What did we do this year? My head's still spinning...
Got in Tuesday night and went to a fabulous pub a few blocks down from the hotel, Pints and Plates, with Silvia Violet, Hank Edwards, Christy and ET Thomas and Sara York. It was Beer Geek Night there and food, beer and company were all wonderful. I get so nervous before these events and getting to hook up with old friends first thing really calmed things down for me.
A GRL first, the workshop was designed to include classes for all levels of writers, whether just starting out or those who've been to a more than a few rodeos. Me? I've been around the block a few times (hush, I heard that snicker.)
This filled a huge gap I know a lot of writers felt was missing, all aimed toward professional development. There were workshops on writing different genres, on several demons that plague the fiction writer, (like passive voice) on branding and marketing, on publishing with an agent. The other first for GRL? Pitch sessions. A mainstay of larger conventions, these are usually small bits of time with publishers, agents and acquisitions editors for which the author pays extra. At GRL? All part of the price of admission. Good practice, good way to get your name to some important industry people, good way to expand your professional portfolio or even start your career.
Time to set up swag - and, oh my goodness! The imaginative stuff everyone brought this year. My poor jaw suffered rug burn from being dropped so many times. I think we've all agreed to crown Eden Winters as Swag Empress of the Universe but it was tough, as an author, not to snatch all sorts of stuff up early. Amber Kell's Chinese take out boxes of intriguing mystery. Abi Roux's t-shirts (woohoo!) Kaje Harper's evil plot bunny squishies.
Lovely cocktail party that evening where I found a much more relaxed than I've ever seen him Damon Suede. I know lots of folks went out to the clubs that night, but kids, too many late nights are not a good thing for me. I stayed to talk to some of my favorite people, met some new ones, and turned in at a decent hour. (No, you do not get to know what time.)
Never have been so nervous in my long, nerve-rattled life. I had this spotlight to do in the afternoon, you see, and there would be no moderator. It was all us. I was anticipating my fellow authors and I seizing up, the audience staring in barely contained contempt while the crickets chirped in the corners.
*spoiler alert* The day did not live up to my worst nightmares.
Started off with Belinda McBride and KC Burn at our breakfast planning session. We found we meshed so well, we really didn't plan very much besides a few basic concepts and possibilities if things went wrong. Nerves calmed to the point that I no longer felt like I was having a stroke (merely a coronary) and off we went to collect swag and stalk supporting authors.
Oh, look! The publisher's room is open! So many tempting yummies, but I managed to contain myself to a single purchase, Eric Arvin's The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, which came highly recommended by my dear friend Hank Edwards. (How could I resist?)
It was amazing. (*echo effect* Seexxx Iiinnnn Spaaaaaaacce) The audience was full of folks who know and understand the genre, who asked great questions and stayed engaged. We didn't need the readings we'd prepared. We didn't need to fall back on contingencies. It was more like an extended conversation with a (large) group of friends. Thank you, thank you to everyone who showed up and made the experience so lively and enjoyable for your three sacrificial la....er, authors. I loved that we were able to talk about not only our specific stories, processes and struggles but that we could also talk about the genre past and present and the changes in the industry over the past ten years.
I did not throw up from the nerves. Not even once. Then I got to meander and relax and have a nice gnash with friends at the opening ceremonies before the first party.
Will Prater came up to me at some point during the day and asked "You want to come to my room later?" I blinked at him in stunned surprise but he went on to say that it would be a special Live from GRL edition of the Write On The Edge radio show. Hehe. That was tons of fun with authors and loved ones perched on various pieces of hotel furniture (5 of us ended up on the bed, lol.) Hank Edwards, Maguerite Labbe, Jeff Erno, Allison Cassatta, Wt Prater, Lily Velden, Jambrea Gaff, Edmond Manning and I giggled and winged our way through the questions with a little snark, a little TMI and a special visit from not-quite Anne Rice thrown in.
Hardest day down - the rest? Easy-peasy. (Well, as easy as being social far more than I am all year is for me, lol.)
Friday: I Get To Watch
Busy day for me, but not difficult. Volunteered at the readings in the morning, so I got to hear Ethan Day and Zam, Eden Winters and Jessica Freely and tons of other readings. I think I love the readings best of all. Some folks have told me they don't want to hear someone else read - that it spoils the cadence of the story in their heads - but for me, I love hearing an author's interpretation of their story. What do they find moving or important? What kind of an excerpt did they choose? Was it funny, sexy, ominous, heart-wrenching? The choice alone says so much about the author and has prompted several buying decisions.
On to scrapbooking! I don't even know what a scrapbook is supposed to look like (or I didn't.) We had instructions on how to make the correct page but a lot of readers make their own sizes and shapes and several were kind enough to show me how the pages would look and how it all comes together :)
One Enchanted Evening came - lovely event. (Yes, I know. I have to stop using that word...but it was.) Everyone looked marvelous, from Andrew Grey in his white tux to Kris Jacen in her flame red evening gown. Jonathan Karrant had a wonderful voice for the blues - nice to hear songs I recognized. Ahem.
What better way to start the day than an adrenaline rush? Wheeee! My reading group was scheduled at 9am. I arrived last and as punishment, they put me last. (OK, fine, I'm sure it was all arranged beforehand and I really didn't mind.) Got to hear Jordan Hawk and PD Singer read so I'd say that was more than fair.
I read a Blaze Emerson passage from the upcoming SF release, Rarely Pure and Never Simple (November 1, MLR) and realized I had not dressed well for the occasion. You see, most of the events had been stifling, temperature wise, so I wore a t-shirt and jeans and my vintage pink Chucks. I shivered so hard during the reading, I think they could hear my teeth rattling in the kitchen. But I got through - woohoo! Only minor stumbles. It's fun to read Blaze. He can be such a jerk.
Lunch with my posse and then - the hugely ginormous book signing!
(That's the lovely EM Lynley in her too cute chef's outfit this year!)
The signing was super crazy for the initial rush but calmed nicely after the first forty five minutes. I got to talk to so many wonderful readers this year about, oh, everything from pookas to SF to story locations. During downtimes, I had the wonderfully eloquent Kaje Harper on my right for conversation, the mischievously hilarious duo of Ally Blue and Jade Buchanan on my left (with Ally's stuffed friends doing inappropriate things) and Lynn Lorenz sitting across the aisle trying her best to make me crack up. (She succeeded. Hey, I'm easy.)
Our little group of friends did skip the cocktail party in favor of dinner at an incredible Thai fusion restaurant, Poor Calvin's. Weird name for a Thai place, we all said, but the food was wonderful and before we left, I think half the attendees had shown up. Panang to die for - if you're ever in Atlanta, don't miss this place.
All right, yes, I did spend a huge amount of party bouncing around getting photos but I got to see everyone that way :)
It was bittersweet, saying good bye again to friends I see once a year, to the second family I never thought I'd have. To the organizers - the events were amazing this year. To the readers - thank you for all your support and enthusiasm. To the reviewers - thank you for getting the word out. To the publishers - thank you for all you do, for all of us.
Here's to next year! See you in Chicago, all y'all!
P.S. - for all my pics and some from other wonderful photographers, go to the Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/angelwritesmm/grl-2013/