conference day 05

The last day of the conference. Brief opening remarks then brunch and goodbyes. A was checking out today so I packed my bags and left them in the main room. I helped break down the vendor table, packing books in boxes. Then I went off with Car to look for a staples to get packing materials.

We were one of the last ones to leave. We packed up official boxes into 2 cars and returned to the storage place–the stuff will sit there until next year.

beggarspizza

Totally pooped so we just ordered pizza. Around 5.30pm my eyes couldn’t open so I took a nap. Turned out I was asleep for 2hrs. I was still able to sleep, just to show how tired I was.

conference day 04

Didn’t really go to any sessions in the morning. Saturday is always a stressful day for me and I spent the morning finishing up the awards presentation.

The keynote speaker was after lunch and we had Lesléa Newman this year, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies as well as a huge portfolio of books. She talked about how she stood on the shoulders of giants to influenced and guided her. She also read from some of her work. I don’t read poetry but I was so moved by her recital of several pieces of her poems. There was a beat, a rhythm, to her reading and I was tapping my fingers following her. I sat next to a friend T at an earlier author spotlight session and she said she always listened to people reading with her eyes closed and I spotted her tapping out a beat with her fingers at a reading too.

The very last session I went to at this conference was moderated by two authors who run a successful writing group. Our group exercise was to talk about setting up a writing group and we had a nice discussion. Our group focused on what we wanted from a group and we agreed that honesty and having common goals were important factors.

While the majority of the conference goers went off to rest and have dinner, our stress started. Rehearsal for presenters went well. I had about 30mins to eat dinner–I asked for a takeout box at lunch to grab some turkey salad I put in the fridge. A had a can of coke zero for me too, it was perfect. At 5pm it was setup time. The helpful staff at the hotel helped us set up computers, sound, video cameras, the stage, furniture and lots more. We had a small team–2 of us at the tech table, 2 at the awards table next to the stage, 3 videographers, 1 photographer and the MC. People tried to come in early but we sorted them out.

gcls2017logo

The awards started and for the 4th year in a row, I was running the deck. Started off well until the first award that was announced. As soon as the presenter announced the winner my powerpoint crashed. Luckily the hotel AV person had set up a dump screen (static screen of our logo) for us so Car switched to it quickly while I restarted and found my place. Altogether we were down for about 20 seconds. People said to me afterwards they noticed the glitch but were amazed we got it back so quickly. It’s not about the glitch or error, it’s about how you recover.

The rest of the presentation was fine. I kept up with the presenters and followed the scripts for special awards. We did away with proxies coming on stage this year and the whole ceremony took only around 2hrs. We had lots of praises, about how smoothly it went and how they appreciated it finishing early.

As usual, I spent the dance in a perpetual state of drunkeness. On our table we had writers tears, port and wine. I wasn’t drinking that much, but it was the relief of getting the awards over with. Someone bought a beer for me late in the evening too. Went to bed at 2am.

conference day 03

ladder

Again, being good students, we woke up early to go to the 8.30am sessions. I was so glad I did. The one I went to, the presenter talked about the ladder of inference. We all do this, we take external data, filter and make decisions or perform actions based on our own experiences and belief system. The trick is to recognise we are doing this and learn how to expand our thinking and be open to unfamiliar experiences. It’s very interesting, so much so that I texted mm about it. We’ll need to discuss it more when I get back.

There was another great session on the intersection of identities, where the panel made up of authors from different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, nationality, ages. They talked about their personal experiences and how they incorporated their different backgrounds into their books.

At the break I got talking to a new friend and missed the session before lunch. Not sorry at all. My new friend S had lived and travelled all over the world and was in her previous life a tv and film producer. We bonded over our shared view of Cannes (a dump) and shared life stories. I would need to read her books asap as they sounded like they would be wonderful. She gave me a tip, to approach someone I looked up to and who had the closest style to mine (or what I aspire to) and ask for their help. I realised I may have been asking the wrong people or asking the wrong questions. I need to be more focused and targeted.

After lunch was our special speaker. The great thing about this conference is I learn about and meet people who I would never have the chance to. As ever, our special and keynote speakers talked extensively about their lives, their writing and impart great wisdom for us to take away. After the special speaker I went to a session about juggling romance with kids (real life and in books) and one where authors talked about how their faith influenced their lives and writing. I hadn’t planned on going to either of these, but I was glad I did. I also got to sit with my friend Jane who I haven’t had much chance to chat with this year.

chi122gibsons chi125gibsons

A and I decided to go to gibson’s for dinner. It’s in the hotel next door and a short walk. Yes, expensive but we both liked a good steak. We shared half a dozen oysters to start, they were good flavoured and balanced. Shared a bone-in ribeye for mains, which was really good. Not quite as good as hawksmoor because it wasn’t chargrilled enough. I also found it needed a tad more seasoning. For drinks I had a cinnamon infused makers mark 46. Wow, yummy.

The evening social event was karaoke. Good atmosphere this year. My name was even called out but it was because I got the group together to sing “I feel pretty” for our late friend Pam Butler. Stayed later than I expected.

conference day 02 | hamilton

To get up early for the 8.30am session or not, that was the question. We were good students, so we did. The day was full of educational sessions. One that touched on the current political climate, a masterclass on great openings, an update on the legacies project documentary, a discussion on swearing. The membership meeting highlighted the contributions made by volunteers and that the organisation was in good hands.

One of the most important meetings I went to was the one on awards changes. I had some input to this and we were excited with the improvements suggested. Seemed to be well received by the membership too, so the effort wasn’t wasted.

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We finished early and met at the lobby for the drive into the city. The destination, Hamilton the musical. Car had gotten tickets as soon as the booking window opened and a group of us piled into her car. There were a number of our friends who were there also. I hadn’t had dinner so I bought some of their “pyes” ie small apple and cherry pies. The theatre was completely full and as soon as the house lights went off the audience cheered loudly. And the cheers didn’t stop. The show was really amazing. I know very little about Alexander Hamilton except he was one of the group that included George Washington, James Madison. I was able to follow the story easily. The music was a departure from usual musical style, I had listened to the soundtrack so I knew it was mostly hip hop. Simply put, very well done and a fantastic show. Up there with Les Miz.

conference day 01

tealiqueur

If I’d thought about it more, I would have bought croissants, yogurt, fruit for breakfast. But I forgot so breakfast was a bagel and cream cheese from the hotel café. Wednesday morning of the conference is usually setup and I found myself in the main room helping with the silent auction, moving stuff, introducing the official photographer to various people. This year’s silent auction has so much stuff. A and I each brought whisky. There were plenty of books, posters, gifts, food baskets. A member donated a lovely bowl she made herself; there was a set of 3 beautiful pics taken at venice; lots of doctor who and xena memorabilia too. Editors offered manuscript critique, writers offered characters in their books, a leathercraft company offered custom made gloves. I have my eyes on a set of miniature bottles of tea spirits from thomas and sons distillery that my friends J and H brought from portland. I wonder if they were one of the ones I could have visited when I was in portland in 2014.

A and I planned to go to one of the nearby steakhouses for lunch but we were invited to lunch at the hotel by the awards review committee. I had the burger and a glass of wine. I heard the burger was good, it was okay.

And so after lunch the conference officially started. Over 350 attendees, the biggest yet. After the opening remarks the sessions started and there were so many to choose from. I went to an open mic, a coffee chat and had some ice cream at the meet’n’greet in the evening. They also had hot dogs (we being in chicago and all) but I only had the sausage and some tomato slices; I was calling it sausage salad hahaha.

Had some official things to do afterwards, which didn’t take long.

