Romance GenreCon brought love, lust, and literacy to the masses at Mid-Continent Library

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Attendees at the Mid-Continent Library’s Romance GenreCon enjoy a presentation about dialogue writing given by author Virginia Heath. // Photo by Beth Lipoff

There’s a lot more to writing romance novels than imagining steamy scenes or finding that enticing cover image.

To dive into the details for both writers and fans, the Mid-Continent Library held its annual Romance GenreCon Aug. 4-6. At approximately 400 participants in attendance over three days, GenreCon premiered its first in-person event since the pandemic’s onset.

The conference drew dozens of published authors and the up-and-coming, from many states and even a few different countries. Due to the library’s sponsorship, entry was free to all. 

It all got started in 2018 after Amy Fisher, manager of the library’s information and reader services department, attended several romance conferences in other cities.

“We thought: A lot of authors don’t come to Kansas City, even though according to one of the big publishers, Kansas City is a hotspot for romance readers and buyers,” she says.

She figured those elements could make for a successful local conference—and she was right.

“We incorporate a little bit of everything. Some of our purposes and goals are to educate the library staff and raise awareness of the romance genre and also to provide guidance and resources for novice romance writers and then to celebrate the genre by building a community for those romance readers,” Fisher says.

That last point is key because as many romance readers will know, there’s often a stigma attached to liking the genre. Romance novels are often considered a farce of writing, and lack the sincerity some require.

“Why is it worse to read a book where you know it’s going to end happily no matter what happens than it is to read a book about serial killers? Because more people fall in love than meet Jack the Ripper, don’t they?” says author and conference presenter Virginia Heath.

Fisher hopes this event helped more people find a group where they can share their interests without judgment.

This year’s focus was on historical romance, drawing in authors such as Heath, Tessa Dare, and Vanessa Riley, among others.

Heath traveled from her home near London to present sessions about writing snappy dialogue and the history of medicine. Lecturing at the conference came naturally to the former high school history teacher.

“I’ve met lots of authors who are quite introverted. They put everything on the page, but they don’t like to be out there,” she says.

To show people all the different elements that make dialogue work, Heath took a page of conversation and physically highlighted what parts were internal thoughts, physical movements, and personal tics or pauses—all pieces that keep dialogue moving and create pictures for readers.

“I approach all talks with my teacher head on, and I’ll always try to deconstruct things and do things very practically,” says Heath, who is currently writing her 26th book. “In a book, people need to be able to see a picture you’re creating. There’s a knack to that. I think especially when you’re a first-time writer, it’s easy to make mistakes because the advice you’re always given is show, don’t tell, and they think you have to show everything. And actually, you do, but not quite in the way they think.” 

Although she’s been to the United States several times, this was Heath’s first time in the Midwest, and she was excited to sample Kansas City’s barbecue scene.

Though some sessions were strictly focused on the craft of romance writing, others had topics such as copyright law that could apply to novel writing overall.

Local romance novelist, Elle Jackson, enjoyed attending the various sessions to help guide her burgeoning writing career.

“I really am working on branding and just learning about effectively managing social media while also trying to focus on writing. I loved that there were a few sessions devoted to that. It was just exactly what I needed,” Jackson says.

Donita Hammond drove in from Salina to see what the conference had to offer.

“I am a new author. I haven’t published anything, but I’m trying to learn and grow as a writer,” Hammond says, calling it “well worth the trip.”

The combination of the informational sessions and getting to meet established romance authors left St. Louis resident and aspiring writer, LaShaunda Hoffman, energized about her own work. 

“I’m ready to go back to the room and work on some things,” Hoffman says.

Categories: Culture