GRL – reality vs fantasy

The GRL retreat was and still remains an excellent idea. Judging by the number of people who went and wanted to go but couldn’t, it’s a great opportunity to mix with like minded individuals all with the same interest. The organizers made a pretty unwieldy schedule work as best they could and it went decently on time. A lot of readers want to meet and mingle with their favorite authors and have conversations about a genre they love or books in general. Specializing one of the massive conferences to just M/M and having it in a small, more intimate setting is really ingenious. I definitely tip my hat to whoever came up with this idea.

Unfortunately I think the execution never quite matched up to the idea.

Although the schedule looked extremely busy and packed, it was in fact pretty barren of actual worthwhile events. The majority of the time was booked for author readings, author socials, publisher spotlights, and tours of New Orleans. Again, a decent enough if somewhat limited concept but didn’t really execute in a great way. The author readings were strained and difficult. There were only two authors who caught my attention while sitting there that engaged and excited me about their work. Many, many, MANY authors were very difficult to understand/hear or talked in a bit of a monotone drone. It reminded me of the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies “wah wah wah wah.” Sadly some of the authors I like did this as well, which kills the energy of the book and the reader.

Other authors chose to read more salacious bits of their books, which I truly loathed. Now this is a personal preference but I really don’t want to hear a man old enough to be my grandfather talking about how to suck an erect cock. Just…no thank you. Or an author giving sound effects to cumming. I mean, really? Ok that could be just me but there were no other options for the retreat unless you went to the readings. So you could have skipped them entirely and just hung out in New Orleans but the point of the conference is to attend the activities so I was pretty disappointed with the readings.

The publisher spotlights existed for readers to buy books from the publisher during that hour (and ONLY that designated publisher hour) but nothing else. This wasn’t really an interactive time and unless you wanted to buy and haul a bunch of print books, not really worth attending. Additionally while the various tours of New Orleans (ghost and cemetary) are good in theory and I’ve been on several really great tours in my trips to New Orleans, whatever company GRL booked with had really horrible guides. My vampire tour consisted of speed walking through the quarter while losing half our group. The guide talked in a drone about very basic, benign stories. Not very interesting or sadly worthwhile. This of course got around in the retreat and people were skipping the tours in droves.

Which leads me to the social events in general. Here is where the most frustration of the entire retreat came into play for me. Now I’m a pretty shy individual but most readers self identify as shy and/or introverted people. We’re just not the type to walk up to people and talk. Now don’t get me wrong, there are TONS of people who would walk up to authors and squee all over them and more power to them. However at the socials what happened is everyone was in cliques. Authors would sit together or hang out together at their tables and talk amongst themselves. A few would table hop and mingle but very few.

The girls and I frequently ended up at our own table, chatting amongst ourselves. A couple were more adventurous than I and would approach authors but I never really felt comfortable. I was hoping the authors would make an effort during the social events to talk to more readers and perhaps introduce themselves (I know authors can be shy too). Tam had the best idea when she said what really should have happened is the author signing on the first day. That way you could place the face with the name, introduce yourself, chit chat a little, break the ice for easier conversations for the remainder of the trip. Instead it was difficult to read the name tags of the authors and frequently I had no idea who the author was until I asked someone. Perhaps some of this was alleviated during the author socials but those always seemed to happen when we were on tours or traveling to tours so it was extremely difficult to attend those smaller events.

On another note I don’t know why the retreat offered no panels, no discussions, no moderated events at all. There was no discussion about the genre, no panels on blogging or reading or reviewing or whatever. There was no real dynamic interaction other than socializing. Now that’s great and all and easily one reason why the entire weekend was a huge success but it would have enhanced the retreat and made the events more interesting (IMHO) if there had been more dialogue.

Ok that’s enough for now but more to come!


52 responses to “GRL – reality vs fantasy

  • Tam

    You make some really good points Kassa. I never got to any publisher spot lights because there was always somewhere else I was supposed to be.

    I was also thinking about some of the panels that could have been held. Some ideas I came up with were:

    * bloggers (How review bloggers and author bloggers are changing the industry – or are they)
    * The writing process (How do writers choose names, body types, find their plot bunnies, pantsers vs plotters, etc. I find that stuff really interesting)
    * Male authors vs female authors. (Not negative, just a chance for each to give their perspective on being in a business where 85% of the readers are women.)
    * On-line interactions between authors and readers (For? Against? Negatives? Positives?)
    * Writing BDSM (Always a fun topic)
    * Why we love shifters (authors and readers perspectives)
    * The publishing industry (There were publishers there, where do they see things going, what about self-published authors, a boon or a threat?)
    * Goodreads. (A good thing? Beneficial to authors and readers? Taking the place of review blogs?)

