GayRomLit 2014 – the Good and the Bad – a Newbie’s Perspective

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Wow, what an interesting five days it’s been! I was attending the GayRomLit writers conference here in Chicago from last Tuesday night until Saturday night. It was the first of this kind of event I’ve ever been to and I came away with mixed feelings about it.

I was really hoping for workshop panels every day (like at the RWA Spring Fling conference), but those were only on the first day, and the majority of them were pretty basic, if you were just starting out as an author. So unfortunately I didn’t really get much out of those. Though I did enjoy the one on writing different POV’s.

Thursday was my busy day since that was the Supporting Author book signing and the Author Lounge. I’m totally kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo of me and my table set up to show you guys. I thought for sure I’d be sitting there for two hours and no one would even approach me, but it didn’t turn out like that at all. I was busy talking to people nearly non-stop and signing books and tote bags and even a few iPad cases! Had quite a few people compliment me on my book cover designs, which makes me happy since I’m the one who made them. 🙂  I talked to many people who weren’t familiar with my writing but who were interested. Always great to get new fans! I even sold some books! I didn’t quite understand the purpose of the Author Lounge (especially being directly after the book signing) but it did give me an opportunity to hand out my eBook sampler booklets. I printed 20 and only came home with six. So overall I’d say that Thursday was a success.

As for Friday and Saturday – I went to a couple of author Q&A’s and discussion panels but they nearly always strayed from what the topics were supposed to be, which disappointed me. Those that did stay on track I enjoyed very much. Especially the “Snark” panel with K.A. Mitchell, Jordan Castillo Price and Z.A. Maxfield. I totally fangirl’ed all over K.A. and Jordan in the Featured Author book signing. 🙂

For me, there was just a lot of downtime in general. Which for most of the people there it was a good thing since they were all in groups talking, catching up with one another. But since this was my first GRL and I’m fairly new to Facebook, I barely knew five people out of the 300 that were there. Thank goodness my friend Gina Storm Grant was there! We spent a lot of time together. 🙂  But it was nice to see gals from my local Chicago m/m book club. And I did make some new friends and got to talk to several reviewers who have hosted me on their sites, giving me the chance to say Thank You in person, so it wasn’t all bad.

I just felt like a fish out of water, you know? I’ve been so used to attending fan cons for the past 15 years and being so comfortable at them and knowing everyone that this was a new experience for me and I felt…adrift. But speaking of fans – I met two very well known Supernatural fanfic writers! One of whom is now a professional writer like me. It happened totally out of the blue simply because of a comment I said to that said writer when she was describing her latest book to me. She said it dealt with ghosts, etc and I’m like, “Oh I know I’ll enjoy it. Supernatural is my favorite TV show.” Her eyes got huge and next thing I know we’re having a major SPN fangirl moment! She then whispered to me that she writes fanfic and is on LiveJournal. When I said I was too she confided in me her LJ name. Out of respect I will not out her or her lovely friend that Gina and I spent time hanging out with and chatting sitting next to the fireplace. But you know who you are! [waves]

The best part about the conference were the parties on Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday we had the Casino Night party where we were given $500 in play money that we turned in for chips. They had actual dealers there for poker, blackjack, craps and roulette. What was great was that the dealers were basically helping us cheat to win, since most of us had NO idea what we were doing! It was awesome and a lot of fun. Then on Saturday it was the Time Travel costume party. It was really neat to see the vast majority of people dressed up and the music was all from the 70’s and 80’s. Gina and I danced the night away!

Here are a couple of photos of us all dressed up for the parties:

Barb and Gina casino night      Barb and Gina costumes

At this point I’m not sure I’ll attend another GRL. I had major issues with the way the organizers treated the authors in regards to selling our books, all of which was sprung on us at the last minute. Had I known it all up front I never would’ve signed up as a Supporting Author and saved myself a lot of money. But in the end I am glad that I did go to at least experience what GRL was all about. And I didn’t have a horrible time. I really didn’t. I did meet people and sell books. I just learned that I’m more suited to a convention about TV shows and movies. 🙂

4 thoughts on “GayRomLit 2014 – the Good and the Bad – a Newbie’s Perspective

  1. Reblogged this on Gina X. Grant and commented:
    Now I don’t have to write a con report because Jamie’s done it for me.

