Online romance-writing grad program wins state approval
Romance fiction received another academic endorsement when the Maryland Higher Education Commission approved McDaniel’s graduate-level Romance Writing Certificate.
Still, like most matters of the heart, it wasn’t state approval but the chance to spend a year studying with best-selling romance novelist Jennifer Crusie and McDaniel English professor and romance fiction scholar Pam Regis that drew 18 students from all over the world to the inaugural class of the five-course online program.
“I took this class because I wanted to learn how to write romantic fiction from someone who writes the sort of books I love reading,” said Fiona Humphries, one of the program’s British students. “I have probably read thousands of romance novels – and loved and kept hundreds – but it’s only now, after taking this course, that I’m starting to appreciate how good some of those authors really are.”
Regis, author of “A Natural History of the Romance Novel” and director of the Nora Roberts Center for American Romance at McDaniel, conceived and developed the certificate program with support from Roberts Foundation grants to the college. The classes, designed by Crusie with help on the first class from Regis, begin with a critical survey of romance literature, and include character writing, structure, a workshop to polish proposals and a final class on understanding and surviving romance publishing.
Although class discussion is typically a requirement of online classes to ensure participation, it is flourishing in the Writing Romance program with posts among the 18 students to several discussion sites numbering in the 600’s, according to Crusie, whose credits include more than 20 romance novels, including “Fast Women,” “Bet Me” and “Crazy People,” just out in May.
Teaching has been a learning experience for Crusie, who now sees some opportunity to fine-tune some of the classes.
“I'm changing how I teach constantly trying to keep up with the students. I'm learning as much as they are,” she said.
For Regis, who co-taught the first class with Crusie, the lessons have been more of a reinforcement of what she already knew about the romance community.
“I learned – or had confirmed for me – what I suspected would be true: that the romance community's values would shine through in students' participation in the work of the course and in their support of each other,” said Regis. “The romance community's spirit of inclusiveness, its strong support for its members, is the ethos that informs these classes.”
Romance fiction has found a place in McDaniel’s undergraduate program as well. Regis teaches Popular Romance Fiction and recently submitted a proposal for a Sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies course titled “Romantic Love.”
“It's the most popular form of fiction on the planet, and deserves to be studied for that reason alone,” Regis said. “Moreover the events it depicts – courtship – and values it conveys – the power of romantic love, the importance of community – are part of the lives of many, if not most, people.
“At McDaniel we teach the whole person. That's part of the humane environment our college's First Principles charge us to provide. Romance fiction, romantic love, courtship, and their role in human life should be part of the conversation we have with our students.”