I’ll forever remember where I was when I heard about the National Book Festival’s Romance Pavilion. I was on Twitter, shirking my responsibilities when I saw that romance and pavilion were rather close together in the same sentence. My mind immediately brought forth images of a pristine white tent, the kind you’d see at some posh garden party or shielding a polished dance floor on My Super Sweet Sixteen. In the past, the National Book Festival has included panels on romance, though this is the first time an entire pavilion will be dedicated to the genre.
This is a good thing. A really good thing. In January, the Library of Congress hosted a two-day symposium on romance, complete with academics, authors, and industry professionals. I’m hoping this increased exposure of romance as a genre starts to change the common misconception that it isn’t worthy of mainstream coverage and critique, and I’m willing to admit that I’m a little biased. Though I read outside the genre frequently, a majority of my bookshelf contains books that sport the colophons of Avon, Berkley, and Forever.
Though I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, I still have my reservations about this pavilion. Admittedly, I’ve never attended the National Book Festival, so I’m unclear what having a pavilion entails in the grand scheme of the festivals programming. I’m just starting to attend large-scale, book-related events in general. This year will mark my first time in attending Book Expo America and RT Booklover’s Convention, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t stalked the National Book Festival’s lineup in the past. I’m always looking for opportunities to be around fellow book people. Despite whatever big names are in attendance, it does little to my motivation for schlepping to DC, and I automatically associate the festival with carefully curated literary fiction (yes, I am aware they feature children’s and young adult authors). Whether it’s intentional or not, it gives off the impression of “this is the big leagues.”
As of now, not much else has been announced regarding the Romance Pavilion, save for the fact that there’s going to be one. I don’t doubt the caliber of guests they’ll be able to get given the guests at the symposium in January. But I’m cautious. There are plenty of horror stories of media trying to cover romance and turning it into a big joke. There’s usually a parting shot or a headline that makes me roll my eyes so hard that I strain some sort of ocular muscle. It’s as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The event is still six months away, and I’m waiting to see what other information is going to be released before I buy any tickets to DC. Though I’ve been up and down the entire East Coast, I’ve yet to make a stop at our nation’s capital. Maybe it’s about time I change that. I’m sure the city is lovely in September, but the promise of talking about books—romance ones, no less— may be too difficult to ignore. There’s no way I can decide my dream team of authors who may attend, but I do know I’d like to see at least one panel or session dedicated to the genre: Diversity in Romance, Romance in Translation, Romance and Triggers, Romance Reading 101, etc. Just a little more exploration of the genre for people who already enjoy it and for those looking to get their feet wet. Perhaps I’m a little greedy.
So with my Google Alerts set up for “romance pavilion,” all I can do is wait and see what happens. And I hate waiting.