GayRomLit was an intense experience for me. As an introvert, a relatively new author, and a first time attendee, I had no idea what to expect. I’d only met people as Kaje Harper the writer twice before, and never in a group that size. The four days went by fast, and instead of trying to tell you all about it, I’m going to pull out some highlights and memorable moments (but no pictures -sorry, I didn’t bring a camera.)
The most common question people asked me: Not “When is the next book coming out?” although I did get that a lot, but “How do you pronounce your name?” The answer is that “Kaje” is phonetic, like “cage” – you know, the wire thing you can keep plot bunnies in.
Biggest fangirl moment: Meeting Amy Lane.
Biggest OMG moment: When Amy Lane told me she’d brought one of my books for me to sign for her. OMG!!
Toughest introvert moment: MLR Press sponsored the opening reception the first evening. It was a lovely event – an appetizer buffet so large and varied that it made a fine dinner, a couple of short speeches with a tribute to William Neale, who died while the planning for the event was underway. But… the room was set up with round tables with maybe ten seats each. The lighting was atmospheric (read – a little dim.) I knew almost no one by sight yet – we all wore name badges around our necks, (praise be), but when people were seated the badges were below table level. And I arrived late, when only scattered seats were left. So I gathered up my outgoingness (which you can fit in a thimble) and asked someone if this seat was taken. They apologetically told me it was. Repeat that two more times. After the third one I walked back out of the room and found a corner in the hallway. I couldn’t make myself ask a fourth time.
I was saved by fellow Minnesota author Edmond Manning, who spotted me, hung with me for a bit and found us both seats. That would turn out to be just the first of several times when he showed up and gave me someone easy to talk to through the course of the event. So Edmond wins the sweetest person there award.
Most emotional speech: MLR sponsored a Day of the Dead themed party at a lovely old house-turned-party-venue in Old Town. At that event Laura and Kris of MLR spoke of William Neale and the fact that the house was his choice – a place Bill spotted while scouting locations and told them MLR had to have. They both choked up in describing his pleasure at finding the perfect venue for the event he didn’t live to see. For those who knew Bill, even just online as I did, it was a sad moment.
Author pride moment for me: At the same party, Laura gave me an award as MLR’s highest-selling ebook author for the year! (And then asked me to say a few words, which was introvert-panic moment number two.) But I was stunned and delighted, and I’m very grateful to all of you who read my work. Thank you!!
Top get-out-and-party event: You may want to check out other attendees’ blogs for that one. For various reasons I only saw the first hour of the Friday Gentlemen’s Juke Joint, and missed the others. However watching Damon Suede dance was definitely a highlight. *fans self* – Damon was running around every day non-stop (“like a greased squirrel” someone told him) but there’s no doubt he’s in great shape.
Most embarrassing moment: Realizing I was so short of small talk that I was telling people more than they ever wanted to know about my kids. If you were one of the folks I did that to, sorry! Part of the problem was that I usually love talking about books, but at this event you never knew whether the author of that book might not be sitting just a few feet away. Which was wonderful, but a little inhibiting.
Best panel or event: I went to several that were fun and interesting, but I think the highlight was a panel on humor – the Romantic Comedy Hour – with Barry Brennessel, Amy Lane, Z.A. Maxfield and Ethan Day. They read from their books and then discussed humor in romance, tossing the topic around with joy and flair and funny stories.
Comedy of errors: We had buses to take us from the hotel to our lunch venue on Friday. The only problem was that the drivers apparently had no idea where they were going. One bus dropped off its riders two miles from the restaurant and drove away. Another circled the venue several times until we began saying, “Didn’t we pass that already? Twice?” Finally Damon pointed and said “That red brick building right there,” before we passed it again. The bus was then dispatched to pick up the lost folks, (and found them – thank you cell phones), and eventually we all got to eat.
Unexpected Incentives: I had a lot of luck. Most events had some kind of prizes and I won several books, T-shirts, ebooks, gift cards… hell, I even found a $20 bill in a deserted corridor. A friend, author K-lee Klein, asked me if I was going to take the lucky horseshoe out of my ass and give it to her for a change. (I imagine she rethought that phrase a moment later 😉 ) Talk about tangible rewards for being there. There was lots of great swag too, the most memorable probably being the chocolate cocks.
I had a lot of fun, especially since I could retreat to my room to recharge when it got to be too much. Going with a good friend would be even better (and my best friend is going to try to make it next year.) Going unofficially as just a reader was a lucky choice for me; it was much lower stress even if it did make it harder for people to find me. Next year I’ll go as an author and I have a much better idea of how to make that work after watching all the authors who were there.
I want to thank everyone who came up to me and said nice things about my writing, everyone who asked me to sign stuff or seemed pleased to get the little scrap sequel to Into Deep Waters that I brought. I met a lot people I “knew” from online, both readers from Goodreads and so many of my favorite authors. It was great to put faces to names. Everyone was very friendly and shared the same interests so it felt like family – I hugged and received more hugs than I think I have in the previous ten years.
The organizers deserve massive credit for how well it ran, and the staff of the Hard Rock Hotel were wonderful. They did everything from serving food unobtrusively to bringing extra chairs quickly and graciously, and didn’t seem to turn a hair, even when some of the author readings veered deep into TMI territory for non-M/M-fans. The repeatedly broken elevator was a pain at times, but at least it was working after the book signing when authors were lined up with arms full of heavy boxes – that was the essential moment, so the rest can be forgiven.
So next year – Atlanta, GA October 17-20 (with an author workshop October 16th) – am I going?
Absolutely YES (barring plagues of locusts, or other disasters.) I’ll try to bring books to sell and answer questions and do some of the things I didn’t have the nerve for this year. I hope to see you there.