Squawk Radio

Friday, September 29, 2006

Liz on Lovin' Her Job

Last weekend, JR Ward and I spoke at the inaugural Kentucky Women’s Book Festival in Louisville, hosted by Women Who Write, The Women’s Center at the University of Louisville and Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. I was incredibly pleased that they included a panel on romance novels, because this was an event attended by a lot of academics and women who normally don’t read romance, and they could have done what so many such festivals do and completely ignored the most overwhelmingly popular genre among women. Instead, they were VERY happy we joined them. And it was our chance to tell them all why the genre is so overwhelmingly popular with our gender, and dispel a lot of the clichés and erroneous assumptions about the books we love to write and read. All in all, it was a great day, in spite of the torrential rains we had. And in spite of how I’m pretty sure the luncheon speaker insulted me when she answered what I figured would be a thought-provoking question.

But I digress.

What really made the experience bloggable was that, during the booksigning after our panel, one of the women who’d been in our seminar came up to me and said, “You know, you two were the only speakers I heard this weekend who actually sounded proud of what you write. Not that everyone else sounded ashamed, but no one had the enthusiasm and obvious love for what they do that you and JR Ward so clearly have. Some even sounded apologetic for being writers.” And she wondered if that was because, as JR and I had pointed out in our seminar, romance writers work in a world of women. Almost exclusively, women write the books. Almost exclusively, women read them. The vast majority of editors and agents and publicity people working with romance writers are women. We’re just a big ol’ soup of estrogen, unpolluted by testosterone, and maybe that’s why we’re all so happy.

That got me thinking. (A dangerous activity, I know, but there you have it just the same.) I started thinking about all the jobs I’ve had in the past (virtually dozens--never let anyone tell you a degree in English makes you unemployable), and whether or not I was happier among women than I was among men. And I realized that the only other job I ever had that was on estrogen-overload like this one was when I was working for The Limited, which was what I was doing when I sold my first book. That environment, too, was dominated by females. The regional manager who worked out of our store was a man, but we never interacted with him. The stock manager was a guy, too, but, again, we only interacted with him superficially. Other than those two, it was all women, all the time. And in spite of it being retail, I really liked that job a lot.

But I liked tending bar a lot, too, and that was by no means a woman’s world. And I loved, loved, loved working at the Vogue Theatre when I was a teenager (a wonderful revival house that showed old and foreign films along with “Rocky Horror” in perpetuity), and that was a world populated by... Well. Every kind of person under the sun, a lot of them really weird.

So, ultimately, I decided that my favorite jobs had nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with being around people who are like me. With writing, I’m with other writers. At the Limited, I was with other shoppers. Tending bar, I was with other drinkers. At the Vogue, I was with other weirdoes. So probably, the reason I, at least, am so enthusiastic and in love with what I write isn’t necessarily because I’m among other women. It’s because the community of romance writers and readers attracts other people who are like me: smart, well-read, romantic, and convinced that, no matter how bad the world seems sometimes, there is hope for it. And for us.

The fact that we’re all women is just a huge bonus.

What have your favorite jobs in the past been? What do you like about the job you have now? What kind of people are you most comfortable around? What do you think are the pros and cons of being with women versus being with men?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 7:02 AM