In the evening, I and a group of others were invited to a dinner celebrating the wedding of our friends L and C. They had officially gotten married a few months ago and wanted to celebrate with us, it was very sweet. The event started with a lovely, loving movie and several people stood up to make short speeches. Very touched to have been invited and I wish the couple the best.

chicago trip day 07

gcls201702storage

Conference starts this week. Today we needed to move the boxes that are in storage to the hotel. We took a few larger boxes and drove over to the hotel, around 30mins away next to the airport. It’s my first time at the hotel.

Just a couple of steps into the lobby and I started seeing familiar faces. Lots of hellos and hugs. Couldn’t talk to someone for long because someone else would coma along and there would be a new round of hellos and hugs. It’s good.

Eventually we rounded enough people and cars to go to the storage place. Total 5 cars. I rode with Brenda since I know the way, BadgerBliss followed us. Good drivers, Brenda always knew where Karen was and Karen followed closely.

When we go to the storage place, we found that one of the cars had gone missing. Yikes!! Luckily everyone had mobile phones so no one is completely cut off or lost. We started loading and were so efficient that we were done within 10-15mins. The lost car arrived, and it turned out we didn’t need it. Clearly it’s a group who knew how to stuff and pack because we got everything into the 4 cars. Great teamwork.

The staff at the hotel met us at the loading dock and helped us unload the cars and bring the boxes to where they needed to be. We were quite tired at the end of the exercise, said goodbye to people and went home.

nycdc trip day 07 | gcls con day 04

Time flies. It’s saturday already.

The main event in the morning was the keynote speech. To a packed house, Fay Jacobs again gave us a masterful lesson on her humourous observations.

Lunch was back to high standards with roast turkey and beef. Second helpings again.

The last session I attended this con was one where authors discussed books by other people that they wish they’d written. Came away with a nice list of books to add to the reading list.

And then the mayhem started. Rehearsal for awards presenters went very well, we’d sent out notes beforehand so the whole thing only took 20mins. The time after rehearsal and before we needed to start the ceremony was supposed to be hooking up the computers and doing sound check. Argh! Tech difficulties of all sorts. Finally we ended up having to use someone’s computer and I had to copy over the ppt and fonts and get to grips with someone else’s machine. Nice mbp, so it was okay.

There wasn’t time to shower, gobbled sandwiches and had to be back at the tech desk.

Fortunately the rest of the ceremony went fine. There were a couple of tech hiccups, which thankfully most people didn’t notice. Didn’t go near the dance floor, had a nice chat with friends and shared wine. Was there till they closed the room down at 1am.

nycdc trip day 06 | gcls con day 03

Wasn’t planning on going to any of the morning sessions but since I was up, I went to one about making apps and games from books. So glad I did! StoryStylus allows users to create games that are either a representation of their book’s story, or use characters in a standalone game. The UI seems straightforward and they are keen to come into our community. This should be a session for next year, especially since the company is in Toronto.

More learning at a session about writing what we know, or how we should develop knowledge that our characters know. Then time for our special speaker. Rachel Spangler did a fantastic job in dove-tailing her own experience and that of the past 10-20 years’ history to make a call for action. Build a bigger table, she said. Increase exposure, increase tolerance, build our history. What a great speech.

Lunch was buffet again but less good than yesterday’s. Mostly pasta which I found heavy. No second helpings.

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Skipped the afternoon sessions to go do laundry with JC. It was fantastic to spend time with her, she’s smart and thoughtful. I even got to try Mexican coke. Even though I missed the book club, it was time well spent.

I usually miss the author autograph session, spent the time chatting with another friend and sharing her huge bottle of Makers Mark. She asked a friend to buy what she thought was a regular bottle, but the one that showed up was supersized. So we will all try our best to make inroads.

Dinner with Carleen at Ruby Tuesday. I had the steak and lobster combo, with salad bar starter. Evening ended with karaoke.

nycdc trip day 05 | gcls con day 02

gcls201602program

First session of the day was already very interesting, worth waking up early for. Both Carleen and Brayden are seasoned communicators, and they shared insights on how to do author readings. Takeaways include: crossing out chunks of text that are less interesting when read out loud; memorising 70% of the reading; keeping a “readings only” book. And preparation, preparation, preparation.

Then it was a matter of hanging out with old and new friends. Lots of hugs.

The theme for this year’s conference is diversity and I went to a double session by again two seasoned communicators. The session did not feel long, there were discussions as well as guided lecturing by the leaders.

Lunch was buffet-style. Prior years were sandwiches that were not very value for money, which was why A and I did our own thing last year (yummy chicken salad). Hot food this year, and a huge difference. Braised chicken, pork loin, mash, veg, salad. So tasty I got a second helping. They even had grab-and-go sandwiches for those who didn’t sign up for the food option at reasonable prices, so the non-food option attendees can sit with everyone. One thing I missed out on last year was socialising at lunch, although we could have chosen to eat our salads at the main area rather than back in our room.

After lunch was the members’ meeting, where Mary formally took over from Liz as ED. Finance report was encouraging, the memories of being in the red is a distance, but not forgotten, memory. Went to the first half of the social media class and then it was our session on awards. Very fee attendees, but those who came had great questions. So great that we continued our discussion and I missed the next session.

Dinner with Carleen at the hotel restaurant. I had sea bass which was fabulous. I even recommended it to the new friends I made at last night’s dinner. Stuck around chatting with people at the bar, another regular event at the con.

nycdc trip day 04 | gcls con day 01

010library

Woke up early for 8am gathering at the hotel lobby. The destination was the Library of Congress, at an event hosted by the LC-Globe group. When they heard about us coming into town for the conference, they wanted to invite some of our authors for a reading. In addition, they offered us a tour of the LoC and I was one of the fortunate ones to have been able to secure a place on the tour.

The LoC is the American version of the British Library, housing a vast collection of books, papers, music, audio and all sorts of research material. Anything that is copyrighted has a copy at the LoC, and they do not limit by subject, format, or language.

We started at the lobby and the balcony, as the tour doesn’t go into the actual library itself. Really really impressive, opulent decoration. As our guide Nick said, the purpose was to

out-Europe Europe

The view from the balcony into the library was enough to show how wonderful it is.

We were able to see Thomas Jefferson’s library, a collection of books contributed by Jefferson from his personal library. Over 6,000 books that the LoC paid US$24,000 for. What was interesting was that he classified his books under 3 main categories: memory, reason, and imagination. For instance, a history book would fall under memory and a science book under reason.

Some of the books were lost in a fire, but the LoC has been diligently replacing what they could from the library’s own archives or by purchasing elsewhere. Again, impressive.

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There was also several exhibitions inside the LoC. The America Reads exhibition showed a selection favourite books chosen by the public. Lovingly preserved first editions of many popular classics. Another exhibition was of the personal papers and works of Jacob Riis. Then another one of maps. We also saw one of 3 copies of the Gutenburg Bible. All in all, lots to see.

We walked through one of the underground tunnels connecting the buildings to the reading. Felt like a member of the Secret Service. The author reading was attended by our group as well as LoC staff. Great authors reading their representative works. Afterwards when they had a signing session, I went over to the registration office and applied for a Library of Congress library card. They looked at my driver’s licence, took a picture and I had my own card in 5mins. Very cool!

Got back to the hotel with just enough time to get my registration badge before the conference started. After the introductions and acknowledgements, we went straight to sessions. I attended two vastly different sessions: one on how to overcome distractions when working from home and another one that touched on this year’s theme of diversity. I skipped the third session to get a breather and to explore the vendor room. I brought a few things for the silent auction so I took them down too.

