Celebrate Romance–MC speech 2004
Here we are, in Chicago, IL, the Windy City, gathered to Celebrate Romance! And while we may have been buffeted about by some winds this year, we’ve managed to stand tall and put together what I’m sure will be a wonderful weekend for us all!
We’re here to spring into romance, to celebrate its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and its wallbangers. Romance deals with personal issues, and that’s why I think so many of us care so much about it—romance helps us share strong emotions, and having an opportunity to discuss those books with others is irresistible.
But Celebrate Romance is all about opportunity. This weekend, you’ll have a chance to meet authors you admire and those you’ve never read before. You’ll have a chance this afternoon to engage in a true discussion of the books you love, sharing what works for you and what doesn’t. Some of you have already participated in the fun, mad searching that is the advanced book trade, and this afternoon we’ll all get the chance to discover great new books at the general book trade. You’ll hear fascinating presentations this morning and gain new perspectives as a reader. But above all, you’ll be sharing about books.
I always find it interesting to consider that reading is, for most of us, a solitary task, and yet Celebrate Romance is a time for sharing and interacting. It seems almost contradictory, doesn’t it? But we take this hobby we accomplish alone and turn it into something communal. Firstly we do this online, from the websites we visit and the message boards we read and post to, to the email lists we join and the contests we enter. Then some of us move it to the next level. We might meet one or two folks in person that we’ve only known online. Perhaps you discover that someone lives near you, and you arrange a meeting. Perhaps you’re traveling to a town and post a message asking where the good used bookstores are. The next thing you know, you’re meeting someone brand new. Sometimes you’re able to participate regular gatherings of readers, to attend a book signing or have a Regency tea. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to belong to a book club at your local library or store.
And then there’s the ultimate step—the romance convention.
Coming to a conference of any sort is a huge step for a reader. Seeing numbers of authors and readers is the polar opposite of our solitary reading late at night. And there are a number of conferences throughout the year that offer a focus on writers and the craft of writing. But Celebrate Romance offers readers a unique opportunity to interact, and that’s what I prize about this conference. It’s such fun.
Another trait romance readers share is perseverance. Let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen, the romance reader is almost always scorned. How many times have you admitted your reading preference to someone and seen that funny look come into their eyes—you know the look I mean. The “I thought you much of you, and now….” Look. The stunned amazement people show when they realize you read romance and don’t have your hair in curlers as you drag your six mewling children behind you as you stumble out of your local WalMart. To be a romance reader is to persevere in the face of reactions ranging from mild derision to outright scorn.
Some of us find ways to deal with typical reactions to romances with covers where the hero and heroine are having a really difficult time keeping their tops on by buying fancy book cover-ups. Some of us boldly go forth with covers that look as bad as can be. Some of us don’t admit our reading habits to anyone. Some of us will freely admit what we read to anybody. Many of us are somewhere in the middle.
But we persevere. We keep reading romance. We can’t stop, really, now can we? For some people, reading romance is a pleasant diversion, something they do when they’re on the beach or perhaps that long-awaited cruise. But for the true romance reader, it’s a necessity. We could no more stop reading romance than we could stop breathing. Or eating chocolate. Or maybe both.
We might read different books as well—non-fiction, mystery, fantasy or science fiction, but then we have to get back to a good old romance. Reading other books is like cleansing our palate at a fancy restaurant, so we can get back to our main course.
When you consider how much the literati of this world and much of the general public would like to stop us from reading romance, it’s a wonder we continue. When you hear yet another remark about bodice-rippers, it’s a wonder we find ourselves returning to romance. When we read one more derisive remark about Harlequin novels, it’s a wonder we don’t go screaming away from this genre.
But we’re here. We’re romance readers. We persevere.
We do so because we love romance. We love the idea of love. We love the courtship phase of a relationship, when two people find each other. We know that it isn’t the fact that they find each other—it’s how they get there, whether it’s funny or sad, dramatic or diverting. It’s the characters we care about, the situational comedy or drama we relish, and it’s the romance that matters.
And in many ways, this convention this year is another example of romance reader perseverance. Celebrate Romance was challenged this year. It nearly didn’t happen. But guess what, ladies and gentlemen? We’re here. We’re here despite all the challenges, and we’re going to have an amazing weekend!
There are a number of people to thank for getting us here, and I wanted to take a moment to do that. There are the many volunteers who headed up specific elements of this conference. They’re mentioned in your program booklet. They determined our rap session subjects for this afternoon, found folks to man the registration tables, packed goody bags, found books to sell, publicized our activities, and determined the speakers that you’re about to hear. Many hands make for fun work, and we appreciate all of their efforts!
When I think of characteristics that make up a vibrant romance heroine, I think of strength of will, determination, kindliness and consideration, a sense of humor, and enjoyment of others. And when I look around this room, I see so many romance heroines. Romance is a reflection of reality, and you all are some of the finest representatives of it!
So let’s celebrate romance, let’s celebrate spring, and let’s spring into the convention!
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