The SBTB RT17 Recap

Elyse: RT 2017 is over. We’re tired, happy and still have most of our voices left.

For the past two RT’s, I was adamant that I attend everything. This year I was a little more relaxed, and I found my favorite part of the convention was just hanging out with the other Bitches, readers of our site, and romance lovers. I had a lot of great conversations at the bar and at dinner, and I felt like I made some new and super awesome friends. I swear, if you told my mom that my favorite part of anything was “making new friends” her jaw would hit the floor–and she would channel memories of my sniffling phone calls from summer camp circa 1992. I’m an introvert, but it’s soooo easy to talk and hang with the people at RT because they are my people, and common interest makes for easy conversation.

Aside from our live podcast (which was hilarious) and our Reader Recommendation Party (which was expensive), my favorite panel was the Romance, Bollywood Style Panel with Sonali Dev, Amalie Howard, Shaila Patel, MK Schiller, and Sienna Snow. We watched trailers for Bollywood romances and then the authors and model/actor Vikkas Bhardwaj (who is honestly, preternaturally handsome) acted out the tropes for us to guess. Included in the panel was a gorgeous bag from Sonali Dev (now my new knitting bag) as well as books and swag.

Many of the parties, including Kensington’s, offered champagne and snacks. I’m fairly certain I ate bar nachos every day (and they were amazing), but my snacking needs were met by the convention in general. Also a lot of bottled water was handed out.

There were lots of restaurants within walking distance which was great. I ate actual food this year! There was no Guy Fieri in sight. Best meal? Probably my dessert and drink (it was called Love is Like a Bottle of Gin) at the White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails.

I also hung out in the lobby knitting and drinking my coffee one morning for a full thirty minutes, not realizing Elizabeth Hoyt was sitting next me. So I got to breathe the same air as her for half an hour.

My biggest disappointment was the Avon party. Normally this is a huge event due to the big name authors and the fact that Avon gives out lots of books. Unfortunately this year the party didn’t open until over 30 minutes after its scheduled time. That means I hung out in line for an hour and a half and had to bail to attend our podcast recording. I’m pretty spoiled in terms of getting the books I want, but I had hoped to grab a few authors’ signed copies for friends of mine. I was super bummed that I waited that long and didn’t get anything, but, to be fair, I don’t know why the party was so delayed or the organization was so poor.

Also I went to Eat Sleep Knit with Carrie and RHG and got a lot of yarn. It was both glorious and expensive.

I tallied up the value (list price) of the books I brought home for myself and my friends/family and the total was $425. I managed to get my checked luggage to weigh in at exactly 50 lbs (like a fucking boss, y’all). Now I’m fairly discerning regarding what I bring home, so I think it’s totally reasonable that a reader could come home with over $500 worth of books and swag.

Best swag? Sonali Dev’s purse, hands down. Most useful? Probably the earplugs that saved me on my flight home.

Dewey is happy I’m home, but I’m ready for Reno, baby!

RHG: Having done large scale annual events like RT in other aspects of my life, I’ve found that the pattern tends to be: First one is GREAT, and the second one is inevitably a let down because it can’t compare the the first one. Last year, Vegas was kind of a mentally and physically exhausting place to be (my mom, last year: “This will be the trip of a lifetime!” me: “We’ll see.”) but the third and subsequent times going to the event things regulate to a level that is sustainable.

I had a frickin’ blast this year. The hotel was nice and the food options were plentiful and varied. Atlanta is a fantastic convention town where there’s a lot of things to go and do in a reasonable distance (and the weather was pretty good most of the time for walking around purposes). The convention space was easy to get to (despite some elevator congestion, which most of the time was handled with patience and good humor).

I loved being able to hang out with friends (new and old) and talk to people about the site- many people talked about how much they loved the historical cooking posts, which makes me happy! Like Elyse said, the Bollywood panel was EXCELLENT and we will be adding some Bollywood titles to the Movie Matinee list in the future. The Bollywood panel also did have the best swag, with the bags and books and a body candle and also a very smoking hot Bollywood actor who was not swag, but man, was he pretty.

One major highlight was meeting Beverly Jenkins! She’s a delight!

Redheadedgirl and Beverly Jenkins

I met Melody and Julia, the ladies behind Romance Podden, a Swedish romance podcast. They did about a million and a half interviews, and they’ve told me to get my ass back to Stockholm as soon as possible.

