by Mary Jo
Romance is a positive emotion, and a positive genre. We tend to be optimistic, glass-is-half-full people. And we LOVE getting together with our own kind to talk about books and have fun!
One such reader and author get together is Barbara Vey's annual Reader Appreciation Weekend in Milwaukee. A veteran of Publishers Weekly, Barbara is a long time journalist and blogger about romance, and she hosted her sixth author and reader get together the last weekend in April. I attended, and thought you might like to see some pictures about the kind of fun we get up to. (The picture on the left is from 2016, with Eloisa James, who was the keynote speaker, and Barbara Vey. In hats.)
There are numerous events, but the centerpiece is the Saturday luncheon. This year's keynote speaker was the remarkable Kristan Higgins , who brought the house down with her talk.
At the luncheon, 60 authors host tables, and seven readers sign up to join favorite writers. The author undertakes to decorate the table and provide gifts for the seven readers.
I freely admit that I'm not very good at this sort of thing, and I wanted to keep it simple so I could carry everything needed in my suitcase. Since much of my next book is set in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812 (The burning of Washington! The Battle of Baltimore and Francis Scott Key! Woo hoo!) I decided to decorate with a model blue crab (much loved in this part of the world) and netting.
(The Mayhem Consultant requests that I point out that crabs are not caught with nets, but trot lines, which have bits of food like chicken necks attached. The crabs grab hold of the food and won't let go, so they get pulled in and turned into steamed crabs. This does not speak well for their intelligence. But I digress.)
I choose a simple black gift bag with burgundy and gray tissue and inside an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of my upcoming book, Once a Rebel. Also included was a small can of Old Bay seasoning, which is how you season your crab after you catch it, and a carved soapstone animal because I was in southern Africa last September and fell in love with them.
But other authors were far more exuberant! Eloisa James' table featured lovely handmade bonnets and tea sets, among other things. (The cupcakes in the middle were our desserts, and yes, they really do have about 3" of icing on top. I was really pleased when my tablemates saved me one of the chocolate ones!)
Hawaiian author Violet Duke brought magnificent live orchids with her from the islands. People were lusting after the orchid leis on each chair.
Sonali Dev, an Indian-American author who writes for my publisher, Kensington, had a table next to mine and it was so gorgeous I wanted to be one of her guests. Indian bags, lovely scarves, goblets that Sonali painted herself–dizzying!
Honorary Word Wench Shana Galen has a French Revolution book, so naturally she had a guillotine beheading a Barbie doll, which was both clever and a little creepy. <G>
Regency writer Rose Lerner used to be into dollhouses, so of course she has dinosaurs with Regency headgear. <G> As one does. I was particularly fond of the dino wearing the Lord Nelson bicorn hat.
My friend Jade Lee has written lots of lovely historicals, but for a change of pace, she's now writing shifter romances under the name Kathy Lyons. As she asked cheerfully, who wouldn't want a grizzly bear in her bed? Well, maybe the bear she's with here!
Both authors and readers were a varied and fascinating lot. At my Sunday breakfast table, I had two female Navy surgeons who had flown in from the DC area for the event. They had a serious discussion about breast cancer treatments with another reader on the other side of the table, a librarian who is a survivor. (Who says all the talk at a romance is fluff???)
If you're thinking that authors are a very creative lot who like getting out of our burrows to play, you're absolutely right. <G>
It was altogether a lovely time–and one thing I carried away was a gift from another reader, this refrigerator magic from the New York Public Library, and Nathaniel Hawthorne was soooooooo right!
In honor of the celebration, I'm giving away an ARC of Once a Rebel to one person who comments between now and Thursday midnight. (Sorry, because of shipping issues this giveaway is limited to the US.)
Romance definitely rocks!