Conference Spotlight ~ Popular Romance Project

Welcome to another of our Conference Spotlights from the


Today we talk to Laurie Kahn from the Popular Romance Project. The Popular Romance Project will have a film crew at Diamonds Are Forever and will be recording parts of Eloisa James’ sessions and shooting some general conference footage and interviews on the Saturday.

The Popular Romance Project

“Popular romance sells. And it reveals deep truths about people and cultures, fantasies and fears. The statistics are staggering: According to the Romance Writers of America, romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, and romance was the top-performing category on the New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists.

The Popular Romance Project will explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.

The Popular Romance Project will include four ambitious, high-profile, carefully integrated programs:

  • a feature-length documentary (working title: Love Between the Covers) for international television broadcast, focusing on the global community of romance readers, writers, and publishers
  • an interactive, content-rich website created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, allowing the website’s users to see romance novels in a broad context across time and place
  • an academic symposium on the past and future of the romance novel hosted by the Library of Congress Center for the Book, and
  • a nationwide series of library programs dealing with the past, present, and future of the romance novel, plus a traveling exhibit, organized by the American Library Association.”

From PopularRomanceProject.Org

Doesn’t this sound amazing! Such a thought-out, tiered approach to a subject we all can relate to – popular romance. If you go to the website, be warned, you will not emerge for some time later. It’s that addictive. And check out the impressive list of participants, including our keynote speaker, Eloisa James (check out the blog post about college professors here).

How did the project begin? 

I’m fascinated by communities of interesting women whose stories aren’t being taken seriously, and aren’t being told by others. I made a film about an 18th century midwife/healer who moved to Maine during the American revolution.  Her daily diary provides us with an amazing window onto early American history — through a woman’s eyes.  (The film, “A Midwife’s Tale”,  won a prime time EMMY among other awards.) I then made a film about the early years of Tupperware, which introduces its audience to a remarkable community of funny, engaging, entrepreneurial women in the middle of the 20th century, led by a charismatic woman who got written out of history until I stumbled on the story. (That film, “Tupperware!” won a Peabody Award and was nominated for the best direction EMMY.)

You can see excerpts of both of these films at my company’s website: So I guess it’s not surprising that I’m interested in the huge, passionate, global community of women who write, publish, blog about, read and love romance fiction.

Your goal in the long term?

The Popular Romance Project wants to start a global conversation about popular romance fiction, its deep cultural roots, and its place on the forefront of new 21st century technologies (ebooks and social networking, among others).  The archetypal stories we tell about courtship and romance say a lot about us.  It’s a subject that will not only be fun, but also profoundly revealing.

What topics are discussed at the blog? 

If you look at the three strands at, you’ll see. In INTERVIEWS you will find clips from interviews with authors, publishers and a cover artist discussing everything from the archetypal virtues that are found in popular romance fiction to the origins of erotic romance fiction and African-American romance fiction; in BEHIND THE SCENES, you will find stories about the premiere of a film based on a romance novel, an evening at a romance reading in NYC, a piece on what my cameraman and soundman think about the romance world, and many others; and in TALKING ABOUT ROMANCE, you will find short lively essays by scholars talking about everything from the sheik in romance fiction, to male virginity, to Jane Austen.

You’ve given cameras for video diaries to a number of inspiring authors, including Golden Heart finalist, Australian Joanne Lockyer.

How did this come about?

I’ve given video cameras to three inspiring, aspiring writers so far, and they are all keeping video diaries.  I hope to give cameras to several more writers who are not yet published or who are recently published: one in India, and one in South America.  The video diary footage will allow people to understand what it takes to get published and then build your readership, how different writers balance jobs/writing/family, and how that is shaped by the culture in which they live.
I met Joanne and her critique partner (pen name: Elizabeth Essex) at the Washington DC RWA conference in 2009.  I got to know the two of them at the Orlando RWA, and thought their relationship was interesting.  Plus they are both articulate and fun.  So I interviewed them on camera when I came to the NYC RWA last year.  After the conference, I asked Joanne if she’d be willing to keep a video diary, especially since I can’t be in Australia to shoot important turning points in her writing career and life.

How can people become involved in the the Popular Romance Project?
Your timing for your blog could not be MORE PERFECT if people want to become involved with the Popular Romance Project!  July 23 is the day I’m going to launch our Kickstarter campaign.  (Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. It’s the place where ordinary people can fund projects they believe in.)
If you go to on 23rd July (Eleni’s note: this may go live US time, so if it takes you to the site, try again later in the day), you will find yourself at the Kickstarter page that describes the project (and the film, Love Between the Covers), why we’re doing the campaign, and what kinds of interesting gifts you can get if you help out.  You’ll get to see a really fun video reel about the film at the Kickstarter page.
Your readers can also get involved by going to, watching the videos, reading the blogs, and joining the conversation.  People can leave comments at the end of every blog.  And the discussions are lively and interesting!

We are lucky enough to have Joanne Lockyer answer a couple of questions – she generously wrote the answers on her plane trip from Brisbane to LA as she made her way to the RWAmerica Nationals. 

How did you become involved in the PRP?
As Laurie indicated, we met in at the 2009 Romance Writers of America conference in Washington D.C. at the time Laurie was developing the concept for the documentary. The following month, the first conference for the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance was held in Brisbane, back-to-back with the 2009 Romance Writers of Australia conference. I’m a bit of a whiz when it comes to finding great priced international airfares, so before the Washington conference was over, Laurie had tickets booked to Aus! We’ve been in contact ever since.
How has keeping a video diary affected your writing life?
Laurie gave me the camcorder to begin keeping the diary 12 months ago. I don’t think it’s affected my ‘writing’ life at all. Laurie skimped on the camera you see – it doesn’t come with a programmable function to write my manuscripts for me!. However, a big change is remembering to have the camera along for interesting and important “life” moments. Sometimes great things happen and I think later, “I really should have recorded that!”It did however mean I stayed up all night hoping I’d get a Golden Heart call – you know, in case I had to capture that moment!

Of course, that is a whole other story (, captured in all its highs and lows! 


Thanks, Laurie and Joanne. Good luck with the project, and Joanne with the Golden Heart.

Look out for the next conference spotlight on the 25th July.

Leave a comment


  1. This project sounds amazing! I would love to be involved!

  1. Conference Spotlight ~ the bits and bobs update « Romance Writers of Australia

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