed with my 10-year-old daughter just yesterday the pervasive American phenomenon: "girls and women should not have opinions, should not say anything that might be seen as 'not nice,' and should try to make everyone else happy at their own expense." She thought that that was bunk.

I have worked very hard to raise a young woman who asserts herself and her opinions, and is never shamed for them, or ashamed OF them. I am very proud to have succeeded.

Excluding what (to this neophyte lurker) read as an advertisement for your blog and your new B&N gig, the anonymous, finger-pointing shame game in which your post indulged was what I found most inexecrable.

Personally, I find it much more mean-spirited to see you malign nameless 'others' than I do to read a statement naming what blogs you think are harmful, and why. The way you have stated your case gives the other blog sites no way to argue the relative value of their methodologies.

This post did not come off to me as "Pollyanna's revenge." Rather, it was more like, "Dolores Umbridge's passive-aggressive punishment."

Anonymous said...

Interesting...I saw a comment here earlier by an anonymous poster that has now been removed. One answering @am*skf and critical of Ms. Buonfiglio, of course. Yeah, it was a bit harsh.

But the fact that it's gone is revealing in itself.

We're just all happy happy here. Yeah.

Strangely enough, the word verification I see below is an anagram for SIEGE. Karma.

amy kennedy said...

I find it amazing that we're seen as not allowed to have our own opinions--if you think we always agree, you're wrong. But, and this is a huge but, we certainly don't put each other down in the process.

txvoodoo said...

I am ALMOST speechless about your piece. How amazingly condescending.

Living down here in Texas, I've learned about a sociological phenomenon which was described in "The Yankee Chick's Survival Guide to Texas" in one chapter called "Bless Your Heart, Aren't You Just the Most Precious Li'l Clod". The meat of it is that, cloaked behind the seeming kindness of Texan's to strangers and newcomers, is the real truth - they just aren't that into you. They'll smile and shower you with neighborly phrases, and then ignore you.

You, Ms. Buonfiglio, epitomize that. You want to talk with sweetness and light - not heat - but you're condescending. Your "viewers" should be grateful that you've deigned to gift them with your thoughts, and they should follow your advice and not wade into potentially hotter waters, that might push them past their limits.

Who are you, that you're the arbiter of what we should and shouldn't read or say?

I will be avoiding your discussions at I don't need to go further than my local supermarket to be killed with kindness, bless your heart.

Kristina said...

txvoodoo - You took the words right out of my mouth.

amy*skf - Color me surprised (and skeptical) to hear that you are allowed to have your own opinions. Because after reading MB’s speech I was left with the distinct impression that she has little to no actual respect for her “viewers,” and that her way is the only right way.

You see, what really left me very nearly speechless after reading her piece, is her flagrant condescension for her own readers (and others), and the fact that those same readers don’t seem at all bothered by it. In fact, there were so many congratulatory comments after this post that it made me question whether the “Bellas” had actually really read her remarks. She refers to having to teach you to speak in “simple language,” and how she “gently redirects” you. And apparently all the Bellas were cowering in fear before she “empowered” you and taught you how to speak. Aren’t you capable of empowering yourselves? Do you really need someone to teach you how to express yourselves?

And what about the whole issue of the educational level of readers? I’ve never seen this brought up on another romance blog site, but MB makes a BIG issue of in her speech. Not only does she refer to a “fan” as “limited,” the fact that she even states that she accepts readers of all educational levels just shows she doesn’t. If you feel the need to point something out and then tell people you respect them anyway, it usually means you don’t.

Doesn’t any of MB’s flagrant condescension towards you bother you in the slightest?

Anonymous said...

I did say 'old-fashioned' Mills 'n' Boon, which lets today's writers off the hook. I meant the small books you used to see at supermarket check-outs, which were literally throwaway items.I reckon that if you don't try to write books that people really want to keep on their bookshelves, you are not trying hard enough.Of course, that's not the whole story. I think most publishers believe their readers are too stupid to enjoy anything that ventures into three dimensions. Arrogant b*****s!@amy*skf: Are you seriously saying the above statements aren't a put-down? As an author of those "throwaway items" I most definitely took that as a put-down. As a reader of them, I don't see how being called "too stupid to enjoy anything that ventures into three dimensions" can be considered anything but very directly and very personally insulting.

