Once again Celebrate Romance was a complete success! I have been attending CR for 3 years and each time it just gets better. Every year I get to sit with other romance fans and chat until the wee hours of the morning about my favorite books, heroes, authors, and sex scenes. I even get to dish about up and coming authors and have women tell me, "You haven't read that! You must!!!" Yes indeed, there is nothing out there that compares to CR.
I would have to say that our Mistress of Ceremonies, Ashley Gardner (new Regency Historical author), agrees. She kicked off the convention with a not so elegant, but very moving, speech about getting together with other fans who love romance. She spoke about why CR is so different from other romance conventions. In her opinion, CR isn't cluttered with writing workshops or authors speaking to would be authors. CR is about the Celebration of the Romance genre. Just as SciFi/Fantasy cons are run by fans, so is CR, and that is an important distinction. Fan run cons don't have a marketing agenda, a need for profit, or hype. They are just a place to meet people of like minds and make lasting friends.
Over the last few years I have made many friends. Most, I only get to chat with online and see once a year at CR, but knowing that there are others like me "out there" is very comforting. I don't want to be a romance writer. I never have. I just love reading romance novels and that is whom CR is for – fans that want to get together and share their passion.
Our speakers were all magnificent this year. Linda Rose told us to watch out for the tell tale signs of being a "bookaholic". The two that made me blush were, "You sneak books into the house so no one knows how many you bought", and "You only read the bad reviews in the hopes of not buying more books." A woman sitting next to me admitted that she moved from a 1 bedroom apt to a two bedroom house, not because she needed to, but because she ran out of room for her books!
Raelene Gorlinsky spoke about what it was like going from a reader to an editor for Romantica. She also spoke about the growing Romantica market – which was a really hot topic at CR this year.
The highlight of the conference for me was hearing Candice Hern play show and tell with her collection of Regency antiques. She has with her a small array of makeup cases, vinaigrette boxes (yes indeed ladies' vinaigrettes are in boxes not vials!), trinkets, and fashion plates. If you want to learn more about these items be sure to check out her website at CandiceHern.com.
After spending the night stuffing goodie bags, talking until I was hoarse, and trading books, I had day two still ahead of me. Margie B. who is the powerhouse behind CR always makes sure day two is an "author" day. Unlike day one we have more intimate time with the attending authors. At CR authors aren't separated from us. We know that they are authors. They are loved as authors. But they are treated like fans because they are one of "us" and not a "them". They participate in the same events we do. Eat the same meals at the same tables, and they argue their views just like the rest of us. Wendy Burge put it to me best, "At most conventions we sit behind a long table and do stuff with other authors, but here [at CR] we are all on the same side of the table."
So for day two we broke up into groups and chatted about what makes a character Too Stupid to Live (TSTL) and the "Ick Factor" which, as I learned, is where you draw the line between hot and disgusting. Surprisingly we came to the same conclusions for both topics. It's all a matter of taste, but a lot of that is controlled by the author's ability to write layered and convincing characters. So you're mad that the heroine went into the pub in britches, but do you label her TSTL for it if she does it with style and finesse? What if she grew up handling herself in situations just like this one? Is bondage and spanking too much in your novels even when the characters are written well? What about words like "cock" vs. "throbbing love muscle"?
The debate wasn't through, but we were out of time. As the day drew to a close we finished up with the very informal book sale and signing that always marks the end of the con. Door prizes and raffle prizes were handed out, and although everyone left with something you could feel the melancholy in the air. Another year of CR was through. Women loaded down with books hugged each other in the hall and wheeled their suitcases away. New friends exchanged phone numbers, and cries of "I'll see you online" filled the air. I watched it all swarm around me and knew that I would be here again next year.