Hello, wonderful people! I had an amazing time at the 5th Annual Barbara Vey Reader Luncheon–actually, now it’s an entire weekend–and I wanted to tell you all about it.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the event, it’s an amazing opportunity for more than 400 readers and 60 fabulous authors to get up-close and personal over the weekend through games, a Q&A, meet and greet, meals and cocktail hours, and of course, an author signing. This is unlike any other author/reader event out there, and it’s put on by one of the biggest advocates for the romance genre, Ms. Barbara Vey.
The luncheon is the highlight of the whole weekend. Every author hosts 7 readers at their table. When the readers purchase their tickets–8 months before the event!–they choose the author they want to sit with. If that author’s table is already full (tickets for this event sell out in mere hours), then they try for another author. They might end up with an author they’ve never heard of before, but the great thing about this event is that no matter who they sit with, the readers come away with a ton of gifts and getting to know an author in a way that just isn’t possible at a typical signing event.
Every author picks a theme for their table–something that has to do with their brand or books–and decorates it plus gives each reader at their table a gift of awesome stuff. This is affectionately called Table Wars since the authors typically try to out do each other with the extravagance of their decorations and gifts.
Last year, I only had 3 days to prepare. Barbara asked if I could fill in for an author who had to pull out at the last minute, and I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn’t able to pull together much in the way of decor, so I brought a bag of Hershey’s kisses to scatter over the table (because chocolate) and a glass dildo (yes, you heard right) called the Golden Cock that I won from a blogger in a contest. I was voted the Author Who Readers Most Wanted to Jell-O Wrestle, and I’m very fond of it. 😉 It made a big splash with the readers at my table, so I decided to bring it back this year for an encore appearance–because I’m nothing if not incredibly inappropriate in social situations. *LOL* Everyone got a kick out of it and, at the very least, it made for a great ice-breaker and hilarious conversation piece.
Since the last book I released was Tempting her Best Friend in the What Happens in Vegas series, I did a Vegas-themed table and gift bags. I did the same with the door prize–each author brings a loaded-up gift and draws a lucky winner from all the registered readers–and created a Vegas Party in a Bag. It included 3 signed books from the WHiV series, a roulette shots drinking game, a mason jar shot glass with mini-bottles of booze, a book nerd mug, and lots of other stuff. My daughter, Alyssa, was lucky enough to win Patty Blount‘s door prize of 3 signed books and a Kindle Fire!
This year’s keynote speaker was the incomparable Eloisa James who spoke of her personal experiences as a romance writer, a woman, and a mother, and how they all intertwined to create the wonderful stories she’s written over the years. Her point was that romance books aren’t the frivolous, empty-headed trash so many people assume them to be. They’re full of the authors’ real-life experiences and emotions. We pour a lot of ourselves into these characters; things that our readers can relate to and feel just as deeply. Whether it makes you laugh, gasp, swoon, or cry, a romance book is designed to make you feel, and enjoying an emotional roller coaster is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to embrace. Believe me when I tell you, I wasn’t the only person in the room who was choked up at the end of her speech. It was beautiful.
As I mentioned, this year I brought my 16 year-old daughter along as a reader/assistant. She got to sit at Piper J. Drake‘s table for the luncheon on Saturday, and they instantly bonded. Piper is an author friend of mine and one of the most fun people on the planet so I knew Alyssa would take to her instantly. Needless to say, they now Snapchat each other. *LOL* I loved having her with me. We always have a great time together, and she proved invaluable as my assistant during the signing.
All in all, the weekend was amazing. I had so much fun hanging out with the readers and authors–ones I’ve known for years and some I’d just met that weekend. Coming together for a common love of romance books is one of my favorite things in the world and something every romance reader should experience at least once in their life.
I can’t possibly squeeze in all the things that happen at the Barbara Vey Reader Weekend. This post would be 5 times as long, and it’s already long as it is. My recommendation is to get tickets to next year’s event and witness the magic yourself. This year, tickets will go on sale July 30th at midnight. Mark your calendars, set an alarm, and get your clicking finger ready, because I guarantee the event will sell out fast! To keep abreast of all the news about next year’s event, join the Facebook group and turn your notifications on.
I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to be a part of it the past two years, and I look forward to watching it grow and get better (if that’s possible) with each passing year. Barbara and her family work tirelessly all year to put this weekend together, and their passion for it shines through in every aspect. Bottom line, you want to be in Milwaukee next April for this event! Whether it’s as an author or a reader, I know I will be. 🙂