The Soaring Culmination of My Forbidden Romance (Convention)

IMG_3778 (1)I’m back from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (a.k.a. RT) and it was more fun than getting kidnapped by a chisel-jawed pirate. The experience was as ridiculous as I had hoped (in the best way) and I learned so much about writing, publishing, and how to be an author.

I won’t drone on about everything I learned at the amazing writer boot camp (Tropes! GMC! Laban movement!) but I will share some general reflections and fun facts on the convention itself. My journal is littered with bullet point style notes I took in the workshops, so I have written this post in bullet point style to match.CONVENTION STATS (ACCORDING TO ME, NOT SCIENCE)

  • Age range of attendees = 25-65.
    • The majority of both readers and writers seemed to be over 40.
    • Readers and aspiring authors wore orange nametags while published authors wore green nametags. There were more orange nametags than green, but not by much.
      IMG_3790

      Waiting, waiting, waiting in line.

  • Racial make-up = 85% white, 15% people of color
    • There were many people sporting buttons that read “We Need Diverse Romance,” which I thought was cool.
  • Gender = 95% female.
    • Of the 5% of males, I would say it was a mix of husbands and gay men.
    • I think the husbands attending were true fans (not reluctant tag-alongs) but I rarely saw them attending sessions without their other half.
    • There was a workshop called “Husbands of Romance” with tips on how to support your writer partner.

INDUSTRY FACTS I LEARNED

  • 60% of all books sold are romance novels. ALL BOOKS SOLD.
  • Cowboy books sell like crazy in foreign countries.
    • When I think about how many Americans are fascinated with medieval
      knights and Highlanders, it makes sense that other countries would find our rugged male mythology beguiling.
    • One publisher claimed, “Men in kilts always sell.” Excuse me while I tuck that fact away…. 
      IMG_3757

      Cover models handing out cookies.

  • Although there are multiple sub-genres of romance novels (romantic suspense, Regency historical, paranormal, erotica, contemporary, inspirational) the level of explicitness in a book can be conveyed to readers in just two words — “sweet” or “spicy.”
    IMG_3745

    “Fast, fun read…peppered with spicy love.” -Fresh Fiction Review

    • No one was embarrassed to ask an author which side of the spectrum his/her books fell.
    • I was afraid I might feel weird or embarrassed attending a workshop discussing “spicy” topics but it was fine.
    • However, there was a workshop where the presenter pounced on each attendee as they entered the room to cheerfully ask, “What’s your favorite position to read about?”
    • Most people were good natured and answered honestly but when she got to me I sputtered and stammered and then pretended to not speak English.
  • Christmas themed books mean money. Publishers put out novels with holiday themed plots between September and November and watch the cash roll in.
  • Male/male romance novels are BIG among both the LGBT and straight community.
    IMG_3753

    Best gay cowboy romance title ever.

    • Many of the authors in attendance write both male/female and male/male stories and IT WAS NO BIG DEAL. Seriously.
    • The number of gray-haired grannies swapping recommendations on their favorites M/M novels charmed me. Sarina Bowen’s hockey series seemed to be especially beloved.
    • I didn’t hear a lot about female/female stories outside of erotica.
      • There are definitely people writing lesbian romance novels (Radclyffe is a legend in the biz) but stories of gay men seem to be more popular in the mainstream.
      • I think there are some implications of homophobia in this, but I honestly think the hot guy factor comes into play too. There are some ladies who just really like reading about hunky heroes and their muscly muscles.
  • Romance fans have a serious distaste for Nicholas Sparks.IMG_3755
    • Not only were his books left untouched in the free giveaway area, the mere mention of his name in one workshop elicited boos.
    • No HEA (happily ever after) = No love from romance readers.
  • I got the sense that RT attendees had similar feelings toward the 50 Shades of Grey series.
    • Some felt very strongly that the books were not an accurate representation of erotica. The genre is traditionally defined by chronicling “a journey of personal growth through sexual exploration.”
    • More troubling to me was that E.L. James thought it was believable to create a 21-year-old character that had never used a computer.

MY MUSINGS

  • File this one under “combination of words I never dreamed I would write:” I am now a fan of a Japanese anime show about sports.Yuri-on-IceOne of the writing workshop presenters used a clip from the show Yuri on Ice to illustrate how to show emotion in only a few sentences of dialogue.
    • She raved about the show so passionately, I found it online and my 10-minute break to watch a clip in my room turned into a 2-hour marathon.
    • The show is a sweet (slightly spicy!) story about a failed figure skater, Yuri, who struggles with anxiety and his conflicted feelings when dreamy world champion skater Victor offers to be his coach. It has a surprising amount of depth and handles Yuri’s struggle with his identity and attraction to Victor (psst it’s a M/M romance!) with sensitivity and respect. Watch it!
  • Nearly everyone I encountered at RT was friendly and easy to talk to.
    • This is a group with very little pretentiousness or snobbery. Conversation flowed easily with a simsm_Breathlessple “What type of books do you read/write?”
    • There’s no arrogance or one-
      upmanship like I have felt at sci-fi conventions. Romance fans are generous and eager to talk about the books they love.
    • I asked a woman in line with me to recommend her favorite novel by Beverly Jenkins after I saw her gasp when the author walked by. She squeezed her eyes shut, grabbed my arm and moaned, “I love everything Beverly Jenkins has ever written!” This incited a small crowd of everyone within earshot to form around me for a Beverly Jenkins love fest and recommendation bonanza. Delightful!
  • So. Much. Free Stuff.
    IMG_3789

    My haul – I was a lightweight compared to those rolling wagons filled with books. I went home with about 30 novels.

    • Anybody need a bookmark? I received approximately 348,000.
    • If you are dedicated and don’t mind getting up early or waiting in line, you could easily make your registration fee back in free books.
    • I confess to a case of goody bag fever in the beginning. But then I had a stern conversation with myself about the value of wasting an hour standing in line to receive books that I may not even want to read.IMG_3750

REGRETS

  • On the whole, I don’t have many regrets (I’m so glad I went!) but there are a few things I will do differently if I am able to go next year.
    • I wish I had gone to a few more reader events.IMG_3752
      • The convention sessions are clearly divided into reader and writer tracks. The writer workshops were mainly craft focused or panel discussions while the reader sessions were pure fun.
      • Reader events included: “Naughty Girls Bingo,” “Midday Monster Madness Party,” “Historical Greeting Card Party,” and “The Introvert Scavenger Hunt.”
  • I wish I had talked to more authors. I get so intimidated by people I admire sometimes and just turn into a little mouse.
  • I would have hung out in the bar at least once. After a day surrounded by 3,000 people, this introvert needs some quiet time to recharge. But instead of recharging and going back out into the world, I tended to recharge and then recharge some more for good measure. I normally wouldn’t worry about this but I heard so many stories of deals made and friendships created in the bar I regretted leaving myself out.IMG_3762
  • When I go again I vow to OWN it. Own that I was going to a romance book convention and stop apologizing for it.
    • I feel like I was a bit sheepish when I would tell people I don’t know very well what I was doing for a week in Atlanta. I played it off as “what can I say? I love kooky things!” but that was only half of it. The romance novel community is inclusive, friendly, vibrant, and smart. And I am proud to be a part of it.

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