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Past Conferences

In April 2009, Princeton University hosted a two-day symposium on the genre of popular romance. The descriptions below appeared on the original conference website.

To see the original website as preserved on Internet Archive, including photographs from the event, click here




LOVE AS THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM? ROMANCE FICTION AND AMERICAN CULTURE

APRIL 23-24, 2009 / PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

This two-day symposium will be the first national conference to focus on the multiple ways that romance novels—long the most maligned of literary texts—can provide rich critical insight for the study of American culture, politics, and society.  This explicitly contextual, interdisciplinary, and American focus represents a rich new direction for the field of romance fiction studies.

Indeed, our aim is nothing less than to remap the field itself by bringing distinguished scholars and rising stars from a range of disciplines—and who draw on critical methodologies from such diverse fields as American Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies—together with prestigious authors, editors, and other critical members of the romance reading and writing community to interrogate such emerging, still under-examined topics as the Christian underpinnings of American romance fiction, the racial politics of the genre (both in texts and in the publishing industry), the distinctive negotiations we find in romance between progressive and reactionary visions of sexuality, and the ways romance authors, like those in other genres, artfully engage with American history and popular culture.

The first half of our conference title derives from the influential 1994 essay of the same name by African American scholar, poet, and activist bell hooks.  As hooks—a self-acknowledged romance novel reader—explains in the essay’s concluding paragraph: “The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression.  The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.  That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom” (Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations (Routledge 1994), 250).  Our conference will examine the ways in which romance fiction might be understood to resist rather than perpetuate oppression, but also—as our editorial addition of a question mark suggests—to liberate romance scholarship from the need to defend the genre against all comers and at all costs.


Conference Organizers
William Gleason, Department of English, Princeton University
Eric Murphy Selinger, Department of English, DePaul University

Conference Assistant: Parween Ebrahim, Department of English, Princeton University

This conference has been generously co-sponsored by:
the Department of English, the Center for African American Studies, the Center for the Study of Religion, the Program in American Studies, the Program in the Study of Women and Gender, DePaul University, and the Romance Writers of America.


Schedule

 

All sessions will take place in Betts Auditorium in the School of Architecture

Schedule update (4/20/09): Unfortunately Monica Jackson will be unable to join us on Friday's closing roundtable.

 

Thursday, April 23, 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

7:30 pm    Registration, Betts Auditorium

8:00 pm
    Conference welcome: William Gleason, Princeton University, and Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University

8:15 pm    Keynote Roundtable, “Romance Fiction and American Culture”

  • Tania Modleski, Dept. of English, USC
  • Stephanie Coontz, Dept. of History, Evergreen State University
  • Mary Bly [“Eloisa James”], Dept. of English, Fordham University, and romance author
  • Jennifer Crusie, romance author and essayist on the genre

Friday, April 24, 8:00 am – 6:30 pm

8:00-8:30 
   Registration and refreshments, Betts Auditorium

8:30-10:15    Session I: Love and Faith: Romance and Religion

  • Lynn S. Neal, Dept. of Religion, Wake Forest University
  • Pamela Regis Dept. of English, McDaniel College
  • R. Marie Griffith, Dept. of Religion, Princeton University
  • Beth Pattillo, romance author and ordained minister
  • Eric Murphy Selinger, Dept. of English, DePaul University


10:30-12:15    Session II: Memory and Desire: Romance, History, and Literary Tradition

  • Margaret Doody, Dept. of English, University of Notre Dame; Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching, Princeton University
  • Rita B. Dandridge, Dept. of Languages and Literature, Virginia State University
  • Ann Herendeen, romance author
  • Sally Goade, independent scholar
  • Beverly Jenkins, romance author