And when it all boils down, no one on the planet would give a squat what is said over here or how "nice" or "not nice" everyone was if the blog author hadn't used a very public forum to proclaim that this blog was superior to all others because of its "niceness" and pronounced herself the resident romance blog expert at maintaining a warm, fuzzy atmosphere.

I simply think it's wrong that she's not here putting actual weight behind those statements. Instead, she's left her "Bellas" to defend her blog for her.

Peaches said...

@above anon

I believe those--granted, very insulting--comments about grocery store paperbacks came from Jacqueline ( not amy*skf

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's correct. I'm simply responding to amy's statement, "...if you think we always agree, you're wrong. But, and this is a huge but, we certainly don't put each other down in the process."

Kaetrin said...

I had some concerns about your speech to the Princeton conference, as posted above Ms. Buonfiglio. Rather than jump to conclusions (not that I'm saying that other's have, merely that I personally don't feel I have enough information - others may have more) about which blogs incited the "heat" and rather than assuming that you were referring to Smart Bitches Trashy Books in that category (Sarah Wendell was sitting next to you and spoke immediately after you and it does not appear from above that you excluded Sarah and SBTB from your comments, the obvious inference to be drawn is that she IS included), I posted yesterday to ask you which blog sites you were referring to.

So far, no response.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion - so are you, but I do feel that bagging other blog sites without naming them or being prepared to do so, indicates a certain weakness in your argument - especially as it appeared to be an argument about being "nice" - you then proceeded (it seems) to be not "nice".

So, were you referring to Dear Author, Racy Romance Reviews, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, etc or were you referring to someone else?

I haven't experienced the "heat" you mention at any of these sites although I have seen some lively and interesting discussions over a wide range of topics. I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here Ms. Buonfiglio. Where is the "heat" which I should be avoiding?

To the Bellas who come here regularly and enjoy it, more power to you. I will not criticise you for your choice in blogs even though I may not share it. But then, that's the whole point isn't it?

azteclady said...

amy*skf said upthread, "we certainly don't put each other down in the process."

In response to other commentes, Julie in Ohio said a bit earlier, "Hey, suit yourself. Pull up a chair, pitch a tent, stay as long as you like. Let us know if there's anything you need; a drink, a blanket, a pacifier...."

A pacifier, really? and this is neither condescending nor putting each other (commenters in general) down? Or is it just regular posters, or posters never critical of Michelle who are never put down?

Lori Foster aka L. L. Foster said...

Hey Michelle,
GREAT post, and you already know that I agree 100%.
I read some of the responses, but I couldn't get through all of them.

I can't fathom why some are making the leap to a personal insult. There are a GAZILLION online sites that enjoy being nasty, just for the sake of being nasty. To name names would take all day, and really, who has the time?

There are some that are thoughtful and entertaining, and sometimes end up in flame wars, and for those, I say "to each her own."

And there are some where folks enjoy gathering for friendship, positivity and fun! Go Michelle.

I wonder when we started equating independence with the right to be a bitch? Personally, I want MEN and WOMEN to be considerate, moderate adults, who have control of their emotions, and are able to state their opinions without pointing fingers and ridiculing others.
I've seen the mob mentality online too many times. If there were cyber pitchforks available, the masses would grab them up - without any facts beyond what was stated to them in a blog. No thanks.
I still like the saying, "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." But people in brick houses shouldn't either. Those suckers can ricochet and hurt when you least expect it. ;-) FOR ME, considering what the other person might be going through is always a better move than jumping on the bandwagon to persecute.

What I enjoyed most about your post is the suggestion that folks researching romance should look at happy sites as well as nasty sites. There are plenty of both. There are intelligent sites on each side. When a researcher draws quotes ONLY from the negative, it's a huge injustice to romance. I've seen it happen though. Too many times!

What I find in romance is the diversity of the audience. I get letters from lawyers, doctors, judges, and I get letters from waitresses, stay-at-home moms, college students, janitors...

I hear from women who are in long-term happy relationships, and women who've just been divorced, never been married, or recently widowed.

I also get letters from men, and one of my favorites was from an 80+ year old man going through chemo. He said his westerns just weren't helping him "escape", so his wife handed him one of my books, and for a year after that, he corresponded with me, talking about my books and what he enjoyed. I will always remember him with a pang in my heart.

