Shelf Love

020. Denise Williams on Teaching Romance Novels

Short Description

Denise Williams (Golden Heart Finalist, author of forthcoming How to Fail at Flirting) and I discuss the class she’s co-teaching called “Moving Past Bodice Ripping Toward Shredding the Patriarchy: Romance Novels as Tools for Justice.”

We discuss her work in student affairs and diversity training, how to fail at naming your debut novel, and how to silence your inner critic. Also: are the kids these days less snobby about romance novels than previous generations? Is romance an inherently feminist genre?

Denise will be back in a future episode to discuss Teach Me by Olivia Dade and Cinnamon Roll heroes.


pop culture in the classroom

Show Notes

Shelf Love:

Sign up for updates on Denise’s Class and follow along with “Moving Past Bodice Ripping Toward Shredding the Patriarchy: Romance Novels as Tools for Justice” on Denise’s Website

Denise came back in episode 26 to talk about Teach Me by Olivia Dade and Cinnamon Roll Heroes.

Guest: Denise Williams




Denise Williams Romance Class And Teaching 

Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Hello and thanks for joining me on episode 20 of Shelf Love, the podcast where the word of the day is always patriarchy. We use romance novels as the text to explore issues of identity, relationships, and society. I'm Andrea Martucci and today I'm joined by Denise Williams, author of How to Fail at Flirting, a debut novel that will be published by Berkeley in 2020

She's also the co-teacher of "Moving Past Bodice Ripping Towards Shredding the Patriarchy: Romance Novels as Tools for Justice."

It's a class she's teaching this semester at the college where she also works in student affairs, working on diversity and women's empowerment initiatives. We discuss her own effort to combat the misconception that smart women don't read romance, how to fail at naming your debut novel. And how to silence your inner critic.

Also are the kids these days less snobby about romance novels compared to previous generations? Is romance and inherently feminist genre? We answer all these questions and more. Denise will be back in a future episode to discuss cinnamon roll heroes and Teach Me by Olivia Dade. I'd recommend you take a moment to subscribe to the podcast right this moment if you haven't already, because you will not want to miss that or any of the other exciting future episodes of shelf life.

(music ends)

What is your history with romance?

Denise Williams: [00:01:21] Well, I've always loved happily ever afters. That was the cartoons I wanted when I was a kid. Those were the stories I like to write. When I was in elementary school, a friend and I sort of snuck a Danielle Steele's Jewels when we were maybe 11 or 12 and read it in our tent, and then I kind of had the bug, but actually when I got into college, maybe even late high school, I stopped reading it.

I fell into this. I think a pretty common trap of, Oh, well, I'm, I'm quote smart, I'm educated. This isn't what I should be reading. I should be reading these literary things, or I dunno, stories that aren't about love. And so I got away from that even though that was still really the stories I was interested in, the movies I wanted to see, et cetera.

Uh, and then once I started my graduate degree, I didn't get to read anything for fun. It was just all, uh, all academic, all articles, which is lovely. And I write those too. But, um, I really didn't come back to romance until after I had, or maybe shortly before I had my son. And I started commuting. I have a 45 minute commute each way and started doing audio books.

And it felt like, well, okay, this is my private time in the car. No one's going to judge me if they were going to judge me. So let me go back to romance. And that's when I kind of stumbled back into it. I think I devoured half of Lauren Blakely's catalog. Uh, then branched out and then finally said, you know, I think I could, I could write this.

And that was a little after I had my son, and I really just wanted a -- I needed an outlet. Everything was momming or working. And so that's when I started what is now How to Fail at Flirting.

Andrea Martucci: [00:03:07] And this is coming out from Berkeley sometime in 2020?

Denise Williams: [00:03:10] Yup. December, 2020 so hopefully a little less than a year. I don't have a set release date yet, but December is likely.

Andrea Martucci: [00:03:17] And so I was reading an article you did on somebody else's blog. Is this like the third title for this book?