Other highlights: helping Elyse and Carrie spend money at Eat Sleep Knit, and explaining to Carrie what all the green stuff on the trees was, and how a pond worked. Breakfast at Cafe Intermezzo (and the random Japanese Duolingo lesson happening in the bathroom), giving our waitress at dinner a million and a half book recommendations. Hearing the inhuman noises when people got their hands on Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You (or saw that people had it) (and I finished it, and it is worth all of those noises). Seeing so many happy readers all in one place.

Carrie: Keeping this short because my thoughts have already been stated by RHG and Elyse. I’m less interested in parties and panels now and more interested in friends – and I’ve made such wonderful friends at RTs! Also I’ve learned valuable lessons about being myself. At the first RT I didn’t actually make friends because I was all dressed up and super nervous. In the last two RTs I went back to my geek tshirts and comfy shoes and suddenly was making friends for life like crazy. So happy to be part of this community!

Amanda: I think this RT might have been my favorite. I didn’t attend a ton of events, but I had a lot of one-on-one interactions with people that were so much fun, and it really made me realize how sweet and thoughtful the community can be.

I don’t usually attend the big book fair on Saturday, so I made it a point to hunt down the authors I wanted to see most to goad them into signing my books. I met Amanda Bouchet over drinks and she was so lovely, despite being severely jetlagged I’m sure (she flew from France).

I also desperately wanted Christina Lauren to sign my copy of Dating You/Hating You, and I then proceeded to lose my house keys at their Meet & Greet table.

Elyse and I poked around the Petticoat & Pistols event, which had some lovely champagne. I found out that Joanna Shupe is a listener of My Favorite Murder. It was so funny to see her all dressed up in historical garb, talking about being a murderino.

Elyse and I met some super tall cover models. Later on at RT, I spoke again to one of them and they have a blog where they review the romances on whose covers they’ve graced. How cool is that!

But as I mentioned before, meeting people was the best part. I was talking to a first time attendee in the Avon party line, who was there with her mom. I mentioned how I was only in line to get Ilona Andrews’ signature, but had to leave to attend our live podcast taping (which was awesome!). She emailed me later, telling me she’d managed to get me a signed copy of Burn For Me. I’m going to cherish it forever.

Since returning to Boston, I know all of us have been bombarded with emails, tweets, and other messages from people we met at RT and it makes me feel so warm & fuzzy in my Spring-allergy haze. Seriously, you all are amazing and meeting romance fans, SBTB readers, authors, and all the other people behind the scenes of my favorite books was the greatest thing about the convention.

Sarah: We all had a pretty great RT experience, but obviously our opinions aren’t the only ones. Reader Katie C. and her mother were both first-time RT attendees, and while they had some great moments, their overall experience wasn’t optimal. Katie and her mother both gave us permission to share their review and comments.

Amanda: Ah! Katie is the lovely reader who grabbed Burn for Me!

Reader Katie C: I thought the Bitchery might be interested in my take on RT – I am not an author, industry insider, reviewer/blogger, or aspiring author – “just” a reader. My mom and I both attended the conference last week in Atlanta and I have so many thoughts!

What goals did I have at RT and did I accomplish them?

1. Meet and talk to other readers about books – goal accomplishment level: kinda sorta – I have to admit I was surprised at how many “readers” at the conference were actually aspiring authors. At the YA Spooky Slumber Party on Tuesday, out of the nine people at my table, I was the only reader – everyone else was either an author or aspiring author. I was hoping to find other “just” readers to discuss books with – a give and take, what people liked and what they hated. Kind of like the Smart Bitches comments section, only in person. Instead, RT seems more like a fan club – where only positive comments about books are welcome. At the same party, I won a book about a failed suicide attempt which looked dark to me. I made a comment about that and the whole table got silent and stared at me. Finally, one person said I know the author is here and she can sign it for you. That’s when I got the message (and I certainly could have been interpreting it incorrectly) – most people here know most people here and only positive comments are welcome. This was not the only time during the conference I got this feeling – it happened in multiple places. I think I was looking for more of a giant book club when RT is truly a fan event. That is great if that is what you are looking for, but disappointing when it is not.

