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GRL = fun, even for us introverts

October 22, 2015

HotelSD2015 I came back from the GayRomLit conference on Sunday night, but my intended blog post was pushed back when Audible released Into Deep Waters in audio book Monday โค

Now that I'm done dancing around, celebrating my first audio release, I do want to write about GRL. Because it's an experience I look forward to, worry over, enjoy, hide from, and then miss acutely when it's over. Every year.

GRL bills itself as an annual retreat that brings together the people who create and celebrate M/M and LGBT romance. And it really is that – a celebration of the books and the authors and the readers, in one warm, fuzzy, huggy (sometimes over-huggy), open-hearted, book-filled weekend.

There are events better suited to learning about the craft of writing. There are probably events with more varied opportunities for readers and fans. But in its small size (capped at 400 attendees) and its M/M-lovers-we-are-family atmosphere, GRL is a great chance to find a renewed love for the genre.

This year, GRL was in San Diego – that picture up top was the view from my hotel room. Leaving Minnesota's near-freezing October, it was lovely and warm landing in San Diego. And then not so lovely, humid and hot. I sat in the shuttle waiting for other passengers to go to the hotel, and thought, “Please don't let my swag melt!!” I'd brought chocolates with my covers on the wrappers, and hadn't planned on the half hour wait in the heat. SwagOnly2015 Luckily they were fine, and after a little time in the hotel room with AC, I was too. The rest of the weekend was more temperate, with beaches and palm trees.

One of the things that makes GRL a bit unique is that there is really no separation between authors and readers. The person sitting next to you in a talk might just be Jordan Castillo Price. The guy buying a book at the next table could be Brandon Witt (who also might be the guy wearing the flamingo hat on his head at the dinner on the beach.) We authors are all readers too, and at GRL we swap roles at a moment’s notice.

One hour, I’m asking questions of the three writers up front of the room in their Q&A panel. The next hour, Amy Lane is asking me in my Q&A why I upped the angst and shot some beloved character in the head. (To which my lovely moderator Kris Jacen’s immediate response was, “Amy, you killed the horse!”) My panel happened to be opposite Mary Calmes and Andrew Grey’s spotlight, so we had a small but very select audience. (Thanks for the great questions, Amy!)

AmyLaneTalk2015-crop And then a couple of days later I’m back in the audience, as Amy explains, to the delight of all us reader-nerds, how heroic tropes play out in M/M, and the difference between the British and American Romantic Hero. (Briefly, she pointed out that the American hero is more likely to be willing to act outside the law, to put the people and causes he loves ahead of any social constraints or force of law. He’ll go rogue, for a cause.) She asked if she was getting too far into analysis, and was met with a resounding vote of approval. I loved hearing someone who writes sexy guys that make me cry, discussing English literature.

There is always a lot going on even when sessions aren’t in progress, but much of it is informal – people meet up with glad cries, and head off to discussions, Cards Against Humanity games, trips to watch whales or to gay bars. For someone who’s as introverted as I am, those are the times I head to my room for some solitary downtime. Even more so this year, since extrovert friends whose coat-tails I hoped to cling to had to cancel out. Going alone is fine – you will meet and make friends. But going with a friend is no doubt even better. Next year, Jonathan, Edmond, Sammy…

I met some wonderful people whom I know online, from Cody Kennedy (amazing guy with a huge heart, especially for teenagers in need), to Christy Duke (whose picture of Hans I borrowed below), to Caraway Carter (who does give the best hugs and is way taller than I thought), and many more. I received unexpected, thoughtful gifts, some handmade, all sweet, that I hope I expressed enough thanks for. I found new authors to check out, and added way too many books to my TBR list. I played Bunco, and Gay Romance Trope pictionary, and actually won. (Thanks to author Atom Yang.) So many great moments.

There’s usually a costume party, given the closeness to Halloween, and our fondness for dressing up. Every year the costumes are awesome. The picture is of author Hans Hirschi, as Her Majesty the Queen. With an entrance to the strains of God Save the Queen, gowned, gloved, and tiaraed, Hans was the very model of regal splendor.