The first evening is always the ice cream social. I’d only had some string cheese in the morning and a doughnut whilst at the LoC so I was hungry. The ice cream helped. Someone said there was beer tasting at the bar so a few of us went. The tasting was only a small sample of a locally brewed porter. It was nice, so we ordered a glass each.

012barbeque

Dinner was from a food truck that was organised specially for us this year. They were late, but didn’t matter. A bunch of us went outside to the car park. Today it was barbeque. I had the platter: chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork and chose 2 sides of mac’n’cheese and collard greens. Came with a cornbread. Went really well with the porter.

Went over to the lounge and was “kidnapped” to join a dinner group. I was still hungry but it was the opportunity of joining this group that was the incentive. Learned a lot just from a couple of hours in their illustrious presence.

conference prep: silent auction, snacks

Everyone is getting ready for the conference in July. My research and reservations for the trip are done for the most part.

I haven’t decided what to bring for the silent auction. I usually bring alcohol of some sort: last year was Nikka from the Barrel and a few years ago Writers Tears. May be I’ll bring one of the ice wines from my box of 12, or umeshu brandy if I can find it again, or one of the cute Tussock Jumper wines I saw yesterday.

glasspenletteropener

I have a beautiful nib pen and letter opener set handmade from glass that I bought in Venice a long, long time ago. Even the boxes are pretty. I don’t have use for them, hopefully they can fetch a good price.

dcplate

And since the conference is in Washington DC, I may bring this old fashioned souvenir plate. Mum and I found it when we were tidying up and it was originally destined for the charity shop. It belonged to my grandparents, so they must have bought it in the 1960s or 1970s. Does it count as an antique? May be someone will like it for the nostalgia factor.

snacks20160601

As for snacks I bring to give out. Carleen wants picnic so that’s a trip to the supermarket. Should I bring wasabi peas (lower middle of collage) again? I saw genuine UK cadbury’s (lower right) at a snack shop, may be that will appeal to some. Or kinder eggs, since apparently they are banned in the US. Hmm, may be not the kinder eggs, don’t want to risk being fined $2500 per egg. How ridiculous.

july trip flights & hotel

I talked to Mum and Sis and they both said I should go to the conference in July. So I got my travel agent to check flights. I want to fly to DC, then on the way back stopover at NYC. Very interesting results.

Option 1
The easiest option, book everything through CX: DCA via JFK, with stopover at NYC = $1,872

Option 2
There’s a CX special offer to JFK only, ending today = $960
I have to book JFK to DCA separately myself. I looked through kayak, expedia, trivago and found AA flight = $323 (with one checked luggage)
The flight to JFK arrives at 10.40pm so I’ll have to stay overnight at a hotel in the JFK area, cheapest = $110

Total = $1,393

Definitely cheaper taking option 2 even though travel time is much longer. It’s worth it, I haven’t seen flights to the US cheaper than $1,000 in high season for a long time.

airbnbnyc

Looking at NYC hotel for 6 nights. Wow, anything halfway decent is expensive, even the chains are at $200 a night. Plus tax it works out to be $240. More affordable options on airbnb, although most are over $150 a night in Manhattan. Found this one for $139, including fees works out to be $167. The pics look nice, there are good reviews and it’s a studio which will be fine for me. And yes, I’m a creature of habit, I picked this one because of the location on 88th between 1st and 2nd. It’s been over a decade but it’s still near enough to 96th and 3rd that I feel comfortable with the area.

So even before leaving I’m at almost $3000 for just flights and hotels. Then add on food, transportation, spending money. Sigh, it’d better be a good conference and trip.

gcls day05

gclstemp61bfast gclstemp65mints
mint pic credit Pol Robinson @polrobin

The last day of the conference, sad sad sad. I managed to say hi to a few more people before the closing remarks by our ED. Brunch followed, and more socialising. Saying goodbye is the hardest part, especially since we only get to see each other once a year and some friends may not be attending the next conference. Our group managed to plan pranks for one of us with a giant bag of mints and come up with panel ideas at the same time. I also talked to one of the winners R about LL, and she says she will motivate me into finishing it.

Finally we had to leave the room so the staff can clear up. Helped break down one of the vendor tables—lots of physical labour putting books into boxes. Went to the foodcourt for lunch (shared a 25-piece chicken finger bucket and got a hurricane daiquiri with tequila shot). After getting our sustenance, we convened at armchairs in the hotel lobby for a game of trivial pursuit. We only played two games, but we looked up towards the end of the second game and it was almost 7pm. Great game; I’m usually not too bad at trivial pursuit, but the US-centric decks we were playing were less familiar to me. I had great teammates though, I was blown away by their general knowledge. The most fun part was watching my teammates and the other team confer and discuss possible answers. The final result: 1 game each.

gclstemp62oysters gclstemp63lobster

Dinner was at the hotel restaurant. A few of us shared a dozen chargrilled oysters—the garlic butter was yummy. I had lobster with spinach risotto—the lobster was fresh and I added some of the garlic butter for additional flavour.

We planned to play another game after dinner. Ended up chatting and sharing stories into the wee hours.

I was looking forward to the conference with a mixture of dread and anticipation. I managed to go to most of the sessions I wanted, skipped a few because of award stuff and because I just wanted a little time at the gym. I don’t know why, but I get more sociable during the conference. This was the biggest conference so far, at 350 attendees. This meant I wasn’t able to meet as many new friends, spending most of my social time greeting old friends. Need to do correct that in future conferences.

Next year’s conference is at Washington DC and the following year in Chicago. I plan on going to both, but it had crossed my mind that I should go every other year because it’s expensive in terms of both time and money. What I spend coming to the con can be reallocated to another trip with mm. Then again, the conference experience is so unique that it’ll be a hard decision to make.

gcls day04

tl;dr: long day, great awards night, I got a huge surprise

gclstemp40dorothy

Too tired to go to the first session, and we had to convene to work through the presentation deck. We finished in time to go to the keynote speech by Dorothy Allison. I’d never heard of her before, although I understand she is a pioneer and very famous for both her body of work and her activism. Her speech was…there are no words to describe. Stunning, personal, mesmerising are the few that I can come up with. I started at the front then moved to the back to get pictures of the audience. At the end of her speech there was a tremendous standing ovation and I got regular pics and took a panorama of the room with the iphone too.

After lunch was a roundtable on reviewing. There were some very good discussions from the panelists and the audience. Not everybody agreed on every point, but that’s because we are not robots. The discussion was civil and passionate as it’s a topic we are all invested in. Interesting question, if there is absolute no redeeming qualities in a book whatsoever should the reviewer post a review? One camp says yes, to prevent other people from wasting their money; another camp says if there is nothing good to say, don’t say it.

We had awards run-through with the presenters at 3pm so we went over to the ballroom early to check it out. To our horror the hotel staff had only just begun to put out tables and equipment. They worked quickly and efficiently though, moved the tech table to where we wanted and worked out details of stage placement. Very professional. Carleen did a good job with the run-through, explaining the proceedings and expectations succinctly. Unlike last year we had more than 1hr to get ready. I’d grabbed spare lunch bags for dinner so I was prepared. A got me a diet coke too, so thoughtful. Had a sandwich, took a shower and went downstairs to set up. A bit of miscommunication with people coming in and out of the ballroom before official doors open was sorted quickly and we were ready to start the awards ceremony at 7pm.

The MCs this year were two of our own members and they planned funny sketches involving lost & found, tweets and cocktails in between announcement of winners in each category. We had planned theme songs for each category as well as each winner. As I ran the slides, Carleen ran the soundtrack. Everything ran smoothly.

