GRL 2013 and being a Real Author
Wow. Deep breath.
I’m home in Minnesota after five days at GayRomLit in Atlanta. It’s lightly snowing here, and all of that event seems a bit like a dream. Although I did sign “Kaje Harper” on the credit card reader at the grocery store this morning, and had to redo it.
GRL was a ton of exhausting fun, with some of the greatest people. I’m going to steal a few pictures from those great people (with credits of course) as I go here, because I took no pictures. None. My old flip phone has about three pixels of resolution, and no memory to store them. But I have a thousand pictures in my head.
I arrived on Tuesday, with a suitcase of books that weighted 50.24 pounds (It started at 51, and I took out one book at the airline desk, and the nice lady let me get away with the extra fraction.) Edmond Manning arrived at almost the same time, so we shared a cab to the hotel, and later wandered out together in search of a mouse for his computer. It was a seven block walk to the Office Depot, and I’m glad we did it, because that was the most I saw of Atlanta, beyond the hotel. Oops. Must go back some day and do the city justice. The skyline was very pretty from my 19th floor room.
(From GRL’s Melia Hotel publicity.)
I have to give the host hotel, the Melia, a lot of credit for great, friendly hospitality. (Although I’ll take away a bit, for Internet that was so slow that sometimes I couldn’t connect at all. Very frustrating, especially for someone with a dumb phone and thus no email.) My bed was comfortable, the room was quiet, and the breakfast buffet was awesome. I didn’t need lunches after those breakfasts.
Wednesday was the first Writers’ Workshop. It was worth doing – I picked up some good information and tips, particularly about the business side of writing. And it gave the authors time to connect before we had a full audience. I met several new authors, and others I knew only by name. I hope they all had a great time at GRL.
I got my volunteering stint out of the way that evening in the Swag Room set-up. That was my cunning plan so I wouldn’t have to remember to show up somewhere later 🙂
Now, I had dithered over swag forever. What I ended up with was magnets, and a suitcase full of plot bunnies. . I’d hoped to do squishy wolves, in honor of my shifters, but they were all out of my budget. The rabbits were on sale, and I figured I could do something with them. Who doesn’t want to grab a resilient plotbunny? .
There were a lot of great and creative swag items. It was soooo tempting to use my volunteer position, the night before opening, to grab a shotglass with liqueur chocolate, or a calculator, a squishy dragon, a beaded Rowan-tree necklace, bandaids, playing cards, candles, and… oooh, yeah, more chocolate 🙂 But I was good.
Thursday morning began with the newbie get-together and the opening of the swag room. I wasn’t the only one eyeing the great stuff, as Damon Suede stood there counting down to the opening moment for grabby hands. When he said “Go” I justified all my grabbing as being for Sammy, my friend who couldn’t make it. But secretly, a couple of the chocolates were for me. She wants to lose weight – a friend wouldn’t send chocolate, right?
My bunnies went in the first half hour, which was very cool 🙂
The Supporting Author signing happened at the same time. Those were the authors with only a couple of releases so far, (in some cases, a couple of excellent books.) I was pleased to see a lot of readers stopping by there. The organizers had also put together a little book with excerpts from many of those authors. It was a great idea and gave everyone something to sign.
The sessions began that afternoon, and it was far enough from my Saturday duties for me to relax and enjoy them. Thursday evening was the MLR Press opening reception, with a fancy ice sculpture logo and hors d’oeuvres. For a moment, as I went into the dim room half full of people, and had to look for a place to sit, I felt a moment of that being-in-big-groups panic. But then I saw a familiar face, and another… It was definitely easier the second time around.
I admit to skipping the Juke Joint party but over the first two days I met some great people, fellow authors and readers both. I had some conversations about books and writing, and young adult LGBT and even why so many straight women are into the genre. I encountered wonderful folk who were willing to sit with me in quiet(er) places and just chat. Lovely.
My favorite event of the first two days was probably the Cockwalk Invitational Art Show. It was a charity fundraiser for an Atlanta LGBT youth organization, and was set up by Anne Tenino, Josephine Myles, Clare London, and narrated by Edmond Manning. Members of the audience got up and told hysterically funny tales of their own encounters with cocks, and then a variety of cock objets d’art were raffled off. Many of the items were knit or crocheted, including my favorite, the plastic-bag dispenser. Imagine pulling white bags out of the tip of this:
(Picture swiped from Heather K’s blog Heather’s GayRomLit Experience, part two. )
That evening’s “Dine with an Author” event was the only one that went a little off-course. The room became noisy, and it was hard to chat with everyone at the table. By the way, if you were at my table and got one of my ducks be sure to email me with the duck number from the bottom of the duck for your ebook. I’m not sure everyone heard that, over the enthusiastic din. I did enjoy conversations with a couple of interesting people sitting close enough to talk comfortably.
And then Saturday morning… and my Question and Answer session. I was so nervous, it was good we were allowed to sit down – my knees were shaking. But it went well! I was allowed to go first and get it over with, and there were good questions about my books. Questions I could answer! A special thanks to Susan, for filling in any moment of …doesn’t anyone else have a question for Kaje? with another great query. It was over before I realized it. I could actually do that again, at least after I recover from the first time.
Then the book signing. I only misspelled my name once. (Four letters. Right there to be copied on the title page, if I happened to forget who I was. Oops.) I misspelled Minnesota on two tries… to the same reader. (Sorry Ami! But it will be authentic, not machine-signed, clearly me when you get it 🙂 I was so honored to have people who had actually brought copies of my books all the way to Atlanta, just to have me write in them. (Especially Heather, who tracked me down before the signing, since she had to leave, and got Unacceptable Risk into my hands to sign it.) It was fun and weird and such a high, to be signing my name to the books I’d written, for people who clearly enjoyed them.
And the costume party that evening was the culmination of four wonderful days. I don’t have pictures, but they will be appearing elsewhere, including Susan’s on her “Boys in Our Books” post. Some folks went all out, and there were amazing costumes with lights, or hoop skirts, or rabbit ears, or bare chests (and a bare ass or two.) There were bunny slippers in honor of Shattered Glass and quite a few witches strolling arm in arm with a nun, or a flapper girl. Even folks like me, in jeans and a T-shirt, felt at home. (And thanks to the wonderful ladies who sat off in a quiet corner with me on two different nights, for a lovely chat 🙂 I actually stayed almost to the end of a party, which was a first for me.
By Sunday’s farewell brunch, I was sad to leave, and yet ready to wind down. After a couple of chance encounters in the Atlanta airport – “Hi, didn’t we just say goodbye?” – I was finally off. Home is nice and quiet. (And my Internet feels blazingly fast.) But looking back, what I remember is how wonderful all the people were, how much fun it was to sit at the bar and have the gay couple next to me say, “Hey, we’ve read your book!” and the sense of community that came from being with 400 of my fellow M/M enthusiasts. Give me a year, and I’ll be ready to do it again.
See you in Chicago in 2014. I can even drive. (And Sammy, damn it, you get healthy and we’ll close down a party next year, right?) A big thank-you to everyone I met this year. It was a blast.