Denise Williams: [00:03:23] Oh, well. It's probably the fifth formal title for the book. It's probably the 45th informal title. So I probably had three or four titles when I was writing it. My agent and I changed it. Uh, we went through a bunch of options and landed on The Opposite of Ordinary after I signed with Berkeley, with my great editor, and then we were landed on that, but another book came out that was very similar. And so then bounced around a few others and then finally landed on How to Fail at Flirting.

Andrea Martucci: [00:03:51] You know what? It's funny because I'm sure at every point you were like, okay, this is the one.

This is great.

Denise Williams: [00:03:57] Yes, exactly.

Andrea Martucci: [00:03:58] But I do feel like How to Fail at Flirting is, I mean, it's catchy. It's great.

Denise Williams: [00:04:03] I love it. And it was that moment of, I've, I've talked to some other debuts, other writers who are worried about their title changing. I said, well, let me tell you from experience, ride through that frustrating moment, that moment you feel like you're never going to land on a title and just kind of trust the process.

Because when we finally landed on How to Fail at Flirting, we were actually - my agent and my editor and I were having lunch in New York when I was out there for RWA or Romance Writers of America, and we would chat with each other and brainstorm an idea, and then we would all kind of stare off into space for a few seconds and then come back and laugh about something and then do the same thing.

So anybody watching us must have really gotten a kick out of that. Um, but yeah, I love the title. Um, I won't reveal it till March, but I have cover art that I love and that fits with it. So yeah. Excited about the title

Andrea Martucci: [00:04:55] And what's the premise of the story and since we're going to be talking about cinnamon roll heroes, do you have a cinnamon roll hero in your book?

Denise Williams: [00:05:02] I think I definitely do have a cinnamon roll hero. The book is about a professor, Dr Naya Turner, who is in a rut in a lot of different ways and very early on in the book, it's not really a spoiler, but you learn that she is a survivor and is healing, although not really, actually probably healing or dealing with it of intimate partner violence.

And she's decided to dive into work, which is easy to do when you're going up for tenure as a faculty member. And really that's become her whole world. And through a series of events, her friends challenge her to get back out there to, to get a life to kind of reclaim and find herself. And then she stumbles upon, uh, the cinnamon roll, Jake, who's in town for business, and then a lot of things ensue, uh, and along the way, she's really flirting with him and failing at flirting with him, but also flirting with kind of finding her interests and her passions. She's flirting with professional success. She's flirting with professional ruin in the end and also in the end, kind of just flirting with being her true self. And so along the way, Jake, kind of our cinnamon roll love interest hero is really a great support and kind of a mirror for her to really realize that she can be in love and heal at the same time and you know, one may shape the other or not  but that she can do both and kind of realizing that duality.

Andrea Martucci: [00:06:33] Mm. I love all the themes that I'm hearing you talk about there, especially in light of our conversation today about, I mean, we're going to be talking about teaching and so sort of the, the professor angle is both relevant to your life and the book we're talking about today.

And I'm excited,  I loved what you were saying about the hero supporting her in this journey, and I want to talk about that later because I feel like that's a really critical part of the cinnamon roll hero and maybe why we're seeing a lot more cinnamon roll heroes.

(musical transition)

What is your day job? Because that's also very thematic.

Denise Williams: [00:07:13] Yeah, so I work in, it's called student affairs, which if folks are unfamiliar, really is a lot of things at a university that are outside of the classrooms. So I support students. I largely work with students of color, make sure they have what they need to be successful in college so that's everything from academic programs and events, I work with a scholarship program and then ancillary with a couple of others, meeting to talk through issues, referrals, helping students get connected with scholarships or opportunities, or just really being an ear to listen.

And so I've been doing that, I've been in that line of work for about 15 years. Along with that, I teach periodically either intro seminars for our first year students. I teach periodically in our graduate school of education, um, with our master's students. And then, uh, the class which we'll be talking about later. So I really love my day job, my career that I spent-

I just joke, I spent a lot of time talking and eating with students. I'm really solid with both of those and that I have a really good mix of my people time of interacting, of laughing of caring, of helping, of tears and laughter and all of those pieces. But I also spent a lot of time with strategic initiatives and I do a lot of data and data analysis and data collection and serving on committees to help the institution.