The only part of the deck I didn’t have was the Director’s Award. This is the only non-writing award and is given to a volunteer for their contribution. When it was the category’s turn to be announced, I switched the main screen over to Carleen’s laptop and waited. It was nice to have a rest from tense pushing of the down arrow all night. Ha! Little did I know, I would have no rest, they gave the award to: me. My first thought was, what are you guys doing? Why me? What am I supposed to do now? Everybody had turned around and was cheering and clapping and standing up, Carleen had to tell them to sit back down to run the rest of the slides. I was still in shock and she had to tell me to go up to the stage to get the award. Easier said than done, it was like an obstacle course trying to negotiate tables. Apparently I said something like thank you to the board and told people to volunteer. Can’t remember. The only thing on my mind was to run back to the table to set up the slides for the next category, which was on my mba.

Deep breath. I’m incredibly honoured that the Directors think I deserve the award. I do a lot of running around during conferences—I take pictures, help move stuff, do the posters and this is my second year responsible for the award slides. But so do a lot of people. The entire organisation is staffed by volunteers and there are many others to put in as much, or even more than me. A big thank you to the Directors. Oh, the Exec Director gave me a bottle of Highland Park Dark Origins—if I had to buy a whisky right now, it’d be what I buy, perfect (okay, she actually asked me, under the guise of needing whisky adviceaas a gift for someone).

After my award, I had to focus again to get back to the tech table. The final awards are the big ones—two popular choice awards, one for cover design and one for a book. The Lee Lynch Classic award was presented by Lee herself to Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Rita Mae was there in person to accept it. Karin Kallmaker did the presentation for Trailblazer award to Joan Nestle which was accepted by Dorothy Allison.

Last year after the awards I packed up, stayed for a few minutes when the dance began then went back up to the room. This year I still packed up, but was too excited to go to bed so I stayed to chat with a bunch of people. There was copious consumption of wine, and someone bought me a Jameson 12. We closed out the dance floor, with the amazing Lee Lynch taking my hands and us doing a jaunty bouncy number together—can’t call it dancing, it was more like skipping.

gcls day03

Actually set the alarm to go to a 8.30am session, about the changing landscape of the industry, with so many authors taking the self-published route. The panelists are both traditional and self-published, a couple of them having published both ways. The pros for self-publication are control and money as they get a higher percentage; the cons are time-consuming and it’s not always more lucrative—without the machinery of a traditional publishing house, sales tend to drop off after a couple of months unless the author embarks on intensive marketing. Interesting. I had plans to go to the next session but spent it doing some work and chatting with a couple of friends.

The mid-morning session was on the judging process. Not as well attended as hoped, since we were up against a bigwig reading. Still, it’s the first time readers, authors and publishers were given an insight into the book judging process, and kudos for transparency. Lots of good questions from the audience too.

Immediately afterwards was the author auction, which took a different format this year. Much more low key, much more mature. An author may participate in either the silent or live part, and during the live auction there was no need to come up to the stage and be treated like a product on sale.

Ali Vali was the special speaker was after lunch. She is one of the membership and she talked about her own writing process. She was funny and her speech had no dull moments. It’s wonderful to hear all these experience and amazing authors speak with authority and yet so much humbleness.

nolatemp018alligator nolatemp019fried

There were a couple more sessions and the author autograph. I skipped them in favour of going to the gym, although I only managed 5k on the treadmill. A and I went for an early dinner at Drago’s, the hotel restaurant. After hearing stories about the “sexy” alligator nuggets we shared one as a starter. Tasted like somewhere in-between tough chicken breast and a dense white fish. I had crocodile before and didn’t like it, alligator was better. For mains I had the oyster and shrimp platter, since I had wanted to try the one at Mother’s yesterday. Nice food, but expensive, $50 each including a beer for me. I think I’ve had enough fried food on this trip for the rest of the year.

Team meeting was followed by a great stand-up show by Fay Jacobs (she was actually sitting on a stool but whatever) which recounted anecdotes throughout her life culminating in her and her wife’s involvement in the fight for marriage equality in their home state of Delaware. I was quite tired and embarrassed to report that I nodded off in the middle of the show, it’s no reflection on the quality of the show. I was determined to stay till the end.

gclstemp36pamtribute

Traditionally Friday night is karaoke night. Not as many attendees as usual, some regulars were missing. Most of the singers had great voices or sang with enthusiasm. We had the “I Feel Pretty” tribute to our friend Pam—the DJ didn’t have the music so we all got the lyrics on our phones and sang without music. I had been waiting for this one, I left immediately afterwards.

gcls day02

At breakfast we ran into a newbie conference attendee and we had a great chat. She is an experienced reader, runs a reading group, is well travelled and knowledgable about many things. Hopefully will be able to participate more in the organisation. I think I made a new friend.

The first panel I went to was about how to do research when writing about a foreign country and times. The panelists were divided into the method writing camp, who insisted that the only way is to visit the countries involved; and the practical camp, who said that it’s not always possible because of distance, cost and sometimes danger. One writer writes about an invented country, so the method method doesn’t work. I had things to do so didn’t stay for the entire panel.

The next session was an extremely fun one, where well-known authors told a story and we had to vote on whether they were telling the truth or not. We learned that KK may or may not have 19 pairs of shoes; Rach may or may not have sat on the lap of another panelist; KG may or may not have been married to a man; LL may or may not have taken acid and MKM may or may not have ridden on a Harley with a motorcycle gang. This session should be repeated every year.

After lunch I went to a masterclass about the history of our books from the 1920s until now. Great class, delivered professionally and, even though it was in lecture format and a subject I’m neither familiar nor usually interested in, not boring at all. I felt woefully inadequate as I had only read one of the books on the list, and everyone in the class was waxing lyrical about this or that classic that spoke to them.

Next panel was about research. Well moderated and less contentious than the morning’s session about foreign countries. Agreed with the authors that evernote and scrivener is great, as is mindmapping. It’s important to have a balance between information dump and not enough information. It’s also more respectful to the readers to state correct facts, even if they are uncomfortable; than to make mistakes in books.

The membership meeting was next. Opening remarks by the Director was followed by financial reports and updates on awards and the new website. I also received a volunteer award and my 5-year pin. Yay.

nolatemp015mothers nolatemp016mothers

Since I had a meeting, A and I went quickly over to mother’s for dinner. Real southern food in a no-frills setting. We lined up against a counter, gave our order and found seats. The wait staff took our receipt and brought our food. I had baked black ham, the glazed outer crust which is normally the bit that gets the marinade. Very nice. Served with a choice of 3 sides, I had turnip greens, green beans & tomato and red beans & rice. It’s never going to win any prize for presentation but it’s honest, simple food. The fried shrimp and oysters and seafood looked good. I hope I have another chance to try before I leave.

gcls day01

gclstemp01nikka

The conference started in the morning with volunteers gathering to help with stuffing the swag bag, setting up tables, organising the silent auction. The venue in the hotel is based on a courtyard concept, with rooms radiating from the central courtyard. Of course it became the focal point and meeting place. There were hugs galore as we see friends and meet new friends.

I brought a bottle of Nikka from the Barrel for the silent auction. I found out that because it’s 500ml it’s not considered a regulation size for import into the US, which means it’s not available in the US. I also put some in a hip flask and told people to come find me for samples. The usual suspects came up to me, as well as a couple of new friends. I think at the end of the day the auction has reached $55.

gclstemp05shoes

The conference proper started after lunch (we had chicken salad we made from stuff we bought at the supermarket) when the director made a welcome speech. The first session after that was a readers trivia session. I wasn’t planning in staying, but I ended up staying the whole session. I even won a book! (real physical book, which now I need to figure out how to take home, it’s one on my list to buy.)