12:15-1:15    Lunch for panelists and pre-registered conferees, Chancellor Green

1:30-3:15
    Session III: The Sweetest Taboos: Romance and Sexuality 

  • Mary Bly [“Eloisa James”], Dept. of English, Fordham University, and romance author
  • Sarah S. G. Frantz, Dept. of English and Foreign Languages, Fayetteville State University
  • Julie E. Moody-Freeman, Dept. of African and Black Diaspora Studies, DePaul University
  • Guy Mark Foster, Dept. of English and Africana Studies, Bowdoin College


3:30-5:15
    Session IV: Whispers in the Dark: Romance and Race

  • Gwendolyn Pough [“Gwyneth Bolton”], Dept. of Women’s Studies, Syracuse University, and romance author
  • Emily Haddad, Dept. of English, University of South Dakota
  • Esi Sogah, romance editor, Avon Books
  • Dana Johnson [“P.J. MacAllister”], Dept. of English, USC, and Alison Umminger [“Grace Grant”], Dept. of English, University of West Georgia, and collaborating romance authors

5:30-6:30    Closing Roundtable: Romance Reads the Academy*

  • Michelle Buonfiglio, columnist, blogger, and reviewer (Romance: B(u)y the Book)
  • Sarah Wendell, critic, blogger, and reviewer (Smart Bitches Trashy Books)
  • Diane Pershing, romance author, President, Romance Writers of America (2008-2009)
  • *Monica Jackson, author, paranormal romance; contributor to “Blogging in Black” and other author websites
  • Krista Stroever, editor, Harlequin Books

7:00 - Dinner for panelists and pre-registered conferees, Fine Hall

*Schedule update (4/20/09): Unfortunately Monica Jackson will be unable to join us on Friday’s closing roundtable.


Panelist Biographies

Mary Bly

Mary Bly is an associate professor and Director of Creative Writing in the English Department, Fordham University.  A Shakespearean, she specializes in plays written for boy companies.  Her first book, Queer Virgins and Virgin Queans on the Early Modern Stage was published by Oxford University Press in 2000.  She is currently working on The Geography of Puns, a piece of which was published in the PMLA in 2007.
 
After teaching Shakespeare in the day, she goes home and writes a kind of popular fiction never celebrated in Shakespeare Quarterly.  Her historical romances, written as Eloisa James, have hit the top ten on the New York Times bestseller list; People Magazine stated that “romance writing doesn’t get much better than this.” Her next release is This Duchess of Mine, to be published by Harper Collins in June of 2009.

Michelle Buonfiglio

In 2005, Michelle Buonfiglio founded Romance: B(u)y the Book® (RBTB), and RomanceBuyTheBook.com.  Her vision was to entertain and engage romance fiction readers while also introducing the genre to a broader audience. “Define, not defend” was the battle cry from the first, and it continues to this day.  RBTB grew its roots at Internet Broadcasting where her feature content, exclusive interviews and blog were published on more than 90 TV news web sites reaching more than 13 million unique users monthly.

Buonfiglio then took RBTB to Lifetime Television’s newly relaunched web site, myLifetime, where she added scores of on-camera author interviews and her iconic “In Bed with Fabio” series to the RBTB playlist. She continues her work at RomanceBuyTheBook.com and syndicates a new RBTB column to TV news websites around the country.

With her background in traditional literature, Buonfiglio enjoys merging the worlds of scholarship and romance fiction. She created an online event called “Back to School Week: Scholars on Romance” which introduced to the general online romance community scholars who teach or support romance fiction in their classrooms. Two of those scholars were William Gleason and Eric Selinger, the creators of this conference. Later that school year, class was in session at RBTB when students from Professor Gleason’s American Best Sellers class joined romance fiction readers, authors, industry members and scholars for a day of online myth busting and idea exchange.

Buonfiglio consults media companies and non-profits on the fundamentals of building online communities. She has established herself as a thought leader in web site user interface, viral and email marketing, monetization and matters of privacy and intellectual property rights.

Buonfiglio is a summa cum laude graduate of Saint Francis University with a B.A. in writing/fine arts and a core concentration in literary criticism. She’s a former Miss Pennsylvania and a top 10 finalist at the Miss America Pageant where she performed a Rossini aria that was praised by the New York Times.

Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001-04. She is the author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Viking Press, 2005), The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (1992 and 2000, Basic Books), The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families (Basic Books, 1997), and The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families. She also edited American Families: A Multicultural Reader (Routledge, 1999; revised and expanded edition 2008). Her writings have been translated into French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Czech, German, Norwegian, Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Ukrainian, and Japanese. Coontz has testified about her research before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families in Washington, DC, and addressed audiences across America, Japan, Australia, and Europe. She has appeared on the Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Crossfire, 20/20, NPR, CNN's Talk Back Live, CBS This Morning, Leeza, the O-Reilly Factor and MSNBC with Brian Williams, as well as in several prime-time television documentaries, including ones hosted by Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, The Observer/Guardian, The Times of London, Wall Street Journal, Salon, Washington Post, Newsweek, Harper's, Vogue, LIFE, Time-LIFE Books, and Mirabella, as well as in such academic and professional journals as Family Therapy Magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education, National Forum, and Journal of Marriage and Family.

A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Coontz has also taught at Kobe University in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. In 2004, she received the Council on Contemporary Families first-ever "Visionary Leadership" Award. In 1995 she received the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics for her "outstanding contributions to the field of child development." She also received the 2001-02 "Friend of the Family" award from the Illinois Council on Family Relations.

Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.   Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-first will be published in 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and a two-time Rita award winner.  She’s also the author of two novellas and many essays, and the editor of three pop culture essay collections, the latest of which, Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest, came out in May of 2007.  Her latest novels from St. Martin’s Press are a paranormal romantic comedy written in collaboration with Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich called Dogs and Goddesses, and a romantic adventure written in collaboration with military thriller writer Bob Mayer, an experience that reinforced everything she was going to say in that dissertation. It’s titled Wild Ride and it will be in stores in early in 2010. Jenny currently lives on the Ohio River with three dogs, surrounded by stacks of old copies of Psychology Today and Entertainment Weekly, drinking copious amounts of Diet Coke and working on two new novels for St. Martin’s Press, You Again and Always Kiss Me Goodnight.  There is more to her private life, but it’s private. She is a very happy woman.  For more information, see www.jennycrusie.com.

Rita B. Dandridge

Rita B. Dandridge is Professor of English in the Department of Languages and Literature at Virginia State University. She is a recipient of the TIAA-CREF Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award 2004 from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and she is an academic advisor to a forthcoming film production of Richard Wright’s “Big Black Good Man.”  Her books include Ann Allen Shockley: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography (Greenwood, 1987), Black Women’s Blues: A Literary Anthology 1934-1988 (G.K. Hall, 1992), and Black Women’s Activism: Reading African American Women’s Historical Romances (Peter Lang, 2004). Her articles have appeared in College Language Association Journal, Black American Literature Forum, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Black Women in America, and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature.

Margaret Doody

Margaret Doody, the John and Barbara Glynn Family Professor of Literature in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame, is spending the 2008-09 academic year at Princeton University as a Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Department of Comparative Literature. Her research interests include Literature of the 17th-19th centuries (she started off as a specialist in English Literature of the 18th century); the Novel (global); the Ancient World, especially Greece in the 4th century BCE . She maintains her interest in the 18th century, and was recently President of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.  Her best known scholarly work nationally and internationally is probably The True Story of the Novel (1996), in which she argues that the (popular Anglo) division between "Novel" and Romance" is specious, and that the Novel is the creation of many tongues and ethnicities over a span of two thousand years or more. Her most recently published book is Tropic of Venice (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).