    I suppose some of these have the potential to stir up a hornets nest with proponents on both sides. You’d hope everyone would be respectful of other’s opinions and maybe they just didn’t want to deal.

    I know at YaoiCon it was not the organizers who started the panels but participants. I think Clare did that for hers. You let the organizers know you were going to do a panel on X, they assigned you a room and time and then it was up to you to recruit speakers and spread the word although it was in the timetable. I think that would allow the organizers to be off the hook somewhat as I know they can’t do everything and have a real life too. But if I said I wanted to do a shifter panel I could find readers and authors who love it and organize it. So there are alternatives which can take some pressure off the organizers to do everything.

    My other complaint was the main social room was set up with tables. That works fine for breakfast, but for a reception, where I come from, that means standing up, wandering around and mingling. If there are no tables, people are far less likely to park their butts and just stay there. I know it’s a pain in the ass to hold a glass and a plate of food, but I’ve done it for years and survived. LOL So keep people on their feet and moving and they are far more likely to mingle than if they have to get up and walk up to a table of 7 strangers and introduce themselves. (Excuse me while my panic button goes off.) I heard several people say they were surprised that receptions had so many tables and seated people.

    The construction at the author readings was bad. I know we couldn’t predict that but along with the smelly paint smell, I would hope the hotel made some kind of accomodation for that in the way of a price reduction. The pool area was nice for receptions though.

    Someone also suggested using it as a chance to get the inside scoop from your authors. Let us read a bit of your latest WIP that no one else has seen yet. Tell us a tidbit about the follow-up book that hasn’t been released. Give us something that everyone else on the internet hasn’t seen yet. Make us feel special for traveling and paying our fee.

    Not so many goody bags. I know everyone wants to promote themselves but a large majority of us flew there. I know we all left a lot of stuff behind for the cleaning crew because we simply had no space for it. And I do not want to go bar hopping with a goody bag. (Hope they enjoyed those treats at Lafitte where we all dumped our bags.) Give me one bag at the entrance (which we got) and that’s it. Swag? How about every participant gets a USB with a file folder on it for each author. This could include a free first chapter from some of your books. A free short story you whipped up just for the participants, whatever you want really. Cheaper if every author paid .50 and easily portable and is far more likely to encourage me to buy an author’s stories than a gadget, bottle opener or key chain. Although the Halloween socks I thought were brilliant.

    So thank you for letting me throw my 2 cents in on your blog and not having to write my own post. I think for a first effort it was worthy and I don’t regret going one little bit, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make it better and more meaningful in the future.

    • Tam

      Holy crap. Sorry. LOL

    • Kassa

      *takes a deep breath* Ok let me go through your comment and see if I can say something intelligent instead of “hell yes!”

      All of those ideas are really great ones. I also had a few ideas and though some of mine dovetailed to yours I’d love to see somethings like

      *Favorite tropes used – are they overused? Beloved? Still relevant?

      *Along the lines of your online interactions – is the anonymous nature of the web helpful or hurtful to those associations?

      *How to keep the genre fresh for long time readers.

      *Where to start in the genre if you’re new

      I also don’t think these needed to be full on panels where people listen per se. They could have been author led discussions where a small amount of people talk and discuss amongst themselves. I prefer a bigger platform to hear all of the views but at the same time just mixing it up in a smaller venue is fine too.

      I realize that any of the things we’ve said have the potential for drama but consider that you have to OWN your statements because you’re saying them out loud and in person. There is no screen name to hide behind so I think, while potentially there would be disagreements, it would still provoke some really thoughtful dialogue.

      I also think it would be perfectly fine for the participants to set up their own panels. I know all of you women are outgoing enough to stand up on a panel and moderate it. I think that’s a perfectly viable and worthwhile option.

      I truly hated the seated social events. They were awkward, cliquish and very difficult to endure. I personally will not approach a full table (or hell even an author sitting alone). Part of this was that I didn’t recognize most of the authors so had no idea even who to approach if I was so inclined. I tried very hard not to cling to you guys like a tumor but I found those events very difficult and poorly handled. I think like you said, people should be forced to mingle and furthermore there should be some sort of division amongst the authors so you knew where to go. For example, in one corner the MLR authors. In another, TEB (*grin*).

      I totally agree about the readings. I was ok with listening but I don’t have the best hearing though I’m far from deaf and found the readings difficult to hear (and I know I’m not the only one). Just because authors aren’t the best speakers doesn’t mean that time couldn’t have been used better. Let the author get up and promo a new book, tell a story, a memorable way for readers to associate with the author.

