Friday, August 08, 2008

In My Opinion ...

Okay, I finally saw the segment the Today Show did recently on romance while covering the 28th annual Romance Writers of America's national conference in San Francisco. I'd heard some good things about the segment, and I'd heard some bad things about the segment, and I was eager to see what the show had done. I'm told that Nora had a good interview with the reporter who covered the conference, but she wasn't completely happy with the snippet of her interview that aired. This is, of course, mere rumor because I haven't actually spoken with La Nora myself, but I'm told that she wasn't happy because, as always, the media focused on how many books she'd sold rather than on any of the other things she said during the interview. Nora is one of the genre's staunchest supporters, and I'm sure she said a lot of things we'd have loved to hear repeated on national television. Maybe we'd have heard them if the piece had been longer. I don't know ... maybe Nora's incredible sales record is what people want to hear about. If so, I don't get it. (No offense, Nora!) But, then, I don't get a lot of things, like why the world is so fascinated by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or by Tom Cruise (shudder) and Katie Holmes. Or why "we" felt as if we owned Princess Diana, or .... well, just lots of things. On the other hand, I was delighted that the show interviewed the award-winning romance novelist, Beverly Jenkins. She may have only appeared on screen for a few seconds, but it was an important few seconds. For decades, the romance genre has been portrayed as white books by white women written for white woman. Beverly is just one of the many African-American, Asian-American, Latino and other multi-cultural women who write romance and fill the ever-growing market for multi-cultural romance. If you ask me, it's way past time to set the record straight. The other grumble I heard about the Today Show piece centered on a comment made by one of the show's anchors after the piece aired. The offending comment was something like, "Well now we know what career we should be pursuing in our spare time." And yeah, I know, they don't have a clue -- but who does? The only people who understand how damn hard it is to write a novel are the people who actually write novels. And the reporter did just finish talking about how romance authors are intelligent, insightful women who also practice medicine and the law and who have Ph.Ds and raise kids, which makes it sound as if we're all writing romance novels in our spare time. So I really can't blame the anchor. We just have to find a better way to get the message across, I guess. So it wasn't a totally bad piece (although at times it did make us look a bit like over-eager fans at a Star Trek convention -- not that there's anything wrong with being an over-eager fan at a Star Trek convention!) but it wasn't a totally good piece, either. It wasn't entirely accurate, but it wasn't entirely inaccurate, either -- which makes it your typical segment on the daily news, doesn't it? And I do think that Ms. Jansing tried to include some of the important points, in spite of the unfortunate "Sex Between the Covers" tag line and the "Sex and the City" tie in that I don't quite understand. And hey! it was the Today Show. Which says something, right? So I don't really want to complain about the segment because I'm thrilled that RWA managed to catch the attention of such a high-profile, highly respected program. I just wish that while they let us speak to the world for that minute or so, they'd let us say a bit more about the healing properties of our novels, about the many women who turn to romance for hope in times of despair, or for escape in times of stress. Or that they'd given a moment's notice to our conference theme: Romance -- Bridging the World, and mentioned that we're not just talking about American women, or white women, but about women of all races, all religions, all backgrounds, all education levels, all around the world. Or that they'd explained that the part where excited fans were seen storming the Bastille in search of romance novels was actually our annual Readers for Life Literacy Autographing, at which RWA raised over $58,000 which it donated to Pro Literacy Worldwide to assist in its efforts to erase adult illiteracy around the world. Ah well . . . maybe next year.

2 comments:

Rene said...

I'm with you, I really liked that they featured Beverly Jenkins. What I didn't like is that they made conference look like a readers convention rather than a writing conference.

It was a puff piece but considering romance is a billion dollar industry you'd think they'd give it more serious attention.

Caryn Caldwell said...

For them to bring up any of the things you and I and other romance writers and readers would like to see, they would actually have to do some research and look beyond the stereotypes. But that isn't as interesting or sensationalistic, is it? After all, sex sells, in the media, at least.