Her other writing life is as a novelist, principally as a mystery-story writer/historical novelist. Her "Aristotle Detective" series has been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese--and most recently into Greek,Polish and Russian. (Sadly there  is no American publisher.) The ongoing  "Aristotle" saga means that she has a good excuse to go to Greece every year. When she was in Athens this summer, her Greek editor took her out for an annual dinner and gave her a copy of the new translation of her 3rd Aristotle novel, Aristotle and the Secrets of Life (O Aristoteles kai to Mysterio tes Zoes). She wants to finish the series, which means she must bring it up to 322 BCE, going through the deaths of Alexander and Aristotle, and the end of democracy in Athens. She is now writing  a new novel  dealing with the threatened famine of 328 BCE (historically a fact), and negotiations for grain in Egypt; her characters are about to visit Alexandria as construction of the city is just beginning. Throughout the series, the sex lives of Aristotle and the younger narrator, Stephanos, and of their associates Athenian and foreign, have given her occasion to investigate prostitution, marriage and sexual behavior in the ancient world.

Guy Mark Foster

Guy Mark Foster is Assistant Professor of English at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. He has published essays in The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming, Radical Philosophy Review, Lambda Book Report, and in African American Review. His essay, “How Dare a Black Woman Make Love to a White Man: Black Women Romance Novelists and the Taboo of Interracial Desire,” appears in the collection Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty-first Century Views of Popular Romance Novels. Mark is presently at work on a book entitled Waking Up With the Enemy: Re-Reading Interracial Desire in Postwar African American Texts.

Sarah S.G. Frantz

Sarah S. G. Frantz received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and is an Assistant Professor of Literature at Fayetteville State University, NC.  Originally focused on Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, Frantz has transfered her interest in how female authors write their male characters to romance novels, especially female-authored, gay male romance and BDSM romance. Frantz contributes to the academic romance blog, Teach Me Tonight, to the review site, Dear Author, and to Romancing the Blog.  She is the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and is the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and its affiliate journal, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS).

William Gleason

William Gleason is Associate Professor of English at Princeton University, where he teaches courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, American popular writing, and American social and cultural history in both the Department of English and the Program in American Studies.  He is the author of The Leisure Ethic: Work and Play in American Literature, 1840-1940 (Stanford UP, 1999) as well as essays on such figures as Frederick Douglass, Charles Chesnutt, Edith Wharton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Louise Erdrich, and Charles Johnson.  A member of the American Studies Association and the Modern Language Association, he is a recent recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship for the study of American material and literary culture at the Winterthur Library in Delaware.  Among other projects, he is currently completing a book-length study of architecture, race, and American literature, as well as an essay on the "architecture of love" in the fiction of Jennifer Crusie for Eric Murphy Selinger and Laura Vivanco's forthcoming anthology, Nothing But Good Times Ahead: Jennifer Crusie and the Art of Feminist Romance Fiction.

Sally Goade

Sally Goade holds Master of Arts and Doctor of Arts degrees in English from Idaho State University, Pocatello, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education/English from the University of Nevada, Reno.  In her first career, Sally taught English for twenty years total, first as a middle school teacher in Nevada and Idaho and later as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Idaho State University and as an Assistant/Associate Professor of English at Russell Sage College for Women in Troy, New York.  At Russell Sage, Sally taught American literature, writing, and women’s romance fiction, as well as supervising student teachers in English.  She earned tenure at Sage but decided to join her husband in Oak Ridge, Tennessee when his consulting job there became a permanent position.  Sally is best known to the romance community as the editor of Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty-First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels, which was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2007.  Her chapter contribution to that book, “Understanding the Pleasure: An Undergraduate Romance-Reading Community,” grew from her doctoral work in romance fiction, combined with the women’s romance fiction course she created and taught.  Sally has been working on a book on romance authors “negotiating” with the big Romance genre, but she decided to put the book on hold in order to begin a second career.  She is now a second-year student at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, has interned with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, is the Deputy Managing Editor of the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy, and is a member of the 2009 Saul Lefkowitz Trademark Moot Court Team, which won the Southern Regional Championship in February.