      As for swag.. holy christ. I have a whole post on that coming up. Talk about missed opportunity. If you don’t mind I may just copy your paragraph from here onto that post.

      That said I had a great time but mostly I had a great time as a vacation in NO.

  • S.L. Armstrong

    It’s like that at a lot of small, non-paneled cons. The couple I’ve attended have always broken down into cliques, and it’s never really comfortable.

    We chose not to attend because, after reading all the stuff when registration opened, it just felt like I’d be paying for the privilege of hanging out with friends in NO and having a holiday. Not my idea of a reason to attend a convention. I like conventions because of the panels, events, and fun networking.

    If GRL shapes up into that sort of thing next year–with panels, events, socials, and more comfortable interaction between readers, authors, and publishers–I’d go in a heartbeat. :)

    Still, I’m glad everyone had fun with what was available, and yeah, readings tend to make me uncomfortable–both giving and listening. There’s a vast difference between being a good writer and being able to read your own writing effectively.

    • Kassa

      I’ve been to many, many cons – both large and small – and this one was perhaps the least worthwhile. On the one hand I did get to meet people and hang out with authors but on the other hand, I didn’t particularly enjoy the tours and the events weren’t so much fun. I also ended up with so much “swag” – which I threw away about 95% of it. (I have a swag post coming up). I also didn’t feel that any real meaningful conversations were held. I know many of the authors and fellow readers are intelligent, articulate people so why can’t we talk about the genre? Unno..

      I think the idea was a laid back, casual retreat style but that’s dependent on outgoing personalities. It seemed the authors had no trouble interacting amongst themselves and frequently seen chatting and table hopping between other authors but very rarely did that include readers. A specific reader or two (perhaps brave ones) tended to hang at the “author tables” but for the most part the readers ended up shuffling together just so they weren’t standing there alone.

      While I had a great time in NO, I have no interest in doing another GRL retreat (especially in nowhere NM).

      Oh and readings? God love those authors for getting up but the mic was problematic at best and the authors were not the best vocalists. Why would they be?

  • mantastic

    I had a totally different experience, in that I appreciated the relaxed atmosphere. I’ve been to cons where it felt I was running from place to place while trying to keep up with a rigid schedule. This definitely felt like a vacation for me and I am very excited to have met some of my favorite authors. And having a seating area gave me a great spot to hang while the social butterflies of our group did their thing … most of which meant snagging authors and/or readers and bringing them by our table for a chat.

    I thought the readings were fabulous! Of the ones I attended, I’d say half of them read new material. There are 2 in particular that I am very excited about. Ethan Day’s current WIP seemed to have everyone laughing and K C Burn’s story due out in a few weeks sounds like it’ll be one that will pull on the heart strings. There were a few reading where the author picked a racy part and blushed their way through it, but it made me smile because at least they tried. I don’t know how many times I heard an author say that GRL was the first time they had read their work in front of an audience.

    And I am so glad that the publishers and authors brought books. As much as I love e-books, I still adore my print ones and the volume available at the reduced rate and no shipping … fantastic. I went a little nuts. But I drove to NO so I had the room to haul it all back home. I may have to be a bit more selective next year in Alb since our little group in planning to fly.

    So, maybe next year they will have one badge color for authors and another for readers so it’s more obvious. And maybe some panels to allow for more organized discussion/debate for those who are interested. But for me, it was a great, casual introduction to like-minded individuals without being overwhelmed.

    • Kassa

      Hi there! I don’t think we met (did we?) but it’s great to hear your comments. I know I may be in the minority about the experience judging from the yahoo loop but I just wanted to share my own thoughts on the retreat.

      I think the laid back atmosphere is key. No one (neither authors or readers) want to be stressed on what should be a vacation. Some people like to run around constantly and some don’t. I’m actually fine with a more laid back schedule but I think the one we had was simply TOO laid back without enough options. I didn’t need to be doing something every second (though I don’t mind that either) but I do like to look at a schedule and think “what a fun day ahead.” Whereas I looked at the GRL and thought “how am I going to fill the day.”

      I appreciate that authors aren’t necessarily the best readers (out loud anyway). So that’s understandable and I think offering new material and sneak peeks are wonderful. Please please continue to do that! I just wish there had been another set up than head down, reading from a paper, mumbling into a microphone. I’m glad you had so much fun at yours and that is probably why they’re so successful and fun. I -wanted- to have fun at them but ultimately didn’t sadly.

