Valerie J. Clarizio, Virginia McCullough, Kira Shayde, S.C. Mitchell, Lisa Romdenne and Mary Grace Murphy will be at UntitledTown presenting a panel entitled A Look at the Romance Genre and Women’s Fiction – The Genres that Outpace Themselves Year After Year.
For three years, I had the privilege of working at the public library in the small mid-coast town of Rockland, Maine. I won’t say exactly how long ago it was, but I was young and the classic oak card catalogue and a date stamp machine were not. Over the years, I met many dozens of women who read books by authors on a long list of pioneers; writers who paved the way for all of us in the broad romance genre. My coworkers and I created waiting lists for these authors’ new releases, and in some cases we bought more than one copy, a big deal for an underfunded small town library.
Remember Eleanor Hibbert? Me, neither. But I do remember Victoria Holt, a pioneer in gothic and suspense romance (The Shivering Sands, India Fan); Philippa Carr, author of historical romances (Daughters of England, a 20-book series); and Jean Plaidy, who also wrote historicals. These books were perpetually checked out or on reserve, and some of the shut-in readers would ask me to pick out anything by Holt, Carr, or Plaidy. Another British author, Catherine Cookson (The Lady on my Left, The Bonny Dawn) wrote over 100 books. I recall dragging out glue and tape in our “book ER” as we tried to hold her books together just a little longer. (Cookson suffered a genetic bleeding disorder and other illnesses, which caused great hardship in her life, recounted in a memoir found after her death, Before I Go.)
We also had long waiting lists for books by a Mainer, Elizabeth Ogilvie (The Tide Trilogy), who wrote 40 books for adults and young readers. She lived On Gay’s Island and rarely came to the mainland, but when she agreed to give a talk at the library, her fans showed up in droves. No one could draw a crowd like Ogilvie.
Who can forget Phyllis Whitney (Spindrift, Amethyst Dreams)? In her104 years she wrote 70 books for adults and young people. She was labeled the Queen of American Gothic, but she described her work as “romantic novels of suspense.” Now a subgenre all its own. Born in Japan to American parents, this trailblazer had a penchant for exotic locations. She also wrote A Guide to Writing Fiction—I read this long ago and loved it.
In the 1990s, when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, I was driving to a speakers’ conference in Florida, but ended up seeing a highway exit sign for St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Hmm…it sounded vaguely familiar. Curious, I went to have a look and soon realized I was visiting the adopted home of the wildly popular author, Eugenia Price (St. Simon’s Trilogy), and many other books based on historical figures in the region. I ended up visiting the lovely churchyard where she’s buried, now a regular stop for tourists-fans. In a case of serendipity, that day I learned about an annual writers’ conference held on St. Simon’s Island and attended every year thereafter until I moved to Wisconsin in 2001. I later set Island Healing on a fictional version of that island.
When these pioneers began writing, they faced real barriers for women trying to break into the fiction market (let alone garner any respect). Somehow, they took what was a narrow path to success and independence and bulldozed it to make room for all of us. Today, romance, in all its variations, remains the top-selling fiction genre. So, thanks Victoria/Jean/Philippa, Catherine, Elizabeth, Phyllis, and Eugenia…and so many others!
An active member of WisRWA since 2001, Virginia McCullough lives in Green Bay and writes romances for the Harlequin Heartwarming line and award-winning women’s fiction. LOVE, UNEXPECTED, Book 3 of HER Two Moon Bay series, is due out in May. Virginia also writes and edits nonfiction and is a writing coach. Please note: this blog post has been adapted from a post on Heartwarming authors blog, 10-2017.)
The WisRWA Chapter Service Award is an award that WisRWA gives out to members who have shown exemplary service to our organization often going above and beyond the call of duty for WisRWA. Members are nominated and sent to the Chapter Service Award chair or chairs who will read through the nominations and choose the winning recipient or recipients. The committee received many nominations and were quite pleased to see all the ways our members are serving the chapter.
To serve is to give above and beyond what is expected. This year, we are fortunate to who have two members whose service stood out to the committee. The women who earned the 2016 Chapter Service Award have certainly done that for the many years they have been members of WisRWA. They were both nominated by multiple members, which made the decision of who to vote for so very easy. Congratulations to Gini Athey and Virginia McCullough.