Uh, and then as part of that, it's not really part of my job, but with a friend, we started a women's empowerment group on our campus. So we're just finished up our second year of that. And we had a 72 women or non-binary folk each year. And we go through issues like silencing the inner critic, bolstering an inner mentor, figuring out solid communication strategies, learning about negotiation, uh, some of those pieces.

And it's very community focused. And so that's been a fun addition to my job as well.

Andrea Martucci: [00:09:12] That sounds like a lot of fun, and I also like data, so I'm like, Ooh, the data. That sounds fun too.

Denise Williams: [00:09:18] Yeah. Spreadsheets.

Andrea Martucci: [00:09:20] Ooh, Data visualizations.

Denise Williams: [00:09:22] All of that.

Andrea Martucci: [00:09:23] But that also sounds like very people heavy, like very much like a caretaking role in a lot of ways.

It demands a lot of empathy and emotional energy from you. So do you feel like the writing where you're then not, that writing is not also emotionally demanding in its own way, but then you're like sitting in a room alone or kind of in your own head, even if somebody else is in the room. Is that kind of like the balance?

Denise Williams: [00:09:53] Yeah. In some ways it is, and in the job I'm in now, I'm not as much of a frontline person. Probably earlier in my career it was 90% people focused and now it's maybe like a 60 / 40 split, which for me is really solid. But yeah, writing is still is - it's that escape and for me it also helps to find balance.

In my area of work, as in many other people's, it's very easy to take it home. Whether that is, I have a pile of things they still need to do, I'm physically going to take them home or you know, I just talked to, you know, somebody through self harm or, you know, dealing with, you know, with other personal issues and I'm emotionally taking that home. For me, writing does allow that kind of very literal escape into a different world.

Now. I mean, I write pretty heavy topics in my books, so I don't know how much, uh, how much of a true escape that is. But yeah, for me, I really, I like that that balance because it just does provide sort of that other focus.

Andrea Martucci: [00:10:53] And I wonder, do you feel like it helps process some of those things as well? Like when you're dealing with these heavy things in real people's lives at work, then even if you're still dealing with the heavy topics, you're, you're doing it, you're engaging with it in a slightly depersonalized way that helps you.

I dunno, I, I'm totally just putting myself into this situation, I'm not sure how you think about it.

Denise Williams: [00:11:19] You know, I, I don't know if I necessarily think about processing the things that I deal with at work through my writing. Um, I think I have some other tools to do that, and I don't know if it's 100% healthy. I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing some of those pieces.

Andrea Martucci: [00:11:34] I think you have to!

Denise Williams: [00:11:35] But it's more just the, I guess it's more personal. When I'm writing, I get to be good at something that's disconnected from what I'm doing all day. I think I'm good at it anyway. Um, but, you know, I get to escape into a project that is just very different directionally than what I've done all day.

Andrea Martucci: [00:11:57] I was just going to say, you need to, you need to silence your inner critic there, Denise.

Denise Williams: [00:12:00] Yeah, I know. I know. I know. Since I teach about that, I really should -- or facilitate about that.

Andrea Martucci: [00:12:07] You're great at it.

Denise Williams: [00:12:08] Okay, thanks. I think at one point in one of our sessions, we were talking about the inner critic and just the idea of saying, thank you.

And not justifying a compliment or dismissing it like so many of us do. And so we made everybody in the room compliment the other person and then just say thank you. And they hated it. But I think it was really effective.

Andrea Martucci: [00:12:28] That's, it's so hard and in a similar thing whenever I do something at work and somebody is like, thank you so much for doing that.

My instinct is to say, Oh, no problem. And I've been working on not doing that and just being like, you're welcome.