      You drove?! Lucky girly! Ha I flew and even with a half empty suitcase I was struggling with room. I can’t imagine how some of the others managed to fit everything in. I love print books and I think they have a place but I also think that place should have been more open to others than just one hour. I would have bought some print books to be honest if there had been a more central publisher selling room.

      Oooh color coded would have been great! I also think the retreat was a good casual introduction. The social part was the highlight by a lot.

      Thanks for commenting though! I’m definitely interested in what other people thought, good and bad.

  • Antonella

    the retreat offered no panels, no discussions, no moderated events at all. There was no discussion about the genre, no panels on blogging or reading or reviewing or whatever. There was no real dynamic interaction other than socializing.

    Oh, this is interesting. Somehow I had imagined that this kind of events would be the main thing at such meeting.

    I suppose this was not only unfortunate for someone who is not that much into socializing, but it was also a good occasion missed for interesting discussions.

    • Kassa

      Well I know this isn’t a big convention (which generally offer those kinds of thing) but at the same time I thought they’d offer a more intimate discussion. Instead it was mostly social, which I appreciate but I found the social events difficult because there was nothing to help get the readers to the authors (except alcohol which I will say worked).

  • Chris

    Really excellent points, Kassa and Tam! I really wanted the con to have a room where you could buy stuff throughout the con – this is the first con I’ve ever been to that didn’t have such a room.

    Also, I’d suggest not scheduling things before about 10 or 11 am in a crazy drinking town like NOLA. :)

    • Kassa

      Yes! Excellent points on both of those. I don’t think NM will have the same problem about early events but I’m sorry an 8am brunch after a night of hard drinking is just ridiculous.

      Also a publisher room would have gone a long way to parting me with my money for print books.

  • Jenre

    Very interesting to read your perspective on things, Kassa. I have to admit I was a little baffled when I saw that there were no scheduled panels for GRL as I thought that was what most cons did!

    When I went to the day meeting for UK authors and readers, I felt there had been a good balance between panel talks and hobnobbing. We had 3 ‘talks’ from authors about writing/publicity, a presentation by TEB which gave us an insight into the epub industry and a couple of general question/answer discussions. The rest of the time was spent circulating and chatting. We were small though and so it was not as easy to be cliquey, although that did happen a little bit. That format worked for me and I think next year we are hoping to expand so people can have a choice of panels to go to. Whilst I understand that the format GRL decided on was much more relaxed, I think that I may have mourned the lack of good discussion panels. One of the highlights for me at Yaoicon was listening to Ginn Hale, Lynn Flewelling, Astrid Amara and Marie Sexton talk about fantasy and m/m writing in general.

    I couldn’t go to GRL this year, but I think I may have been a little disappointed to have spent all that money on going to NOLA to meet some of my favourite authors, only to find I didn’t get chance to speak to them. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to approach someone I didn’t know.

    • Kassa

      Your day meeting sounds perfect. I personally quite enjoy panels and usually attend as many as possible when I go to conventions. It’s also a way to strike up a conversation with people to talk about the panels and discussions. Like you, I would have appreciated some low level moderated talk.

      You being so popular I’m sure you would have gotten to talk to whoever you wanted – the Riverboat cruise had all the authors stuck at their table for 2.5 hrs to sign and chat. This is a good quick way to introduce yourself but not enough for real in depth conversation. Usually people were waiting behind you and the onus was on you to come up with something witty/interesting/intelligent to say so the author didn’t just do the usual vague smile and chit chat. Unless you like that kind of thing.

      Most of the socializing between authors and readers came during the social events but either you’re in a bar or trying to break into a clique, which however much Kris and I joked about breaking them up, never quite worked.

  • K. Z. Snow

    A really thoughtful, informative post, Kassa — and brave! You and the other blogger/reviewer women should contact the event organizers directly with your reactions and suggestions. You all are certainly articulate, and it might help those folks plan better for future gatherings.

    I guess I’m not much a conference person: tend to skip out on organized activities, recoil from cliques, hate smiling like a lunatic or being in the spotlight or making small talk — all that stuff. I just like to hang out and get to know people in a casual atmosphere. (But I am a danged good oral reader!) I’ve always thought that if I ever went to one of these shindigs, I’d go incognito. Just sort of quietly slip from one group to another and eavesdrop on all the smack talk. That, I think, would be infinitely more revealing than any panel! ;-)

    • Kassa

      Oh the random chatter going on around was definitely informative and more interesting than any of the events. Especially as the alcohol was flowing very freely and frequently.