Went running at the gym while the con virgin meeting was going on, took a quick shower and was back for the ice cream social. More hugging friends and meeting new friends.

Dinner was at M’s house, she invited a bunch of people to her place for bbq. We had cocktail, very juicy pork, dirty rice, boiled peanuts, bread pudding. She showed me how to make a mojito and let me make a couple. There were a lot of people, and I was getting a bit angsty because of the crowd. Took a taxi back with a few others just in time to catch JD in concert. Good attendence and she was absolutely fantastic. A long, event-filled day. Exhausting but fun.

new orleans day 02

nolatemp012crabbys nolatemp013poboy

Moved hotels today, around 5-10mins walk from the Doubletree to the Hilton. Room wasn’t ready so left our stuff with our friends J&H, chatted a bit then went to lunch with them plus 2 other friends M&M. M is local so she took us to crabby jacks, a fried food casual hut dining place. A and I shared a shrimp & oyster po’ boy with fries. Even regular was a large portion. Basically fried food stuffed in a roll. Tasted very good, the seafood was fresh and the sandwich overstuffed. Freshly brewed iced tea too, the kind where the tea is still hot and melts the ice cubes. We were 6 people in the car, which was very cramped. I ended up in the boot (it’s an SUV so wasn’t like transporting a body.)

nolatemp011hotelview

By the time we got back to the hotel we were able to check in. Not the room A picked, but still on a high floor with a partial river view. We quickly unpacked and walked to the supermarket. Longer walk than expected, probbaly 20mins one way. Bought salad, hummous, roast chicken and soft drinks. Got caught in the heavy shower too so got soaked for the second time in as many days.

Rushed back to the hotel to change shirts then downstairs to meet with others who volunteered to help shift stuff. M (who took us to crabby jack’s) is the local liaison so a lot of boxes were shipped to her house. Took 4 cars and 9 volunteers to bring them all back to the hotel.

Dinner with Car and another friend L at the brewpub next to the hotel. I had a maibock and, since I’m all burgered and steaked out, a bourbon glazed salmon with kale quinoa pomegranate salad and grilled asparagus. Very nice, the vegetables especially. After dinner we had some official stuff to do, actually a lot; I didn’t get back to my room till 12.30am. Long day. Even longer tomorrow when the conference starts.

gcls day 04

gcls2014logo

Lots of running around getting the award presentation done. First thing in the morning checking projection connection, then with the team to go through the presentation one last time.

Attended 2 sessions: one with food with writing and the second one the annual panel with new writers and their journey towards publication.

More awards meeting and by the time we broke off we had just over 30mins to get something to eat, have a shower and changed. A little bit disappointed at the lack of time and everyone else (including those in charge) seemed to have just gone off for their own happy dinner whilst abandoning the awards team. I mean, we also needed to eat and we had no time. I only had time to pop into taco bell across the road to get a burrito which I had to literally shove down my mouth.

The tech desk was at the back of the ballroom where the awards were to be held. I was nervous and stressed because the slide order had to be spot on. 237 slides total. I also had to be careful I didn’t hit the arrow button too early especially when the winners were announced. By the time the ceremony was finished I was knackered. I stayed to congratulate people and to watch a couple of dances. Needed quiet time.

gcls day 03

Attended two two-part master classes today. One on historical fiction research and one on what to include in a good manuscript. The historical fiction one included a hands-on exercise where we were split into small groups, given a scenario and told to research and write a passage. It was fun and I think my group did really well. Then again we had 3 editors who write, and a writer…and me.

Today was also special speaker day and our special speaker was Ann Bannon, a true pioneer and an icon.

port14wedge port15scallop

Lunch was chicken sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. Dinner was at bj’s brewpub. Had a red jeremiah (quite dark but not hoppy), wedge salad and for mains seared scallop with rice and asparagus.

Evening activity was karaoke. Mainly sat around chatting and drinking the wine I got from Mt Hood winery out of a coffee paper cup. Took part in the annual “I feel pretty” group sing in honour of a lost sister. Stayed quite late.

gcls day 02

The conference proper started today. A welcome from the exec director then it was to sessions. I went to one called “I wish I’d written that” followed by one about different mystery genres. I learned the difference between cozy (American spelling) and hard-boiled mysteries and which one contains knitting. Lunch was roast beef sandwich, potato salad, cookie and an apple. After lunch it was the members’ meeting followed by a well attended panel with several illustrious editors.

gclsaward2014vol

At the members’ meeting they were giving out awards and certificates for volunteers and I was honoured to be one of the recipients of an award.

Didn’t go to the next session. My friend, editor P, gave me some great advice about LL. I did manage to catch the board meeting and by then it was past 6pm.

port13bbq

A and I went to dinner at the nearby boomers barbeque restaurant. Between the two of us, we ordered ribs, beef brisket, pulled chicken, pork loin and hot links. I had a beer and sides of corn and coleslaw. I liked the ribs and brisket best. $45 total with tips.

gcls day 01

Couldn’t sleep last night until 5am, so didn’t wake up till 9.30am. Finished some work then hung around the vendor area helping a little with set up. Lots of volunteers completed the task quickly.

orangehollandworldcup2014

Spent the afternoon watching Holland vs Argentina world cup semi-finals. Disappointing result for us, as Argentina won on penalties. Ah well.

My stomach wasn’t feeling well, A and I went to Safeway and got some soup. Then it was time for the Meet and Greet at the vendor room. Not much to do, said hello to more people. Early escape back to the room to watch tv.

gcls day 4

gcls13313confbrunch gcls13322sake

Sunday wrap up at the con. Always sad to say goodbye. The day started late, but with quick announcements and goodbye the brunch was served. Lots of food, we were very hungry by then.

Staying behind so saw lots of people leave. Sniff. Hugs all round.

Took the shuttle to Target to start personal shopping. Vitamins, shower curtain liner, chocolate. Back to hotel and shuttle again to the mall. Met up with another group to see The Heat. Very funny, but I fell asleep a little because I really was tired. Dinner at Kona where I had a sushi roll and a sake flight.

gcls day 3

gcls13172auction

Starbucks breakfast of sausage sandwich again. On the program today: keynote speech, membership meeting and more sessions. It was an emotional meeting, our ED announced she was stepping down after having done a brilliant job in turning around the organisation. The silent auction ended at lunch, with lots of donations like books, photos, paintings and souvenirs. I brought a selection of “unfortunately named Japanese chocolate” like collon and melty kisses.

By the afternoon I was getting irritatble and tired. Running around the sessions and being alert constantly whilst jetlagged was quite taxing. Plus a couple of people had been a little rude. They probably didn’t realise we weren’t professionals and not exactly being paid for this. We gave up our time, and our opportunity to attend sessions to help out. I only managed during the whole con to attend one full session, the others I only caught a snippet. So I took a rest in the main room.

Ha! Rad comes in and I had to get to work again. Sigh.

Dinner with A at iHOP. I had chicken and waffles and a salad. And the root beer float I wanted from In-N-Out. All in all, too much fast food.

Highlight of the con was the awards ceremony. I was allowed to go inside the closed stage area early to set up the tripod and camera. Turned out to be a good spot, I caught a few winners as they came off the stage and got them grinning happily. So happy for them.