Denise Williams: [00:12:42] Exactly. The other thing we talk about is a, is -  with communication, an activity we came up with this, we had everybody print out an email that they sent, and then we talked about things like exclamation points and justifying and hedging and using words like maybe and just, and kind of minimizing what you want to say.

Kind of like how I just said kind of seven times in a row. Uh, and that was really powerful too. So when I end an email, I always want to say, thanks, exclamation point. And so now at work I try to go back and temper that a little bit that, well, I'm your boss and I just told you to do something. I'm necessarily you to thank you that effusively but.

Andrea Martucci: [00:13:20] Yeah, this is obviously tied up in a bit of gender dynamics and in the workplace and also hierarchy and there's, there's a lot going on there, but I think that the practice of going through and, as you said, like, I mean like printing out an email and literally practicing and being conscious of these things, eventually, hopefully it starts to become more second nature

Denise Williams: [00:13:46] Completely.

Andrea Martucci: [00:13:47] I edit this podcast and hear the things that I say and you know, I get, I get the privilege of kind of like editing out the things I don't like, where I'm like, I feel very inarticulate in this. I'm going to make myself sound more articulate. But I also feel like it's a very interesting practice to hear myself, after the fact and be like, why am I hedging so much? Why am I, I think kind of like just maybe like, can I maybe just say something and have it be a statement?

Denise Williams: [00:14:17] Mmhmm. And it's hard habits to break. And that's something I always share with the group is called Cardinal women. And so that we share with the Cardinal women that that doesn't mean you don't use the escalation points, like use them if you want them.

But thinking about the, some of those things that we do automatically when it's not really what we mean. In a meeting I'll say, "well, I'm thinking that perhaps" when what I mean is "you are wrong, and I know the answer and this is what it is." Yeah. We talk about all of those things. So I really love that group, that group of people, and it's such, so affirming to be in that space.

It's a lot of group work. We're chatting, everybody's laughing, and it's very supportive. So even being at the front of the room, it's in some ways it's a lot like writing, and I actually use a lot of writing examples when we're giving the sessions because that's something that I think is a way for me to share my personal life with them and where I can struggle in different ways.

At my job, I have a lot of confidence. I've been doing it for 15 years and been at my institution for 10 and I know kind of how things work. And publishing? There are so many days where I have no idea what's going on or, or, or how things work or how to navigate a situation. Uh, and so those have been really good examples to share, just being, um, uh, being uncertain, being in it, kind of in that new new space.

(musical transition)

Andrea Martucci: [00:15:51] And so to jump over to the romance class.

Denise Williams: [00:15:54] Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: [00:15:55] Can you give everybody an overview of what this is and what your goals are for this class?

Denise Williams: [00:16:00] Yeah, so the class is an honors seminar, so for our honors program students have to take these one to two credit seminar courses. They're meant to be very discussion based and they're on all kinds of topics.

I think I remember taking one on Harry Potter when I was, uh, an undergraduate student so many years ago. I think I was listening to the Fated Mates podcast on alpha heroes. And then I was chatting with my friend who works in our honors program, and I was joking that, you know, we should do an honors seminar on, on romance and the patriarchy.

And I think we were railing against something on the patriarchy at the time. And she's like, yes, do it. And I was like, no, no, no, we can't. And then eventually it landed on, okay, well let's pitch it. I think they'll turn it down because that's probably a little different topic than what they want to go for.

And the committee, I guess, was excited about it. They approved it. So the course we titled "Moving Past Bodice Ripping to Shredding the Patriarchy: Romance Novels as Tools for Justice."

We've really have kind of, really three goals for the course. In person, it'll be - it's capped at 17 people, so it's a small class, and our hope is that our students will be able to define and provide examples of patriarchal structures, but also how those structures shape their lived experiences, that they'll understand the tenants and history of romance as a genre. And then there'll be able to articulate how romance novels do or how they could contribute to deconstructing or decimating those patriarchal structures. What we don't know, I don't know yet who's in the class for the in person class so part of it will be just exposing them to romance novels, but we'll be talking a lot more about the genre and helping them to kind of find the books and the stories that they want to read as well.

