I really love the Golden Crown Literary Society‘s Annual Literary Conference. I attended my first one in 2005 (also their first one) and have only missed one since (the first Atlanta conference when I was still homeless after the post-Katrina levee flooding destroyed my city).
It was like finding my tribe when I first walked into one of the conferences and the feeling has just gotten stronger for each subsequent one. I do a lot of political work and I get to hang out with lots of passionate queer folk and that is amazing. It is something else, though, to be surrounded by these literary lesbians. To be able to talk for hours about lesbian fiction; to discuss reading and writing with other book lovers is like a balm to my thirsty soul. This year’s conference came back to New Orleans (the first one was also held here). I was on the ground committee and I worked with the GCLS Executive Director, Liz Gibson, and the event coordinator, Judy Comella, to make this one of the best conferences ever.
While I was still on the GCLS board, we were able to secure Dorothy Allison as the keynote speaker. I’m so very glad we did. She exceeded every possible expectation. She is irreverent, charming, poignant, funny, profane and I am in awe. I was in the room when she read from Bastard Out of Carolina and had chills. I was in tears during her speech and the standing ovation she received lasted for more than five minutes. I was also beyond lucky to get to have lunch with her and the recipient of the this year’s Lee Lynch Classic Award, Rita Mae Brown, the author of Rubyfruit Jungle.
I helped the Bella Books crew get the many boxes of books up from the loading dock to the conference. The hotel was trying to charge $2 per box, so we liberated a pallet jack and moved them ourselves. The freight elevator did smell like it had been transporting dead bodies but we made it up in one piece. At the vendor room, a number of folks then helped bring them the rest of the way. It was great to see so many people step up to do what needed doing but that is pretty typical for GCLS.
While I wasn’t able to attend every panel or reading I wanted, I enjoyed being on the Dystopian panel moderated by SY Thompson with fellow panelists Linda Kay Silva, Jane Fletcher and Liz Hodge (who later won a Goldie for her poetry). We talked about hope and fears and the importance of writing the books you want to read. The special speaker this year was Ali Vali and she gave a funny (and scary) talk on her writing process. She knows she’s on the right track when her wife walks away muttering, “What is wrong with you?” Not my process but funny to hear hers.
I was also honored to receive a volunteer recognition award at the annual membership meeting. The meeting is live streamed here, if you want to watch it. You will not see me, as I unfortunately had to run to Baton Rouge for work and missed it! The awards ceremony was hilariously MC’d by Lynn Ames and Ann McMan. I have already posted a list of the winners (here) but I want to congratulate all the finalists and winners. I also want to thank all those whose hard work made it possible – the awards committee, the judges, the presenters and the behind the scene tech folk that kept it all moving smoothly. The night was magical – many people were dressed to the nines and the energy was high and the enthusiasm that greeted each announced winner was gratifying to hear.
Speaking of thanking folks – the GCLS board puts in many, many hours throughout the year for not only the conference but also to make the organization itself successful and sustainable. This is an all volunteer organization and they do it all for love not money. I’m very proud of the job they do.
I’m very much looking forward to next year’s conference in DC (actually Alexandria, VA) from July 6 to 10th, 2016. I can’t wait to reconnect with old friends, make some new ones and recharge amongst other readers and writers. Please consider joining us!