Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gay Rom Lit

Recently I attended a new to me convention, the Gay Rom Lit Retreat. Now I’m no convention virgin, I’ve been going to the Romantic Times convention since 2004 and Ellora’s Cave Romanticon for 3 of the 5 years it’s been running. SO I had no hesitation signing up to go to another convention and attending alone as I always have. In my experience it hasn’t taken very long to meet up with a group of new friends and have a blast. Everyone raved about how awesome Gay Rom Lit was, how many friends they made and how it was so great to be among like minded people where they could relax with no fear of judgement.

I was excited.

I arrived in Atlanta a couple of days early still buzzing from my amazing time the previous week at Romanticon and ready for the fun to continue. The hotel was nice, and I settled in to do a little sightseeing through the day and sit in the bar in the evening where I knew I would find the convention attendees. The first night I took a seat in the bar with my e-reader and a drink I was expecting things to be a little quiet but I knew the writing workshop was on and there would be some early birds. I was excited to recognise a couple of writers from pictures I’d seen online and it helped me identify the groups around them as attendees. I smiled at a few of them but since I had no con badge yet didn’t expect much. So I people watched and read my book and listened to the fun going on around me.

The following night I took a seat at the bar again after spending the day at the aquarium. Once again I read my book while the laughter and buzz went on around me. Groups of people who obviously knew each other fairly well and were thrilled to be in each other’s company. I saw a few people coming down the lobby escalator with their conference bags and badges and realised early registration must be open. With anticipation I went up the stairs to get mine. There was a little line and the people in the booth were a little harassed but friendly enough. I took my stuff and put my badge over my head, its bright colour identifying me as a reader. I headed back to the bar excited that people would now know I was part of the convention. Now maybe I could chat with a few people. Maybe get involved in some of that raucous laughter myself. Two hours later I was still alone. Never mind, I thought, they have been together for a few days at the writer workshop. They obviously all have established themselves in groups already. Most of the attendees will be arriving tomorrow.

The next day I decided not to go out. One of my favourite things to do at a con is sit in the lobby the day everyone arrives and watch as people meet up and the atmosphere starts to build. I wore my badge and took my e-reader to sit in the bar. The day passed, people came and went from the seats around me. No one spoke to me. The bar got busier, people were obviously having a great time, I smiled at people who sat in the armchairs around me. No one spoke to me.

I wasn’t excited anymore.

I sent out a frustrated message to the ether (otherwise known as facebook and twitter) asking for someone to please talk to me as I was lonely at GRL. At this point I met K-lee Klien, who is an awesome writer with some health issues which mean she rarely leaves her room. She saw my plea and headed to the bar to meet me. Thank you K-lee, if you are reading this. You are awesome! K-lee had been to a few GRL’s and knew a lot of attendees, she pointed out a few familiar names and introduced me to a group. I’m not gonna lie, I was a little awkward, I mean Marie Sexton was in the group! I tried to join in the conversation but I had arranged to meet a twitter friend from Atlanta for dinner and he arrived shortly after that. Maybe that was the point where things might have changed for me. Maybe I missed my window.

The following day I felt a little better, I had after all met a few people the night before and I’d spent a lovely few hours with James (who took me to my first gay bar and out for a meal, thanks James!) I went to the virgin event in the morning, expecting to make a few friends. They split us into groups and in our group was K.A. Mitchell! We were all very excited and she was just lovely. The group introduced itself and once again I discovered that most of them already knew each other in some capacity. I left the room alone. By lunch I was feeling a little depressed. 3 days into the con and I was still eating alone while the fun went on around me. I was tired of it. In fact I would quite happily have gone home at that point. I put a message on facebook saying as much.

Some friends on facebook L.B. Gregg and Danny Bruggeman asked people there to look out for me and a couple of people did join me for lunch. Then I met K.C. Burn and her friends and spent some time with them. Things got better. I met a lot of authors I admire, gushed about their work and bought more books than I really should have given my luggage allowance. But, I have to say I still spent significant amount of time at GRL sitting alone and it wasn’t fun. It felt a lot like being back in school and watching everyone have a good time that I wasn’t part of. Maybe my expectations were too high, after all it took me 33 years to find my identity and I was sure this was a time I’d feel the same as everyone else. Maybe I didn’t put myself out there enough because the situation made me feel like that outsider I was once upon a time. What it definitely did was leave me fairly sure I won’t be attending again. Even though part of me still longs to be part of that group.

So that was GRL for me. If you are thinking of attending next year then my advice is still to definitely go. Most people seemed to have a blast. BUT, take a friend. Or make sure you know people who are going to be there. Most of the attendees seemed to be in established groups already and in such a close knit community I found it really hard to be a part of things. I also know that any convention I go to in the future I will pay more attention and look out for the people who are sitting alone. I’ve met some of my best friends that way and I don’t want anyone to feel the same way I did those first few days.

1 comment:

Tara Nina said...

Awe, Cait, I'm sorry you had such a lonely time.
Wish I had of gone with you.