      I’d be happy to share my thoughts but I’m waiting to see if the organizers send out some kind of review sheet or anonymous form. I kind of get the feeling they have a firm idea of what they want and aren’t really interested in changing. I could be wrong but also the yahoo loop about GRL is filled with nothing but “the retreat was perfect!” So I could just be a lone reed on this one. (Shocker)

  • K. Z. Snow

    Oh . . . and what exactly is in a “goody bag”? I see these things referred to time and time again, but they remain a mystery to me. I’m only familiar with grumpy old bags. Like myself. :-)

    • Tam

      Goodie bags include any or all of the following:

      post cards
      book marks
      bottle openers
      mardi gras beads
      buttons
      rubber ducks
      plastic cups
      pens
      pencils
      candy/chocolate
      other reusable shopping bags
      trading cards
      magnets
      post-it notes
      flashlights

      That’s all I can think of. Usually some combination of those. Oh and a pair of Halloween socks, still my fave. LOL

  • K. Z. Snow

    O_O Wow. I’ve seen people discuss having bookmarks made, but not the other stuff (rubber ducks?) None of it seems very big or heavy, though. Would it really have taken up that much space in your luggage?

  • Josephine Myles

    This is all really helpful stuff, Kassa – thank you for sharing it and prompting discussion. Like Jen says, we’re trying to do something much more like a convention with panels over here, although most people did say afterwards that the social interaction was their favourite thing.

    I find myself wondering, though, would people have interacted so well if they hadn’t already had a big group discussion about m/m? It’s much easier to approach someone afterwards if you can ask them about the point they made.

    And you know, if readers are intimidated by approaching authors, I think authors are just as intimidated by approaching readers. What if they’ve never heard of me or never read my stuff? What if they hate it? Much easier to stick with the other authors! That’s why I think the more formal panels, debates and Q&A sessions are a good way of getting the different groups of people talking.

    And I’m definitely adding all those panel suggestions to our list to discuss when planning for next year :D

    • Kassa

      Hi there!

      It sounds like the UK meet up was a good mix of both. I really really really agree with your comment about a previous panel prompting discussion. I said somewhere that it’s easier to approach and converse with an author if you have an opening topic. With some authors it’s easy to just chit chat / shoot the shit/ etc but with others having something specific to start the discussion goes a long way. So listening to their views on the genre could lead to some interesting discussions, not only among authors and readers but among readers themselves.

      I do appreciate that authors may be just as shy/introverted/intimidated as readers. I recognize that and try to be understanding. However this was billed as a thank you and a retreat for readers. In a big convention I don’t expect authors to come up to me but during rare meet/greet/mingle type events they do tend to wander instead of grouping together.

      I’m not sure what a better way is to facilitate more interaction but as a shy reader, I was frustrated.

      • Josephine Myles

        Sounds like they needed some of those dreaded icebreaker activities I used to have to make my students do at the beginning of a new class! I know people groan and hate the idea of doing them, but it does give a sense of shared “OMG – what on earth are we being made to do?” cameraderie, and gives people something to talk about.

        Small talk is tricky for a lot of people, and approaching someone whose books you love is pretty intimidating, I agree. I’ve been to a fair few booksignings, and I swear I always feel like I’ve made an idiot of myself!

        • Kassa

          Of course knowing me I’d have grumbled about ice breakers (can’t please me!). But seriously I found it so awkward. One on one I can have a conversation but it’s so difficult to start especially with “i liked your books” (If you even did) and the author smiles and says thank you. Not a single one asked me which is my favorite or why or what I liked about them. That could have led to a more interesting discussion – at least I think.

          I have a meeting the authors post coming up which goes into the few authors I did meet but I’m just not a squeeing type person :(. Tho if we meet, I’m totally going to scream “JOSEPHINE MYLES!” and tackle you … *cries laughing* I can’t wait!

          • Josephine Myles

            I think that’s one of those things authors find really difficult too. You don’t want to dig too deep in case you discover they’re only saying that to be nice! Maybe if you’d said you loved a particular title, that might have prompted more conversation. Then again, maybe not…

            LOL! I don’t squee either, but I’d be overjoyed to be tackled by you, Kassa ;)

  • Treva Harte

    I would have loved to have met you both at the Retreat. I saw Tam briefly at the riverboat signing but since I am an early morning person and opted to not do the tours, I must have missed a lot of people. (And the dine with an author breakfast that I was at was early morning too.)

    • Kassa

      Hi there! I think we met in passing. I remember someone saying Loose Id were giving away great bags but I missed out. Too slow.
      Early morning just didn’t work well for me because I’d rather stay up until 4 am than get up that early.

      Hopefully we’ll get a chance next time!