Andrea Martucci: [00:17:45] You gave me a little bit of an advanced look at the syllabi. And I want to go through this class. I want to be following along. Starting January 14th, I am going to be doing this reading and doing this listening.

I'm super honored that the Shelf Love podcast is on your syllabus and I love that you have a diverse selection of readings and media on here, so you have some articles just from like Kirkus Reviews by Jen Procop, and then you have things from JPR Studies, so more academic work, and then podcasts, like Shelf Love and Whoa!mance and Fated Mates.

And so if people want to get your syllabus, they can sign up for your email newsletter on your website. Is that correct?

Denise Williams: [00:18:29] Yes. I think there's about a hundred people signed up right now, and so I'll put out uh, maybe a couple more reminders, but if folks want to follow along and sort of take a version of the class online, they can sign up.

And then once a week we will send out the list of what the readings that we had and maybe some notes from the class or like our slide deck, maybe some reflection questions. Um, in true academic fashion, we haven't 100% decided yet, cause we've got a month. But yeah. So if folks want to sign up, we're excited too, you know, kind of offer this online and I think the students who are taking the class in person, will find it kind of interesting or exciting that so many people sort of out in the world are following along with them?

Andrea Martucci: [00:19:11] Yeah, I think that this is an interesting time where we have so many options to share this kind of stuff.

Like you don't have to be in an academic program to kind of have access to this stuff. And I think that also just the interesting time that we're in is we can have these like niche studies and have access to people like you who are able to like collect a, like a coherent path of study. And you know, like prior to very recently, unless you happened to be at an institution where somebody was super awesome and created a class like this, you know, you just really didn't have access to this kind of way of learning about something.

Denise Williams: [00:19:51] And you know, I went to this undergraduate institution, I was an English major. I don't think I ever read a romance novel in one of those classes, or even talked about them and, and so that's part of our goal too, is to do some of that destigmatization of romance of what it means to be educated and, and again, quote, smart or motivated or academically focused or whatever, and still be excited about romance and learn from it and see the value of it.

Andrea Martucci: [00:20:17] Yeah. And I feel like the kids these days are - I honestly, I feel like, on the whole have been socialized to be much more accepting on the whole, not like everyone specifically, but, but I do feel like there have, you know, and I hate to say this phrase, the kids these days, I do feel like they are much more open minded and will probably, I feel, come into this class with fewer biases than we probably all encountered growing up or experience from older generations of people.

I put out on Twitter sometime this week, the question of like, what myths and misconceptions have you heard from people when they find out that you read or write romance and, oh my God, just so many, and I'm not saying that you know, if you're 18 to 22 that you don't also have those misconceptions, but I do feel like the explosion of niche cultures has also just open people's minds up to like, Oh, it's not, you're not a giant nerd if you like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books, or you know, this very specific interest. Like, that's interesting. That's cool. I want to learn more about that.

Denise Williams: [00:21:26] Or you are a nerd and nerds are, you know, that's okay too.

I think there's some reclaiming of the nerd term. I don't know. A colleague of mine uses "Blerd" a lot, black nerd. Um, and thinking about what it means to be a person of color and it's to be a black woman and to enjoy Star Wars, that's her, not me, but, um, or whatever it is. Or Game of Thrones, and to kind of feel at home in that.

Yeah. I do think generationally there's been some shifts in how we think about things and even if not, what I really love about teaching college students and honor students specifically, as they've often been academically socialized to question, to interrogate, to look at things from different angles and kind of do that deep dive, which -- I teach diversity classes all the time and so it's not that fun if everybody in the room is already on the same page. So I'm hoping there'll be some debate around some of these topics. And again, what they just, what they mean for the patriarchy and what it means for the students specifically.