After a few pictures at the dance, I declared myself off duty. Not much of a dancer, besides no one asked, heehee. Left at 11pm, well before the best bits.

gcls day 2

gcls13210whisky

Breakfast was from Starbucks opposite the hotel. Needed the energy for the running around today. Special speaker, author auction, author autographs as well as all the sessions. The author auction brought in over $8,000 for the scholarship fund, with 3 authors going for $1,000 (the top bid was $1,050). Needed the early afternoon rest and early dinner of steak at Humperdinks.

Karoke night theme was western so there were many hats, boots and costumes. Singing and dancing. And photography. And whisky. Adrian brought a bottle of Glenfiddich and I brought small bottles of Yamazaki and Hibiki. We were happily drinking away when the hotel intervened and told us off. Guess they only wanted us to buy from their bar. We put the whiskies away in a bag.

I was pretty wiped out with all the running around. Stayed for the traditional “I Feel Pretty” tribute and left before the end. Was going to shower and sleep but ran into a problem reading my CF card. Panic stations. After an hour, of poking into the card reader with my swiss knife and restarting the mba, it was fixed. Phew. We’re up to 4,500 pics between us so far.

gcls day 1

gcls13007program

The proper start of the conference. Welcome from the Executive Director, welcome to the newbies, then lots of sessions. Very organised — track 1 was master classes, usually with 2 parts; track 2 was panel discussions and track 3 chats and readings. A and I decided that we’d both try to go to all sessions to get maximum chance of getting good pictures. The one challenge was that tracks 1 and 3 were at lobby level but track 2 was up at the top floor. Lots of riding up and down on the lift.

Honestly, I couldn’t remember which sessions were which. Some I stayed longer, some I just stayed long enough to take enough pictures. Lunch was included, sandwich buffet, chips and dessert. Soft drinks were plentiful and constantly in supply.

There were more sessions in the afternoon. I skipped one because I met up with Adrian for our whisky exchange. I got a VAT 69 at DXB and she got me a Blanton’s. We ended up opening the VAT 69, teehee. I love my Blanton’s.

gcls13305allrobbq

Dinner was at Sue Ellen’s, a small party hosted by Allison and Ro. Had barbeque with lots of sides. Really nice, I went for seconds. I was pretty tired when we got back to the hotel, in bed by 9.30pm.

gcls boxes, meeting, meet greet

gcls13016toast

9.30am in the hotel lobby to join a small convoy to pick up boxes from one of the Dallas committee members’ home. The ground committee had been outstanding this year, the first time there was a ground committee. They did so much on the ground stuff, organised airport transportation, sourced great hotels, researched information, and even donated space in their home for boxes to come in the post. It didn’t take long for the boxes to be loaded, transported to the hotel and unloaded.

The hotel has a shuttle that brings you to anywhere within a 3 mile radius, so A and I went to the mall to look for a hat. Not much choice, so we decided to give up. Lunch was salad and frozen yogurt from the food court.

Back at the hotel and the conference preparation started. I had volunteered to help with setup and packages but was invited to a board sub-committee meeting. Well, it’s still helping with the con and group as a whole.

Nice chicken sandwich with pesto from the hotel bar which we ate in the room. The conference started properly with the meet’n’greet. So many friends and new faces!! A and I were asked to step in as the official photographers this year, so we roamed the room and did our thing. There was news that DOMA had been repealed, with perfect timing, and we all made a toast in celebration. The meet’n’greet had ice cream and an open bar, I ended up having neither, just some water. Hopefully not a sign of things to come in the next few days.

fort worth, in-n-out, tex-mex, book club

fw030tcufrog gcls13291inout

Early start 6am, driving to Fort Worth to have breakfast at Ol’ South for pancakes. This is where we went last time. Afterwards it was visiting TCU, which had really expanded and changed. Then to Staples where Car got official stuff done.

For lunch I dragged Ann to In-N-Out because of all I’ve read about their burgers and the not so secret menu. I had a double double, mustard grilled with well done fries and peppers on the side. The burger was…a burger. The fries were nice and crispy even though I only ate a quarter. The peppers were hot!! Didn’t have the appetite for a root beer float, next time.

Rested in room until around 4.30pm where we were picked up by the Dallas committee members for dinner at El Fenix with a group of people. I was full and tired, so I opted for a margarita and a salad. Then it was back to the hotel for a book club reading. Originally the reading was at their usual location but they moved it to our hotel for a bigger room and so more people could come. Lee Lynch read and chatted, it was so great to see her in such great spirit.

gcls silent auction

cuteusb choccollon01

No chocolate shoe for this year’s gclscon, instead I have probably 3 lots for the silent auction. I’m sure about #1 and 2, not sure about #3, whether there will be any interest:

  1. cute flash drives I saw at the outdoor market. I have: yoda, piglet, spiderman, psy and bart simpson as well as a chocolate ice lolly and a fake mercedes key fob. I kept the angry bird for myself
  2. whatever strange Japanese chocolate/candy I can lay my hands on. I think at the very least: collon, melty kiss, pocky
  3. some running swag like the Polar F6 that has been sitting in my drawer for a while, a fake spibelt, may be one of my running books. I wish I hadn’t given away so many race shirts to charity, that would make a good set

If I have time and can find it during my layover at Narita, may be a Japanese whisky. I like nikka straight from barrel because the bottle looks like a perfume bottle. I have a bottle myself and Mr Murray gives it 91 points.

gcls con

chocshoe00

Registered for the 2013 GCLS conference, which will take place at the end of June in Dallas. Got the early bird x2 ticket with A. Getting flights will be more of a challenge, so I need to start researching earlier. This will be my 5th con, I think. But I won’t get my 5 year anniversary badge because I forgot to renew one time so I had to restart a few months later. Ah well. It’s a great conference, and I’m looking forward to readings, lectures and the annual catch up with friends. Not to mention visitingTexas again and may be this time I’ll shell out for that $200 cowboy hat.

They have a silent auction at the conference, and this year’s chocolate shoe went down very well. Not sure how to top that next year, I wonder if I can get my hands on some strange Japanese candy. Failing that, there’s always melty kisses, the winter special editions are hitting the shelves now.

gcls day 4

The last day of the con consists of saying good-byes and having brunch. It’s been a good event, well organised and smooth. Everyone is looking forward to the next one. All of a sudden though, I just wanted to go home. Home as in where my stuff is. I’d had enough socialising for this week, this month. I worked myself up to a weird state of mind, and was quiet all the way back on the drive to Chicago. I have to figure out what to do for the next week.

gcls day 3

Keynote speaker this year was Jewelle Gomez and I really have to put my hand up to admit to absolutely having no idea who she is. Her speech was great though, and there was a lot of history and thanks we owe her for paving the way. The membership meeting followed and this year it wasn’t as contentious, the board did a great job for this con and after a few years together things have settled down. Finances look to be in good shape too, to everyone’s relief.

After lunch I went to part 1 of a talk on writing mysteries. Main lession learned, every suspicious character must have a secret. And the difference between a mystery and a thriller: in a mystery the crime has already taken place and it’s the detective’s job to solve it; a thriller is more often than not a race against time to stop the crime. The final session was a well attended one on romances. A and I were doing laundry so we were in and out. The silent auction also finished and I got outbid on Lee’s leather jacket, I don’t have room in my suitcase anyway.

Big break in between. Rested. Went to the bar. Went to DQ for dinner and then got dressed for the awards. I had a union jack tie, sneakers and big floppy hat, it seemed to have been a hit. The awards were fantastic and I couldn’t clap enough for the winners. The dance followed, and this is the part of the con I usually enjoy least. I had a beer, congratulated the winners, had a few pics taken and disappeared up to the room while everyone was still dancing.

gcls day 2

gcls12bbjacket1

The day started with a tribute to Barbara Grier, truly a pioneer. I must admit that I didn’t know a lot about her until she passed away, and how everyone who met her had something wonderful to say, how she made a giant impact and would forever be remembered.