  • Ingrid

    As I have never been to a convention of any sorts I don’t have anything uselfull to say about what is normal.
    I saw the program and it looked awfully busy. I remember wondering if there would be any time left for exploring NOLA and to just soak up some sun with a few drinks. Seems that there was but not for the good reasons.

    The tours stink, to me it sounds like a lack of research from the organisers. There are also review sites for tourist things (like virtual tourist where I am a member). NOLA must have loads of tour organisationss that are good.

    You have cliques with every meet. I have noticed myself too and you can’t avoid them. But sitting at tables doesn’t help at all.

    All in all it sounds like a missed opportunity. Everyone was there to make it really hip and happening but it didn’t work out that way.

    • Kassa

      To be honest that was my exact thought at first and was glad that I’ve been to New Orleans many, many times so I wouldn’t feel rushed or cheated. Instead we had a lot of downtime, which is a double edged sword.

      I know that not every convention will be perfect, though I have to say the early years at Blizzcon remain my favorite conventions of all time, but as much fun as I had in NOLA, GRL wasn’t the highlight. That makes me sad. Anyway some have suggested I contact the organizers so I’m going to think on that. I don’t think they need or want my opinion though lol.

  • Marie Sexton

    I’m very sorry if readers felt authors weren’t friendly. I don’t think any of us intended that to be the case. I have to second what Josephine said. I never really felt comfortable walking up to a group of strangers and introducing myself. I was afraid that doing so would make me look like some kind of diva. (“I’m Marie. You MUST know who I am and be DYING for my autograph!” LOL.)

    I do agree that events could have been timed better and put into better spaces. It felt like rush-rush-rush, and then wait-wait-wait. But personally, I’m happy without the panels. I’m tired of talking about women vs. men, and 1st person vs. 3rd, and all the usual bullshit. I avoid 90% of the online m/m world because I’m tired of the discussions on overused tropes and all the things that are wrong with our genre. I hate the idea of anything that results in more bashing and bickering and nitpicking. But it’s also because in the conventions I’ve gone to, I’ve never really been overly impressed by panels. I just want to eat and drink and be merry. I’m really very much in favor of more wine and more naked men. And maybe more cheese. ;-)

    Also, yes, let’s PLEASE not start anything at 7am next year. Good lord. Saturday morning just about killed me. And as for swag, I agree it was insane. WAY too many bookmarks. They could probably paper the walls of the entire hotel with the bookmarks that ended up in the trash.

    Great to meet you in person, Kassa, and great to see so many of the others again!

    • Kassa

      Well you were very kind and one of the few authors who made a point to circulate and talk so really that comment doesn’t apply to you or Heidi. I have a meeting the authors post where I specifically say how nice you two were – in a non-suck up but more informational way.

      I know long time con’ers like authors who do SO many are way over panels. I get that just as I too don’t really want to talk about everything wrong in the genre on a variety of blogs. I get that as well. I do think some kind of dialogue offering, even a small discussion group, would have helped. Or perhaps offer those things to those who want to go but authors who prefer a more relaxed setting can do that too?

      I’m good with eating, drinking, and being merry to be honest. I’ve said numerous times the people are what made the trip. But then you stop and wonder if you paid $100 to meet up with your friends. Perhaps but we could just as easily do that somewhere else maybe. I think as a retreat it has to offer something to the readers and while the social aspect is good, I didn’t feel it was integrated enough to really make it fully satisfying. But I take my responsibility for that as well.

      Great meeting you as well! Though your picture is everywhere I had no idea who you were until the girls started talking to you and then of course too shy to introduce myself lol. But you’re an easy one to feel comfortable around so soon I was cracking snarky. oops.

      • Marie Sexton

        That’s a good idea to have both, really. Panels for those who want them, and just more wine and nekkid men for those who don’t. ;-)

        It’s unfortunate that the Dine with an Author thing sort of fell through. Heidi and I had initially expected to be hosting a meal with about a dozen readers. That was where we intended to give away our best swag. In the end, there were only three people scheduled to dine with us, and then we invited three more at the last minute, and it was SO much fun (despite my horrific hangover that morning). I would have LOVED to do multiple meals with groups of readers. Also, Heidi and I had intended to do an Arbor Mist party in our room, but it was just too busy to squeeze it in. We’ll be sure to sign up to host something next year. We’re thinking coffee and porn, for obvious reasons!

        At any rate, live and learn. I’ll definitely still be attending next year, but Albuquerque is just down the road for me. I still owe Tam a drink from this year, so I’ll just extend that and buy a round for you all if you make it. (And feel free to remind me, because I am an airhead.) :)

        • Kassa

          I think your ideas are excellent. Most of the meals we ate amongst ourselves or alone or missed because liquid dinners are so much better. I think it would have been great to rotate among the authors. It would be nice if you give a list of authors you’d like as well. Not to play favorites and I ended up with an author I had read thankfully but I no longer did and the lunch was so awkward – dominated between one reader’s ranting and the other’s bragging. I couldn’t pay my portion fast enough.

