It’s been advertised and promoted pretty extensively, so by now you all should know that Georgia Beers is the Key Note Speaker at the Conference this year. I’m super excited about this. I’m looking forward to hearing what Georgia has to say – because I have absolutely no doubt that it will be worth hearing.
Authors have been sharing their favorite experiences with us for 6 month now. But let me share one of my favorite experiences with you. At the 2011 Conference in Orlando, I was chosen to be one of the award presenters for the evening. I was put in the Traditional romance category and had the supreme pleasure of presenting Georgia Beers with the Goldie Award for Starting From Scratch. I got a big hug and (*swoon*) a kiss on the cheek from Georgia when she came up to the podium to accept her award. ‘
Over the years, Georgia has become one of my favorite people. She’s kind. She’s witty. She’s ridiculously intelligent. She’s a flippin’ excellent writer. And, hey, she’s Italian! Can’t go wrong with a nice Italian girl.
As you know, this year marks the ninth annual conference of the GCLS. I am proud to say that I have attended every single one of them, and I am having a hard time accepting that it’s been nearly a decade since the first one.
I’ll never forget it. We were in New Orleans. I had two books out at that point, and I was such a newbie. If I remember correctly, Bonnie couldn’t take the time off from work, so I flew to Louisiana by myself (really, the first time I’d ever taken such a trip all alone). I was so shy. I wandered around, looking at the different vendor tables, surreptitiously trying to read people’s nametags to see if I recognized them. The funny thing was, so many attendees were screen names back then (“back then?” Listen to me! What, am I eighty?). Many of them were people I’d had many an online conversation with, but I hardly spoke to anybody that first day, I was so overwhelmed. In a good way.
I think the best word to describe how I felt that first time is “starstruck.” I met women I’d only heard about. Women whose work I’d been reading for a long time. I met Radclyffe! I chatted with Linda Hill! It was so much to take in! I remember very distinctly being at the pool, standing in the shallow end and Karin Kallmaker (Karin Freaking Kallmaker!!!) was sitting on the edge next to me. We were having a conversation about lesbian literature (of course), and we got to the subject of Katherine Forrest. Curious Wine was the first lesbian romance I ever read, so Katherine is a goddess to me (as she is to most of us). Anyway, Karin started talking about the icon status that Katherine holds in our community, and I will never forget looking up at her and saying, “But you do understand that you have that same status to many of us as well, right?” Here I was, quiet and shy little nobody Georgia Beers, telling Karin Freaking Kallmaker what a lesbian literature icon she is. Truly, one of the coolest moments of my life.
Time went on and the GCLS grew in size, scope, and credibility. The keynote speakers were amazing! I got to listen to people I’d only heard of as legend (Ann Bannon, Jewelle Gomez) as they took me on a ride through lesbian history. I got to listen to people I now call friends (Lee Lynch, KG MacGregor) as they touched my heart and sparked my creativity.
I took workshops and sat in on lectures and listened to panels, all of which taught me about writing, informed me about publishing, or simply entertained me. I actually got to attend a writing workshop run by none other than Katherine Forrest herself. That was worth my plane ticket times three right there. I don’t think I took that many notes in college.
As I became more successful in my career, I gradually became one of the people I had so looked up to those first few years. Karin Kallmaker is my peer now (though I’m still a little star struck every time I see her). In addition to watching, I am presenting workshops and sitting on panels and sharing what I’ve learned with the next wave of lesbian writers. That’s what the GCLS does for the lesbian literature world. It helps us all grow as writers, as publishers, as editors, etc. It keeps us in touch with each other. And in doing so, we are able to lend a hand to the newbies that are just starting out, pull them up to the next level as we ourselves were pulled.
I’ve made incredible friends through the GCLS. I’ve learned valuable lessons. I’ve been both a mentor and a mentee, and most importantly, I’ve grown as a writer. Each year, as June approaches, I get a little giddy, knowing that the conference is coming up. I excitedly anticipate seeing the friends that I only see once a year, at the conference. Once I arrive, I don’t sit still for four days. And when I get home, despite being exhausted, I am more pumped about writing, and I feel more creative than I do at any other time of the year.
That’s what the GCLS conference does for me (in a nutshell). Come to Dallas and you’ll see…whether you’re a writer, a reader, an editor, whatever…it’ll do the same for you, and you won’t want it to end.
Georgia Beers is a Lambda and Goldie award-winning author and editor of lesbian fiction. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, she still lives there with her partner of eighteen years, her teenage niece, two dogs and a cat. When not writing, she watches too much TV, goes to matinees alone, reads voraciously, and invents new reasons not to work out. She is currently hard at work on her tenth book. You can visit her and find out more at http://www.georgiabeers.com, http://www.bywaterbooks.com, or http://www.briskpress.com.
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: AMY DAWSON ROBERTSON (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: MERCEDES LEWIS (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: LYNN AMES (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: RACHEL GOLD (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: JESSIE CHANDLER (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: CHRIS PAYNTER (carleenspry.com)
- GCLS Author Guest Blog: LYNETTE MAE (carleenspry.com)
- Countdown to GCLS (lesbianauthors.wordpress.com)