So, last weekend I attended the Gay Romance NW meet up in Seattle. I know they had this event last year for the first time, but to be honest, “Gay” romance suggested to me that it was more for authors and readers of m/m, which I no longer read. So I basically ignored it even though I’ve really enjoyed the books of some of the authors of m/m that live in the area and attended last year. Since I pretty much only read f/f/m and lesbian, I didn’t see the point to go last year.
This year I saw that Len Barot/ Radclyffe/ L.L. Raand, president of Bold Strokes Books and an author herself, was attending and I felt that that might be a good sign that there would be more authors and readers of lesbian attending, making it more interesting to me.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but I had a good time and felt that all the authors, publishers and coordinators of this event did an amazing job and offered a lot of interesting panels and discussion. I resonated with a lot of the issues brought up.
Anything I say below is paraphrasing what I heard people say, not necessarily what they actually said or meant. Also not including everything they talked about but more or less what I found interesting, or more to the point, remembered.
Also, just for edification, I was tweeting during the event and my phone went dead a few times so I charged in my car between panels and missed some parts of them. So if I don’t mention something, I probably wasn’t there for that part.
1st up was Tracy Timmons-Gray –the event coordinator.
She talked about the event and how it came about and what they are doing in the community. She also spoke about the hardship of finding LGBT romance books on Amazon and her experience with Amazon’s algorithm of suggesting material based on 1 purchase. For instance, she had bought many LGBT books but the one time she bought a m/f, Amazon suggested tons of m/f without remembering all the LGBT books.
She actually wrote to Jeff Bezos and her asking about it did change things. Still a work in progress, she said that readers and writers can make a difference by asking for what they want. Asking in libraries and non-profits as well can keep exposure and ease of getting LGBT books in mainstream markets. I found her talk passionate, informative and she was very amusing.
Next was Key Note: Write with Pride-
This was interesting because the authors on this panel wrote a letter from past to current or future self and many were very touching and beautiful. Many included their struggles to come to this point of being who they are now. I thought it an interesting thing to do.
Next up was Writing the Rainbow-Exploring Queer Romance Writing
I appreciate that there were 2 authors of lesbian on that panel and not all m/m.
Several topics came up that were very interesting. They talked about addressing, or not, homophobia in their books. Author Jove Belle mentioned something interesting that she doesn’t often include it because it’s not her personal experience. Others stated they do include it but don’t like to make it the main conflict or focus too much on it.
They were asked the hardest part of writing romance and sex. Many agreed or stated that trying to remember all those amazing, tingling feelings one has when falling in love are hard to bring up when most of them have been in long term relationships and love at that point is all about the day to day stuff.
After a discussion about what was hardest for each to write, talk segued into reviews. Each gave an interesting and sometimes wrenching story of writing a book just after or during a trying time like death or long illness of a loved one and how reading a review that doesn’t fit their experience of writing the book can be hard.
On the whole, the authors on the panel were very amusing and joked a lot and spoke honestly and from the heart and it was a good panel for me to attend.
Next: Printed Love: A Discussion with LGBTQ Publishers:
Represented was: Len Barot (Bold Strokes Books), Laura Baumbach (MLR Press), Megan Derr (Less than Three Press), Tina Haveman (eXtasy Books) and Anne Regan (Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink Press)
Most of them talked about marketing, submitting, what they publish, etc. Everyone resounded, “if you want to read it, write it, and then buy it.” While they do want to publish a variety of genres and such, they are a business and have to accept submissions of stories that will sell.
Outside of Len Barot, all said they were not getting very many submissions in other genres than m/m.
I’m going to side eye that, but keep that long and tiring discussion for another time.
I admire that Len Barot just came out and said that she didn’t think straight women liked to read lesbian, but that straight women were the main audience for m/m, which has been a contentious discussion over the years.
Then they talked about how authors should or could better market themselves. I thought it interesting that one or two said skip the blogs and go straight to social media. Blogs are quickly becoming the past, whereas Twitter and FB are it right now. But also don’t be an ass, you will alienate readers, so beware when using social media.
There was also mention that each publisher should have a website where people can buy books direct from them, giving more money to authors.
