By now you’re all aware that I try to write something about the author – or my connection to the author – in each guest blog. (Much like I’m doing now.) I’ve noticed a theme: GCLS is full of really spectacular, ridiculously nice people!
Tracey Richardson is no different. I met Tracey twice in 2010. The first time I met her was in May – she and other Lambda Literary Award nominees did a reading at the Gerber Hart Library here in Chicago. It was a brief meeting, but much fun. Then I met her again at the GCLS conference Tracey writes about below. I found Tracey to be gracious and kind. My mother was at that conference and met Tracey. In fact, she may have talked with Tracey more than I did. And my mother – ever the excellent judge of character – told me later, “I really like that Canadian girl, Tracey. She has such a pretty smile.” From then on, whenever I read off the authors’ names on books I’d purchased, Tracey was referred to as “The nice Canadian girl.” That she is, Mom. That she is.
Reflections on the 2010 GCLS Conference in Orlando
I stood at the shuttle desk at Orlando’s airport, looking the part of the relaxed, experienced solitary traveler I’m sure. But I wasn’t. I hadn’t made a lot of trips on my own, only a few, and the experience of navigating airports by myself was a little new and intimidating to me.
I bought my ticket for the ride to the hotel where the GCLS conference—my first—was being held. I turned around and there, with that wide, friendly smile of hers, was Pam Butler. I placed her immediately. She was the Colorado firefighter who’d dragged an armload of books with her to Denver, where myself and a few fellow Bella Books authors had done a little tour the year before. She’d gotten us all to sign her books—old tattered relics from years probably most of us didn’t want to admit to. Had some of us really been writing books that long? Yes, and Pam had read every one of them, it seemed.
Pam rode the shuttle bus with me. We hadn’t really talked much in Denver, but we gabbed now, caught each other up with our lives. She talked about motorcycles and the desire to retire from her job in a few years. I talked about my next book. Actually, I can’t remember much of what I talked about. It’s her end of the conversation I’ve strained to remember in the months and years since. In that bumpy bus ride past palm trees, overheated pedestrians, and busy traffic, Pam and I were both eager for the conference to begin.
Pam would be dead in six weeks, but of course, neither of us knew that then. At the time, there were only things to look forward to, things to accomplish, fun to be had.
The conference was everything I expected—a busy time of seminars, lectures, and networking. But the bull sessions and the one-on-ones were the best.
I remember sitting with Pam around a table at one of the hotel bars. There was a group of us, all writers except for Pam. Pam was asked for her opinion about women of color in books. Pam, for those who didn’t know her, was a proud African American woman. Somehow we’d gotten on the topic of the lack of black characters in lesbian novels—in fact I think it was Pam who’d brought it up. “Color it up, ladies,” I remember her saying. And I thought, you know what? She’s absolutely right about that.
In my next book, “The Wedding Party,” one of my characters was African American, and I did that because of Pam’s advice.
I also remember sitting with Pam watching a hockey playoff game on the TV over the bar. It was Chicago versus Philadelphia I think. Pam was from Philly, and although she wasn’t much of a hockey fan, she was cheering for them. Being from the Great Lakes area, I was a Chicago fan, and we had fun tossing barbs at each other over our drinks.
There was also Pam’s joyful rendition of “I Feel Pretty” during the karaoke session of the conference… who can forget that? If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure it’s on YouTube somewhere. (It is…see below. CMSpry)
What I remember about Pam at that conference was that she was the best “fan” of our novels there could be. She played it straight with us (is it ok to use that word here?), she knew how to have fun, and man, she loved books!
I was shocked and sad to hear of Pam’s sudden passing a few weeks later. I wish I had gleaned some more pearls of wisdom from her at her last conference. Or just had a little more fun with her, hanging out, talking about books. Or motorcycles, or hockey, or anything else. She was a woman worth knowing.
I’m glad Pam had that last conference, and thanks to her, it’s a conference that will always stand out for me.
I’ve named a character after her in my upcoming book, “Last Salute.” I think Pam would be happy about that.
Tracey is the author of six other Bella novels, including the popular No Rules of Engagement, The Candidate and The Campaign. She has been a winner or finalist for several lesbian fiction awards, as well as newspaper awards. Tracey works as a daily newspaper reporter/editor and lives in southwestern Ontario with her partner and two very busy chocolate Labrador retrievers. When not writing or news reporting, Tracey enjoys playing ice hockey, golf, and is trying to re-learn how to play the guitar. Please visit www.traceyrichardson.net.
It’s Carleen again. There is, in fact, a youtube video of Pam singing “I Feel Pretty.” I once had my own video of it, but it was lost in a computer meltdown. Fortunately, Pol Robinson came to the rescue.
From Pol Robinson:
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: RACHEL SPANGLER (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: KATE MCLACHLAN (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: ALI VALI (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: ANN MCMAN (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: MJ WILLIAMZ (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: CATHERINE LUNDOFF (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: JANET MASON (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: BEV PRESCOTT (carleenspry.com)
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Well done, Tracey.
It has been awhile, but I believe I met Pam at the 2009 GCLS Conference. I did not know she had passed. Am a bit shocked. This is a beautifully written tribute to her spirit and to what the Conference means to so many. The video is a hoot, and I’m sure Pam would be happy that we are still enjoying it. Good for you, Tracey, in your naming a character in Pam’s honor. That is wonderful. Namaste.
Thank you for sharing this, Tracey. What a nice tribute to Pam as well as to the Con. I still giggle when I see her singing that song. In fact, I can still hear her in my head without having to hit “play.”
Wow. Here I was, reading a nice upbeat con memory then bam what downer. But then hearing how much fun Pam was at the con made me tear up. Sounds like she was a fun character. It’s great she was able to attend and have a good time that close to her passing. Thanks for sharing, Tracey.
What a great blog. I haven’t read all of Tracey’s books but I’ve loved all I have read. I’m only sorry I never got a chance to know Pam. With what Tracey had to say and the wonderful video I know that she must have been a force to be reckoned with.
Pam was really a wonderful person. I shared a cabin with her on a cruise with the Bella Y-Tour. We had a great time. She was just always so kind. I don’t think I ever saw her without a smile on her face.
Tracey wrote a lovely tribute to Pam here.
I was on that same Bella Y-Tour cruise, Carleen, and met Pam. We became friends and I miss her. Wish I would have gone to the Orlando con, you all sounding like you had a great time. Thanks, Tracey, for sharing your Pam story.