Megan Bamford is a woman who wears many hats. She's a bookseller for the Australian retailer Angus & Roberts, a romance reviewer on her blog Veiled Secrets Reviews and even is an author! Megan is also a familiar face at the RT Booklovers Convention, and we were thrilled she could join us in Chicago for the 2012 RT convention. Today, Megan shares why she continues to make the RT Booklovers Convention an annual event, and why it's so important to her as a bookseller, reader and romance lover.
For me this year's RT Convention wasn't so much a group of informative business meetings as a giant family reunion. After a year communicating long distance via email, Skype and Facebook, I was finally able to hug the women who, through out shared experience as romance readers and sellers at the RT Conventions, have become a close extended family. The pre-convention days are spent at the bar in the lobby spotting friends and extended family members as they arrive. Each new arrival — be they bookseller, loyal reader or author — is met with glad cries of recognition and embraces from those that have waited all year for this one event. Travelers from far and wide fall back into easy conversation as though we were never parted, news is exchanged and offers of help abound for the slightest problem, concern or query because that is what family does.
The Aussie dinner, traditionally held on Tuesday night, is an invitation-only event that for many is the unofficial start of the convention. Invites are coveted, possibly due to the fact that the Aussie booksellers bring copious amounts of Tim Tams for everyone who attends and other Aussie themed presents. The dinner is invariably full of laughter, fun and is really loud, a fact you never realize until you leave with your ears ringing and your voice horse after a nice meal with fabulous friends.
On Wednesday morning, those who didn't manage early registration on Tuesday race down in an attempt to get through the line in time to be registered prior to the welcome parties. Booksellers in the know registered early and spend this time collecting registration bags (both the ordinary one every conventioneer gets and the bookseller bag, which contains all kinds of nifty gifts that authors and publishers hope will get our attention and pop them to the front of our minds when we are making buying decisions for our stores). Picking up this bag also gives us a chance to touch base with RT's Bookstore That Care Network Coordinator, Kate, who does all the work and planning for the bookseller track at each RT.
The welcome party is the official beginning of the convention. RT founder Lady Barrow (Kathryn Falk) welcomes us. RT's Web Director Morgan starts taking the almost constant stream of pictures that keep those unable to attend green with jealousy. And we remember lost friends, authors and booklovers who were taken from us far to early.
Booksellers then race off to a second welcome party in Lady Barrow’s suite. (Amongst the snacks provided is the world’s most expensive popcorn. Pricey, yes, but delicious.) With authors joining the ninety booksellers at this year's convention, poor author/RT Comic Editor Anne Elizabeth was stuck in the hall in her wheelchair, but soon the party soon spilled over into the hallway. It could have got quite rowdy if the convention's packed schedule didn't have us all scurrying off to various activities.
During special panels, booksellers exchange information about what has worked — and what hasn't — during the last year in the hope that everyone will be able to stay in business in the coming years. Yes, technically we are competitors, but it never feels that way at RT or on the Facebook loop where we communicate the rest of the year. Kate always arranges special guest authors to talk to us about their work. This year, we were lucky enough to have both Nalini Singh and J.R. Ward pop in individually for visits to answer questions on either their specific genre or books to keep us up up-to-date with trends. Between private author chats, we have industry professionals and other booksellers talk us through the latest technology in an attempt to keep us current and competitive. This year I was selected to talk to the other booksellers about the importance of setting up a wireless hotspot in their stores!
Megan shows off her beautiful handmade wings during the Magical Scottish Fling party
At the end of the day, when our brains are all starting to fry and the bookseller track ends for the day I will tell you something that may not have occurred to you. Booksellers know how to party!
Most people who attended the Scottish ball spotted my wings, they were a little hard to miss and I'm not shy about telling everyone I'm an Aussie bookseller. But Kate Fish and Lisa Kibbler who also do beautiful work on their costumes for every party are booksellers, too. So is Bookseller Cy, who attendees may have noticed running around all week with an alien named Bob that she pilfered from the convention's Intergalactic Bar and Grill party. (Last I heard she had deflated his ego for the trip home.)
Many booksellers spend the hours after the nightly balls networking with authors in the bar, chatting and giggling until the wee hours of the morning — only to be up early the next morning to get back to everything happening during the booksellers official track. If you were at convention, you may have noticed a lot of bookseller volunteers squeezing some time in helping on the registers at Saturday's Giant Book Fair. This might not seem like the best time in the world to your average conventioneer, but it is what we love to do.
Sadly, all things must end at last. In an effort to prevent tears at the inevitable farewells, I decided we would no longer have goodbyes at RT. Instead this year we said, "see you later" or "next year!" We looked to the future expectantly rather than dwelling on the now and becoming a sobbing mess.
As I fondly remember the fun I had at RT 2012 and think on friendships, both new and old, that time cannot dim, I can think of no better way to end this post than with a fond ... see you next year!
- Megan Bamford