I would say to that, that I recently went through my blog and culled links to a crap ton of small publishers that are now gone, some of which I bought books directly from. Also, having to set up accounts and give personal info to smaller publishers that have had bad reputations in the past of screwing authors and or being unethical, don’t make buyers like me feel comfortable doing so. Maybe if they all offered a Paypal option?
Next up: The Evolving LGBTQ Romance Genre.
I liked that this panel, much about diversity in romance, was diverse in authors on it. I probably would have sat through the whole panel, phone be damned, if I knew this would be the topic.
At any rate, what I did get out of it was that authors on the panel wanted there to be more diversity. The topic if white authors writing characters of color came up and that it’s understood that many white authors fear doing it wrong, but they stated that doing some good research and asking many persons of color their experience is fine and so it shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Alex Powell stated that her publisher had a diversity team whom authors could run things by to make sure they are getting it right, which I thought was interesting.
I loved that author Pearl Love stated that the word diversity was a problem in itself in that it makes it not the norm.
They all agreed and stated that it would be nice to make their stories more inclusive of all kinds of people.
Loud applause broke out when one audience member stated she wanted to kill forever the disabled as not norm trope as well as the miraculous healing trope.
The authors also talked about labels, some saying they are good and some saying that it could be a deterrent to people discovering new things they might like. Pearl Love stated that she hates that AA is put in its own section. Again, I think she’s right. Lori L. Lake told a story that an author friend got slammed on Amazon in reviews because there was a lesbian in the story, not the main character, and people were pissed off to read that.
Then Dave Matthew-Barns told that one of his stories had lesbians in it but because he’s a male, his book was marketed is m/m. So he felt he might have missed out on some readership due to this. (Yes, Dave you are correct. I have read a m/m that had a lesbian couple prominently placed in the story and I loved it. Had it not been mentioned in a review, I would have missed.)
After this was the meet and greet book signing at the Hotel Monoco across from Seattle library.
Now, I skipped the Friday night reading at the University Book store because I really do get hives in social settings. Especially if they are more intimate, unlike the huge auditorium at the library where I could hide in the back. And I almost went home at that point when I saw how small and intimate the signing room was at the hotel.
But I pushed myself. To be honest, I went to support the 7 authors of lesbian that attended. Yes, I actually printed out the list of attending authors and Googled each one. I even bought one book of each author of lesbian before the event, hoping to read one or two. So I marked who the authors of lesbian were and went to talk to them during the signing/meet greet.
I’m so not the fan girl type. And the fact that I almost went home not caring about meeting the authors says something, but the highlight of the day for me was having a brief chat with Radclyffe. I’ve read a few of her books and really enjoyed them. But I know of her more for her work in promoting and giving a voice to lesbian fiction through Bold Strokes Books. I found her to be a very down to earth, open and intelligent woman on the panels so while I did stress a bit, I managed to get the guts to talk to her.
I mentioned her comment about straight women not being the audience for lesbian books. I told her that there was a contingent of us (well, I wouldn’t call myself straight at this point, but still) that loved to read lesbian. That we’ve been trying to promote it within the straight romance reading community and that while many of my straight romance reading friends don’t glom onto lesbian, they do read it and support it here and there. She mentioned that they were always trying to find ways to market to straight women. She was very gracious even though I probably babbled a lot. Heh, I’m sure authors that attend signings are used to crazy ass babbling readers.
Next, I spoke with author Kate McLachlan. It was very easy speaking with her as I kept sitting way up in the back and she and her wife were in the back also, just in front of me. We had chatted briefly and I thought them very open and friendly. I didn’t know she was an author and was surprised to see her sitting there with her books.
Then I spoke briefly with Lori L. Lake. I’m currently reading one of her books and like it very much. She also was very open.
I couldn’t find the others or they didn’t show up, but I felt very satisfied. And I bought a few lesbian books to donate to the LGBT library.
Finally, yes this has been a long post and if you’ve made it this far, you need a drink I’m sure, I just wanted to say that I’m happy I went to this event. I was worried. Being in the romance community for a long time now, and reading lesbian, I have been a bit pissed off and jaded that since the explosion of m/m, the term LGBT romance has equaled m/m, with f/f, lesbian, trans*, bi, queer not being promoted or having as much exposure or representation.
But I felt that this event was inclusive and will be more and more inclusive of the whole LGBTQ spectrum in the future.
Will be back in 2015!