Readers and writers of gay romance novels from around the world come together for the annual Gay Romance Literature Retreat. The first GayRomLit was in New Orleans in 2011, moving to Albuquerque for 2012, and this year — from October 17-20 — the biggest event in the gay romance genre was in Atlanta. Being so close, I decided to go.
Participation is limited to 400, including several featured authors, a small group of supported authors, and lots of readers. I registered as a reader for a chance to check things out. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pretty sure GayRomLit would be nothing like the academic conferences I’d attended.
Confirmation of my suspicions arrived three weeks before the event in an email message about what to wear. Each of three evening functions had a theme. Thursday’s was a black-light jukebox party, followed by a dressy cocktail party on Friday, and a heaven and hell masquerade ball on Saturday.
First impressions are everything, so the stakes were high. Although I wasn’t one of the supported or featured authors, folks would know I was a writer, not just because I’d tell anyone I met, but because of my involvement in functions sponsored by my publishers. I thought about the leather daddy look or something equally theatrical, but opted to go professional with a business-casual look.
I can’t remember the last time something required so damn much shopping. Most my clothes are too big from all the weight I’ve lost or have been washed so many times even Goodwill doesn’t want them. The costume for the masquerade ball posed the greatest challenge. We gays don’t take dressing up lightly, and me being me, the risk of going overboard was even higher.
Someone else might get excited about a trip to the mall, but not me. It’s not just that I hate to shop. People who know me agree: I shouldn’t be allowed to shop by myself for clothes — for any occasion. I tried to find a friend with style and panache to go along, but failed, and being single and far from female family members, had to shop alone.
I went to Macy’s because it’s the only store in Athens where someone would be willing to help with my selections. I was lucky enough to run into Donna, the lovely salesclerk who helped me the last time I bought nice clothes, more than a year ago when I needed a suit for my father’s funeral. She kept showing me khaki, black, and navy with staid, somber shirts — the kind of stuff I wear all the time — until I explained the event and my need to stand out.
With my basic wardrobe out of the way, I turned my attention to the special events. I settled on an idea for the masquerade ball right away and had to a visit the Beauty Supply Shop and make three trips to the Party Store to put my outfit together. For the black-light jukebox party, at the last minute I opted to forego the sixties look with a tie-dyed shirt and other accessories I’d picked up to wear for jeans and a nice t-shirt.
I threw two suitcases and my black nylon clutch into the car and drove over to Atlanta early enough Wednesday evening to catch dinner with Eden Winters and a few of her fans/friends. My first book, Until Thanksgiving, came out the same day as Eden’s Naked Tales. We met for lunch in Atlanta months ago and have been pals ever since.
My original plan was one blog post about GayRomLit. But the event was so big and had so much going on, that’s not going to be possible. Next time, I’ll get to the event!