For book lovers, the Library of Congress has always been a romantic place, but this spring it’ll get a lot hotter.
Romance writers, scholars and fans will gather in the nation’s capital for a special conference titled “What Is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age,” on Feb. 10-11. The event, which is free and open to the public, is being hosted by the library’s Center for the Book, with financial support from Harlequin, the romance imprint that publishes more than 100 titles a month.
The conference is designed to appeal to attendants across a wide range of interests — from academics to fans. English professors Pam Regis, president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, and Mary Bly, who publishes romance novels under the name Eloisa James, will be among those leading discussions on such topics as “What belongs in the romance canon?” and “Where is romance fiction heading in the digital age?” Other scholars in cultural history, family studies, social psychology, African American studies, gender studies and popular culture will also participate.
In addition, bestselling authors Robyn Carr and Brenda Jackson will be attending. Special sessions for beginning and experienced authors will include featuring writing, cover design and romance websites.
“The study of popular romance is a relatively new field of scholarship that has developed rapidly in the past two decades,” said John Cole, director of the Center for the Book. “It is rooted in the realization that popular romance fiction reveals deep truths about people and cultures. From a Center for the Book perspective, this has implications for reading, literacy and promoting lifelong learning.”
Cole also revealed that, for the first time, a Romance pavilion will be added to the National Book Festival in 2015.
(The Washington Post added a monthly romance column to its books coverage earlier this year.)
Filmmaker Laurie Kahn, a staff member of the Popular Romance Project, encouraged the Center for the Book to host this conference. She’s the producer/director of “Love Between the Covers,” an upcoming documentary about women who read and write romance literature. The film will be previewed on Feb. 10, and clips from it will be used the next day at the start of each panel to spark discussion.
“As a documentary filmmaker, I want to bring the lives and work of compelling women to the screen,” Kahn said, “because any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and ‘merely domestic.’ My previous films — ‘A Midwife’s Tale’ and ‘Tupperware!’ – are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously (but should be), who deserve to be heard without being mocked.”
Michelle Renaud, a spokesperson for Harlequin, said, “Romance accounts for 21 percent of the adult fiction market. Readers are passionate about these books and the authors who write them. This event will give them the opportunity to discover new authors as well as engage with those they love.”
Details about registration will be available early in January.