Wonder Boi Writes

GCLS Portland

Hey friends, I know I’ve been off the blog for a bit, but I’ve been on the road from Louisville to Boston, to Seattle and finally to Portland for the annual Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. The GCLS is the only organization I know of with the sole purpose of preserving and promoting lesbian fiction; therefore, I love them!  But there’s more to love than their mission statement.  Their annual conference, which took place in Portland this year, is a veritable smorgasbord of treats for lesfic lovers.  Here are just a few things I loved about the event:

1.  Readers and writers mix fluidly there. The people who are readers one year might be authors the next, and even the most well-published authors still consider themselves readers first. Great friendships are formed across those lines and flourish in the unique environment only GCLS provides.  At other events there’s so much more separation between the two groups.  At GCLS it’s common to find a table of readers, writers, aspiring authors, and all of the above hanging out and laughing together.  Here’s some folks I spent some times with eating lunch and watching the author auction: Rosa Moran, Pennie Hancock, Jane Cuthbertson, and Riley Adair Garret.


I met each one of them at GCLS conferences in the past and now consider each of them a buddy.

2. Workshops, panels, and readings, oh my!  There’s something for everyone as part of the GCLS official program. I went to panels on editors’ pet peeves, working with a career team, and researching complex topics.  As an author I’m still learning, and I love listening to experts in various areas of this business share their wisdom.


But what if you’re not a writer and don’t want to be one? Or what if, like me, you’re a writer who also likes to play fanboi from time to time? GCLS has a chat for that!  There’s a whole series of author chats where a group of authors get together and talk to one another and audience members about whatever comes up.  This is a great chance to see what people are working on, how they work, what inspires them, and anything else folks want to know about their favorite.  I attended an author chat with Pol Robinson, Ann McMan, Lynn Ames, Dillon Watson, and RJ Samuel. Then I got to moderate an author chat with Pat Cronin, Jessie Chandler, Linda K. Silva, and Andi Marquette.  I really like these chats because you get to see so much of the authors’ personality come through, and that always gives me greater insights into their work.


3) Special Speeches. GCLS always brings in two people to address the whole assembly. One is a special speaker, and this year she was pretty darn special indeed.  The wonderful Ann Bannon spoke about the historical arc of her career, from a young Philadelphia housewife reading Vin Packer’s Spring Fire to her rise to the role of Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction all the way up to seeing Beebo Brinker on stage.  She also shared some great cover work.


This woman is a treasure to our community and I’m so grateful to GCLS for putting her in my world (More on this later).

The keynote address was given by the always affable Lori Lake.  She did a brilliant job of tying the historical milestones in lesbian fiction to her own story, and the stories that make up each and every one of our lives. I  readily admit  I got choked up  when she talked about the power of lesbian fiction to shape or even save a life. At times my job can start to feel like a job, and it is, but it’s also much more than that. I’m a small part of a legacy that stretches from Sappho to the thousands of authors still to come, and we are all charged with making our voices heard. I’m glad there are people like Lori out there to chronicle our history and remind us of the importance of carrying our stories out into the world.


4) Authors in abundance!  There are a lot of great events out there where lesbian fiction authors gather, but none of them carry the sheer number of writers as the GCLS conference does. The picture below is just the group from Bold Strokes Books. Bella had even more people there. Bedazzaled, Sapphire, Bywater, and many more had contingents, not to mention all the wonderful indie authors.


If you want to get an autograph, a photograph, a hug, or a good laugh from one of your favorite authors, the autograph session is a great place to be.  I’m not sure how many authors were in the room come signing time, but the tables filled the room, some times two or three deep.  As Lee Lynch once said, “We’ve written so many books now they couldn’t possibly burn them all.”  Never is that more evident than at the GCLS autograph event.

5)  The awards and dance.  The true apex of the conference is the awards and dance. The first is a wonderful celebration of the years’ (and some lifetime) accomplishments in lesbian fiction. Everyone gets gussied up, and we give the best and brightest among us the recognition they deserve for the important work they do. In a world where our youth are still bullied to death, our relationships argued against in our highest courts, our history ignored, and our stories censored, I cannot overstate the need for us to recognize the people and work that shows us a bigger, better vision of who we can be.


