Hi everyone! So this year’s GRL was even bigger and more amazing that last year, and that is saying a lot! I had a wonderful time and seeing everybody there just reminds me again how wonderful this community of ours really is. We are such a lucky group to have so many fabulous people to share our love of books and m/m romance along with us.
So last year I was really good and did detailed recaps, but based on how crummy I still feel post trip I am going to shorten it to my favorite highlights. I wish that I could really capture the feeling of GRL, why it is so magical. I am not sure I succeeded, but I have tried my best in the highlights below. I also have a great giveaway for you folks courtesy of the fabulous K.A. Mitchell!
I have included lots of pictures here, but you can see lots more on my Facebook page. Those are mostly in chronological order and well captioned so they will give you an even better sense of the goings on. Also, Madison Parker took almost a thousand pictures and posted them here so you should check those out as well. They are just gorgeous. (Oh, and all these pics here can be made bigger and clearer just by clicking. Some of the “gallery” ones show up particularly blurry but will clear up if you click on them.)
So here, in no particular order, are my highlights from GRL 2013…
You guys know I have four fabulous reviewers here and I am lucky enough to live close enough to Sammy and Melanie that I have gotten to meet them in person before. But GRL was the first time I got to meet Amy. And of course she is just as amazing and awesome in person as she is online. And yes, she really is as tall and gorgeous in real life as this picture makes her look! Sadly Crissy was unable to come at the last minute, but I am crossing my fingers to meet her next year.
It is hard for me to believe that a few months ago I barely knew Lisa from The Novel Approach. We had chatted online and followed each other’s blogs, but I didn’t really get to know her until we worked on the Joyful Approach: Countdown to GRL together. And once we started talking, we never stopped. I chat with Lisa pretty much daily at this point and she is my go to person for advice, venting, and all around awesomeness. I laugh because Lisa and I are like good cop/bad cop. I say she is the angel on my shoulder because she is so ridiculously nice that whenever I worry I am being too hard lined about something, I check in with her. If Lisa says it’s ok, I know I am fine. And I am the devil on her shoulder because I am always telling her she needs to be tougher. So we make a great team!
Meeting her at GRL was such a thrill because she is even more awesome in person. We got along like chocolate and peanut butter and I feel like I have always known her. Seriously, I cried when I had to say goodbye to her for another year (but I am trying to convince her to come to RT…). So she is all around amazing, and if you are not following her blog, definitely check it out!
TJ and Eric Get Engaged
So yeah, this was pretty amazing. I was lucky enough to have a teeny tiny part of it and it really was one of the most heartwarming parts of GRL. As most of you know, Eric Arvin and TJ Klune kick started their relationship last year at GRL and this year TJ proposed. I actually learned about it about an hour before because I was moderating one of the earlier Q&As. TJ had some questions about the microphones and was talking to Kris Jacen and I about it and then just casually mentions he will need a hand held mike for his Q&A “because I am proposing to Eric.” I know that my eyes bugged out but I tried to play it cool. Then Kris and I looked at each other and sort of mouthed “HOLY SHIT!!” So I pride myself on being a good secret keeper, but I’ll have you know that was not an easy hour to keep my mouth shut. Though I will admit I told Michael Chulsky, “Trust me, you will want to stay for this next Q&A. It is going to be really good!”
I don’t know either man very well (though they are both lovely in person), but I cried along with everyone as I watched TJ propose. The love between these two guys is evident every time you see them together. Just in the way they look at each other, how they always are aware of where the other one is, of the little touches of reassurance or grabbing each other’s hands. Seriously, they are so sweet together and I wish them all the love in the world.
And after all the tears, the funniest part was at the end when Lisa was helping them open a champagne bottle. I had just asked her if she needed help, and literally as the words “I’ve got it” came out of her mouth, the cork shot in the air, hit the ceiling, and scared the crap out of everyone. I love the look on her face her and TJ jumping out of his chair.
P.S. You can watch their full Q&A, along with the proposal, here on YouTube.
This year at GRL the parties were themed more extensively than in the past. And you know what that means… Dress Up! I know not everyone was excited about all the costumed events, but I thought it was so much fun. My friends and I had a great time leading up to GRL planning our outfits, shopping together online, and building up the anticipation of the events. I have to say, I was blown away by how fabulous everyone looked and how so many people got into the spirit of things. Here are some highlights from the three different nighttime parties: the Juke Joint Blacklight Party on Thursday, the Formal Night party on Friday, and the Masquerade Party on Saturday.
I am lucky because running the blog gives me a chance to interact with so many of my favorite authors on a regular basis. But nothing compares to meeting folks in person. I don’t think most of them have any idea how much we readers think of them as rock stars for their amazing writing and how it can capture our hearts. This year I was particularly excited to meet two authors for the first time, Jordan Castillo Price and K.A. Mitchell. I am HUGE fans of both their work and was delighted to find how lovely both these ladies were in person. K.A. in particular gave a wonderful keynote at the Writer’s Workshop and spent quite a bit of time talking and hanging out with me over the week. I confessed to her how many times in fact I have actually read Collision Course (an embarrassing number). And as if she isn’t amazing enough, K.A. also donated a signed copy of Red Hot Holiday for me to give away to one lucky commenter! Here are some of my favorite author pictures from the weekend…
This year there were two big events at GRL that raised money for Lost & Found Youth, a center for GBLT homeless teens in Atlanta. Between the Body Painting event and the Cock Walk Art show, we raised over $1000 for this amazing cause. Not only were the events fabulous, but it was wonderful for us all to be able to give back the community a little bit as got to hang out and enjoy ourselves so much at GRL. I would love to see this idea incorporated into future GRL events, maybe finding a local charity to sponsor each year.