(musical transition)

Andrea Martucci: [00:22:37] And so speaking of romance novels and the patriarchy on this podcast, patriarchy is probably the most used word.

Denise Williams: [00:22:43] Yeah (laughs)

Andrea Martucci: [00:22:44] And I think that, you know, I asked the question, why is this book worth reading? And I, I tried to really focus on books and my guests choose books that are positive examples of what the genre can be.

And that's not to say that every romance novel that is written is feminist or is anti-patriarchal. There is a very recent example that has been discussed in romancelandia about a book that has been categorized as romance, but it's very much not a romance narrative. So that's like the absolute, I would say worst example of - like that is that is not even romance, but even there are things that could be considered romance novels that are reinforcing patriarchal structures and some people enjoy them.

And I think just like with any genre, there are really great examples and there are some that don't really aren't super positive or don't add to the genre in a positive way, don't move the genre forward. So I guess I've been thinking a lot just about like is a romance as a genre feminist? What are your thoughts on that?

Because again, I mean like can the genre be feminist inherently if really it is, it is a genre made up of individual books and every book is going to, on a spectrum, be more feminist or less feminist?

Denise Williams: [00:24:09] Yeah, that's an interesting question because I do think and the premise we're going into the class with, and it's been said a hundred times in a hundred different places, but I do think that inherently centering the experiences of, of women, of people in other marginalized spaces around gender, is in its own way, feminist because for so long and so often currently, that is not the case. They are side characters. They're ancillary. It's not their perspective. It's written in someone else's voice. And so in that way, I think that does - is feminism, props up feminism, lends to feminism,  challenges patriarchy.

But I don't think that all books challenge -- all romance novels, challenge patriarchy or are examples of feminism, and I don't think they have to be. I mean, that's what I like. If I get into a book and I'm not getting that vibe, I'm probably not going to finish it, but our genre is so big. I don't know that every book could have that same end goal.

Andrea Martucci: [00:25:19] Yeah. And it is kind of a tall order, right? Like to expect a genre - like every genre is evolving. You know, all artistic endeavors are evolving and at a certain point a reflection of the culture they're created in, the society that they're created in. But yeah, I, I tend to agree with you.

I do feel like, uh, as a genre, the, the premise of the genre can be starting from an inherently more feminist standpoint or anti-patriarchal standpoint. These are big difficult conversations, right?

Denise Williams: [00:25:52] They are. And then I even, as I say that, I second guess myself, cause then I'm like, well who am I to tell somebody that?

Or who am I to judge that somebody else's work and preferences don't, you know, promote feminism just because they don't promote it in the way that I would. And so that, I think that's a challenge too. But again, just because the genre is so big and there's so many different readers with different expectations.

For me, I am always deeply challenged when I get into a book and the heroine -- and nothing to do with their education, but is is sort of kind of, they say too dumb to live and mean like how are you upright and functioning or how are you like cognizant of what you are, what's happening around you? And this sort of cute narrative.

Like nothing bugs me more than that. But that's not to say that isn't still promoting feminism in the, in a way for someone.

Andrea Martucci: [00:26:43] I also abhor that and  obviously part of that is just - you're creating something, right? Like this is a simulacrume of real life. There is no real human being here. This is reflection of somebody's writing abilities and their choices that they made, probably because they couldn't figure out a better conflict.

And so having the heroin not pick up on obvious things is how they're kind of creating a story. I do kind of feel though, like they're not, that there is a decider, you know, capital D decider of what is feminism, but not all things created by women or not all women's opinions or whatever are feminist just because they are a woman, right?

Like, you know, like you hear this, you hear this a lot about like, well, I chose to do this. And it's like, well, yes, it's a free world. You can choose to make those decisions. That doesn't mean that decision was- that decision might in many ways have been guided by internalized misogyny or unexamined beliefs about things.

Denise Williams: [00:27:42] I think too that in the end, the value is less than labeling and in more in thinking about impact and so -- impact or implication. That for me is where the more interesting discussions are, which I teach a lot on race and ethnicity. I've taught classes and I write on it.

