Broadening my horizons, stretching my wings. GRL is the Gay Romance Literature Retreat. According to their website, GRL is “for people who create and celebrate LGBT romance.” My Battle Scars series is historical fiction with a gay romance – it made me smile when I signed up to be a Supporting Author and organizer Teresa E. emailed and asked, “You do know this is for LGBT romance correct?” It was great to laugh with Teresa when she introduced herself at the Supporting Authors book signing. This retreat has been happening for 6 years and I am so thrilled to have finally discovered it.
I’ve been to a number of Star Wars and other SciFi conventions where the joy of sharing your love of a particular fandom with thousands of other people gives you the warm fuzzies inside. While the Internet allows us to gush online in forums, chat rooms, and Facebook, and to virtually meet people with similar interests, attending an actual event is an other-worldly experience that most of your co-workers just don’t get. 🙂
This book event was an eye opener. In some ways, you could call the Historical Novel Society (HNS) Conference that I attended in 2015 and 2016 a book event. There were big name guests and book signings, but I didn’t get the impression that the same reader/fans attend the conference every year. At GRL I met so many readers who were attending their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th event, coming from far and wide. (Of course, HNS authors are also readers/fans, but for repeat-GRLers I specifically mean readers.)
I was super nervous about being a “supporting author.” I’m usually the observer at conferences so this was a new experience for me. GRL provided three separate opportunities where I met a lot of readers, authors, bloggers, narrators, and book reviewers: a supporting author book signing and two 45-minute “author lounges.” The lounge, which ran throughout the day Thursday and Friday and on Saturday morning, was in the main hall outside the meeting rooms – a perfect place for people to visit and ask about my books.
I applaud the GRL organizers for this set up. For us introverts, it was a lot of fun, but exhausting – about 3 hours straight on day 1 of the Retreat for me. When we had no ‘visitors,’ I was able to chat with other authors, including Christine Wright (setting up her table next to mine above). Christine also lives in Kansas!
I didn’t see many authors hawking historical romances during the event. That certainly made my books stand out – you cannot believe the number of people who commented on my book covers! 🙂 Contemporary, SciFi, and paranormal seem to be the big sub-genres in LGBT romance literature, but there were fans of historicals who stopped by to chat with me. I also connected with other authors who have written or are writing historical romance: Michael Jensen, Dean Frech, B.G. Thomas, and Edmond Manning. I know there were others in attendance and I sense networking opportunities ahead!
Like other book events, there were author Q&As and book readings, but there was also boyfriend bingo (with great gifts for the winners), a movie night (featuring a sing-a-along of Grease), a masquerade ball, a cock-walk (handmade items in many cases donated for a raffle), and regular bingo that raised money for charities. This community knows how to have fun and is very giving, donating thousands of dollars to the PulseVictimsFund, the Trevor Project, and more.
In between the sessions and when I wasn’t perusing the author lounge, I hung out in the lobby and met more people. Narrators Greg Tremblay and Joel Leslie Froomkin sat with an informal group to talk about their experiences narrating audio books. Joel does fabulous English accents – and some readers will buy everything he reads no matter the genre. (Ditto for Greg.)
Last observation – GRL attendees were warm and welcoming. Authors and readers alike were passionate about the genre and supportive of each other. Author Tina Blenke welcomed me at the Meet and Greet the first night and introduced me to her friend Kathie S. and author Posy Roberts. There were so many friendly faces – authors Nicole Dennis, Eden Winters (another Star Wars fan), Aleah Barley, Lynn Lorenz, and reader Juli and others whose names elude me. I am already planning to attend next year’s event in Denver.