2. Get lots of “free” books – goal accomplished: yes – I know they aren’t really free since I paid for the registration, hotel, etc. but I walked away with 102 books and my mom with 34, so mission accomplished. However, the work to get the free books was not something I would care to repeat – see lines and crowds below.

3. Learn about new-to-me authors and books: goal achieved, so many books to look up, so little time.

4. Meet the Smart Bitches, let them know how much I admire their work and what a fan girl I am: Got this one mostly checked off – met SB Sarah, Elyse and Redheadedgirl. I had a great discussion in line for the Avon party with Amanda about Ilona Andrews and Tessa Bailey books. Unfortunately, while I saw Carrie S. at the SBTB Recommendation Party, I didn’t get a chance to say hi and tell her how much I love her – especially on the podcasts.

The highlights:

– The Bollywood Party on Thursday afternoon – my mom got to meet Sonali Dev and get her to sign A Bollywood Affair, making her week. We watched great Bollywood clips, laughed at the authors performing charades and got beautiful bags from India as our attendee gifts.

– SBTB Recommendation Party: Great to hear from other readers of the site about books they love.

– Sweet Romance Breakfast and Chocolate, Books, and Authors events: These two events were put on by Christian publishers – I wouldn’t have attended as I haven’t read Inspies in 15-20 years when my grandma would loan them out to me, but my mom wanted to go. And these events were great. They started on time, were in large rooms so they weren’t overcrowded, and had plenty of books to give away. As a result, I think I will give some of them a try – who knows I might like them and if not, no big deal. My mom got lots of books to try too!

The lowlights:
– Lines, lines, so many lines: I was shocked at how long the lines were at each event and how early people got in line. Some lines started three hours before the actual party or event. Sometimes the lines were well organized and sometimes not.

– Disorganization: In addition to waiting in line, I was disappointed in how off schedule things were. Out of all of the events I attended, only four started within five minutes of the published time on the schedule – the aforementioned Inspie publisher parties, the Canadian authors trivia party and the SBTB Recommendation party. The award for most behind goes to Avon who opened their doors 35-40 minutes late.

– Too many people in too small spaces: multiple events were held in spaces way way way too small for the number of people admitted. It started at the pre-con party Naughty and Nice which was in a tiny conference room and at points I couldn’t move. The absolute worst again goes to Avon where I witnessed one poor lady frozen in place having an anxiety attack and at multiple times I literally couldn’t move because it was so crowded.

Bottom Line – Would I attend RT again?

No I would not attend again unless the conference was in my hometown or within a couple hours drive. I am sure others have very different experiences, but I would have much rather taken the money I spent on registration fees, hotel room, parking, and travel and just spent it all on books. I am glad that I got to try RT once so I would know what it is like, but due to the crowds, long wait times and “fan-dom” of the event, it just wasn’t for me.

My mom and I discussed RT and the Hyatt on the 9+ hour road trip home, among other things of course, but I asked her tonight what she would want to share with you all. Please note this was her first RT conference too. Here is what she said:

– Everyone was very nice and certainly friendly, but there still was a palpable sense of cliquishness during the entire conference.

– Some events were well thought-out and well run like Maple Syrup and Mounties (Canada trivia with Canadian authors), the SBTB Rec Party, the two Christian publisher parties (she wanted me to mention how good the chocolate was at the Books! Chocolate! Authors! event including a chocolate covered strawberry on a stick that she loved) and the Bollywood Party. But there were an equal number, if not more, where the events were excellent ideas, but poorly executed including Cinema Craptastique (Damon Suede was hilarious and really made my mom laugh, but we couldn’t see or hear the movie so we left only about 1/4 of the way through the movie), Nice and Naughty Party, and Avon Party.

– The Avon party really made her mad so I will give it a special bullet – it ran very behind schedule and as I stated below the crowds were dangerous for such a small space. Seriously, the other events that were late or disorganized were disappointing, but Avon really made her mad – she felt like she was going to be squished or trampled and that it was a serious fire hazard.

– Her highlight by far was meeting Sonali Dev and getting to tell her how much she loved her book (A Bollywood Affair) and how beautiful she thought the writing and story were. Sonali Dev was super sweet and super kind – it really made my mom’s day.

– My mom said she would not go back and by Saturday was ready to get the hell out of there (we had originally planned to stay until Sunday, but we were so done with all the people that we left Saturday).

Did you attend RT this year? What were your highlights? Any letdowns this year?

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