Kat Mayo (Bookthingo) and Mina V. Esguerra (#romanceclass)

Session 10.2: South / South-East Asian Romance Communities

Abstract:

Author Mina V. Esguerra has single-handedly defined the English-language romance genre in the Philippines through the #romanceclass initiative, which has helped over 100 Filipino authors publish over 200 new titles. This interview will explore the evolution of #romanceclass and its role in nurturing new writing talent, commissioning works to fill gaps in cultural reach, broadening the audience for Filipino-authored romance, and gathering data sets about the romance community.

English-language romance is dominated by authors and publishers from developed countries, and little attention has been given to authors and readers outside these traditional publishing markets. The #romanceclass initiative provides insights on writer development, market creation, and community building outside traditional publishing processes, and offers a template for local romance markets that can compete for a global audience.
This session will explore the evolution of the #romanceclass community, and in particular:
1. The evolution of the community from a writer development initiative to one that includes live readings, trade stalls at book festivals, and inclusion in high school reading lists.
2. Gaps in the market that #romanceclass has actively sought to fill: how were they identified, and how effective was the community in meeting readers’ needs? In what ways do cultural enablers or roadblocks influence the creation, production and consumption of Filipino romance fiction?
3. Reactions by the broader literary community, local and abroad, to #romanceclass, and the efficacy of online channels to reach a global audience for Filipino authors.
4. Key lessons learned through #romanceclass initiatives, data collection methods, and some initial findings from this data.

Presentation (in conversation):

#romanceclass was started by Mina for readers and writers in the Philippines

Contemporary romance for English Filipino authors

  • Filipino characters
  • Female authors
  • Middle / upper class
  • Sweet
  • Steamy
  • Kilig
  • M/f
  • Manila based

Community of authors in english, readers of books, and actors who are part of promotion process

Books set in Philippines. A country with:

  • No legal divorce
  • No sex education in school
  • Rising HIV
  • English is an official language but is considered privileged
  • Setting in Manila is a sign of privilege

Chic lit line started in Manila in 2009

2013 – started romance class on FB

  • World wide
  • Writing and printing novellas
  • Added extra rules on top of regular romance ones for Philo context
  • Inspiration from popular movies and tv series
  • Agency, and HEA / HFN

Many were unable to finish a books because they were unable to work out what happened when character had agency

Now: 170 books finished by 80 authors

Classes have time limits. eg 3 months etc

Challenges work to gaps in market

Eg

  • Sex scenes
  • M/f or different parings

Don’t have to join that class if they don’t want to follow the rule for that class

Depression, body image (plus size character) age differences, non binary characters

If you let Mina know there is a gap in the market, she will create a challenge for the romance class authors

  • Novella length for page count/ price point
  • So students can afford them
  • Non m/f are shorter (short story word count) and in an anthology
  • Live readings – with actors in roles – 5-10 minutes (a chapter)
  • Started out as an insecurity for writing in english – to find out if the words sound right
  • Worked with actors, now people watch clips to see if they want to read the books
  • Writers are now writing with more dialogue for the actors to perform
  • Reciprocal recommendations of diverse writers internationally

Author: Philippa

I make arty mixed-media things, & write fantastical things (with kissing), & do musical & dancing things, & play gaming things, & do weightlifting things, & organise fabulous event things. But mostly I wrangle cats. Renaissance woman.

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