An Open Letter To Scholastic

Dear Scholastic,

I was brokenhearted to read your article about a “Literary Cleanse” that first insinuates that some writings should be thrown out of your life if it isn’t up to whatever the author deems worthy and ends with the statement that romance is trashy, “not good for you,” and on par with the See’s Candy Catalog for reading.

There are so many reasons this bothers me and, because this is my blog, I’m going to share them with you.

First off, I’m a YA writer who also writes romance. The themes in my YAs are hit head-on (the death and abandonment of a parent(s), grief, family fallout after suicide, cheating, sex as an addiction, BDD, therapy, meds). But, my Rom Coms are no less prominent in dealing with the issues their generation is dealing with, such as losing your job, having no home, the end of your most serious relationship, body image, self-worth.

And yet, because they are romances, by your definition they carry no worth and should be “cleansed.”

Let me tell you a little bit about why I started writing Romances.

In 2006 I was a successful contract consultant in my field. In 2007 we knew the economy was turning before most people because gigs were getting shorter and further apart. I lived under the poverty line for almost five years as I tried to repair my resume in the new economy.

At one point I sold all my furniture to pay my rent.

I’d never read a Romance novel before, but one day I was at Starbucks sending out resumes on their free wifi when I noticed a copy of Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton on the table next to me. I picked it up to kill the time.

And read it all.

It was the first night in months I went to bed with anything besides a worry so deep I had no idea how I’d climb out of it. The struggle of a woman who was smart, clever, kind, hard-working, and in love with a man that for some reason she thought she was unworthy of struck a cord. Then, watching that man fall in love with her as the both began to see her as his equal was touching and encouraging…and Julia Quinn is funny as all get-out.

And so the next day I went to the library and got the entire series.  It helped balance out the worry and stress of looking for employment and trying to make ends meet that had become my daily struggle.

Since then, I’ve published several books in both my YA and Rom Com worlds. The letters I get from girls and women mostly echo my own story….echo the idea that someone understands. That there is, as one of my rom com readers put it, “hope and joy and life on the other side of every darkness.”

Yes, that’s from someone who read one of my little rom com romps…you know, the one on par with the See’s Candy catalog.

I also, as a professional, find it completely disheartening that someone in a shared field would feel the need to disparage an entire genre’s worth of readers, writers, and publishers. You know the work that goes into making a readable, worthy-for-publication book. The lack of respect is overwhelming.

We won’t even discuss the economics of publishing and what Romance does for other genres just by its ability to do things like keep entire bookstore chains open by being the bread winner of the group.

In a world where YA Writing Bria has to struggle with the “when are you going to write real books” question from those who don’t understand the depth and themes of YA, I find myself embarrassed for all of us to be explaining the depth and themes of Romance to you.

I challenge you, as a publisher who I have an incredible amount of respect for, to think more carefully in the future before tearing another genre down. Just like when we were 12, it doesn’t make you better—it just makes us all feel worse.

ETA: For those looking for the Scholastic link: Would you try a literary cleanse?

~Bria

Comments

  1. Well said! I also think that omniscient POV in Romance has been lost partly do to this and author’s fear of being thought as a head hopper. Omniscient isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but neither is first person. (I personally love omniscient and not first person so much.) That doesn’t mean it should never be done. Same for romance genre in general. Romance has it’s share of fluff, but those are feel good stories and have their place. They also deal with issues such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, etc. Romance just does it in a way that gives hope to the reader at the end.

    I love all forms of reading, but even the mysteries I read, the ones I like the best are the ones that include relationships. Love/hate, money/greed…they are the common reasons for murder, and without the relationship angles, the stories become stale and 2 dimensional.

    The prejudice against romance is something that amazes me. As you point out, the sales of romance are keeping bookstores open, so how are we getting so much prejudice still? Thank you for writing this and reminding people of what I think is the most important aspect of romance–giving people hope.

    And Congratulations on having your books written 🙂 I didn’t know you until late 2009 as I came into twitter, but I’ve enjoyed our exchanges 😀

    PS I do remember you’re not big on a lot of POVs and still think you’re pretty awesome! *grins*

  2. You are absolutely right that it doesn’t make the Scholastic writer better, it just makes everyone else feel worse. Readers have better thinking skills and vocabularies than non-readers. Why would you eliminate an entire group of readers because you feel that what they read is not “worthy”? As long as they’re reading, it’s worthy.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      I’m not sure what people are thinking when they make sweeping generalizations about a genre with so many sub-genres. It’s a shame.

  3. Considering that I have bought a ton of books from the Scholastic’s catalog for my son and daughter with my “trashy romance novel” money, I guess I should ask for a refund, huh? LOL! Well done, Bria!

  4. I totally agree! I found the blog post and commented this:

    Every month my husband and I have a good-natured argument over the Scholastic catalogue our 6 year old brings home from school. He looks at the branded stories and sighs, making a silly comment about “real books”.

    You know why it’s silly? Because all books are real. All words are equal. Literacy isn’t about quality of thought, but quantity of comprehension. And through Lego learn to read books and trashy romances, people are working their literacy muscles every single day.

    That’s what Scholastic should be celebrating. Not some misguided snobbery to start the year.

  5. Bria Quinlan says:

    KJ Charles has also shared some great thoughts on this. Read HERE: https://kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/whats-good-for-you-detoxifying-reading/

  6. Beautifully written and oh so well said, Bria! Thanks for speaking out so eloquently against those who would condemn romance as a legitimate genre when it does so much to inspire so many.

  7. So well said. I don’t know of the article you mention but you can bet I’ll be goggling it next. There’s so much here I agree with.

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