R. Marie Griffith

R. Marie Griffith is Professor of Religion at Princeton University.  Her field is American religious history, specializing in 20th-century Christianity. She is the author of God's Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (1997) and Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (2004)  She is the editor of American Religions: A Documentary History (2007); and the co-editor of Women and Religion in the African Diaspora (2006, with Barbara D. Savage), from a Ford-funded Project she directed through the Center for the Study of Religion); and Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States (2008, with Melani McAlister). She is currently writing a history of the sexuality debates in 20th-century U.S. Christianity (including disputes over birth control, the Kinsey reports, homosexuality, access to abortion, marriage, the pro-chastity movement, and sex education).  She also serves as Director of the Program in the Study of Women and Gender She received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton in 2008.

Emily A. Haddad

Emily A. Haddad is the author of Orientalist Poetics: The Islamic Middle East in Nineteenth-Century English and French Poetry (Ashgate, 2002) and has published in Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and elsewhere.  Her recent essay on captivity in Harlequin sheikh romances appeared in Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty-First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels, edited by Sally Goade (Cambridge Scholars, 2007).  She is Professor and Chair of English at the University of South Dakota.

Ann Herendeen

Ann Herendeen is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and an alumna of Princeton, where she majored in English. The interests she developed as an undergraduate continue to influence her writing today: junior-year papers on Jane Austen and Vita Sackville-West, and a senior thesis that attempted a feminist interpretation of Restoration comedy. Ann's experience with Firestone Library's rare book room, in search of Sodom: or the Quintessence of Debauchery, a seventeenth-century play attributed to Lord Rochester, provided a thrilling, if misleading, introduction to the possibilities of a degree in library science. She earned her M.L.S. from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Ann has held the typical assortment of aimless liberal arts major's jobs: researcher for an urban planning consultant, advertising media planner, public and academic business reference librarian, and trademarks monitor for an intellectual property law firm. For the past ten years she has been a cataloger in the library of a natural history museum. Ann's first book, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander : a novel, was published by HarperCollins in April 2008. Her second, Pride / Prejudice: the Hidden Story, is scheduled for release early next year.

Monica Jackson

Unfortunately Monica Jackson will be unable to join us for this conference.

Beverly Jenkins

Ms Jenkins’ historical romance novels highlight African/American life in the 19th century.  She has 21 published novels to date. She has received numerous awards for her works, including: six Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards; two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times Magazine; a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer's Guild, and in 1999 was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th Century by AABLC, the nation's largest on-line African-American book club. She has also been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Dallas Morning News and Vibe Magazine. She has lectured at such prestigious universities as Oberlin University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Michigan. She speaks widely on both romance and 19th century African-American history.

In 2004 Ms. Jenkins branched out into romantic suspense with the publication of Edge of Midnight. Her first, faith based, women’s fiction, Bring on the Blessings will be published in Jan 09. Her two teen historicals, Belle and Josephine, have been reissued and are on sale now. 

Dana Johnson

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dana Johnson is the author of Break Any Woman Down, for which she received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. In addition, her book was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Patterson Fiction Prize. Her stories have been published in the Missouri Review, American Literary Review and Ninth Letter. Her work has also appeared in the anthologies Shaking the Tree: A Collection of Fiction and Memoir by Black Women; The Dictionary of Failed Relationships: 26 Stories of Love Gone Wrong; California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century; and is forthcoming in the Indiana Review.

She has co-authored two books with Alison Umminger, published by Red Dress Ink: Flyover States and Eye to Eye, written under the pen names of P.J. MacAllister/Grace Grant (Flyover States) and Grace Carol (Eye to Eye).

Dana Johnson’s fiction explores the intersection of race and class, focusing on the complications and nuances of African-American identity in post-civil rights America. Her works seeks to scrutinize and redefine ethnicity, examining the liminal aspects of ethnicity in popular culture. Her research and teaching interests include Ethnic-American literature and gender and race studies. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. 

Tania Modleski

Tania Modleski is Florence R. Scott Professor of English at the University of Southern California where she teaches courses in feminist studies, film, literature, and popular culture.  She is the author of, among other books, Loving with a Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies for Women (originally published 1982, second edition, 2008), which includes a chapter on Harlequin Romances, and Old Wives' Tales and Other Women's Stories (1998) which contains 2 chapters revisiting the topic of women's romances and discussing her personal relation to the genre.

