GRL = fun, even for us introverts
Now that I'm done dancing around, celebrating my first audio release, I do want to write about GRL. Because it's an experience I look forward to, worry over, enjoy, hide from, and then miss acutely when it's over. Every year.
GRL bills itself as an annual retreat that brings together the people who create and celebrate M/M and LGBT romance. And it really is that – a celebration of the books and the authors and the readers, in one warm, fuzzy, huggy (sometimes over-huggy), open-hearted, book-filled weekend.
There are events better suited to learning about the craft of writing. There are probably events with more varied opportunities for readers and fans. But in its small size (capped at 400 attendees) and its M/M-lovers-we-are-family atmosphere, GRL is a great chance to find a renewed love for the genre.
This year, GRL was in San Diego – that picture up top was the view from my hotel room. Leaving Minnesota's near-freezing October, it was lovely and warm landing in San Diego. And then not so lovely, humid and hot. I sat in the shuttle waiting for other passengers to go to the hotel, and thought, “Please don't let my swag melt!!” I'd brought chocolates with my covers on the wrappers, and hadn't planned on the half hour wait in the heat. Luckily they were fine, and after a little time in the hotel room with AC, I was too. The rest of the weekend was more temperate, with beaches and palm trees.
One of the things that makes GRL a bit unique is that there is really no separation between authors and readers. The person sitting next to you in a talk might just be Jordan Castillo Price. The guy buying a book at the next table could be Brandon Witt (who also might be the guy wearing the flamingo hat on his head at the dinner on the beach.) We authors are all readers too, and at GRL we swap roles at a moment’s notice.
One hour, I’m asking questions of the three writers up front of the room in their Q&A panel. The next hour, Amy Lane is asking me in my Q&A why I upped the angst and shot some beloved character in the head. (To which my lovely moderator Kris Jacen’s immediate response was, “Amy, you killed the horse!”) My panel happened to be opposite Mary Calmes and Andrew Grey’s spotlight, so we had a small but very select audience. (Thanks for the great questions, Amy!)
And then a couple of days later I’m back in the audience, as Amy explains, to the delight of all us reader-nerds, how heroic tropes play out in M/M, and the difference between the British and American Romantic Hero. (Briefly, she pointed out that the American hero is more likely to be willing to act outside the law, to put the people and causes he loves ahead of any social constraints or force of law. He’ll go rogue, for a cause.) She asked if she was getting too far into analysis, and was met with a resounding vote of approval. I loved hearing someone who writes sexy guys that make me cry, discussing English literature.
There is always a lot going on even when sessions aren’t in progress, but much of it is informal – people meet up with glad cries, and head off to discussions, Cards Against Humanity games, trips to watch whales or to gay bars. For someone who’s as introverted as I am, those are the times I head to my room for some solitary downtime. Even more so this year, since extrovert friends whose coat-tails I hoped to cling to had to cancel out. Going alone is fine – you will meet and make friends. But going with a friend is no doubt even better. Next year, Jonathan, Edmond, Sammy…
I met some wonderful people whom I know online, from Cody Kennedy (amazing guy with a huge heart, especially for teenagers in need), to Christy Duke (whose picture of Hans I borrowed below), to Caraway Carter (who does give the best hugs and is way taller than I thought), and many more. I received unexpected, thoughtful gifts, some handmade, all sweet, that I hope I expressed enough thanks for. I found new authors to check out, and added way too many books to my TBR list. I played Bunco, and Gay Romance Trope pictionary, and actually won. (Thanks to author Atom Yang.) So many great moments.
There’s usually a costume party, given the closeness to Halloween, and our fondness for dressing up. Every year the costumes are awesome. The picture is of author Hans Hirschi, as Her Majesty the Queen. With an entrance to the strains of God Save the Queen, gowned, gloved, and tiaraed, Hans was the very model of regal splendor.
There were many Marvel characters (exposing my ignorance of popular culture – I needed K-lee Klein to set me straight on who was who.) Spice Girls and pin-up girls, superheroes and villains, (and may I say many people, men and women, wore those spike heels, or leather and grenades, way better than I ever could.) And so many other imaginative choices. (How long did it take the gentleman in leather to shower all the glitter out of his lovely blond furriness? Good thing he had his guy to help him with that…)