Kate Rothwell posted some rather interesting reactions to the presence of bloggers and reviewers at the RWA this year. One author noted:
…that kind of bothered me at this conference. Stuff like [the costumed writers] and all the blog reviewers being there. It just started to feel like it was maybe turning into a fan conference rather than a professional organizations’ annual meeting.
I just think the two should be kept separate. You want to have a time for authors to meet the press (or reviewers)â€”like the librarians thing or the booksellers thing, great. But being a part of everything just didn’t seem appropriate to me. Like a conflict of interest. It’s our conference and a time for us to discuss our industry.
Conflict of interest was a rather interesting term to use, and I don’t think it’s accurate. Us bloggers (OK, I can speak only for Sarah and me specifically) went to the conference to a) report back on what goes on behind the scenes to the readers, and b) meet a whole bunch of people we’ve been interacting with on-line for ages, both authors and readers. I’m not sure what sort of conflict of interest there’d be in what we did, especially because all of us were pretty up-front about who we were and what we did. A lot of readers are curious about what goes on at Nationals, and they want to see it from the perspective of other readers, and that’s what we tried to provide. And to my mind, engaging the readers is a GOOD thing.
The authors-vs-reviewers divide is not a new one, but I really wish authors would see that we’re the biggest champions of the cause they could ever, ever have. Lookit, we love the books, and we love the genre. We love them SO MUCH, we’re willing to fly hundreds of miles to MOTHERFUCKING DALLAS in JULY just so we can observe and report on another aspect of the enterprise.
I can understand wanting to avoid turning the RWA into a circus, but despite my Ebil Plan to completely disrupt proceedings with my purple-streaked hair, my magnificent rack and my army of invisible midgets, things were pretty tame. Not even a single explosion, and certainly no limbs severed, nor any blood spilled. (Note to self: next time, more dismemberment, less re-enactment of silly Youtube videos for the benefit of people at the bar.)
And come, now: how many bloggers/reviewers were there vs. published and aspiring authors? Jane, Sarah, me, Sybil, Kristie, Wendy the Super Librarian and a couple of reps from AAR (I finally got to meet Anne Marble) were the ones I knew about; I doubt there were a whole lot more, because it’s a pretty small community. We’re a pretty small gang, folks, and unless you knew what to look for, we didn’t even register as a blip on the radar.
The overall impression I got from what was expressed on Kate’s blog was that the author wanted the conference to be more of a writers’ retreat than anything else. I know it feels like we’re invading a sort of safe haven, but based on the fact that the RWA allows non-members and associate members to join the conference, it’s a good bet that this isn’t what it was meant to be in the first place.
There was also a bit of a to-do about people like Marianne Mancusi dressing up like the characters for their Shomi books. I looked at the photo, and I honestly don’t see the big deal. The costumes look tarty and fun, and frankly, I want to steal those pink thigh-high stockings from Liz Maverick, because I have a similar-looking pair but they refuse to stay up. I wish I could grab the people who are worried by the cosplay, shake them gently and say “LIGHTEN UP. They’re having fun. A mini-skirt and flashing a bit of cleavage ain’t the end of the world, and we’re honestly not expecting this from everybody.”
We bitch quite a bit about how the genre is afraid of change, how much stagnancy there is, how we’re not drawing in the next generation of readers—but when somebody does something that will actively engage younger readers, that will help explode the myth that romance authors and readers are middle-aged housewives in terrycloth bathrobes and curlers in our hair, people throw up their hands, go “Lawksamercy!” and cluck worriedly. I know, I know, there’s a lot of anxiety regarding publicity and marketing, and the PR machine is indeed an ugly beast sometimes, especially for the authors who just want their books to speak for themselves without them having to put on any sort of a spectacle, but seriously: LIGHTEN UP.