There have been a lot of statements made lately with regards to the change in policy at the GayRomLit retreat. The policies for publisher and author participation in their event have changed, and everyone is entitled to their opinion on the matter. Many support the changes. Many are angry about them. And tied into all that is our new convention, The Rainbow Conference (aka RainbowCon). We would like to make a public statement, since our conference is being brought up and compared to GRL in many respects. Storm Moon Press is all for full disclosure, and we aren’t about to stay silent and sacrifice transparency in this case, just like we wouldn’t in any other situation.
The three of us owners here at Storm Moon Press have developed RainbowCon to be very different from GRL. There is a lot of talk about RainbowCon being organized in order to compete with GRL, and we want to make it very clear that competing with GRL is not the intent for RainbowCon. They’re two completely different beasts. One, GRL, is a reader retreat: casual, low-key, very enjoyable for mingling as readers and authors. The other, RainbowCon, is set up like a traditional conference with panels, workshops, and activities. GRL is a M/M retreat; RainbowCon is a QUILTBAG conference. GRL happens in the fall; we deliberately scheduled RainbowCon to happen in the spring so anyone wanting to attend both would have a better chance of doing so. We in no way wish to poach readers, authors, or reviewers from GRL or demand that people choose between the two events. There is plenty of room in the genre for events that are structured so differently, and we want to share that space in a very supportive way.
RainbowCon is the culmination of about a decade of going to various conventions and always having the thought of, “Hmm… I loved certain parts of that, but I wish there had been more ____ to enjoy.” This has happened countless times for the three of us, and we’ve been watching and scribbling down little notes for ages on what we would want to see if we ever put on our own event. Most of those ideas became the panels, workshops, and roundtable discussions for RainbowCon. We even took the satirical guest blog posts from our anniversary tours and made them into a panel and game show for con-goers to enjoy (see How Not to Write a Sex Scene and The Gay Experience). The point here is that the concept for RainbowCon has been percolating in our brains for quite a while.
Now, a week ago, an e-mail went out from GRL to us publishers, detailing the changes that had been made to GRL’s sponsorship policies. At GRL2012, we paid an additional $300 beyond registration costs in order to sponsor as a small press. This meant that we didn’t sponsor a huge event or anything, but that we were given a publisher spotlight and vending space. To contrast, GRL2013′s sponsorship structure meant that we would have to pay at least $3000 for a Bronze level sponsorship, which doesn’t guarantee vending space and doesn’t get a publisher spotlight sort of event. Looking at it from a monetary standpoint, that was so much more money that we (and many other small presses like us) were basically priced out of attending. Sure, we could pay much lower into the sponsorship totem, but to get so much less than we did at GRL2012 while paying more didn’t seem like a good investment for us. In the end, we don’t feel that anyone should shout at us for making the decision not to attend. Taking time out of our schedules to attend an event that we can’t promote ourselves at simply isn’t possible. It doesn’t make us cheap; it makes us business-oriented, and we don’t see that as a bad thing.
And we’ll be completely honest here. Not being able to attend made us very disappointed, since we had already been in contact with the organizers of GRL in order to perhaps join with a couple other small presses and sponsor a larger event like Resplendence did. (Their karaoke event was a ton of fun!) The response from the organizers, though, was very negative toward small press inclusion. In a way, we as small presses were being told we weren’t worth the trouble for how little money we were providing the event through our sponsorships (compared to the larger presses who were paying for full events on their own).
We aren’t afraid to publicly state that it was the change in GRL’s policies that spurred us into action when it came to getting RainbowCon up and running. However, we want to be clear that it wasn’t out of a desire for GRL to in any way fail as a retreat. GRL has given readers and authors a great event in which to meet up and have a great time together. Our event is more informative and structured, reaching out to the QUILTBAG fiction community to share our mutual love for the genre in a smaller venue.
When we realized we couldn’t play in the GRL sandbox anymore, we made our own sandbox in which to play. We didn’t structure that sandbox right next door or steal GRL’s sand in order to fill our own outline. We are inviting the same kids to come and play, but where GRL’s sandbox might be open during the day, ours is open during the night. We aren’t saying GRL sucks and that no one should go to that sandbox. We’re saying there are now two sandboxes, and that all kids are equally welcome. (How many Sci-Fi sandboxes out there manage to co-exist? Is it too much to ask for more sandboxes in the QUILTBAG genre as well?)
The timing of our announcement for RainbowCon has been called ‘classless’ and ‘opportunistic’. We respectfully disagree with the former and openly admit to the latter. We took the opportunity given us when it was clear some people were looking for an alternative. We had one to offer, and so we made ourselves known. This doesn’t mean that we’re condoning an “us against them” mentality. Truth be told, we wish GRL all the best. It’s why we did our utmost to schedule RainbowCon at the opposite end of the year. If we were trying to compete, we’d have scheduled it right in the midst of con season or even deliberately on the same weekend. None of that! Competing isn’t the point; giving another event for readers and authors to attend right alongside GRL is the point.
For those looking for a large, informal event in which to have a ton of fun with fellow authors and readers (plus booze; we don’t have booze), GRL is still the event du jour. We’re not even trying to state otherwise! For those looking for a smaller event structured with informative panels and workshops and embracing the entirety of QUILTBAG reading, writing, and publishing, however, RainbowCon is here for you. The two groups aren’t mutually exclusive, either. We hope that those who would enjoy both events are able to attend both events. In this genre, as in most things, we want the convention circuit to abide by the mantra of “the more the merrier”.
We certainly feel that way. And we hope many others do as well. We’re sorry if what we’ve done has caused some hard feelings for others. We have done what we feel is right, giving the genre another event at which to gather and celebrate diversity. This is a labor of love, not one of hatred or sabotage. We hope everyone will understand that and enjoy both GRL and RainbowCon for the two different events that they are.