A Time to Celebrate!

Celebrate Romance–MC speech 2001

It’s time once again to begin Celebrate Romance! Welcome to the fourth official face-to-face gathering of online romance readers and writers. We’ve come to Atlanta this year, the land of hoop skirts, Margaret Mitchell, bustling growth and development, Southern style barbeque, and Carol Carter’s accent. The past three years of Celebrate Romance have been delightful, and I’m sure this year’s event will be equally memorable.

When I think about this conference, the element that strikes me is how much like a reunion it is. Many of us have attended at least one other CR gathering. And I think the fact that it’s like a reunion attests to the popularity not only of the conference itself, but also to its format and feel. This year’s conference has the largest attendance ever. I believe that’s a testament to the success of this program.

For those of you who are newbies—(my apologies to Bette Davis) fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a fast and furious ride! You’ve already gotten a taste of the thing we’re best at here at Celebrate Romance—socializing—last night at our cocktail reception. Today we get down to business. We concentrate on romance novels, through our author and reader presentations, through our book trade, through our panel sessions, and through our other receptions and social activities. You won’t get much rest over the next two days, but trust me, you won’t mind!

When you think about it, this type of convention is almost a contradiction of what brings us together in the first place. After all, both reading and writing are solitary tasks. The writer works by him or herself, most of the time. Sure, she might have a writer’s group to work with, or RWA. But the task of writing is one that’s ultimately completed by the writer alone, using her skills and abilities to create a world and all the characters that inhabit it. But when even when she finishes writing her book and that book is finally published, the task she started still isn’t done.

That’s because the completion of the writer’s work is achieved by the reader. The reader takes the writer’s words and places her own unique spin, her interpretation, on what the writer offers. In that way, readers and writers share synergistic bonds.

But reading’s also a solitary task—most of us read by ourselves, often in places I’m sure we wouldn’t admit to publicly! Now, I’m sure a few of us participate in reader groups. But even those reader groups usually gather after everyone’s read the book to discuss it. The act of reading, like the act of writing, is lonely.

But here, at Celebrate Romance, we’re social. We’re able to do in person what we’ve discovered we can do online—share our love of romance, grouse about our pet peeves, thrill in the discovery of a new author, or anguish at our empty wallets after an author glom.

But here, at Celebrate Romance, we’re social. We’re able to do in person what we’ve discovered we can do online—share our love of romance, grouse about our pet peeves, thrill in the discovery of a new author, or anguish at our empty wallets after an author glom.

In many ways, what we do here is an extension of our online activity. We’ve all become part of online communities, be they bulletin boards or mailing lists, websites or chats. Celebrate Romance gives us the chance to take this social interaction one step further—to add a direct, face-to-face meeting to what’s previously been virtual contact. Here, we greet old friends and we make new ones. We’ve taken two activities that are inherently isolationist—reading and writing—and made them the source of one of the best parties of the year!

And what a year it’s been! We’ve seen all sorts of interesting trends. The establishment of new erotic romance lines, the explosion of humorous contemporary novels, the challenge of books by folks like Mary Jo, and the impossibility of finding Nicole’s backlist—these events and more have made this year memorable. What better time to discuss it than here at Celebrate Romance?

Here we can turn folks on to authors we love, commiserate about our favorite books, or discuss why a book didn’t work for us. Our panel discussions give us a chance to rap about what we like and don’t like about the trends in the industry. And our many social gatherings in the evening make us thankful for elastic waistlines in clothing.

In some ways, this conference started two months ago, with the beginning of the advance book trade. Many of us were so anxious to start this annual event that the moment the subscription list for the book trade was announced, we joined it and started requesting books! Poor Carol Carter, our erstwhile book trade coordinator— she was caught by surprise, but she graciously accepted that the horse had left the gate and gamely caught up with the requests and finds!

And what a year of finds it was! Last year, we were really impressed with our find totals, since we found 400 books. This year, we found—are you ready for this?—1200 books!! Our participants found 33 books apiece on average, although I can attest that my roommate Karen found the most—I’ve had to fight for elbow room in our hotel suite with all those books! Of those 1200, 396 could be classified as “classics”—our term for harder-to-find, all-time great romance novels. In other we found as many hard-to-find books this year as we found for the whole trade last year!

I think this is just one example of how much this conference enthuses its attendees. The social activities and planning on our lists, the advance book trade, our wonderful website, and the selection of books for the general trade—all of these were steps that built our anticipation for our actual arrival in Atlanta!

One of the things I love best about this conference is the intimacy between authors and readers.

One of the things I love best about this conference is the intimacy between authors and readers. We aren’t a huge con—many other conferences are much longer and larger. But our small scale makes interactions easy. I know that my wallet has suffered from all the authors I’ve met at CR and wanted to read afterwards. I’m sure many of you have equally thin bank accounts. But the thrill of meeting someone who makes you laugh, or makes you think about the books we love to read, makes it all the easier to spend our funds.

But when you think about it, the success of Celebrate Romance is only logical. What is romance, after all, but an exploration of relationships between people? Sure, most of the time it’s a romantic one between a man and a woman, but many of our all-time favorite romances feature family relationships, feature friendships, even adversarial relationships, that are just as rich and varied as the primary romance.

So it makes sense that, if we’re interested in relationships, and how people establish intimacy with each other, romantic or otherwise, we’d be interested in a conference like this. We form bonds here, bonds that extend beyond the mere long weekend once a year when we officially gather. Those sisterhoods are celebrated all year long. I suffered a personal tragedy last week. And some of the first people I told were friends online, who’d been with me throughout it, offering words of encouragement. The best gift of all our online interactions and CR gatherings face-to-face is the gift of friendship, the understanding we give to one another.

So I hope that Celebrate Romance 2001 lets you find new friends, discover new authors, make your TBR piles groan and your wallet groan more. For we’re here to do one thing: we’re here to celebrate. With that in mind, I celebrate friendships. I celebrate TBRs. I celebrate piles of books by our beds and boxes of books shipped to the hotel. I celebrate glomming a newly-discovered author’s backlist. I celebrate books that challenge us. I celebrate comfort reads. I celebrate differing views of opinion, since diversity makes our genre rich. I celebrate late nights in hotel rooms, talking about books until we can’t see straight. I celebrate eating cookies and snacks and sorting books for the book trade. I celebrate the joy of finding a collectible book. I celebrate the thrill of book hunting. I celebrate the happiness of reunions. I celebrate the thrill of new connections. I celebrate ghost tours and glimpses of Southern history. I celebrate talking about books even after the lights are out. I celebrate laughter, I celebrate joy, I celebrate companionship, I celebrate discovery.

I Celebrate Romance. How happy I am to be able to celebrate it with you.

I Celebrate Romance. How happy I am to be able to celebrate it with you.

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