From being a small group of indie authors wanting to get their novellas published to becoming one of the largest reading communities in the country, #romanceclass has indeed come a long way. The authors do not only attract mainstream publishers noawadays, but they also held a successful event last Sunday (April 17), dubbed as April Feels Day, in celebration of romance and reading.
Mina V. Esguerra, bestselling romance author and organizer of Feels Day, said they had been participating in book fairs and reader events, even doing several of these in a year. But since they were only a small part of a bigger event, the question of whether they were reaching their target audience or not remained.
“We had a really well-attended session at the Filipino ReaderCon in 2015, and a lot of interest at the table where we displayed and sold our books, so we started planning our own event. [It’s] A lot like the #romanceclass community meetups, where we catch up and swap or sell books we wrote and published, but open to everyone,” she said.
The romance genre already had its huge following in the past, though it was concentrated on Tagalog/Taglish pocketbooks and YA in English by foreign authors. However, #romanceclass introduced an interesting niche – young adult, new adult and adult romance—in their novellas.
And that what brought various readers and writers to April Feels Day. I myself saw authors I have met before in comic book conventions or in writing sessions, so the event made me feel the surreal feels~. Everybody hugged and greeted one another; everyone gushed at the performances.
The really cool thing about April Feels Day was how packed the venue was. Pegi Waffles is a small and cozy restaurant, but guests and participants kept coming in to register. Still, everybody was all smiles as they lined up to buy the newest releases, to have their cards read (courtesy of CP Santi, author of Be Careful What You Wish For) or to listen to the poems from Heartbreak Diaries by Pierra Calasanz.
The success can be hugely attributed to the impressive collective effort from the community. There were focal persons assigned to the selling of books, to manning the registration and sharing videos and photos via social media. Some of the authors even wore special shirts, while the other guests had coloring activities.
#NatGioWeekend and #Floates, anyone?
The best part for me was the live reading. My first time to attend one was at the ReaderCon last year, where I witnessed Rachel Coates and Gio Gahol reading excerpts from books. Meanwhile, at the Feels Day, I saw new faces performing before attentive listeners: Salve Villarosa, Herv Alvarez and Jef Flores.
“Gio Gahol and Rachel Coates were our original pair. They are both experienced theater actors, recommended to me by a friend who also did theater. The chemistry was instant, even [though] they’d just met during our first rehearsal. It was awesome,” Mina said. Apparently, the duo came up with their own hashtag, #Gahoates, while Gio found out that the #romanceclass community had one for him, too: NatGioWeekend.
Jef Flores, though a recent addition to the performers, is also a theater actor. Mina and other authors saw him act in PETA’s 3 Stars and a Sun, and his performance with Rachel is a serious contender (Team #Floates!) for the kilig votes. Salve Villarosa, on the other hand, is a Booktuber and is very supportive of the community. Through her, the group met Herv Alvarez, who read with her excerpts from the YA selections.
While the actors did not have any apprehensions in podcasts and live reading, they did work on difficult words and tongue-twisting sentences during rehearsals. (Mina said it’s usually the lists of food that tend to trip them up!) Live performance oddly makes the actors more relaxed, perhaps because of the energy they get from the crowd. I have to admit I did swoon a couple of times during the session, and also made me buy more books! Even the authors saw their own works in a new light.
It was amazing to be part of April Feels Day. There might be another Feels Day later this year, so you and I better keep our fingers crossed. The event has got everything in a romance novel package: faces flushed from excitement, hearts beating madly, the feels~ (oh, the feels!). For a day, romance was in full bloom. ☁