This past Friday, I boarded a plane and headed out to the Lesfic Literary Festival in Austin, Texas. Accompanying me was my wonderful girlfriend, a few more outfits and shoes than I could possibly wear in a single weekend and a collection of beauty and hair products. Having naturally curly hair, I learned a long time ago that different regions come with different levels of water softness and unless I wanted to look like Don King, I had better come prepared.
As we boarded the plane, we were greeted by a male flight attendant. When I told him that I didn't like to fly, he responded, “Honey, it sure beats driving.” He made me laugh and for that, I was grateful. We made our way to our seats, stowed our carry-on baggage and prepared for take-off. My girlfriend lovingly held my hand as we took flight, never once complaining about the increasing lack of sensation in her hand as a result of my tight grasp. During my braver moments, I glanced out of the window and noticed the flatness of the terrain below. I knew this area of the country was flat, but knowing it and seeing it are two different things. I wondered how far in either direction you would be able to see if you were standing on the ground. I also wondered why the flight attendants had reviewed the safety procedures for a water landing since we wouldn't be crossing any large bodies of water. Thinking about that was enough to make me draw the window shade and return to my book.
After landing in Austin and being reunited with our checked bags, we boarded a shuttle van for the hotel. I quickly learned that driving on the side roads in Austin should not be attempted unless you are in a vehicle with four wheel drive and excellent shocks. Our vehicle had neither. As a result, I began searching Google for walk-in medical care facilities. I was pretty certain that several of my internal organs had shifted considerably during the drive and I was seriously regretting my choice in underwear; I was going to need professional help to undo the wedgie that this van ride had caused.
Thankfully, we reached the hotel before any of my body parts suffered permanent injury. My mood brightened at thoughts of our dinner planned that evening with RE Bradshaw, her wife Deb and Barrett. RE Bradshaw and her wife are friends, but I had never met Barrett and was looking forward to meeting her outside of Facebook. At dinner, I learned that Barrett is quick with a hug and has a bright smile that makes her eyes twinkle. I also learned that the glitter from the design on my shirt was quickly transferred through hugs. Looks like everyone would be bringing home a piece of me.
On Saturday, we made our way to the Lone Star Literary Festival. It was held in the back rooms of Nature’s Treasure, a store that sold a variety of different crystals. More than once that day I found myself announcing that I was “going to look at rocks”, but I will get to that in a moment. We set up RE Bradshaw’s table with her “swag”. She had generously brought bags, stress cubes (they were cubes, not balls so “stress cubes” was a more appropriate name) and flashlights to give out to attendees, along with copies of her books for sale and note cards that she would sign throughout the day. It didn't take long before people began approaching, asking her to sign a book and offering a hugs and words of praise. The room was quickly peppered with women donning bags with her logo, squeezing, or in some cases, throwing stress cubes at one another. I found myself ducking a few times to avoid being hit by stress balls being thrown back and forth between Ms. Bradshaw’s wife, Deb and my girlfriend, Linda. They had quite a bit of fun trying to hit one another when they thought the other person wasn't paying attention and at times I thought they might end up being sent to "time out".
As I looked around the room, I noticed that most of the authors seemed to be having a good time. There was Barrett with her ever present smile, laughing and chatting with readers, Carson Taite with a thoughtful expression on her face as she discussed a plot with a reader and other authors engaged in discussions with readers and fellow authors alike. I was thrilled to meet some people I had previously known only from a group on Facebook and enjoyed listening as reader spoke about what a joy it was to meet authors whose works they enjoyed. One such reader, a woman I knew from a group on Facebook told me she had to make three trips to her car in order to bring in all the books she wanted to have signed. From my interactions with her on Facebook, I knew her to be a kind woman with never a harsh word to be said about anyone. In person, she was even kinder. She greeted me with a warm hug and instantly struck me as one of the sweetest women I have ever met. She has been a supporter of Lesbian fiction and its authors for quite some time and has amassed a considerable collection of books. She made her way around the room, asking authors to sign her books, and with only one exception, they were glad to do so. These authors recognized that women such as this, not only put money in their pockets, but also spread the word about their books. They recognize that readers like her allow them to make a living doing what they love. When I heard that one author refused to sign her books, I had to make a quick trip to go “look at rocks” before my mouth got me into trouble. When she had approached this particular author, who in my opinion should change her name to “Cad” because that is how I classify her behavior, the author informed her that she wouldn't sign the books because they weren't her latest works. She recommended that she bring the books to the GCLS Conference in Dallas, stand in line at the book signing and that she would sign them there, “if she had time”. What this author clearly failed to recognize was the fact that this reader brought copies of her older works indicated that she had been reading her books for quite some time. That is not the way one should treat any reader, especially one who has been supporting you for years. Being an author is your job, your chosen profession. However, it does not define who you are as a person. How you treat others is a much more accurate reflection of who you are as a person. I was not impressed by this particular author before this weekend and I am even less impressed after her behavior at the festival. Had she been nicer, I might have even offered a few suggestions about some hair products she might want to try.
As I tossed a second load of laundry into the washer Sunday night, I smiled as I thought about what I had learned over the course of our weekend in Austin. I learned that both my girlfriend Linda and RE Bradshaw’s wife Deb are pretty adept at throwing stress balls, that when Ms. Bradshaw is driving and says, “hold on”, I am apt to land in my girlfriend’s lap, that Texans would rather vote Democrat than let someone with Oklahoma plates merge in front of them, that when you are as kind and grateful for your readers as some authors are, people are drawn to you and that sometimes, instead of yelling, “The emperor has no clothes”, it is best to walk away and go look at rocks. To quote the saying on RE Bradshaw's shirt at the Lone Star Lesfic Festival....Namaste Y'all