It’s Monday, and I’m back home after a five-day trip to GayRomLit in Kansas City, MO. *sigh*
For those who don’t know it, GayRomLit is an annual retreat and convention for those who love M/M romance – 400 readers and writers and voice actors and cover artists and friends. This year was my fifth and the event’s sixth year. And next year will be in Denver, Colorado, in mid-October. Just sayin’.
I was able to drive this year, which was so much nicer than flying, where I stared at my stuffed almost-50-pounds suitcase, deciding “one more T-shirt, or one more book…?” In the car I could bring… everything. But I still ran out of shirts and not books. 🙂
The fall color was amazing driving south. Such a pretty time of year. And listening to Walter Mosley’s mystery on my speakers reminded me why audiobooks are the fastest growing medium.
The hotel in Kansas City, MO was the best venue yet – the hardworking volunteer organizers hit a sweet spot this time. Great views, plenty of elevators (vs Albuquerque where one was a bottleneck), fast Internet (vs Atlanta), meeting and bookselling rooms in a nice small convenient area (vs Chicago), and author lounges that worked great as a chance to chat to people. I hope that meant less stress for them. Every year these amazing volunteers have done their best to create this event and smooth out its running. I’m going to list them by name at the end of this post. They deserve huge, huge thanks and credit.
Highlights for me:
Personal – having three people I have loved meeting online come find me, and give a bunch of their limited time to hang out, talk and get acquainted, and they even bought me meals. Big hugs to authors Eric Alan Westfall, Michael Jensen, and Atom Yang! Twice we ate inside (and once walked through) this amazing renovated train station space, with a great restaurant in one corner.
And I finally got my editor and friend Jonathan Penn to come along and hang out with me. There’s nothing like the fun of watching friends like him and Edmond meet for the first time, and sharing GRL through new eyes.
Professional – this is such a great rejuvenator for my writing enthusiasm. Not just talking about plots, and characters, and the craft, but especially connecting with readers. There is something extra special about having someone come up in person and say that my books meant a lot to them. When I get lost in the “why bother” blues, as I was prior to this trip, their joy in my stories makes me eager to share more of my work with readers. My deep appreciation to everyone who stopped by to encourage me (and author Sheena Himes, that means you in particular. ❤ )
GRLish – Ethan Stone and Carter Quinn (who could not attend at the last minute) invited me to share a spotlight with them. I’ve gotten comfortable with Q&A sessions, so I decided to spread my wings and said yes. There are few things more scary for a major introvert than doing improv with someone you don’t know well for 45 minutes in front of an audience. We had the early 9 am slot Saturday, after the Friday night dance party, and still had a great audience (with coffee cups in hand,) who joined in the discussion of Broken Men: Avoiding the Magic Healing Peen. It was excellent fun, once I stopped shaking. In fact, moderator Brandilyn Carpenter had to verbally nudge me once or twice to let Ethan talk. (Oops.) Brandilyn was just great too. I might do that again…maybe. Someday.
My kid made me some really cute little ornaments of my books with rainbow covers. They were apparently popular, as were my Nick Rugo screen cleaners. I guess folk were not averse to rubbing Nick’s face all over their screens.
The Cock Walk fund raiser is always a highlight. Authors Edmond Manning and Anne Tenino created 90 minutes of group improv comedy, and raised a thousand dollars for a Pulse charity. Many people brought crafts and artwork, sending the lucky winners home with cock-shaped book-ends and needlepoint and chapstick covers. Those who did not win went home with sore ribs from laughing so much.
The costume party was resplendent with “Over the Rainbow” costumes from Joel’s body paint Tin Man to Mike’s very tall and probably-not-Cowardly Lion, and all the creativity in between. (I don’t have pictures, but if you search other GRL 2016 posts you’ll see what I mean.)
On the drive home, with emptier boxes and a fuller heart, I almost ran out of gas. I blame Walter Mosey for keeping my attention on his story and off the gas guage, with a nod to Iowa for “no services at this exit.” And “no services at this exit either.” But I was saved by a very Iowa station – Kum & Go. I want to say I admire the people who work this chain for putting up with the stream of jokes they no doubt hear a thousand times.
And I want to give a big shout out to the GRL all-volunteer! organizers:
Carol Lynne – an early reader favorite whose first Cattle Valley book in 2007 began a widely known series – she now has over 200 books in several genres.
Ethan Day – energy in constant motion and author of books like Sno Ho and At Piper’s Point.
Teresa Emil – librarian by day, and organizer extraordinaire for an event with logistic headaches in triplicate.
Reese Dante – excellent cover artist and writer (as “Jaime Reese.”)
Web developer Mark Koester
and all the volunteers especially Randy Gresham who seemed to be everywhere doing everything to make it run smoothly.
You guys rock more than I can possibly say, giving up hours of what should be your productive writing and professional time to create ever better GRL experiences for our community. ❤ ❤ ❤