Then the real fun begins.  With the work and the learning and reflecting all done, everyone flat out cuts loose.  There’s music and dancing, laughing and singing, and most of all wonderful people.  Playfulness abounds.  My favorite pictures generally come from this time because it’s when you get to see readers and authors being completely themselves, and guess what, we generally enjoy each other’s company.


By the end of the end of the evening I’d lost count of the number of laps I’d sat on, the number of people I’d danced with, and the number of women I’d hugged.  I do know that Georgia Beers left wearing my tie, as that’s a tradition that’s 6 years running.


6) Colleagues I wouldn’t trade for the world.   This business is wonderful and rewarding, but it can also be terribly lonely.  We owe so much to our community, but we do the day-to-day to work alone, for weeks, months, and the better part of most years. No matter how empathetic our friends and families are, they don’t really know what it’s like for us to inhabit worlds of our own creation that take up so much of our time and energy.  When we finally find people who get it, who live it, we tend to cling to them.  We soak up that connection, store that energy, and try to capture that essence.  We know we won’t get to drink from this well again for months. Can you really blame us from getting a little drunk off each other when we have the chance?


7) Once in a lifetime opportunities.  Finally, the GCLS has given me opportunities I would have never had access to anywhere else, and this year offered the best example of that to date. On the last day of the conference, I had a chance to sit on a panel with Ann Bannon.  It’s not hard to say that if not for her books, none of us would be able to live the life and do the work we love. I was beyond giddy to sit next to her.  I think I took longer to get ready for that panel than it did for me to dress for my high school prom. I wore a bow tie just for the occasion


Along with Georgia Beers and Melissa Brayden, we talked about writing the girl next door. Lainie Mulligan-Lynch gave us so many great topics to discuss and questions to ponder, but I can only remember thinking, “That’s Ann Bannon sitting  next to me!”  I read Odd Girl Out sitting on the floor of our college PRIDE cubicle. I remember holding my breath silently begging Beth to get on the train.  As Ms. Bannon talked about writing that scene, I was transported back, my heart once again pounding in my chest.  It took everything I had not to throw my arms around her and say thank you for making me want to do this this amazing job, because none of the other six points on this list would have ever been possible without women like her writing scenes like that.

I want to thank the GCLS and their all volunteer board, for the amazing amount of time and dedication they give to make this event and these memories possible. I can’t possible thank you enough for all you do for our community, but I can promise that, G-d willing, I’ll see you all in New Orleans next year.



July 22, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I always enjoy reading your blog Rachel and today was no different. The added pictures makes me want to join in on the fun.
    Keep doing what you do because this particular reader appreciates you and many other authors for your dedication to writing.

    Comment by traciapartin | July 22, 2014 | Reply

  2. Rachel. Thanks for this wonderful blog. I just signed up as a volunteer and hope to see you in New Oleans or Chicago. A big Florida fan!

    Comment by Judy Comella | July 22, 2014 | Reply

  3. Rachel – what a terrific summary of all the fun stuff you did at the con, the people you spent time with, and what it meant to you. Great blog! (Thanks for calling me “affable.” That made me smile.) It was really just SO wonderful to have everyone in Portland this year. Thank you for all you contribute to the fun and frivolity – and to the history of our writing and your own writing as well. You rock!

    Comment by Lori L. Lake | July 23, 2014 | Reply

  4. Thanks for this great re-cap. I was there, and it’s nice to be reminded of so many wonderful things about the con. Maybe some who weren’t there will be inspired to come next year. I certainly hope to make it to New Orleans and see you and the other great authors next year.

    Comment by Sharon E. Owens | July 23, 2014 | Reply

  5. […] Rachel Spangler posted GCLS Portland. […]

    Pingback by Link Round Up: July 24 – August 13 | The Lesbrary | August 13, 2014 | Reply

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