Julie E. Moody-Freeman

Julie E. Moody-Freeman is an Assistant Professor in African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University.  She has published on Caribbean and African American Science Fiction in Canadian Women’s Studies/les cahiers de la femmes, Macomerè, Seeking the Self: Encountering the Other in Diasporic Narrative and the Ethics of Representation, African Identities, and in The Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora: ‘Origins, Experiences, and Culture’.

Lynn S. Neal

Lynn S. Neal earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Currently, Lynn is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wake Forest University, where she teaches a variety of courses in U.S. Religious History.  Her research focuses on two main areas—popular culture and religious intolerance.  Her interest in religion and popular culture resulted in an interview-based exploration of women who read and write Christian romance novels, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2006.  Entitled Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction, the study examines how this genre provides some evangelical women with a vital resource for the negotiation of everyday religious life.  More recently, she has focused on issues of conflict and violence in American religious history.  A course project on this topic resulted in the creation of a web-site “Portraits of Hate, Lessons of Hope” (www.fightingreligiousintolerance.org), which features a collection of religiously intolerant images, accompanied by written analyses.  The site is designed to educate the public about the historical persistence of religious bigotry in American history and to serve as a resource for teachers.  In addition, a co-edited volume with Professor John Corrigan, Religious Intolerance in the U.S.: A Documentary History, is almost complete, and Lynn is currently working on a project that brings together her two principal research interests—a study of religious intolerance in popular culture.

Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo is the author of nine novels including the RITA-winning Heavens To Betsy, the story of a single woman minister who wants to be both faithful and fabulous. Beth's newest novel, Jane Austen Ruined My Life, is an Indie Bound Notable pick. Beth holds a Master of  Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University and is an ordained minister  in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She served for fifteen years in parish ministry and now writes full-time for WaterBrook Press and Guideposts Books.

Diane Pershing

For years after graduating UCLA with a BA in Theater Arts, Diane made her living as an actress and singer.  She was extremely contented in these professions, except for one problem—there was way too much “down time,” and she worried that her brain was atrophying.  She’d been a voracious reader and scribbler since childhood, so she took up pen and paper and began writing professionally, first for television, then as a movie critic, then as a romance novelist.  She started chapter one of that first novel in the spirit of “Why not?”  As an actress, she was already used to appearing foolish—what was one more time?

She was lucky enough to sell that first effort in 1991, and has published nineteen more since—straight romance, romantic comedy, and in the past few years, romantic suspense.  Along the way, her books have won some awards and finalled in several contests, including the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards, in 2004.  She is president of RWA this year, having served on the board for the previous four years.

Diane is happy to report that there is no more “down time” in her life; indeed, with writing and acting—and teaching classes in both—as well as being a well-regarded speaker at writers’ conferences, she now faces the dilemma of not having enough time, which, she says, is a “quality” problem, indeed. 

Gwendolyn D. Pough

Gwendolyn D. Pough is an Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. She is the author of Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere as well as numerous essays and articles on black feminism, hip-hop, critical pedagogy and black public culture. She has co-edited a special issue of the journal FEMSPEC: an interdisciplinary feminist journal dedicated to critical and creative works in the realms of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, surrealism, myth, folklore, and other supernatural genres and she has co-edited the critically acclaimed Home Girls Make Some Noise: A Hip-Hop Feminism Anthology. She was awarded an American Association of University Women Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 2003-2004 to complete research on her next book length project about contemporary African American women's book clubs and reading groups. She was recently elected as the incoming Assistant Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. In this four-year term on the officers' team she will move from Assistant Chair to Associate Chair to Chair and finally Immediate Past Chair. She writes romance fiction under the pen name Gwyneth Bolton. She has seven novels and a novella published to date and one novel forthcoming in 2009. She has won several awards for her novels.