          I also think if it’s an interactive thing (like coffee and porn) then readers could be encouraged to bring their own porn. I know in our little group we were exchanging yaoi books. Or a book exchange. That might not be practical… ok my mind is running in odd circles now so I’ll just say.. I love those ideas.

          Depending who is going to do NM could make the decision for me. It’s hard though because it’s really close to one of my favorite video game conferences (which I skipped to come to GRL!). So we’ll see but thank you for the kind offer of a drink.

  • Tracy

    Some really great points here, Kassa. I think having the signing the first day would have been excellent. I met so many authors on that trip that I talked to after that. If it was the first day I couldn’t have probably socialized more.

    For me the event was about being with my peeps and meeting the authors and other readers/bloggers (that I didn’t already know) was just a bonus. It was difficult to meet new readers though. I chatted up one woman and thought we were having a great convo. I turned for a moment to make a comment to a friend and when I turned back she has disappeared. Oops. Obviously I’m not quite the stimulating conversationalist I thought I was. lol

    There was A LOT of loot/swag that I didn’t bring home with me. Some of it was passed up because it was too risque and I didn’t want my kids pawing through it and seeing more than their little eyes could handle. The rest was just too much. I understand that the authors want something quirky to be remembered by but it needs to be useful!

    I think a different colored badge for the authors would have been awesome. I never knew who was what.

    • Kassa

      Actually if it was the reader you introduced us too I think we scared her. She wasn’t really interested in talking to us (the nerve!) and she kind of skittered away.

      I also think it could have helped facilitate conversations if there was a more interactive scavenger hunt. The beads were ok once people told us where to get them but imagine if each author you talked to gave you a chance to win the big prize? That might motivate readers to walk up to authors more.

      I also think a different colored badge would be awesome. You’d instantly differentiate the readers from authors because how are you supposed to know which author is which? Unless there is some kind of listing of pictures with names in the program I wouldn’t have known prior to the signing.

  • Stephani Hecht

    I’m sorry it didn’t seem more author friendly and I hope I wasn’t one of the ones who came off as aloof. I tried my very best to be friendly, but I do tend to be shy in person. Plus, a huge part of me realizes that I’m just a little nobody in this business, so I didn’t want to monopolize all of somebody’s time when I know they probably came to meet bigger authors.

    It was the first year for this event, so I’m sure there are plenty of quirks that the coordinators will iron out for future years. I happen to think the different colored badges is a great idea.

    • Kassa

      Hello and thank you for commenting! I’m feeling so popular of late.. lol.

      No, not you. I know Chris (stumbling over chaos) talked you up quite a bit and I wanted to meet you but then I thought I’d just stay in the background and wave vaguely because that’s just so much better. *cough* You were lovely as was your shy sister. So I definitely take my own responsibility for not interacting as much as I could have. I know it’s a bit intimidating on both sides.

      I do think as with anything it’s likely to get better each time.

  • Eden Winters

    I’ll freely admit that I was terrified. I’d never been to a con before, never did a reading (or even attended one), and the two before mine were tough acts to follow. I was shaking like a leaf the whole time. Thank goodness the jackhammer had stopped by that point. I never even considered reading something new, going with something that seemed well-recieved, hoping to spur interest in the future sequels. Now I know and if I had it to do over again, I may have picked a WIP, though I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable enough to read a sex scene openly.

    That’s what I love about your site, Kassa. I find out things that I really need to know.

    The people were awesome and I did my share of squeeing, and now miss the many wonderful folks I met. That’s the hard part. I love people, and parting really is difficult for me, though I gained a whole slew of Facebook friends who are sharing their pictures and memories.

    I’m reading the comments here and taking notes for next time. Many posts I’ve read had the same comments about swag. I’m living and learning. How many of ya’ll are planning to attend next year? I know I’m counting the days.

    • Kassa

      Oh god the jackhammer. I freely admit I don’t have the best hearing but that was difficult. I had a hard time hearing you too. I knew the book so I knew what you were saying (amazing how quickly the details come back) but the mic was good for some people but low for others. Such as you and Trina Lane, or was it Tara Lin? I just remember leaning forward and really straining to hear. I know public speaking is a skill and not one I possess so I certainly don’t blame any authors. It just made it difficult to enjoy the readings.

