I haven’t yet had the pleasure of “officially” meeting Erica Lawson. We’ve both attended Conferences at the same time. I’ve been in the audience when she participated in an Author’s Reading (which was fantastic, by the way). I was in the audience when she won a Goldie for Possessing Morgan. I’ve read her Xena fan fiction. But, I’ve never actually spoken with her and said, “Hi, I’m Carleen.” (I plan to rectify that situation this year in Dallas!)
While my “encounters” with Erica have been from a distance, what I can say is this is an author who loves the GCLS enough to traverse continents – and hemispheres – to attend conferences. And with that fantastic accent of hers, I’d be happy to listen to her do a reading of the dictionary!
Here Erica recounts lessons learned from her first conference in Orlando.
Orlando Or Bust
By Erica Lawson
The first step of my journey to my first GCLS Conference began in February 2010. I had just released my first novel, “Possessing Morgan”, and I lived in Australia. As far as I was concerned, the second of these two was a negative as I started out on my writing career. I was not only an unknown, but an unknown from the world’s backside. I needed to start making contacts.
So my journey began. My decision was made even before I knew whether the book was a finalist or not, but if I was to take my new career path seriously I needed to circulate within the lesbian literary community. An added bonus would be that I would actually get to meet my publisher face-to-face.
So I set off on my first trip overseas by myself. In fact, it was the first trip outside my native city of Sydney by myself. It was a big… HUGE… step.
The flight from Sydney to LA was 14 hours – approximately 10,000 miles. I then had to change flights and wait 12 hours, and fly out at midnight on the Red Eye to Orlando. By the time I reached the hotel I’d been on the move for about 40 hours.
I learned a number of lessons on this trip.
Lesson One: Try to get as much sleep on the LA trip as possible because after that you don’t get much chance to rest.
I hired a car at Orlando airport because I wanted to find a Wal-Mart and stock up on supplies for my stay. You guys drive on the wrong side of the road! Has anyone ever told you that? Not only that, but the indicators and windscreen wipers are reversed.
Lesson Two: Don’t try changing lanes with your windscreen wipers.
Orlando was hot. Steaming hot. Sure, we have hot summers in Oz but they are a dry heat, not like Orlando where you feel like you’re standing under a hot shower all day.
Lesson Three: Add three more sets of underwear for the next trip.
Then, of course, there were the tropical downpours that ran like clockwork every day.
Lesson Four: Be indoors before 5 p.m.
So, the time finally arrived to meet everyone at the Meet-n-Greet. It was tentative at first, which was to be expected, but my fellow Blue Feather authors made me feel welcome and I began to relax as I placed names to faces.
Lesson Five: Tim Tams are an Oz traveler’s best friend.
I have to tell you, I had a great time! I’d never been to a Conference before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Somehow I’d avoided the Con Virgins program. Maybe it was because of the reading and coffee chat I was doing. Then again, it could also have been the fact that I crashed with jet lag on Thursday after lunch and I didn’t wake up until Friday morning. I really wanted to hear Ellen Hart talk.
Lesson Six: Arrive more than two days ahead of the Conference.
While the Conference had a lot of “trade talk” there were also a number of fun events. Karaoke night is always good fun and it unearths some hidden talents among our authors. Then again, there are those who should stick to their writing. The author auction is a must-see. It is amazing what some people will do to get an extra buck out of you! I was told that my blush matched the carpet.
Lesson Seven: Keep your hands to yourself at the Author Auction otherwise you could find yourself a few hundred dollars poorer and dancing in the spotlight.
Then there was the Awards Night. Can I say there were some mighty fine ladies present that night? Veeerrryy Nice. Well organized and, unlike the Oscars, the acceptance speeches did not include thanking God. At least mine didn’t… I think… I’m not sure. That was a shock. I was literally pushed out of my chair to go and get the award. I don’t remember much after that.
Lesson Eight: Remember, when attending an Awards ceremony wear clean underwear in case of an emergency.
I didn’t really need this lesson that night because I didn’t faint but, hey, you never know…
I was sorry to see the Conference end because I was just warming up. I wanted it to go on for another week or two. Unfortunately, no one heard my plea.
When I arrived back in Sydney I got pulled aside by Customs and asked if I was carrying a shell. A shell? When did I go the beach? A shell… hmmm… it finally hit me. It was the award. I suppose it could look like a shell if you cross your legs and squeeze hard.
Lesson Nine: Never lie to a Customs Officer
My final lesson is one that I’ve adhered to ever since…
Lesson Ten: Pawn the kids to pay for my next GCLS Conference.
Lots of other authors will give valid reasons to go and will probably express it better than I have. I only have to say one thing. If you have the opportunity to go, you’d be crazy not to.
Erica Lawson is a “dinky di” Aussie, born and raised in Sydney, Australia, 52 years ago. She has been married for 32 years and has two grown-up daughters. She has no fancy degrees or diplomas, content to finish schooling at secondary grade at age 17 and join the workforce. She has worked as a secretary for most of her working life, taking time off to raise said kids, in a variety of interesting fields from a government scientific organization, the fire brigade, the film industry and finally, for the last 15 years, with a psychiatrist. Many of her friends will attest to the fact that she finally found her niche in the last job, gaining many helpful hints for her own state of mind. Erica was a “late bloomer” in starting her writing career. For many years, she never felt the need to express herself on paper. Her artistic needs didn’t emerge until her mothering needs had abated, whereupon she discovered that there was a world outside the family home. Some encouragement finally pushed her out of the writing nest and she spread her wings to fly as high as she could.