Pamela Regis

Pamela Regis is Professor of English at McDaniel College where she teaches courses in both Austen and in the romance novel.  She has conducted workshops at a number of Washington Romance Writers annual retreats, and at the 2003 Romance Writers of America National Conference.  She served as interviewer at the Smithsonian Institution's "Conversations about Romance, with Best-Selling Authors."  She has reviewed romance for The Washington Post Book World.   Her publications include A Natural History of the Romance Novel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003). She will participate in two panels at this year's RWA national conference, and is at work on the history of the American romance.

Eric Murphy Selinger

Eric Murphy Selinger is Associate Professor of English at DePaul University, where he teaches courses on poetry, popular literature, and Jewish American culture. His publications include What Is It then Between Us:  Traditions of Love in American Poetry (1998), Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary, and Reflections (2000), and Ronald Johnson:  Life and Works (2008); he is a regular contributor to Parnassus: Poetry in Review, most recently writing about Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, and Taha Muhammad Ali.  Recipient of five grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to promote the teaching of poetry to K-12 students, in 2006 he was awarded an Academic Research Grant by the Romance Writers of America to study the literary artistry of popular romance.  He is the founder of the RomanceScholar listserv and Teach Me Tonight, a collaborative academic blog on the genre; his current work includes co-editing two anthologies:  New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction (with Sarah S. G. Frantz) and Nothing But Good Times Ahead: Jennifer Crusie and the Art of Feminist Romance Fiction (with Laura Vivanco). Along with this Princeton conference, he is the co-organizer of “Popular Romance Studies: an International Conference,” to be held in Brisbane, Australia in August, 2009, hosted by Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland.  The Call for Papers for Brisbane is open through April 30, 2009.

Esi Sogah

Assistant Editor Esi Sogah joined Avon in the summer of 2005. With VP and Executive Editor Lucia Macro, she has worked with bestselling authors such as Stephanie Laurens and Victoria Alexander. Her authors include Olivia Parker, Miranda Neville, Donna Fletcher, Lois Greiman, Laura Castoro, and many more. In addition, Esi writes the Avon Romance newsletter From the Heart. She is looking to acquire all genres of romance, especially sexy historicals, as well as commercial women's fiction.

Krista Stroever

Krista Stroever joined Harlequin/Silhouette in 2003. In her current position as Senior Editor, she is in charge of the Silhouette Desire line of contemporary romance novels and works with bestselling authors Brenda Jackson, Maureen Child, Ann Major and many others. Her acquisitions for Harlequin span a variety of subgenres including inspirational romance, romantic suspense, historical and contemporary romance. She was twice named “Editor of the Year” by American Christian Fiction Writers for her work on the popular Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense lines. She was at HarperCollins previously and also a member of the romance team at Avon. She holds a degree in the Joint Program in German and Politics from Princeton University.

Alison Umminger

Alison Umminger is an Associate Professor of English at the University of West Georgia. She is the coauthor of the novels Flyover States and Eye to Eye, written under the pseudonyms Grace Grant and Grace Carol. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, such as Prairie Schooner, Hayden's Ferry Review, Crab Orchard Review, and is forthcoming in Terminus. Her critical work has appeared in the anthology Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction.

Sarah Wendell

By day Sarah Wendell is mild mannered and heavily caffeinated. By evening she dons her cranky costume, consumes yet more caffeine, and becomes Smart Bitch Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The site specializes in reviewing romance novels, examining the history and future of the genre, and bemoaning the enormous prevalence of bodacious pectorals adorning male cover models. In April 2009, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels will be published by Touchstone Fireside, co-authored by Sarah and her partner in nefarious deeds, Candy Tan. Sarah has spoken at Romance Writers of America’s national conference, at the Romantic Times BookLovers’ Convention, and at several RWA chapter conferences and meetings. Her writing has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Tango Magazine, and in the SmartPop book Grey’s Anatomy 101: Seattle Grace, Unauthorized.