You know you’ve arrived at a very special kind of convention when the key card for your hotel room features a book cover with a bare-chested man. And the RT Booklovers convention is very special to the (mostly) American readers who travel from all over the States to get their big romance fix – meeting authors and cover models, attending panels and parties, buying books and getting them signed at two monster signing sessions …
The convention is an annual event, hosted by RT Book Reviews magazine at a different American location each year. This year it was Kansas City and it was the 30th anniversary convention. It was rumoured that more than two thousand readers and authors, mainly female, descended on the unsuspecting city for the hectic long weekend. And I was one of them, part of a group from Choc-Lit, intent on taking British-style romance to new audiences. It was exhausting and enormous fun. Those ladies know how to party and were focused on doing just that, from the morning mixers and breakfast events to the evening balls and parties. In between there were talks by authors – singly and in groups, quizzes, scavenger hunts, craft sessions and the chance for aspiring authors to meet agents and publishing houses, to pitch their manuscripts. The term ‘elevator pitch’ took on a whole new dimension while being practiced on the way down from the 29th floor. You could pick out the glow from the hopefuls who had just been asked to submit their manuscript from about ten paces.
Choc-Lit authors hosted a craft session on creating heroes, a chocolate tasting session, a Jane Austen celebration from CL’s Austen expert, Juliet Archer (which featured a guest appearance by Mr Darcy) and, captained by author Lynne Connelly, devised a fiendish quiz to test the participants’ knowledge of the British Isles. And yes, I was the one with the question that involved a sheep. I was specializing in Wales, after all. And wore the national dress, to prove it. I also forgot to give someone my camera to get a shot of me in it.
The hotel was fabulous, the free books on offer were amazing, the swag – gifts from authors and publishers of everything from bookmarks to letter openers – completely fascinating. You have no idea how many gew-gaws and gadgets can be printed with an author’s name. Actually I do, now. I brought home as many as I could carry. Some of the themed parties featured costumes – saloon girls to vampires – and the anniversary ball called for formal dress. The Choc-lit group rose to the occasion with sparkle and tiaras. I didn’t risk a tiara – I was afraid I’d end up wearing it as a necklace – or skewering someone’s eye, but I did have a snazzy pair of cream coloured elbow length gloves, which were admired by a gentleman I met in the lift on the way to the ball. His wife was very tolerant about it.
I had a really great time. It’s impossible to give more than the tiniest glimpse of the scale of the event here. The high-spot was probably being part of the huge book signing on Saturday morning, but the thing that made the most impact was the welcome and interest shown by American romance fans. The British (and Welsh) accents had something to do with it, but everywhere there were people keen to talk about books, writing and every kind of romance genre. Next year’s convention is in New Orleans and events are already being planned. And I’m already saving my pennies.