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Why I Love Celebrate Romance

I’ve been a romance reader since I was in high school, but during my school years, I read alone. I didn’t know anyone else who read romance – a few of my friends might pick up a Nora Roberts book a couple of times a year, but that was all. That all changed in the early 1990’s, when I discovered the fledgling internet, and found reading groups filled with romance readers. How exciting! But I was hoping to meet some of these readers in person – to see the people I’d only talked to online, and talk to people face to face, instead of just by email.

I attended my first romance event when I graduated and moved to New York. The other readers online told me about a huge booksigning in New Jersey. (The annual NJRWA book signing.) I got on the Garden State Parkway and headed for New Jersey. When I walked into the hotel, I couldn’t believe it – there were crowds of people, and all of them were fellow romance readers! There was a huge ballroom with rows of tables, all lined with romance authors.

I timidly approached some of my favorite authors, and had my books signed. That was fun, but I found myself more interested in the other readers – when did they start reading romance? What were their favorite books? Did they have any good recommendations? A group of readers and authors went out to dinner after the signing, and for me, that was the highlight of the day, because I got a chance to talk to everyone. Whether we were talking about books or about our lives, it seemed like we had a lot in common – after all, we all loved reading! Dinner was over far too soon.

Not long after that, I heard about Celebrate Romance, which had held it’s first meeting in Las Vegas the previous year. It was an entire weekend of the things I’d liked best about the dinner after the book signing – a chance to talk to other readers, discuss books, and meet authors. And as a bonus for me, the next meeting was in Philadelphia, only a few hours from home. I couldn’t wait to attend.

The experience was even better than I’d expected. The first day I arrived, I stayed up until midnight, eating Philly cheesesteaks and swapping stories with other romance readers. The next day, I listened to speakers talking about my favorite subject – romance novels – and joined in enthusiastic group discussions about favorite plotlines and tacky covers. And on Sunday, I even got to have breakfast with one of my favorite romance authors – Mary Jo Putney – although I think I was too shy to say much. I exchanged email addresses with dozens of readers and authors, and had so many great chats with people that I’d met online, but finally met in person. By the end of the weekend, I was ready to sign up for next year.

Since then, I’ve attended CR almost every year, and it’s always been a terrific experience. A few years ago, I even got involved in organizing the conference. I had gotten so much out of CR, I had to do everything I could to help keep it going. It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since I attended my first one – and I still have a great time, every year.

This year’s Celebrate Romance conference is being held in Portland, Oregon, from Friday February 27th to Sunday March 1st. The keynote speakers are Cathy Maxwell and Jane Porter, and other attending authors include Elizabeth Boyle and Lisa Hendrix (and too many others to list). There are going to be speakers, discussion groups, dinners, and lots of chances to just kick back and relax. I can’t wait! Even though I’m busy with all kinds of behind the scenes details, in my heart I’m still that eager reader, waiting to get a chance to share my love of books with everyone else at the conference.

You can find out more at the CR web site, http://www.crspring.com

Guest Reviewer

12 Comments

  1. Janine
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 12:31:46

    This sounds like a lot of fun. What’s on the schedule for Celebrate Romance 2009?

  2. Meljean
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 12:40:49

    Thanks to this, I just remembered to register for this year’s conference.

    I like that they’ve instituted a day rate, too — so that if anyone can’t attend the whole weekend, they can just pay a lower rate for one day (or two).

  3. GrowlyCub
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 12:56:27

    I’ll be there. It will be my first CR, since I missed the one in Columbia, SC, last year which was only 5 hours from my house! :(

    This time I’m flying across the country to be there. I can’t wait! :)

  4. Steph
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 15:28:59

    Oh man, I’d love to go. If I weren’t saving up all of my money for my big trip, I would be all over that.

  5. Karen
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 15:33:29

    The schedule is still being finalized, but this is the basic outline:

    Friday night is informal. There will be dinner, and probably some games. Mostly just talking and getting to know everyone.

    Saturday morning, after breakfast, we’ll have speakers. Cathy Maxwell is the keynote speaker, and she’s speaking on “Why We Read Romance”. Other topics include “Sex Through History”, “Confessions of a Romance Reviewer” and “Jane Austen and the Regency”. We’re still finalizing the speaker schedule.

    After lunch, we’re having discussion groups. The topics this year are:
    Hold the Sex Please: Is there room for “sweet” and “sensual” in today’s romance market?
    Curiouser & Curiouser: How far down the rabbit hole do we like to go when reading Paranormal Romance?
    The Secret Lives of Readers: TSTL, Wall Bangers, Keepers, readers discuss what pushes their buttons, what doesn’t, and what they wish they were reading.

    Sunday is the book signing, as well as a few more speakers – Jane Porter is giving the keynote on Sunday.

    I always have a great time at CR, and it’s hard to describe the weekend just from the schedule – my favorite times are often things that aren’t on the schedule! But hopefully that gives you an idea of what’s planned.

  6. Leanne
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 15:44:40

    Friday night is going to be a little different this year. Not even Karen knows what is happening since I’m the one organizing it and haven’s shared with anyone until I got it all in place. It will be a blast though!!

  7. Janine
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 16:52:14

    Thanks Karen and Leanne!

  8. Terri Brisbin
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 20:38:43

    I had the fun of attending 2 CR!s — the one in Philly (I helped to pick up all those cheesesteaks since I was local!) and the one near Baltimore, but haven’t been able to get back to it since. I was a brand-new author at the Philly one and had a blast meeting readers and other authors, new and established…

    I hope I can attend another one soon and wish all the CR! gals the best as the 2009 one approaches….. Have a great time!

    Terri

  9. JulieLeto
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 22:39:41

    I went to Celebrate Romance years ago when it was in Atlanta and it was the best time ever. What a fabulous, fabulous event! Anyone near the area should go!!

  10. Kate
    Feb 07, 2009 @ 17:35:43

    Could anyone tell me what the advance book swap (or something?) is on Sunday? I just found out about the CR and since I’m in Portland I have to attend, of course! But I’m a little confused about what Sunday entails…thank you!

  11. Karen
    Feb 07, 2009 @ 19:22:34

    This year at CR, we’ll be having a book trade, but it will be on Saturday, not Sunday. Everyone can bring in 10 books, and then you can pick out 10 books from the books that everyone else has brought – a great way to find new reads! (In the past, we’ve had an advanced book trade, where people could request books in advance, but because of computer problems, we’re not having one this year.)

    On Sunday, there will be a book signing with all of the authors who are attending this year.

    The best way to find out about CR is to sign up for the newsletter. If you aren’t signed up already, you can sign up on our web page, http://www.crspring.com. I’ll be sending out an update this weekend.

  12. Rosemary Laurey
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 09:10:14

    Must add my ha’pennorth and say if you are anywhere near Portland, do come. This is one of the most enjoyable Reader/Author weekends around. It’s low key and fun and the price is fair.
    I’m travelling from OHio to get there and SO looking forward to it.

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