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Hello, #NotRWA19! This thread is about #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors of romance in English and the readers of the books. I’ll talk about our experience starting this community, and the support we give authors.
About Me: My name is Mina V. Esguerra, author and publisher of English-language romance books. I was first pubbed in 2009, and this year released my 24th book. I started the community when I offered a free contemporary romance class online in 2013.
Why offer it? I admit I just thought it would be fun and a few people would join. I was discovering a community of readers of English-language romance here in the Philippines because they reached out after reading my first book. But publishing was different then,
and only a few new titles in our category were released per year by Philippine trad pubs. Maybe there could be more, we wished.

When people expressed interest in the class, I created a Facebook group for it. 100 people joined, about 50 of them actively participating.
The online class was free, and set up for asynchronous discussion, word count targets, and monthly milestones. People finished manuscripts! And 11 authors pubbed their first book within months of the class ending.
We learned: Filipinos want to write/read romance in English! Maybe more so when given a deadline + community.

Since then the community remained, to be readers of the books and support each other. WE HAD TO DO THIS because we saw that publishing wasn’t sure where to fit us in.
We were Filipino authors writing romance in English, with Filipino characters and settings. In 2013, PH publishing wanted local language romance with an established online following. US pubs seemed to want English language but with Not Filipino characters or settings.
After that kind of response, as many of you know, authors decide to do what they need to do.

We did that but also kept this going, to find out who else was interested in the books we wrote.

Based on a survey updated in July 2019, they are in these places: (Happy surprise)
That 2019 map took a lot of work and Not Giving Up, friends. English-language romance publishing and its readers find our books “unfamiliar.” It’s an old, bad habit that I admit I used to have. The US/”western”/white default persists in many places, in many readers’ minds.
Still, we’ve decided to keep doing this, so the next step was to make meaningful decisions on giving support. What does “support” mean though? What can a writing community do for each other in this environment of everything being so difficult?
So here’s what we’ve done/we’re doing:

1/ Take a stand: From the first class in 2013, and with some updates since then, we set guidelines for authors writing with the community. Mainly, they need to write their manuscript making sure they prioritize: Agency, Consent, and HEA.
If you’re a longtime romance reader you’ll probably think — of course! Why even explicitly require it? But Philippine media treats romance differently, often denying their characters agency and HEA, often placing them in nonconsensual relationships.
Our literature, TV, and movies are full of this. We took a stand as a community to not perpetuate these tropes, and if some authors feel a sense of purpose in this, then we get better books, yay.
2/ Keep reading: Anyone joining the class usually needs to read 5 or more #RomanceClass books first. (This manages to screen people who don’t like romance or respect our work but want to get a free class anyway. Exhausting waste of time, yikes.)
Those who are in the group as authors are encouraged to keep reading the books we make. As the group grows (now over 100 books have been published) it’s getting harder to read every single book, and that’s okay.
It's okay to read only the books that speak to you, or what you have time for. As long as people keep reading, please. Reading what the others have written shows you the work being done, how well they’ve done it, and where your voice is needed.
3/ Help make the books better: This year I told our editors and cover designers and beta readers and social media team that by now they have the most experience in contemporary romance in English by Filipino authors—and more people should recognize and value that expertise.
The books they’ve worked on have inspired so much love and appreciation, and their knowledge gives other books a chance to shine. I've worked with people who didn’t care about the genre or the books. It’s different when people ~get it. Be that for another author, I guess. :)
4/ Create opportunities: Readers and authors in #RomanceClass have set up: a group website romanceclassbooks.com, official social media accounts on IG and FB, trad pub partnerships, cover photo shoots, live readings, community gatherings, book launches,
expert lectures, query writing support, school visits, book fair booth rentals, Twitter chats, blog tours, and more—so many opportunities to talk about the books, reach out to readers, help writers write and publish/get published.
At first we did this to provide for each other what pubs were giving their authors, but eventually it became, what do WE want that's fun? What do we WANT to do? When we go with that feeling, we create better things.
Here’s a tip: this can sound fun but conceptualizing and organizing this is work! Help ease the load from those who are doing the work for this by participating, or helping if you can.
I’ll keep it general (haha) for now and stick to those things. But I should say, #RomanceClass has gone through a lot in 6 years and it’s still here! We’ve seen a LOT of changes in publishing in that time, and have had to regroup and reset a little/a lot.
Publishing has not been able to move fast enough to give us the representation we're looking for (or they just don't care idk). We’re still around because being in a community reminds us why we’re doing this, why it matters that we keep writing,
shows us what we can do for each other, and that there are readers and communities EVERYWHERE.

Thank you for following the thread! Just @ me if you have any questions. Enjoy the rest of #NotRWA19!
Visit romanceclassbooks.com to see all the books I’ve been talking about, as well as videos from our events! #RomanceClass
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