We find the same thing in some of those discussions, is this racism? Is this, is it not? And in the end it's, well, we can choose to, you know, kind of discuss the label. But really there's a lot more there that we could be interrogating. And I wonder if we might have, and we already do have them, but you know, some of those conversations in romancelandia of how does this relate to, thinking about the book we're reading and me too movement, how does this impacting rape culture? Or how is this lifting up equity in the workplace or or or not? Um, and what does that mean?

Andrea Martucci: [00:28:38] On the racism front? I think when you said that, what I was thinking of is there are things that white people or like people in non marginalized backgrounds say or do or think that somebody could label as racist.

And then. That person is like, "I am not a racist." And thinking about how it's like, well, similarly, it's a spectrum, right? Like it's not like black and white. You're either racist or you're not racist or something is racist or not racist, but you can say something that like, well, let's dig deep on that. And yeah, right: as you said, like what's the impact? What's the implication of that? Like why, why did you think that? Why did you say that?

Denise Williams: [00:29:18] Yeah. There's a video blogger I love, I use his videos a lot in my - when I'm doing presentations, I'll show them on YouTube. But, uh, his name is Jay Smooth. He's actually in hip hop in New York, and he has a lot of great social justice focused videos.

And he has one, it's from oh over 10 years ago now, but it was titled "How to tell someone they just said something racist." And he uses this example of, you know, "if somebody takes my wallet, I don't need to know what was in their soul. I just want to get my wallet back." And so thinking about, it's easy to say and hit somebody kind of hard and say, you know, that was racist, but then all they have to say is, no, it wasn't.

And then you're just in this sort of quagmire of back and forth. And so the better conversation - he does this much more eloquently than me, by the way - is to talk about what was said or what was done and the the implication of it.

Andrea Martucci: [00:30:14] Oh, that's interesting. Okay. I'm going to go watch that and put the link in the show notes.

(musical transition)

Thanks for listening to episode 20 of Shelf Love: a romance novel book club. Thank you so much to Denise Williams for speaking with me. All the links to find Denise online and to sign up to follow along with her class are in show notes. Every Thursday night at 8:00 PM central time, you can also join in the conversation on Twitter search for #2020romclass to find the discussion.

And don't be shy about joining in! Silence your inner critic and don't apologize for your contributions. Watch out for the rest of my conversation with Denise, where we discuss, Teach Me by Olivia Dade as well as ooey gooey cinnamon roll heroes. Are these sweet treats having a moment? Other future guests include Tif Marcelo, Kennedy Ryan, and Tamara Lush.

If you're new to the podcast and looking for another episode to listen to, I'd recommend episode 17. My guest, erotica author and historian Katrina Jackson, joined me to read "An Unconditional Freedom" by Alyssa Cole. On Twitter, it's unanimous that we all wish Kat had been our history professor because she brings to life the nuance and cultural circumstances surrounding this story about reluctant spy partners in the civil war.

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, sign up for the Shelf Love email newsletter on or via the link in the show notes. The newsletter includes romance recommendations, giveaway opportunities and bonus content.

According to a Twitter poll, 90% of you want me to include this quick section that I cut from the body of the episode because they felt it humanized me.

So prepare for raw Andrea.

(clip starts)

(coughing) I'm sorry, just choking on my own saliva.

Denise Williams: [00:32:00] Oh, don't do that.

Andrea Martucci: [00:32:02] I know. I really try not to. So thankfully though, while we were talking, I had to ask my husband before we started, I was like, can you bring me some coffee and some water? And he texted back the Jiff (aka Gif but I pronounced it like Jiff) of like Dobby is a free elf.

Denise Williams: [00:32:17] (laughing) Husband for the win.

Andrea Martucci: [00:32:20] Yeah. But then he did bring me coffee and water. So he's, I really like him. I'm going to keep him. So thankfully when I choke on my saliva I have

something to at least wash it down with.

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