Okay, I have to tell you all about Saturday, because it seriously rocked.
I was invited to participate in a new annual convention called Passion and Prose. It’s touted as “for Romance readers and the Writers who love them,” so let’s jump hurdle number one: “Romance.”
My confession? I’m one of those people who used to think “Romance” meant a bodice-ripping cover, and a plot that read like an old I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter commercial.
Not true. Oh sure, that’s part of Romance, but honestly, any book in which love is a major driving theme qualifies as Romance.
Hunger Games? Romance.
Hell, I could make a convincing argument that The Dead Zone is Romance, since Johnny and Sarah’s ill-fated love is at the heart of the story.
My point is even if you don’t think you’re a Romance reader… you probably are. And that means you’d love the Passion and Prose conference. It’s an impeccably organized event, filled with prime interaction time between writers and readers.
Here’s how it went down.
The morning started with check-in… which included coffee, tea, and pastries. Already I’m hooked. Everyone checks in at the same table, writers and readers, so we’re all hobnobbing and interacting from second one. I immediately spotted Gail Carriger, whose vintage store finery made me want to immediately resurrect my mystery party company. I told her my 11 year old niece loves steampunk and shared great L.A. bookstores for events (Vroman‘s!!!!); she told me about where she bought her fab outfit, and recommended the L.A. vintage lingerie store What Katie Did. Not for the 11 year old niece per se, just in general.
During this time, the great Mysterious Galaxy was selling books by all the conference authors, and I did some damage, snapping up M.G. Lord’s Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. Come on, given my Barbie history, how could I not? (Speaking of which, my latest Barbie movie, Barbie in A Mermaid Tale 2, comes out March 6!) I also grabbed Meg Cabot’s Size 12 Is Not Fat.
At 10am we all retired to our tables, assigned and marked on our name tags. Each round table of 8 had at least two authors, so there was lots of personal interaction.
I’m just going to say it — my table rocked. It was me, author Debra Mullins, and five women with whom I thoroughly enjoyed chatting. To my immediate left was a woman and her mother, both of whom were voracious readers. The mom had books loaded on her iPad, her Nook, and two different Kindles, both of which she carried with her so she’d always have something to read. She was particularly proud of her newest Kindle, which could read aloud.
“Yes,” said her daughter, “but it reads in this robot voice.”
Since we’d established in our conversation that the mother is particularly fond of classic bodice-rippers, I was intrigued — did the Kindle read those in a robot voice?
Both mother and daughter gave me a knowing smile, and the mother scrolled to a juicy little passage, pressed play, then handed me the Kindle.
“She-ran-her-hands-over-his-rippling-muscles,” the fem-bot monotoned. “She-was-dripping-with-wetness.”
Pretty sure I snarfed my coffee.
After chatting at the table for a few minutes, we were treated to opening comments by the very funny and brilliantly incisive M.G. Lord, followed by a speech from Gail Carriger. Gail expounded on both steampunk, which she described as “the future as conceived by the Victorians,” the wonders of hot tea, and “killing your darlings,” a phrase which was much dissected during the day. She meant actually killing off characters; Meg Cabot later said she thought it meant losing your best sentence so it didn’t pull focus from the whole; I always thought it meant weeding out words/phrases/sections that didn’t truly fit with your novel as a whole, even if they’re your favorite OMG-I’m-a-genius moments.
After Gail spoke, it was book signing time! We authors adjourned to small tables, and readers could come up to us with books to sign, or just to hang out and say hi. To facilitate attendees meeting new authors, Terry and Susan, the powers behind Passion and Prose, had a brilliant idea: a prize for the first attendee to learn a random fact about each and every author.
The authors were placed alphabetically, so I got to hang out with Zoe Archer, who’s terrific. She grew up in L.A. and loves to hike, so we compared favorite routes. Lots of people came by our table, and everyone said the same thing: that Passion and Prose felt much more laid back and friendly compared to other conferences. All the authors were easily accessible, there was plenty of time for involved conversation, and no one felt rushed. It was a great atmosphere.
After the morning meet-and-greet… lunch time!
While we ate, we were treated to the Breathless Reads panel: Andrea Cremer, Sara Wilson Etienne, Marie Lu, Beth Revis, and Jessica Spotswood. As moderated by the fiercely keen M.G. Lord, the panel answered questions that cut to the core of why these authors write what they do, and why paranormal, post-apocalyptic, and other alternate-societal stories speak so clearly to today’s audiences.
After the panel, it was time for another meet-and-greet, but I used this one to slip away from my table and do some meeting and greeting of my own. Specifically, I had brief chats with both M.G. Lord and Meg Cabot as they signed books for me. I was particularly excited to meet Meg. Like just about everyone else in the universe, I’m a fan, so I wanted to babble about her awesomeness; but I also wanted to pick her brain. With The Princess Diaries and Avalon High, Meg has been through the book-to-movie journey. Given Populazzi’s foray into the movie world, I wanted to know if she had any advice.
Meg could not have been lovelier, and she did have advice, which was basically to not stress about it and let the movie people do their thing.
I can do that. Wind Dancer is amazing, and I know they’ll do great things with the book. I’ll just sit back and wait to see it all unfold.
With the afternoon meet-and-greet complete, we all sat back down at our tables for the final keynote speaker… Meg Cabot.
Have you ever heard Meg Cabot speak?
If not, put it on your to-do list.
She’s spectacular. She’s like a real-life Liz Lemon. In fact, she might be Tina Fey’s separated-at-birth twin. Meg does a lot of interviews, signings, and speaking engagements, so I’m guessing she’s told her stories — the stories about what inspired her books — about a zillion times each… but you’d never know it. She shares them as if you’re girlfriends dishing over coffee, and she’s catching you up on the hysterical insanities of her life. Her speech was the perfect way to end the conference — almost as satisfying a dessert as the French meringue cookies and make-your-own sundaes.
Oh — one more thing. Passion and Prose included a giveaway raffle to benefit WriteGirl, a fantastic program pairing high school girls without access to creative writing programs, with professional female writers. 100% of WriteGirl’s graduating seniors have gone on to college, and many were the first in their families to do so. I was blown away by what I learned about this group, and look forward to working with them in the future.
Okay, that’s the scoop on Passion and Prose! Huge thanks to organizers Terry Gilman and Susan McBeth for including me. I absolutely loved it, and I’m already looking forward to next year!