I had the best time ever this year for the Gay Romance Northwest meet-up 2015 and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
We had an early start, but luckily, we had planned breakfast at the Sazerac, which was right across the street from the library. We had a huge table of authors and friends, including LT3 authors J.K. Pendragon and Austin Chant, LT3 editor Amanda Jean, Riptide author Heidi Belleau and various friends and writers.
Once we got to the conference, it was non-stop fun and action.
The tireless Tracy Timmons-Gray opened the conference by speaking about “What we Suck at.” A few of us laughed, but Tracy made some very good points about progress that still needs to be made in getting the words out about queer romance. What Tracy talked about, including getting the attention of Amazon, inclusive space for trans people, and getting more LGBTQ+ romances in our libraries, was an all-encompassing topic for the rest of the conference.
Next, we heard three amazing keynote speakers, who talked to us about “Reading with Pride.” Jessica Blat, Susan Lee, and Austin Chant all had different views on what it really means to “read with pride,” what it meant to each of them personally, and what it should mean to the rest of us.
This year, the conference kicked off with a little activity, which I particularly enjoyed, and I hope other attendants did too. We were given three questions to ponder, and then answer. We wrote what we thought on sticky notes, and then they were collected and sorted out into categories so that the last panel of the day (my panel) would address these issues. I loved that the audience could participate and voice their own opinion on what was needed in the genre. The questions were: 1) What do you like best about the LGBTQ+ genre? 2) What do you think is missing? 3) How do you want to see it grow?
Next came the panels! During the morning, there was the Celebrating and Elevating Underrepresented Characters in Queer Romance Fiction panel, which was the panel I attended. The moderator was Tracy Timmons-Gray, and the panelists were authors CJane Elliot, Lane Hayes, J. K. Pendragon,Yolanda Wallace, and Riptide acquisitions editor Chris Muldoon. What the panelists discussed is that the default character for queer romance is a cis gay man, usually white. These panelists discussed how they each branch out from that in their fiction, whether it be writing about a character who is a person of colour, or one of the lesser known queer identities such as ace or trans, or older queer characters. Chris Muldoon pointed out that many publishers would love to include more diversity in what they publish, but that Riptide can only publish what is submitted. The vast majority of submitted work is about cis gay men, and publishers cannot lower their standards just to include a work with a more diverse character. It was my friend J.K.’s first panel, and they did very well answering some very tough, complex questions, as did the rest of the panelists.
Then, J.K., Laurence and I headed upstairs to find the Loving Kink, Hot Kink panel to add some spice to our day. The fourth floor, which is where the panel took place, had bright red hallways and floors, which set the mood nicely.
The panel included moderator Charley Descoteaux and authors Grace R. Duncan, Amelia C. Gormley, Morticia Knight, and Joseph Lance Tonlet. The panel discussed how much responsibility an author has for portraying safe, sane, and consensual sex in kink, and how much to take into account what the reader audience understands about both the kink and BDSM community. The book “That Shall Not Be Named” was brought up to highlight many points, but especially the portrayal of bad BDSM practices as being morally okay, which might lead the audience, which was mainly a vanilla audience that has no previous experience with BDSM, to think that abusive behaviour of doms to their subs is an acceptable practice. The panelists also discussed portrayal of abusive or morally grey actions in novels and how it might fit into world-building, while also addressing that those actions are fine in fiction, but not acceptable real life practices.
During lunch, the GRNW volunteers put the sticky notes up on the wall to create categories for the panel that I was on, The Evolving LGBTQ+ Romance Genre.
My panel, which was the last one of the day, was moderated by Gunner Scott, and also included my fellow LT3 author Austin Chant, Laylah Hunter, and Karelia Stetz-Waters. This was a great panel to be on, and I’m so pleased that there were such amazing topics brought up. Gunner made his questions by looking at the categories put together from the audience’s answers to the questions asked at the beginning of the day. Just so you all know, none of us had any idea what questions Gunner had come up with, so we had to think on our feet! I felt that we panelists also did very well working together in our discussion, it was a lot of fun.
What did the audience have to ask us?
We talked a lot about diversity, which is certainly a hot topic in LGBTQ+ fiction right now, as well as the community. It’s very easy to default to writing about gay white guys, but it’s not an accurate portrayal of what the world is really like. Everyone needs to be able to see someone who is like themselves portrayed in fiction, to know that they can do all the same things, can have all the same adventures, and that their narrative is not reduced to their struggles as a minority character. We also discussed the marketing facto
r, which is that if readers don’t buy something, then authors won’t write it, so the best thing that readers can do is buy fiction with diverse characters.
Then, the readers took part in a fun event, in which stock characters (like nurse, firefighter, police officer) went head-to-head with one another in order to choose the final couple, which ended up being mage and cyborg! I wasn’t there, but I heard it was fantastic. I was setting up my table at the Book Fest.
Luckily, J.K. and I are next to one another in the alphabet, so we shared a table. I had a lot of fun at the book fest, because it was great to meet readers and other authors alike. J.K. and I had a bit of a learning experience while at the book fair this year. Last year, the university book store supplied books, but this year, we had to do it ourselves. What did I learn about book fairs?
First of all, don’t bring so many of the same book. Secondly, readers love anthologies. I had no idea readers loved them so much, so next year, I will bring more (I have tons of my stories in anthologies). Third, bring more postcards with book covers on the front and a blurb/link on the back for my ebooks so that readers can find them. In any event, I think we drummed up some business for our books, so go us!
That was the end of the GRNW meet-up for this year! Sadly, we didn’t go to any of the events afterward, because after valiantly carrying on through the whole conference while feeling sick, J.K. wholly succumbed to the plague. They were very brave.
So that was GRNW 2015, and I hope to see everyone again next year! I have documented my experiences of the conference on Twitter and have posted all my photos on Facebook.
Also, I love social media, so check the hashtags #GRNW and GRNW2015 to see what everyone else at the conference was up to!
See you all again!