This is YOUR site, so naturally YOU have to keep it comfortable for all. I applaud you for accepting that responsibility. That doesn't make you overly-controlling or a dependent woman with no freedoms. LOL. It makes you a happy and lovely lady with a great outlook on life.
Your glass is mostly full, not half empty. ;-)

Kudos to you!
And I can't wait to see you at the Get-together again!

Lori Foster

Unknown said...

I avoid confrontation like the plague. I have been a "peacekeeper" my whole life. I hate being the object of someone's vitriol in any context. I also hate listening to others being berated for any reason, even if they were clearly in the wrong.

So tell me, then, why am I not uncomfortable at the sites which are supposedly so full of "heat?"

I read. I comment. I email the authors/moderators. I differ in opinion on a regular basis.

I have NEVER felt put down or condescended to. I have NEVER had my feelings hurt. I have NEVER been afraid to say what I want.

Ms B, I believe that the comments by those who believe you are indulging in passive/aggressive behavior are right on the money. You don't name names, you don't get specific. You are merely smug and condescending. Give me in-your-face bitching--backed up with logic and smarts--any day.

Anonymous said...

I think it's time to bring this conversation to an end, cheeky bellas. Don't you agree? As Amy*skd said, we're about four blogs past this discussion now. We should stop before someone gets hurt feelings. Yes, Amy*skd, even you need to stop. And Bella Lori Foster, this is yesterday's news. I hope you understand. We're all acting childish, and we should behave ourselves. We need to set a good example for the rest of the romance sites, my bellas, don't you agree? How else will academics conduct their research here?

Sending you all lovely rainbows and dazzling hearts,
a tongue-in-cheeky bella

Anonymous said...

This is YOUR site, so naturally YOU have to keep it comfortable for all. I find I'm not comfortable here after all. Bye.

kate angell said...

Michelle, I enjoyed your speech immensely, it was professional, informative, and gave a positive spin to romance. I thank you! In my humble opinion, I think much of what you spoke is how many authors feel. You did a great job.

Anonymous said...

I thought your blogpost was perfectly reasonable and not at all offensive. Silly me. Of course it would be attacked by the usual wild-eyed, pitchfork-wielding mob that's poised to be offended by just about anything and everything another woman says. I'm astonished that anyone could interpret your post as being "against women having opinions". No, your post is really about women being civilized toward each other -- even while expressing dissenting opinions.

To be honest, I didn't even know about this blog until I happened across several blogsites where women are livid that you dared suggest that people should play nice, so I dropped in to see what all the anger was about.

This qualifies as yet another tempest in a teapot. Truly.

I'm going to post this comment anonymously, as I have no desire to have that rabid mob coming after me. I hope you're not taking the comments too personally. I'm afraid it goes with the territory these days, having insults hurled your way. It's why so many truly informative bloggers have quit blogging, much to everyone's loss. Soon, the only romance blogsites left will be the ones with harpies hurling "bitch" "whore" and "craptastic" at each other.

( Ironic, isn't it, that a genre that celebrates love seems to attract the most angry and aggressive commenters.)

Jacqueline said...

As I unintentionally upset some people further back, I suppose I had better explain a little. I in no way 'look down on' ephemeral writing. I write some newspaper stuff that certainly does not last. Written today, recycled tomorrow - what is there to be ashamed of? Likewise, if a publisher sees its market as books that are one-time reads, why should I be rude about the authors who fill that slot? I'm sure I would not be much of a hand at that aspect of the craft myself, and good luck to those who are.

However, I do take issue with the system that restricts authors into ever simpler formats, and deliberately steers them away from writing that is fun, romantic, exotic and literature.

Publishers are the gate-keepers; you do things their way or you don't get published. Too many of them really believe the old maxim 'no-one ever went broke under-estimating the intelligence of the general public'. They want simple, they want familiar. They don't want - for instance - thought provoking. This is not restricted to female romance; there are heaps of terrible male shoot'em-ups out there as well.

I once had an editor trying to remove continuous past tenses because simple past is, well, simpler. Another criticised a book as having 'too much story and not enough sex' for the average reader. As if a few more orgasms would compensate for plot, characters, settings etc.

I really want readers (of any sex) to fall in love with my stories and keep them on their shelves for another read. Of course, I don't manage that much of the time - who does? But I believe we should keep trying to write keepers, and resist the pressures of throwaway publishers (as far as they let us!)

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