Christina here. You know that saying, “It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts”? That’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re little. How many times have we said it to ourselves, our children or our friends when someone lost at something or didn’t win some competition or sport? I know I repeated it to my daughters until I was blue in the face, but it didn’t stop the disappointment on their faces as they came away emptyhanded from yet another school sports day.
“Mummy, can’t we buy a medal?” my oldest asked once, obviously not having grasped the whole concept of such competitions at all. And clearly, she had already learned that a lot of things in life can be bought, which wasn’t a lesson I wanted her to absorb at such a young age. Thankfully, we eventually begin to understand the saying as we grow up and it makes perfect sense.
A couple of days ago I attended the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Assocations’ (RNA) annual awards event, which was very enjoyable. Drinks, a buffet, and meeting up with friends and colleagues in a lovely setting in central London – perfect! (The venue is close to the Tower which is one of my favourite places to visit in the capital.) The awards themselves comprise lots of different categories and I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in the Fantasy Romance one. I came without expectations – just being a finalist is a huge boost to an author’s morale and I honestly didn’t care whether I won or not. As it happened, the award went to someone else, but it was just fun to be a part of the proceedings and to have my story chosen as a finalist by the readers. Their approval is what really counts for me. (And the main upside of NOT winning is that I didn’t have to make a speech, something I always dread.)
(You can find the full list of winners here).
As we’ve probably mentioned before, authors can be very critical of their own work and I, for one, usually feel that what I’ve written is complete and utter drivel. Self-confidence can be at an all-time low, especially in the middle of a story when everything feels as though it will never work out. So to be shortlisted for anything is exactly what an author needs! It gives us a tremendous boost and helps us to carry on writing.
Of course, winning is the icing on the cake and will make you feel extra special, but it isn’t necessary or as important as when you were younger. I don’t have that feeling of failure I did when I was the clumsy child who was incredibly un-sporty, never won anything, and was always the last person to be picked for the rounders team. These days it doesn’t matter.
Awards events like the one I attended also have another, more important, function – they hopefully raise the profile of romantic fiction as a whole. It is unfortunately a genre that is often derided or looked down upon, which is very unfair considering how many readers around the globe love it! And also how much income it generates for publishers worldwide and how large a share of the book market is taken up by romance. (More than 25% of all fiction, I believe). To be part of a whole evening dedicated to the genre I love was wonderful!
Last month the RNA also celebrated romance in all its various guises by holding a Romance Reading Month with lots of different activities. This was inspired by Sara-Jade Virtue, Brand Development Director, Fiction, at Simon & Schuster UK who has recently been leading a campaign across publishing to demand respect for the genre. As authors of romance, we were encouraged to join in by using the hashtags #RespectRomFic and #ProudToWriteRomFic whenever we posted on social media – something most of us were quite happy to do. There were other activities throughout the month, and I hope that they were enjoyed by many and raised the profile of romantic fiction as intended.
Romance is an incredibly broad spectrum and we all have our own preferences, but the detractors seem to cast shade on the entire genre, often without having read a single one. Love is everywhere and is the thing most people want in their lives, so what is wrong with reading about it? Absolutely nothing!
I very much enjoyed my evening in a room full of romantic fiction authors, readers and publishing professionals, and no matter what, I shall continue to read romance for as long as I live.
How about you? What would you say to those who look down upon romance? We can always do with a really great come-back or two and I look forward to hearing yours!