There were many Marvel characters (exposing my ignorance of popular culture – I needed K-lee Klein to set me straight on who was who.) Spice Girls and pin-up girls, superheroes and villains, (and may I say many people, men and women, wore those spike heels, or leather and grenades, way better than I ever could.) And so many other imaginative choices. (How long did it take the gentleman in leather to shower all the glitter out of his lovely blond furriness? Good thing he had his guy to help him with that…)

BeachPalms2015 It was hard to leave. There were people I meant to talk to, and kept missing all weekend. Next year in Kansas City, I hope to have another chance.


As lovely as it all was, I did come home to something Minnesota does better than San Diego – my family, dog, kitten, and glorious Autumn in the land of four seasons.
DogDownCrop kitten5 HeadUpRollCrop

16 Comments leave one →
  1. kiracee permalink
    October 22, 2015 10:39 pm

    Awww. Your kitten is adorable. (Your dog is pretty cute, too.)

    I’m glad you had such a good time at GRL. Maybe someday I’ll get to go.

    • October 23, 2015 8:42 am

      Yeah, that kitten is a cutie – getting brave and playful as she gets older. My son has her at his place because my husband is allergic. She’s good company for him. I’d love to see you someday, at GRL or elsewhere. It’s in Kansas City, MO, next October.

  2. Sunne permalink
    October 23, 2015 12:21 am

    Looks like you enjoyed it a lot. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • October 23, 2015 8:42 am

      I did. ๐Ÿ˜€ Good books and good people. And chocolate ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Sadonna permalink
    October 23, 2015 7:39 am

    Great post Kaje. Yes, for us introverts, GRL can mean some additional stress. Every year I find it easier though since I recognize people from previous years. I do wish I had spent more time talking to other readers but I really enjoyed those folks I did get to talk to. Every year I feel like there are people I missed or didn’t get enough time with and this year was no exception. Maybe one of these times I’ll get the balance right ๐Ÿ˜€

    • October 23, 2015 8:44 am

      I don’t think there’s any way to spend time with everyone, especially because every year the old friends list gets longer. I do hope to gradually do more of the social stuff and hide in my room to recharge a bit less. But I had a great time.

  4. October 23, 2015 12:20 pm

    kaje- I so related to this line: “Because it’s an experience I look forward to, worry over, enjoy, hide from, and then miss acutely when it’s over. Every year.” I think if I was to attend, I’d feel the very same way about GRL. I sincerely hope to go to Kansas City in 2016, if I can gather the courage, and I will head straight for you because I want to meet the woman attached to all of the wisdom I learn from and enjoy!

    • October 24, 2015 1:29 am

      I’d love to meet you someday. Your books are great. It is a challenge to be that social, but still the people at GRL each year are my tribe, and there’s nothing quite like it.

  5. October 24, 2015 12:57 am

    Kaje – it was super nice to meet you and to have a chance to chat a little. It was my first time at GRL, and it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and some of the social stuff was a bit much for me too. I’m not all that outgoing either. I did get to recognize and chat with several people as the days went on, and that made it easier, and it was really a treat to chat with all the authors I’ve read for years!

    • October 24, 2015 1:30 am

      Absolutely. The first time is the hardest – if you go again you’ll have friends (like me) you can just walk up to and start talking. I’m glad you had fun there.

  6. October 24, 2015 10:12 pm

    Kaje!!!!!! You should talk!!!! โค as big as the universe!!! It was lovely to meet you and we're on next year in KC!

  7. liz blue permalink
    October 31, 2015 8:55 am

    It was so fantastic to meet you, Kaje! I hope I didn’t fangirl too hard all over you. I love John and Ryan so hard, and I convinced a fellow GRL reader to buddy (re)read their books with me this week. All the happy feels! Thanks for being at GRL and sharing the book love.

    • October 31, 2015 9:09 am

      It was great to meet up, and I never object to someone loving my guys โค There is no better compliment than to have the books be worth a reread. Thank you.

  8. November 17, 2015 3:40 pm

    Hey, just found this. Great post! And you’re welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚


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