The author auction followed, and raised $3,400+. Lunch was sandwiches again. After lunch a few of us went to the Mall of America, target was Best Buy. We split up and I went over to look at the kindle fire stuff, ending up buying a case and protective screen. Back to the con and I then attended a session on series and sequels, a panel that included 3 authors with ongoing series as well as an editor. Lots of pertinent information and great discussion. The final session I attended was on soldiers and spies, I wasn’t there for the full session, wanting to rest a little. I didn’t have anything for the authors to sign at the author autograph session (ebooks now) but I still went to enjoy the atmosphere.

Dinner was at TGI Friday’s. I have to say how much I love the location of this year’s con. The hotel rooms and the conference rooms are in the same tower, making hopping back to the room a mere lift ride away. Within walking distance of the hotel there are: subway, burger king, DQ and Friday’s. No more having to go to Disney to have expensive food. I had a steak with 2 vegetable sides, then a bourbon shake which I could only partially finish.

Back to the hotel room to change for the karaoke. Someone had suggested 50s night as a theme, so I brought a black shirt, the leather jacket and converse hi tops. Pol did a wonderful job with my hair and with my sunglasses on it was a tai chi moment. Our group gained the nickname of the greasers, under the leadership of head greaser KG. Sang a few group songs, including “I feel pretty” in tribute to one of our members who passed away a couple of years ago. Didn’t stay till the end, left at around 11.30pm.

gcls day 1

bid start teddy bear picnic

Up at 7.30am, made proper tea (both A and I brought our own tea bags, knowing the state of the tea in the US) then down to the coffee shop to get a croissant to prepare for the first session. The President of the GCLS said a few words, then turned it over to 3 illustrious local members for tips on where to go in the Twin Cities.

I went back up to the room to skype mm about Provence hotels so missed the start of the first breakout session. I didn’t want to interrupt ongoing sessions, the one that didn’t seem like I’d disrupt was the one with newbies, aka the con virgins. Didn’t participate, as it’s already my 4th year. There are something like 24, 25 newbies this year, wow. After the break I went to a session about keeping the audiences at the edge of their seats. I learned that the tricks included: go quick, go slow, build fear and never kill the main character!

By then the silent auction had officially begun, the items were nicely laid out. Aside from the chocolate shoe and whiskey, I had a bunch of stuff from the UK that I grouped into a teddy bear picnic: a teddy bear, Jamie’s newest cookbook, cadbury’s chocolate, hobnobs, PG tips, a brolly, a picnic mat and a couple of bottles of Magners (and glasses). I hope the bidding goes high.

Lunch was sandwiches provided by the con, this is a new perk and is really appreciated. Roast beef sandwich, chips, cookie, yogurt and an apple. After lunch I went to a session on writing dialogue. Started with a writing blast where in 10 mins us the students wrote about our experiences during momentous events like JFK assassination and 9/11. Some people read theirs out loud, they were all great and very personal. The speaker was great and informative and I learned a lot. I didn’t go to the second half, opting for one of the sessions I was looking forward to, of first time published writers talking about their book(s) and how they came to being published. I must say, inspirational stuff.

4.30pm now. We did laundry and I continued research on Provence hotel. We have 6 responses and I was able to eliminate 4 because of price, location or reviews that aren’t as good. 6pm I went down to the bar to meet up with friends. Had a blue moon and 2 new bourbons: Basil Hayden and Booker’s. RM wanted me to try and get Booker’s for him but I did not like it. No nose until I added water when it opened up a little. Far too spicy and difficult to drink I couldn’t even finish it, ugh. Had a grilled vegetables flatbread pizza too that was quite good.

Then it was back to the room to change into swimming things for the hot tub party. It was just a bunch of us sitting in the jacuzzi chatting. I met some new people and new friends, it was great. Back at a decent hour and to prepare for the second day tomorrow.

p.s. chocolate shoe bid at $40.

gcls chocolate shoe

chocshoe06 chocshoe00

When I went to Brussels with A in April and did the chip’n’choc walk, we bought a chocolate shoe from Wittamer that we thought would be perfect to donate to the silent auction at GCLS. We had in mind several attendees who are very interested in shoes and chocolate, and we hope would gamely put in generous bids.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been posting teaser images of the shoe on facebook; basically I took pics at odd angles and photoshopped them. Been extremely pleased that a fair bit of buzz has been generated. We got to the con today and finally revealed the actual item. Hopefully it wasn’t a disappointment, from the reactions it would seem that there may be a potential bidding war. All in aid of the GCLS which is always a good thing.

Steve Jobs at Macworld Expo 1997

Yes, it’s 45mins long. Yes, Gil Amerio drones on for the first part. Be patient. Wait till 6:55, when Steve comes out on his return to Apple. The contents of his speech may be outdated (NT, Director, LaserWriter) and who remembers NeXT computers anymore but he was already talking about apps running on cross platforms. The conviction and charisma is there. Still compelling. I watched all the Steve bits and fast forwarded the Gil bits.

gcls 2011 day 4

The last day of gcls is always sad. Brunch, then good-byes. Almost everyone there I won’t see for another year, and a year is too long. Next year it’ll be at Minneapolis and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s closer to Chicago, so I can fly to Chicago and drive down with Car. But it’s an American city that is not very well known outside of the US, and if it weren’t for the conference, I won’t be interested in visiting. At least at Orlando there are the Disney and Universal attractions. It’ll be a new experience.

I’m a sort-of experienced con attendee now, and I must say that I’ve come a long way from the shy, hesitant first timer who approached KK, KG, Lee etc for the first time. It is to their credit that these incredible authors are so without pretension that they treat everyone as friends. Publishers rub shoulders with each other; writers and readers get drunk together at the bar; almost the entire group turned out for the surprise 50th birthday party of one of the nicest person on earth. This is a rare community, in a world that is dominated by business politics, there was a conspicious lack of arrogance and competition.

In the afternoon a bunch of us went to Islands of Adventure, and that adventure deserves its own post.

gcls 2011 day 3

The morning started with an inspirational speech by KG. During some of the previous sessions, even though they were uplifting and supposed to be encouraging, I actually felt discouraged. What’s the point. I’m not good enough. I don’t think I can take rejection or criticism. Then she talked about the classics and what would be our generation’s classics. From her, I began to feel that it is okay to write about something a little edgy, a little less traditional. She had many people in (good) tears after her speech.

The membership meeting and a couple of sessions and we had a short day. The afternoon was for everyone to get ready for the evening’s award ceremony. I did laundry and 30mins on the hotel treadmill. And then it was time to gather for the awards. It started late, but got quickly into a smooth, almost routine, swing of things. It’s the first time I’ve sat through the awards without having to run around taking pictures. All the awards were well deserved, although I feel disappointed for those who didn’t win this year. I’ll definitely check out some of the winners’ books. The awards was followed by the dance. I left before midnight.

gcls 2011 day 2

gcls2011grl

I didn’t have to take pictures this year, so this was the only one I took, simply because I was sitting immediately behind them and the moment presented itself. I don’t know how many Goldies and other awards this famous trio have won between them, it’s a lot. And it couldn’t have happened to nicer or more talented people. This was during the first session by Elizabeth Sims, who gave a funny and educational lecture. This was followed by the author auction, which is always fun and raised over $2000. More sessions during the day, readings and discussions. There was a surprise birthday party and a karaoke, it was a fun day.

gcls 2011 day 1

Breakfast was at the buffet at the hotel, I was still a little disoriented from the jetlag, food was welcome. More hugs and meets before the first session, and then the conference began in earnest. Lots of different sessions for all tastes. Our session was just after lunch, and directly conflicted with KK’s session, so we were happy to have a decent turnout. I read first, cos I was nervous at not having done the read-in-public thing before, I think I did okay. I read from Jane Fletcher’s The Exile and the Sorcerer, and the others read from equally prestigious books.