      I think the people were and will continue to be the best part of the retreat no matter what. I think setting it up as a way to have casual, relaxed interactions is perfect. I LOVED sitting at a table with you and PD Singer and just chatting about whatever. It was wonderful. That was the kind of interaction I had hoped for and really wanted more of.

      I have a post up about swag because I was getting so many emails asking what I kept and didn’t keep. So I tried to put it all in one place. I’m sure others will chime in. Swag is a very difficult thing and it’s hard to pick out what to spend your money on. As with anything, the more experience the better it is. Depending what’s going on I may attend next year. It’s at the same time as one of my favorite video game conferences so I’m iffy : s.

  • PD Singer

    I am wandering in late (again) and have been reading the comments with great interest. There were things that could have been done differently, and perhaps will be next year, but since this was the first ever event this group had planned, I expected a few rough edges.

    I provided a few of them, too, I think. Walking up to strangers with my hand out and a big smile is very intimidating (spell that ‘terrifying’), though it got easier as I began to recognize people. I was still meeting new people right up until the ride to the airport, when we shared a cab with Jamie Samms. I was delighted to get swept up in a group with Kassa and Chris and the other book bloggers for part of the evening.

    I’d love to have some sort of “speed introduction” event, where everyone with the number 5 gathers at one location, while the 4′s are in a different corner and the 3,2,1 groups, and then everyone shuffles around after 10 minutes, so that everyone at least has a good look at everyone else in a small group. It would make future conversations easier to start. My “lunch with an author” was an enjoyable meal, because we could speak in depth on a dozen topics, not all of which were writing-related. And now I know 4 more folks who rock socks, all for different reasons.

    Double-booking was actually a problem for me, since events I had agreed to host overlapped events I wanted to attend. When the vampire walk overlapped a wine and cheese party after I already had marched for miles, that was easy to triage. There was enough downtime that I got out to look at the city a bit, too. Anyone else find the Pharmacy Museum?

    Panels seemed to form spontaneously; my author spotlight was one such, and a few others, such as the MLR publisher hour. People expect them, might as well plan for it.

    The bead idea was cute but hard to execute and probably expensive for the authors: I turned up less than half of them, and probably talked to potential bead sources without knowing, since I never did find the time to sort out the clues. If part of the swag was an autograph sheet or book and one of the prizes went to “person who collected the most author autographs” there would be a great souvenir and ice-breaker all in one. Not to mention thrilling the lesser known authors: I looked around for the person being spoken to the first time someone asked me to sign something.

    Swag was a hard one to work out– I went for something consumable, so that I would be the only one to have to shlepp it around (candy for 300 weighs a *ton*) and something useful. Some folks mentioned wanting to make collages out of all the bookmarks and postcards, but I’m not that craftsy. For all us first timers, this was a learning experience.

    I’m looking forward to an even better experience next year; the steepest part of the learning curve is over for organizers and authors alike.

    • Chris

      Oh, the collage thing’s an interesting idea – actually, I could see maybe doing a decoupage thing. Hmm. I have a wooden box that would work well for this…

    • Kassa

      Late? Not at all.. I talk forever and beat something to death so trust me, you’re never late. Can you tell I have a lot to say? *cough* Sorry about that.

      I agree that it’s terrifying to introduce yourself.. I mostly let other people introduce me or I just flashed my badge. I wasn’t afraid per se but I’m pretty shy. I also had some very interesting reactions to my name from “Oh wonderful to meet you, I’ve read your reviews” to “Oh. I know you.” So I totally understand not wanting to walk up to strangers. As I said to Eden, sitting at the table with you was wonderful. It was so much fun to just chat about this and that and laugh.

      Oh that’s a GREAT idea for an icebreaker. I hope the organizers hear about that and do it. I think it’d be perfect to help facilitate those scary first introductions. Once you meet someone and can talk a little bit it’s easy to go back and talk again. (Hence why I was lingering at your table on the Riverboat cruise)

      Ugh apparently I missed the good events. It was hard to judge because I popped in on 2 publisher spotlights with very little interaction, mostly book buying. That’s great but wasn’t really what I was looking for. I also missed some of the author socials and spotlights I wanted to go to because the graveyard tour took up all morning.

      I still maintain I love the flashlight. I get those kinds from vendors at work and I love them! They don’t last the longest but they’re really great and I truly loved it. It’s useful!

      I do think everything is a learning curve so it’s bound to get better. As it was, I don’t regret it at all!

  • jayhjay

    Great comments. Sadly I missed the event this year but am looking forward to next year. I hope you share these comments with the event organizers b/c it sounds like really useful feedback.

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