The GRL retreat was and still remains an excellent idea. Judging by the number of people who went and wanted to go but couldn’t, it’s a great opportunity to mix with like minded individuals all with the same interest. The organizers made a pretty unwieldy schedule work as best they could and it went decently on time. A lot of readers want to meet and mingle with their favorite authors and have conversations about a genre they love or books in general. Specializing one of the massive conferences to just M/M and having it in a small, more intimate setting is really ingenious. I definitely tip my hat to whoever came up with this idea.
Unfortunately I think the execution never quite matched up to the idea.
Although the schedule looked extremely busy and packed, it was in fact pretty barren of actual worthwhile events. The majority of the time was booked for author readings, author socials, publisher spotlights, and tours of New Orleans. Again, a decent enough if somewhat limited concept but didn’t really execute in a great way. The author readings were strained and difficult. There were only two authors who caught my attention while sitting there that engaged and excited me about their work. Many, many, MANY authors were very difficult to understand/hear or talked in a bit of a monotone drone. It reminded me of the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies “wah wah wah wah.” Sadly some of the authors I like did this as well, which kills the energy of the book and the reader.
Other authors chose to read more salacious bits of their books, which I truly loathed. Now this is a personal preference but I really don’t want to hear a man old enough to be my grandfather talking about how to suck an erect cock. Just…no thank you. Or an author giving sound effects to cumming. I mean, really? Ok that could be just me but there were no other options for the retreat unless you went to the readings. So you could have skipped them entirely and just hung out in New Orleans but the point of the conference is to attend the activities so I was pretty disappointed with the readings.
The publisher spotlights existed for readers to buy books from the publisher during that hour (and ONLY that designated publisher hour) but nothing else. This wasn’t really an interactive time and unless you wanted to buy and haul a bunch of print books, not really worth attending. Additionally while the various tours of New Orleans (ghost and cemetary) are good in theory and I’ve been on several really great tours in my trips to New Orleans, whatever company GRL booked with had really horrible guides. My vampire tour consisted of speed walking through the quarter while losing half our group. The guide talked in a drone about very basic, benign stories. Not very interesting or sadly worthwhile. This of course got around in the retreat and people were skipping the tours in droves.
Which leads me to the social events in general. Here is where the most frustration of the entire retreat came into play for me. Now I’m a pretty shy individual but most readers self identify as shy and/or introverted people. We’re just not the type to walk up to people and talk. Now don’t get me wrong, there are TONS of people who would walk up to authors and squee all over them and more power to them. However at the socials what happened is everyone was in cliques. Authors would sit together or hang out together at their tables and talk amongst themselves. A few would table hop and mingle but very few.
The girls and I frequently ended up at our own table, chatting amongst ourselves. A couple were more adventurous than I and would approach authors but I never really felt comfortable. I was hoping the authors would make an effort during the social events to talk to more readers and perhaps introduce themselves (I know authors can be shy too). Tam had the best idea when she said what really should have happened is the author signing on the first day. That way you could place the face with the name, introduce yourself, chit chat a little, break the ice for easier conversations for the remainder of the trip. Instead it was difficult to read the name tags of the authors and frequently I had no idea who the author was until I asked someone. Perhaps some of this was alleviated during the author socials but those always seemed to happen when we were on tours or traveling to tours so it was extremely difficult to attend those smaller events.
On another note I don’t know why the retreat offered no panels, no discussions, no moderated events at all. There was no discussion about the genre, no panels on blogging or reading or reviewing or whatever. There was no real dynamic interaction other than socializing. Now that’s great and all and easily one reason why the entire weekend was a huge success but it would have enhanced the retreat and made the events more interesting (IMHO) if there had been more dialogue.
Ok that’s enough for now but more to come!