    I didn’t have quite the same experience only becuase I attended as a reader, not an author. Plus I fangirled the awesome reviewers. I also had a lovely dinner courtesy of Riptide Publishing. Cat Grant my roommie and I had a great time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Jamie 🙂

    I agree about the writer’s workshop, I was hoping for more there as well. And I also agree about the evening events – they were really fun! (I had a ball playing blackjack with you, btw)
    I attended as a reader, and I think that if I do go again (and I probably will) I will try to go as an author, just because the expense was a lot and I think being able to do a signing event would make it more “worthwhile” professionally.
    I think, for me, a big part of my disappointment was in confusing this “retreat” with a more pro-focused “convention”. GRL seemed basically like a get-together, a social event. I guess I was hoping/expecting a bit more on the professional side. I’d have liked to hear more from the featured authors, maybe have more structured events for the newbies like me. More events in general would have helped. I knew no one there, and I spent a lot of time wandering around feeling like a loser. I also agree about the excess of down-time.

    I hope if you go again I will get to chat with you a bit!


    • Well hello there my fellow blackjack player! Was that dealer a hoot or what? 🙂

      Thanks so much for taking a minute to tell me you liked my post, I appreciate it. Especially since I wasn’t all “OMG best event EVER!”. But I felt the need for an honest opinion of what worked for me and what didn’t.

      Glad to know I wasn’t the only one that wasn’t overwhelmed by the workshops. They really should take a page from how the RWA runs events where there are workshops every day so that there are a LOT of topics to cover, not just 4 or 5. I learned so much at that convention.

      If the organizers hadn’t of pulled all that nonsense with us at the very last minute (taking away 25% of all our book sales and imposing all sorts of other rules when we all decided to do pre-orders in order to get around that) I wouldn’t have had any issues with signing up as a Author. But knowing that they can pull this again will make me never sign up as an Author if I ever decide to attend. It put a very bad taste in my mouth.

      A social event is the perfect way to describe GRL. I, too, was expecting more of a professional vibe. Like, I don’t understand the point of sitting there listening to someone read for 45 minutes. I would’ve much more preferred either more Q&A’s with the authors or workshop panels. I wanted to learn how to become a better writer and I didn’t come away with that.

      Aww, I wish I’d known you were another lonely newbie, too! We could’ve formed a support group. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair, the organizers or the GRL as an organization didn’t make a dime off those books. I have no idea how they found out about these strict regulations in Illinois – someone must have told them – but I don’t think they had a choice in the matter and had to handle it this way. The middleman, Anderson, got the 25% and from what I saw, he made a pretty penny those few days. Sucks, but there was nothing we could do about it :/

        It was lovely seeing you. Thanks for coming up to me to say hi. I’m sorry you felt adrift. If you do decide to come again, don’t hesitate to find me. I always try to include people who seem to be alone and discover every time that they’re amazing people and at the end of the retreat I’ve made new friends. I felt last year was too busy with too little downtime to catch up. I’m guessing people complained, because there was plenty of downtime this year. I loved that – wish there’d been more of it and I hardly even attended any panels because I was so busy socializing – but I can see how people who don’t have a ton of catching up to do may have been disappointed.

        Last year’s Writer’s Workshop was amazing. They were hosted mostly by authors and I learned so much. Needless to say, I was severely disappointed this year. I learned almost nothing new and felt that they were directed only to new writers. I don’t think I’ll attend the Writer’s Workshop next year, unless I get to see the schedule first.

        Liked by 1 person

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