Here are some highlights from the two events. In the body painting event, J.P. Barnaby invited friends to come and strip down and let us all paint them. Big kudos to Hank Edwards, Steve Leonard, Geoffrey Knight, and Jared Rackler to bearing it all along side the professionals for a good cause.
In the Cock Walk Art Show, people made assorted cock shaped crafts that were then given away in a raffle. In the meantime, Edmond Manning, Steve Leonard, and Mike Sulken entertained us by MC’ing the event, selling tickets, and creatively bending over to draw winning tickets out of a hat.
Last year I came to GRL basically knowing no one in real life and it is a testament to how open and wonderful GRL is that I quickly found a great group of folks. Early on I was lucky enough to meet Leigh Logan, Gyn Hobbs, and Alexander Gabriel, among others, and we spent most of the weekend together.
I had some much fun rooming with these guys this year, even though our room was an insane mess before too long. Between the 10 bottle bar, the 25 suitcases, and the teeny tiny bathroom sink and mirror we all had to crowd around to get ready, it was quite the adventure. But they are the absolute best and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Friends, New and Old!
You guys don’t need me to tell you that the best part of GRL is meeting and hanging out with people who share the same passion for GBLT romance that you do. As I said at the Newbie Meet and Greet, these are people who not only share our love of m/m romance, but love it so much that they are willing to travel, sometimes across the world, for a chance to spend a week celebrating that love with others.
This was my second year leading the Newbie event and I love getting a chance to share my excitement for GRL with new attendees. This year once again I got to meet some fabulous new folks who were just experiencing GRL for the first time.
And of course, there is nothing better than catching up with old friends and seeing the people who are your online family but you only get to see in person everyone once in a while.
After Hours Parties
So every night after the official evening event, they opened up the pub downstairs for an after hours party from 11-1 pm. I saved this one for last on my list because to me these parties encompassed so many of the things that are most wonderful about GRL. I have noted this many times, both this year and last, but the very best thing about GRL to me is how open and accepting everyone is. It is a place where you can let your guard down and be who you want without judgement. It is a place where you can say and do and talk about things that you often have to keep hidden at your life at home, or at the very least, be more reserved about. But at GRL, you are among not only friends, but people who truly get you and the things you love.
The other thing I often have noted (and I am sure you have seen in pictures) is that GRL’ers are touchers. I think there is something about people who are so comfortable reading and talking about sex and relationships, who are open to all kinds of different people, different sexualities, different interests. It makes them more open and free in a way I don’t find many other places. GRL folks love to hug and kiss and dance and grope and everyone is just so open and comfortable that it makes for such a liberating and amazing experience.
So as I said, our late night parties captured so many of these wonderful aspects of GRL. There is the fact that it was supposed to be a place for folks to hang out late at night when the bar closed, and on the first night it was immediately turned into a dance club (much thanks to Dalton and Travis for DJ’ing). I am sure that no one before us ever cleared out space in that little room and danced the night away, but some of my favorite memories are of us all crammed onto our makeshift dance floor grinding away. I love to dance and seldom get the chance to do it like I do at GRL, with total abandon and complete comfort.
These parties were like a cross section of GRL. There were the wild dancers on the floor and the quiet groups gathered to talk in the corners. There were young 20-somethings and older no longer 20-somethings all hanging out together. It is a place where you can dance on the tables in your black angel wings, or dance with your best girlfriends in the crowd and no one will judge you . It was a place where the last night, when my feet hurt so badly I literally couldn’t stand, that a friend got me a stool on the dance floor and I sat and danced on my butt all night while everyone gathered around.
I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but somehow these late nights just captured so much of the love, excitement, openness, freedom, and friendship that make GRL so special.
So that is my recap. I am not sure I really did it justice, but I tried. These were my highlights this year and I thank everyone who was once again so warm and friendly and welcoming. I hope that I will see you all there next year in Chicago, and that anyone who couldn’t make it this year will have a chance to come one day. xxoo
So as I mentioned, in addition to being supremely awesome for many other reasons, KA Mitchell is also amazing because she donated a signed copy of last year’s Carina holiday anthology, Red Hot Holiday, for me to give away to one lucky winner. I’d love to hear your favorite part of GRL if you attended, or even what you found most exciting from pictures and recaps if you weren’t. Or, of course, feel free to simply leave your name to enter.
For International folks, shipping the book will be cost prohibitive, but I am happy to give you an electronic copy of K.A.’s story Wish List from the anthology instead. So please note on your entry if you are U.S. or International.
Just leave a comment to win. The contest closes on Sunday, November 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
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