It Takes A Village

Andie Wood shares how creating a romance anthology for charity brought her little corner of the internet closer together.

Having been a voracious reader since childhood, in my early twenties I discovered romance and hung on to it for dear life. I started with historical romance and Georgette Heyer, and then delved deeper, into contemporary, paranormal and others. Needless to say, ever since it has become my go-to genre, as comfortable as a plump pillow, and as rewarding as a box of chocolates.

Is it Us vs Them?

When a reader starts their romance journey, there are two things that become crystal clear within the first week. One: there is a lot of romance out there. Two: people will put you down for reading romance.

As sure as a rite of passage for any romance lover, I too went through various stages. First one was denial —surely no one reads this because no one will admit to it. The second one was acceptance—I like it, I will continue to read it and everyone else can go to the proverbial. The third stage was the most interesting, a militant phase—there is absolutely no shame in reading romance.

This final stage was the catalyst for my community.

After some research, because I felt there was a lack of non-author led romance groups on Facebook, in mid 2018 I founded The New Romance Café, a place for readers and writers to mingle and swap ideas. Since then it’s grown into a safe, non-judgemental space for romance lovers. Just like in a virtual café where you meet friends who share similar interests, we encourage openness, a sense of belonging, inclusiveness and most of all, fun.

Appealing to Romance

It’s all well and good providing a space for escapism, romance and a good ol’ chuckle, but I felt there’s more room to grow and empower unpublished authors.

Though we have a mix in the group of traditionally published and self-published authors, it seems the balance leans more to the latter in terms of pure numbers. For many reasons, emerging writers shun traditional publishing, choosing to self-publish instead.

Self-publishing seems such a daunting challenge to many aspiring authors, from the vast number of platforms available, such as Amazon Kindle, to Rakuten Kobo, iBooks and others, to actual logistics issues, like formatting their document, to even marketing their book in the pre-release phase, as well as on release. Not only does this gargantuan task put writers off publishing, it puts some off writing altogether.

Because we believe romance writing shouldn’t be an exclusive club with a Cerberus at the door of publishing, we’re doing something about it.

In late 2018, I put out a call to author members of The New Romance Café to register their interest in writing short stories for an anthology whose proceeds would go to charity. Everybody wins: the yet unpublished authors will have published their first piece of work and learned valuable skills from their peers; established authors can try something new, perhaps under a new pen name; and most importantly it’s all for a good cause.

Chosen on a first come, first served basis—nine authors from across the globe wrote over the course of several months short stories set at Springtime. Spanning various romance genres, from contemporary, to historical, to paranormal and everything in-between, with varying degrees of heat, the anthology is bound to have something to pique your interest.

The next step was agreeing on the charity, which came quite easily, due to some of our authors being breast cancer survivors themselves, and all our lives having been touched in some way or another by cancer. As a consequence, all the profits from this anthology are going to breast cancer research and care.

To honour all women, we launched Love in Bloom, the first anthology for charity from The New Romance Café, on 8 March, International Woman’s Day.

The Burning Question: What’s Next?

The book is out on Amazon, we’re in full promotion and fundraising mode. You may wonder—and rightfully so—what’s next? It’s another anthology of short stories for charity, of course.

Titled Hot Summer Nights, with yet another seasonal theme, the next collection of short stories is in the pipeline, with other nine authors—some who have yet to publish and some “veterans”, all hands on deck. We expect to publish in June, on the cusp of the Summer season. Following this, we hope to continue with Autumn and Winter anthologies, and beyond.

There is still more fundraising to be done, more authors to help, and quite importantly, there are more stories to tell in the realm of romance.

Andie Wood can be found at The New Romance Café on Facebook, and Love in Bloom is available on Amazon now.

What are your favourite examples of romance anthologies? Comment below or contact us on social media.

#amwriting #romanceindustry #CarinaPress #adrianaherrera #WeNeedDiverseRomance #WeNeedDiverseRomance #metoo #kateharding #consent

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