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Rebecca Yarros dismisses Denver expo amid horror stories and cancellation

A book festival in Colorado went a little crazy, think Fyre Festival level crazy.

Many people have talked about the “dumpster fire” of Readers Take Denver, an author book signing that became a convention last month after attendees began sharing their experiences online.

In describing Readers Take Denver, disgruntled attendees have pointed out that virtually everything you wouldn’t want to experience at a book convention happened at RTD, including “hours-long lines, lack of proper security, insufficient communication from event staff, pre-ordered books not arriving at were delivered in time to be signed by the authors, and a shortage of gift bags,” according to reporting by The Denver Post.

“I believe every horror story that came out. The disorganization and lack of communication was evident,” CC, a participant, said in an Instagram video describing her experience.

There have even been reports of harassment, assault and theft, Abigail Owen, an author who attended the convention, said in a blog post. All the negative attention Reader Take Denver has received in the days and weeks following the event has led to the cancellation of next year’s convention, which was previously scheduled for February 2025.

Here’s what we know.

Reader Take Denver founder apologizes, but Rebecca Yarros has no plans to return

Lisa Renee Jones, author and founder of Readers Take Denver, didn’t feel like the event she organized played out exactly as critics have described it.

She shifted the blame to the venue or the invited authors, writing in an email that the conference had “some bumps,” according to The Denver Post.

Jones contacted attendees via email after the conference and wrote that “many people brought her to tears with their praise for the event.” But she did acknowledge similar issues raised by attendees, “including a lack of safety, unprofessional behavior by volunteers and not enough accessible accommodations,” The Denver Post reported.

“In the event that anyone alleges that a volunteer took control of someone, I IMMEDIATELY called in security,” Jones wrote in the email obtained by The Post.

The event, which cost between $300 and $375 to attend, was marketed as a “unique experience” because no one had to wait in line. A timed ticketing system using WhatsApp was supposed to “eliminate waiting to see favorite authors,” allowing attendees to visit as many of the hundreds of authors in attendance as they wanted, The Denver Post reported.

But the damage has already been done, with several attendees and authors, including NYT bestselling author Rebecca Yarros, vowing never to return. Unless there is a change in leadership.

Yarros apologized to those in attendance on behalf of all the authors present, writing on Facebook: “It hasn’t been said to you enough, so let me say it again: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you couldn’t get your preorders because you couldn’t see the authors you wanted.”

“I’m sorry that registration took hours, I’m sorry that we ran out of food, I’m sorry that security wasn’t tight enough during the night events, I’m sorry that some volunteers raised their voices, I’m sorry that it was disorganized was, I’m sorry you felt exhausted, I’m sorry you felt overwhelmed, I’m sorry you didn’t get to enjoy the overwhelming joy that a three-day stay in the book world should give you,” said Yarros at the end of her post, detailing her own experiences with RTD staff and sharing some of the experiences she had seen on social media.

Jones responds: ‘We really wanted it to be perfect’

Jones was surprised to hear all the criticism she received about the event she organized, telling USA TODAY Friday afternoon that she was “getting gifts, getting emails, getting emails from people telling me how great it was.”

It wasn’t until Sunday, April 21, the last day of the conference, that people came up to her and told her not to listen to people, that that event was great.

“What are you talking about? What’s happening,” Jones recalled. “And the next thing I know, we’re under attack. Everyone who tried to defend us, including authors, was attacked and blacklisted.”

Jones told authors and influencers who attended the event and enjoyed it not to say anything positive because she didn’t want them to be attacked. Jones said she created this event so that the author community has a great place to go and be together.

“That’s why I was so impressed by it. And the things that are being said are just crazy,” Jones said.

Jones is the first to admit that they didn’t do everything perfectly, there were certainly “a lot of bumps,” especially with the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora.

“But I wanted us to get better every year. I wanted us to not have any bumps. And if we had any bumps, I wanted to make sure my whole team was already taking notes on things we could do differently next year, Jones said.

Jones disputed the allegations about the event, stating that they had a lines system, communicated key information via WhatsApp and that the responsibilities for pre-ordering lay with the authors. She did say that the staff was fully informed and prepared for the event, but may have been confused due to issues with the hotel.

As for reports of an assault, Jones said she was told it occurred between a volunteer and a participant, with the participant providing conflicting information. She also isn’t sure what happened to a stack of missing books that one author said had gone missing. But she tried to find them.

Jones apologized because the event wasn’t perfect.

“And for everyone who didn’t feel like it was perfect. I’m sorry, I as a coordinator have to take responsibility for everyone who didn’t have a perfect time and I take it with a heavy heart because I wanted so much to be perfect for them, but the problem here was just that there were some things that they overlaid on what was happening.

Internet and attendees respond, share experiences

“All we did was stand in line. It was total BS… It was worse than Disney, and there wasn’t even a ride at the end,” said Kelli Meyer, an RTD participant.

Sarah Slusarczyk, a 32-year-old who traveled from Michigan to attend the conference, said it was “the worst” conference she had ever attended.

“It was such a nightmare… “It’s about having a good time. And this was not a good time,” Slusarczyk told The Post.

Rhian Cahill, an author on the event, described in a blog post the “total chaos,” including “the lack of communication between the organizer and its volunteers, between the volunteers themselves, between the volunteers and the attendees.”

“It was crazy how little anyone seemed to know what was going on. And don’t get me started on events that get moved to different locations and no one has a clue until they show up,” she wrote.

Susan Casper, a 52-year-old from New York, told The Post that there weren’t enough people working for the event.

“I don’t think they are properly trained. There were many technical problems. I’ve been to much larger book conferences that were well organized and ran smoothly. This didn’t happen.”

Here is a series of responses and experiences about Readers Take Denver 2024, now known as the “Fyre Festival of Books.” You can also read the Reddit thread here.