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UNSUITABLE: Conversations About Women & Popular Fiction

April 15th, 2015
5:45 PM


The “UNSUITABLE” events series engaged students and members of the Durham community in discussions of women’s interests and popular fiction. It was run in conjunction with “The Romance Novel” course at Duke University and sponsored by Duke’s Forum for Publics & Scholars, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. “UNSUITABLE” events held in the Spring 2015 semester were free and open to the public.

Organized by Katharine Brophy Dubois and Laura Florand

For more information visit:

Previous UNSUITABLE events:

UNSUITABLE #1, Women, Fiction & Popular Perception
October 20, 2014, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

The inaugural event of the “UNSUITABLE” series that engages students and the local community in a discussion of women’s interests & popular fiction. [Duke Today’s article on this event.]

Genre romance fiction and feminism are often seen as antithetical to each other. The authors and scholars on this panel will speak on the role women played in the rise of the novel as a popular form of literature as well as about their participation in recent public conversations about feminism and popular culture today.

Guest Panelists for “Unsuitable #1″

Jackie C. Horne, blogger of Romance Novels for FeministsMaya Rodale, best-selling romance novelist and author of Dangerous Books for Girls: The bad reputation of romance novels, explained, and Professor Rachel Seidman, creator of Who Needs Feminism?

UNSUITABLE #2, An Industry Insider’s Perspective on the Rise and Fall of Sub-Genres, with Lucia Macro, Vice President and Executive Editor for Morrow/Avon Books 
Feb. 9, 2015, 5:00 - 5:55 p.m.

Drawing on her extensive experience in the publishing industry as editor for Berkley, Harlequin, and now Avon, Lucia Macro will discuss the rise and fall of romance sub-genres in the history of the industry and lessons for those creative entrepreneurs looking to forge a future in this industry.

UNSUITABLE #3, Author Voice: What Are They Talking About?, with Virginia Kantra, New York Times bestselling author
February 25, 2015, 5:00-5:55 pm 

One of the most essential elements for any writer to master in order to forge a career is Voice. In this workshop, New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra will examine author voice in the romance novel by looking at examples from bestselling authors with strong voices across and within sub-genres.

UNSUITABLE #4, Publishing Without a Publisher, with Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author
March 2, 2015, 5:00-5:55 pm 

In this entrepreneurs’ workshop, New York Timesbestselling author of historical romance, Courtney Milan, will examine the growing popularity of self- or independent publishing and what that means for a writer’s creative entrepreneurship.

UNSUITABLE #5Alpha Masculinities, with Jessica Scott, USA Today bestselling author
March 16, 2015, 5:00-5:55 pm 

In this writing and career workshop, USA Today bestselling author and Duke instructor Jessica Scott will speak about writing from her experience as a Commander in the U.S. Army, and depicting complex alpha heroes in contemporary romance fiction. The program includes discussion about Laura Kinsale’s bestselling, award-winning novel Flowers from the Storm.

UNSUITABLE #6, Female Sexuality and Female Sexualization in Popular Fiction, with Sarah Wendell, author of Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novelsand blogger “Smart Bitches Trashy Books”
Monday, March 23, 5:00-5:55 pm 

The creator of the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog and author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels and Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels, Sarah Wendell, will lead a discussion of the varied models of femininity and representations of female sexualities in modern romance fiction.

UNSUITABLE #7, Writing What You Love in the World of Big Business, with Jeannie Lin,USA Today bestselling author
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 4:45-5:55 pm  

Creative entrepreneurs typically pursue what they love, but within that pursuit, what choices do authors make between being true to their own identity (writing what you love) and guaranteeing financial success? How does one negotiate between a singular authorship and a singular readership and the mass market? In this entrepreneurs’ workshop, USA Today bestselling author Jeannie Lin will discuss the choices to be made in pursuing a singular career.

Lucia Macro

Avon Books

Lucia Macro is a Vice-President, Executive Editor for Wm Morrow/Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. She made her mark editing the best in romantic fiction as well as smart, commercial women’s fiction. In the romance field she has worked with authors such as Rachel Gibson, Stephanie Laurens, Lisa Kleypas, Cathy Maxwell, Lori Wilde, and Katharine Ashe, among many others. Lucia received the Vivian Stephens industry award from the Romance Writers of America, given to a non-writer who has contributed to the organization in a significant manner. Recently, she has also edited the New York Times bestselling Butternut Lake series by Mary McNear,  the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor, and the USA Today bestseller The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman. Lucia is graduate of Fordham University, where she received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Victorian Literature and will earn her MILS from Pratt Institute this May.

Virginia Kantra


Virginia Kantra is the author of more than twenty-five books of contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. Her stories have earned numerous awards including Romance Writers of America's RITA Award, eight RITA nominations, and two National Readers' Choice Awards. Her work includes the popular Children of the Sea series and, in e-book format, the Sweet Home, Carolina (The MacNeills) stories. Carolina Blues, the fourth of her new Dare Island novels, was released in October 2014.

Courtney Milan


Courtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.

Jessica Scott

Jessica Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of novels set in the heart of America's Army. She is an active duty army officer, a veteran of the Iraq war, is the mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, and wife to a retired NCO. She and her family are currently wherever the army has sent her.

She has written for the New York Times "At War" blog, War on the Rocks, Point of View blog Regarding War: Women and War, and has been featured in Esquire Magazine as an American of the Year in 2012.

She has published 11 novels and novellas about soldiers returning from war and has compiled two nonfiction projects about her time in Iraq and the return home.

She holds a master's Degree in Sociology from Duke University, a master's degree in Telecom Management from the University of Maryland University College, and a BA in Cultural Studies from the State University of New York. She is currently pursuing a phd in Sociology at Duke University.

Read about her "Homefront" series here.


Sarah Wendell

Author and blogger

Sarah is also the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, published in April 2009 by Touchstone Fireside. Yes, Sarah really does seem to like Really Long Titles for things!

From discussions of the popularity and market reach of romance novels to written essays explaining the heuristic value of blog commenting communities, Sarah’s media exposure is varied and somewhat spicy. She’d love to speak with you about romance novels and the amazing smart women who read and write them. Why, you’re probably reading a romance right now, and you didn’t even know it.

Jeannie Lin


Jeannie Lin started writing in 2005 while she was teaching high school. After a long journey through rejections and contests and revisions, her manuscript, Butterfly Swords, won the 2009 Golden Heart® award for historical romance. Her first two books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and her second novel, The Dragon and the Pearl, was listed as one of Library Journal’s Best Romances of 2011. Her stories are inspired by her love of adventure, history, and fantasy in both western and Asian traditions. From an early age she was fascinated by legends of King Arthur and the fantasy of Lord of the Rings as well as the Chinese wuxia (martial arts) fiction.