Here is what your fellow members had to say about our two recipients:
Gini Athey first joined WisRWA in the 1980s. She has been active in the chapter in some capacity nearly every year since. She has served as area contact for the Green Bay area. She chaired the Write Touch Readers Award contest in 2004 and 2005, and again in 2010, and helped write the extremely thorough and helpful procedures that have guided chairs of that contest ever since. She is once again co-chairing the contest, stepping in when help was needed, and acting as the driving force for making sure deadlines were hit so contest results would be ready for the conference. Within the Green Bay area group, she volunteers to present programs or serve on a panel at least once each year, and has also been a judge for the Fab Five contest. She volunteers at chapter conferences, and is currently coordinating the 2017 conference book signing. As active a volunteer as she is, she is also appreciated for her behind-the-scenes efforts on behalf of members. Described as a “quiet volunteer,” Gini is recognized as someone who makes new members feel welcome, or sends private notes of congratulations or encouragement to other members, and who regularly calls attention to milestones and achievements among our members.
Virginia has been a WisRWA member since 2001. Since then she has been an active volunteer within her area and in chapter leadership. One nominator says of Virginia, “I don’t think a year has gone by that she hasn’t volunteered for something.” She has served as area contact. She has chaired the Write Touch contest, and helped create the fantastic procedure manual for running the conference. More recently, she served two terms as WisRWA’s president. Virginia immediately gained the respect of the board, with her thoughtful, calm and insightful leadership. Her approach was to build consensus, and her term saw many successes and innovations, including our new website, and the use of new technology to improve board communications. Virginia is an excellent cheerleader for WisRWA, because she has a strong sense of the history of RWA and WisRWA, and the importance of these organizations to writers and to women. Her fellow members appreciate her can-do attitude, and they also appreciate the genuine affection and care she offers her fellow writers.
Yes, you heard correctly, WisRWA had the privilege to participate in UntitledTown‘s first ever Book and Author Festival. The festival was held in Green Bay, Wisconsin from April 28th through the 30th.
UntitledTown promotes book cultures and books of all kinds including but not limited to graphic novels, children’s books, romance novels, mystery, and non-fiction books of any kind. Over the course of three days, attendees had the opportunity to attend readings, discussions, workshops, and panels in several locations in downtown Green Bay. The majority of these events were open and free to the public.
WisRWA Members Mary Jo Scheibl, Mary Grace Murphy, Virginia McCullough, Steve Mitchell, Lisa Romdenne and Valerie Clarizio presented A Giant Among Genres: A Look at Romance and Women’s Fiction
A panel of local members of the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (WisRWA) will talk about the ongoing popularity of romance and women’s fiction today. According to book sale statistics, romance consistently leads the genres in sales year after year, and women’s fiction is a major and growing genre in its own right. Romance writing is also the most misunderstood of the genres, but it’s extremely diverse, ranging from inspirational/religious fiction to the steamy/erotic. It can be contemporary, historical, mystery/suspense, or paranormal/fantasy. We’ll answer all questions about our genre, discuss our journeys to both conventional and indie publication, and tell others how they, too, can successfully write and publish romance.
The panel was held on the Saturday morning of the festival at the Kavarna Coffeehouse. We filled the room! Okay, it may have been a small room, but we filled it with readers and writers, and some potential new WisRWA members. The audience asked questions in regard to our writing journeys and processes. Though the panel lasted a little over an hour, the time flew by so quickly it felt like five minutes.
After the panel, we grabbed some lunch and then shot off to the book signing event which was held at the Broadway Center (Old Fort Square). Readers meandered among the rows and rows of tables of writers. During the signing, an older gentleman stopped by and started talking to me and Virginia. As we spoke with him, he shot us that silly grin that men sometimes flash when they talk about romance books and make mention that romance isn’t their thing. Admittedly, I felt a bit miffed by his dismissal of the romance genre, but I kept my smile in place as he moved past me and Virginia and made his way to Mary Grace and Mary Jo. Oddly, by the time he finished speaking with Mary Jo, he’d pulled out his wallet and purchased a book from her. Are you now wondering what Mary Jo said to this man to change his tune about romance books in a matter of fifteen minutes? If so, you’ll have to ask her the next time you see her because I don’t knowJ
UntitledTown did an excellent job putting together this event. It was well organized and well attended by both readers and writers.
Valerie Clarizio is the current Treasurer for WisRWA. She writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. Valerie has placed in the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers Novellas Need Love, Too! contest and WisRWA’s Write Touch contest.