Right now, I’m supposed to be at a booksigning in Ottawa called Prose in the Park. If you expected to see me there and didn’t, please accept my apologies for my absence.
I have been writing and publishing romantic fiction—and earning my living my doing so—since 1992. That’s more than 25 years of being involved with the literary community, reader conferences, book events and wholesale trade shows for the publishing industry. I have been surprised from the get-go at the lack of respect shown to commercial fiction authors, genre fiction authors and particularly romance authors at these events. I don’t understand why anyone feels it’s okay to be rude about other people’s reading choices, and I certainly don’t understand why organizers of events always skew in favor of authors of literary fiction—but they do. Somehow, authors who write literary fiction are deemed to be better and more valuable. It’s just one of those things, but over time, you can reach your limit.
Today I reached mine.
Let’s backtrack a bit. A year ago, I was invited by S.E. McEachern to come to Prose in the Park, to participate in a panel discussion with her and Eve Langlais on the romance genre, and to sell my books at the bookfair in the park. It sounded like a lovely way to spend a day, and to catch up with several other writers from the Ottawa RWA chapter who were also planning to attend, plus I knew that Eve and I would have a great chat. There was no compensation offered, likely because it was a small book fair with a small budget. Susan offered she would pay for my spot to sign, which was very gracious of her, so I agreed.
I subsequently received an invitation from the organizers of Prose to contribute to a fundraising program to help defray costs for authors who had to travel a distance to the event. Since I was making a six-hour drive each way and booking two nights in a hotel at my own expense to participate, I thought this was a bit cheeky. It is par for the course at a book event in Canada, though, so I bit my tongue and ignored the request.
This spring, I learned that our panel discussion would be in the last slot of the day, from 5PM to 6PM. The last slot on a Saturday book fair is often the one with the poorest attendance because attendees have gone home for dinner. Also, people tend to attend panels to learn about the authors in attendance, then buy books from authors who interest them. We would have no opportunity to capitalize on our participation in the panel discussion because the book fair would close by the time we were done. This was clearly just one of those things. The schedule was done and my trip was booked.
I arrived this morning to discover that the people speaking on panels were not to be given any visibility or signage. My space was half a 6-foot table to be shared with Eve—I knew I’d be sharing, and sharing with Eve would be fun. There were six romance authors under this tent, each with the same space allotment, and we moved things around to give some visibility to ORWA and their membership drive. We were all set up when another author arrived and insisted that the spot with my books was her spot and that my books should move. Such mix-ups happen, but are usually sorted out to the satisfaction of everyone involved. In this particular case, this author insisted upon having this very spot, and the organizer supported her. I was to shove along, into Eve’s space, and make do. We six should share five spaces, so this writer could have what she wanted, even all of the spaces were paid. The organizer didn’t even come over to speak to us about it. It wasn’t important.
I think it was the way the other author poked at my books, like they were something that should have been scraped off her shoe, that pushed me over the edge. That the organizer believed his solution was acceptable—and that we romance writers should just be nice and make it work—convinced me that there was no point in discussing anything with him.
We are nice. We do make do. Eve was scooting her stuff over to make room for me—so we’d be sharing her space—and Susan put some of my postcards at the front of the table, but I’d reached my limit. I’m tired of being nice when other people are rude. I’m tired of being expected to accept crumbs from the table because I write genre fiction. I packed up my books instead of playing along this time. I had a walk around the event, took a deep breath and decided that it was a lovely June day. Instead of making do with what Prose in the Park thought I should find satisfactory because I write romantic fiction, I took my husband out for lunch.
So, if I missed you at the event today, I’m sorry. I have a feeling, though, that if you’re a romance reader or writer, you’ll understand why I wasn’t there.