This was the only evening where nothing was planned, so we drove offsite to Walmart and dinner at Lonestar steakhouse. I had a juicy rib-eye and my favourite lettuce wedge. Oh how i’ve missed good steak.

con sunday

The last day of the con. Sad. Too many good-byes. Next year seems such a long way away. Note, if I remember: bring some frangos for the silent auction. No need to pack a suit, there were lots of people in casual clothing. Bring the hilton honors card.

I was way early for the airport, even though I already got a bus later than the concierge suggested. Mortified to find that there is no admiral’s club at MCO (they want us to do more shopping), but balanced out by free wifi. Played with both the iphone and ipad till boarding. Flight was uneventful. I read amy dawson robertson’s book, which I couldn’t put down! Had to switch the reader off for landing, but I was reading it at the luggage carousel and when I got home. Ignored all my mafia wars and vampire wars requests to finish it in bed. It really was that good.

con saturday

gcls10346shortwin

The day began with the keynote speech with Lee Lynch. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. What an amazing, friendly, generous person, completely without pretension, treats everyone like a personal friend. The rousing standing ovation was well deserved.

Then it was time for the author auction. There were the expected — rachel’s and lynn’s outfits; kg lost her sandals. But there were a few unexpected turns too. I have pics, but I’m not going to post them. Not that they are particularly risque, just that out of respect for the authors’ regular lives, the auction is something that should be kept private. The only remaining note is that over $3000 was raised.

I had a short meeting after lunch, so missed some of the sessions. Skipped the last session to go running. I treated myself to an ice cream after running, but got into a bit of frustration. Ordered a double cup, 2 different flavours. Not sure if the server was new or what, she gave me 2 single cups and charged me like that. According to her nametag she is from estonia and looked so lost, I couldn’t be bothered to argue with her anymore.

Printed my boarding pass, and was on my way back to the room when I got sidetracked into hanging out at the bar. Ended up having 2 beers, in my crappy t-shirt and shorts. Heehee.

The main event this evening was the award and dance. My hat did its rounds again, and I took lots of pics. This one is of the Outsiders group winning the award for short story/collections. I think it’s iconic and captured a nice moment. All the awards were well deserved and I’m happy for all the winners. Afterwards was the dance. I pretty much stayed till the end, there was enough to keep me busy without going dancing.

Car and her mom drove back tonight, so I had the room to myself.

con friday

gcls10093chat

Attended today:

  • membership meeting
  • special speaker: karin, book soup
  • coffee chat with karen, dillon and georgia (that’s their shoes in the pic, no prizes for guessing which pair belongs to whom)
  • millennial generation with rachel

I skipped the last session, nothing interested me. Dinner with chef, rrrose, dk, lynn and dillon at benihana. It was good hibachi.

The evening’s entertainment was karaoke, which was supposed to be poolside. That got moved indoors due to afternoon thunderstorms. Of course by the time it started the rain had disappeared. I stayed long enough to be amazed at pennie and mercedes’ singing skills. But my main aim was to get in the pool. Did a little bit of swimming, had to stop cos of water in ears. Mostly stuck around and chatted with the small group that was there. Eventually we moved to the hot tub for a while. Was back in the room 10-ish.

con thursday

gcls10035romance gcls10054reading

Meetings attended today:

  • welcome meeting
  • engaging the reader with kenna white and tracey richardson
  • 7 steps to writing real people with kg
  • romance writers on romance, moderated by georgia with karin, rachel, jane vollbrecht, marianne martin
  • reading with karin, cheri, dalia, nann, moon, pol, nat and chef

Lunch was with chef and tracy, a new friend. I had a nice chicken and spinach salad. Dinner was with the bella crew, 24+ people at the house of blues. It was a lot of fun. A lot of overseas attendees, especially from the forum — aside from postie, there were new friends from norway, belgium, holland. I love having a forum and european bunch.

There was a break between the end of the day’s program and dinner, so I did laundry and went running on the treadmill. When I lived at PT, I loved the treadmill. Now it’s a chore.

meet and greet

The con began with the meet and greet this evening. Unlike last year, we had the whole of the ballroom annex. I was so excited to see so many old friends. It’s strange, last year was my first time and I knew no one. Was very shy. This year, I saw chef, screamed like a girl and she picked me up and twirled me around for a quarter circle. Shy no more.

I didn’t bring the big camera, but when the board president asked if I could help take pictures of the saturday award ceremony, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

test track

Went to epcot today. Still amazing. I finally got the chance to go on the test track ride that I missed last year. It’s the perfect ride for people who like a little bit of excitement but don’t like rollercoasters. It’s a simulation of how car manufacturers test cars, so there’s hills, rough surface, braking and acceleration.

Afternoon we returned to the hotel to check into our room. Then it was back to epcot for late night opening. Walked through all the countries. Wanted to have dinner at canada, but it was full. We managed to get the last 3 seats in germany for the buffet. I had a whole litre of dark beer, i think i shocked people.

gcls thoughts | setting a goal

To be honest, it took me a long time to warm up to the prospect of going to gcls. If it weren’t for car’s persistence and enthusiasm, i would never have gone. My natural weariness about being recognised, being seen as different, having to be sociable and interact with people.

Turns out, I should never have worried.

I made friends. Bucketloads of friends. I met postie, and had such a wonderful time slipping back into the old accent. What a great mate, drinking buddy and friend. And CR, it was my privilege, what a smart and down to earth person. Folks I’d met already — RS, NS, TT. New friends like ML, LA, LL, too many to list. The big names in our community, KK, KG — there was never any pretension, any of that “I’m a best selling author and you’re nothing” nonsense. Well, there was one person…but such a minority.

People who won awards are actually friends. Not (yet) bestest best friends, I’ve only just made these friends and they have longer relationships with each other. But so welcoming. It’s more than I expected, way way more.

They’ve been an inspiration. I think I need to get back to writing. I’d like to have my name on that nominees list one day. Not too far in the future. I don’t think it’s unrealistic.

gcls sunday home

Today turned out to be a crappy day at the end. It started out well enough, with breakfast and then what KK called “kiss and cry” as good-byes were said. I packed and we checked out of our room. I even went to the membership meeting and … gasp … spoke out.

Just before our bus was due to pick us up the sky opened up. Heavy thunderstorm persisted till we got to the airport. We found seats in the crowded terminal. The flight was supposed to leave at 4pm, and the plane arrived at the gate at 4.05pm, so needless to say we were delayed. The flight wasn’t that comfortable, it was full and I scrunched into the middle seat.

Car was in pain and had been for a few days, poor thing. Her mom was at the airport. To add insult to injury, 3 out of 4 of our bags came but the last one didn’t. It was one of Car’s, but in a twisted turn, was tagged under my name. The agents checked and advised that it looked like one whole cart didn’t make it. At that point, Car and her mom went home and I queued up to register the lost luggage. About 30mins into the queuing, they told us they found the cart, and so we waited another 15mins for it to come out. Okay, nice, relieved. But I had 2 big bags plus my puma bag to haul home. Taxi time. I didn’t get home till almost 10pm.