If you’re involved in the lesbian fiction world at all, you know that the Golden Crown Literary Society’s 2015 conference just wrapped. It was only my second time in attendance. New Orleans is… different. Not my cup of tea (and the boiled water advisory and lack of showers in the middle of it didn’t help), but it was a good time, nonetheless.
Now, I am by nature an extremely shy, introverted person. If I were to attend this event by myself, I would probably spend all my time sitting in a corner during the sessions and then hightailing it to my room to eat all of my meals. Luckily, between my partner’s very extroverted nature and the friendliness of the other women attending, I have felt only a warm welcome. It saddens me to read posts by a few people who felt they were excluded or weren’t part of the tribe. All I can say is, yes, there are “cliques”, but I think they are born more of common connections those women share rather than any desire to be exclusive. I had wonderful conversations with all kinds of people: Sandra Moran, Rachel Spangler, Jeanne Barrett Magill, Ann McMan, Lynne Pierce, Lee Fitzsimmons, Jae, Cindy Rizzo, Dawn Carter, Rosie Moore, Mary Deutcher, RJ Samuel, Linda Hill and her right arm, Becky Arbogast. I know I’m leaving names out, but those are just some of the writerly people I spoke with. There were tons of readers I got to catch up with as well.
As hard as it was for me, I also put myself out there, proposing a panel which was fantastic! Titled Hopeful Ever After: A Different Kind of HEA, my panelists included KG MacGregor, Kenna White, Jaime Clevenger, RJ Samuel and Jae. We had a packed room listen to us debate the merits and pitfalls of nothing but Happily Ever Afters in lesbian novels, and it was enlightening to hear what everyone had to say.
I also did my first ever reading. Aside from trying not to hyperventilate and pass out, my reading from Turning for Home went well, and Bella Distribution sold all the copies they’d brought with them.
If I let myself think about all the things I don’t like about me: my voice, the way I waddle when I walk due to a wonky back (how’s that for some alliteration!), on and on, I would never have the nerve to get up in front of people. So, my advice to those who struggle to feel like they belong at this conference is just work up the nerve to volunteer for something, anything! A panel, a chat/reading, the registration desk, anything. The organization is totally run on volunteer effort and if you put yourself out there, you will meet people and there will be more of a sense of belonging.
Another highlight of this conference for many of us was meeting Rita Mae Brown, who received the Lee Lynch Classic Award for Rubyfruit Jungle. (Personally, I think Six of One is her best book.) While everyone else in the line had a book (or five) for Rita Mae to sign, I merely wanted to thank her. When my first novel, Looking Through Windows, was published, I naively sent her a copy asking for advice. She very kindly took the time to write me back, including a little blurb for the book, encouraging me to just keep writing. I have. I’m sure she doesn’t remember, but that letter and her kindness meant a great deal to me.
Year of the Monsoon’s cover made the finals.
I posted some other photos on my Facebook Author page: Caren Werlinger Author
Next year’s conference will be in Washington DC (kind of, actually it’s in Alexandria). If you have a chance to attend, please do! And be sure to say hello, even if you’re sure it will kill you.