Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sean's WisCon report

WisCon was great for me this year, though not long enough.

When is it ever long enough?

This year, though, it was foreshortened for me because I had to work Saturday morning, so I didn't get down to Madison until about 7:00 pm on Saturday night, then unloaded and hit dinner with Doug. After wandering up and down State Street for a while, we settled on a little lounge named Paul's Club, which had great, classic American fare at a decent price, with wood paneling and black velvet paintings straight out of the Sixties. Definitely going back there. Crispy, beer-battered french fries FTW.

Then I changed and headed up to the party floor (UP? NOT DOWN? That was strange all weekend, and I was perpetually headed the wrong way. But the Fourth Floor is perfect, and also a repeat), where I finally got to see many of the folks I was looking forward to seeing--Ben and Steph Zvan, James Hall and Sarah Rouner, and Marguerite Reed, and Haddayr Copley-Woods, and... and... too many to name all y'all, so I'm just going to stick to those folks who I don't get to see very often, or who I got to meet. If we hung out at WisCon, though, it was awesome and I'm really glad we did!

I was introduced to Brad Beaulieu (though I didn't end up making it to his reading, which I heard was awesome), to Saladin Ahmed, (dude has a serious man crush on Jonathan Coulton, or they are long-lost doppelgangers from the neck up), and I'm looking forward to reading both of their books. And I pounced on Scott Lynch, who I've supposed to have met almost a dozen times, but we keep missing each other; he was good to chat with in the brief time we had to talk, and I'm hoping we get to see more of him in the near future.

I was up late (surprise) talking (surprise), and finally hit bed around 2:45 am. Six moderately restful hours later, I was awake--and not hung over. In fact, not only did I find it surprisingly easy not to drink, but I was thrilled by how easy it was to get going in the morning, even with the con late nights.

Sunday morning kicked off with coffee from Michaelangelo's and a quick search for four-leaf clover on the capitol lawn. I left the hotel lobby at 9:06 am, leaving Lynne and Michael Thomas to hold down the lobby. At 9:23 I came back with coffee and clover, to Michael's surprised comment "You found one already?"

"No," I replied. "I found two."

That's become a bit of a tradition for me, I'll admit, and one I like. It's part of who I am, finding four-leaf clover, and it is easy and instantly recognizable.

Anyway, at 10 am we had the "Being in a Writing Group" panel, where Naomi and I both represented the Wyrdsmiths. I want to note how much I love being on panels with my fellow Wyrdsmiths. There's a casual report that we all have from spending so many years talking together, and a shared set of stories and conversations that we can reference and tap into at a moment's notice. It was a really good panel, and my only scheduled panel of the con.

More on that later.

Then, after chatting in the second floor hallway with the regular cadre of folks, I headed out for my last long training run before the marathon in three (two and a half) weeks: 20 miles. I was going to run a loop around Lake Mendota. After getting lost on the roads a couple of times and getting directions from undergrads who clearly have never left their neighborhoods, I found my way to the eastern shores of the lake, where I got stuck in a nature preserve. The shared bike/walking path became a walking only path, followed by a hiking trail, following by patches of mud in an ever more dense forest, which disappeared into fallen trees and dense underbrush.

If you are quite a ways from home, at a science fiction and fantasy convention, and the forest tries to eat you, you back away slowly and go back the way you came.

After calculating that even if I could find my way out to the main roads and complete the circuit of the lake, I would have run six or seven extra miles in the process, and that would have been far too much for my training regimen--detrimentally so. Disappointed, I ran back to the hotel for a round trip of only 10.5 miles. But I found another four-leaf clover, so it wasn't a total loss.

After that, I flyered the hotel with Wyrdsmiths Party Posters, then met up with a bunch of folks headed to Brocach's for dinner. Lynne and Michael Thomas and I waited for an author who was getting their papers in to the NIU archives, which took significantly longer than we'd all expected. We didn't get to Brocach's until about 6:15pm, and I needed to be back by 7:00pm to get the party room set up.

No worries. Michael now says I am "a WHIRLWIND of eating." The food arrived along about 6:35, and by 6:47, Kelly and I were paid and headed back to tackle the party room.

Aside from cleaning up the previous night's party, everything went smoothly. We both did room layout and furniture, then I handled the food prep while he (and then Doug as well) set up the coolers for beer and non-alcoholic drinks. Wyrdsmiths always has a great beer selection, though I think Naomi hit it out of the park with something like sixteen different selections of great beers--there were comments on that all night. Meanwhile, I didn't want people to enjoy the food. I wanted to flatten their expectations: we had stuffed grape leaves, pita points with both garlic hummus and roasted red pepper hummus, pita chips, four different kinds of olives, baklava, and a cut fruit tray with seven kinds of fruit.

It was awesome. People were surprised and delighted and TALKED ABOUT IT ALL NIGHT. Between us and the Whedonistas Party (which rocked, and which thrown by the dynamic duo themselves, Michael and Lynne, and which had a raffle that hundreds of people entered but I WON-woot!), there was a steady stream of people eating our food and beer, getting their mixed drinks, and then swinging downstairs for a turn at the GenderFloomp dance party, before cycling the whole thing again.

I got comments on my "The Writer's Dillemma" t-shirt, which was fun, since I'd designed it to wear to cons.

Doug and I finally shut it down between 2:30 and 2:45am, though people were still poking their heads in even as we were closing up the trash bags.

Of course, I ended up staying up later (surprise) talking (surprise), and didn't hit bed until about 3:45. But aren't those conversations what we're all there for? Those connections that keep the sense of a wider writing community alive and flourishing in our minds in the times we spend away from each other?

Five hours of sleep later, I was up and off to Michaelangelo's for more coffee. Doug informed me that there was no way with serious allergies and five hours of sleep that he was going to make his 9:00am panel on "Being a Resilient Writer." Yes, we made the necessary jokes. I went to inform the other Wyrdsmiths on the panel, Eleanor and Kelly, who suggested that I could be a ringer fro the audience. Five minutes later, when I entered the conference room where the panel was being held (and which was hellafulla people, damn!), Kelly pointed to a chair up on the panel. And to Doug's name placard, which now read "NOT/Douglas Hulick/SEAN M. MURPHY".

And thus I was on a second panel for WisCon. With no coffee in me, five hours of sleep, and 35 seconds of foreknowledge.

It was a ridiculously good panel. The audience was great. Eleanor shared a ton from her wealth of experience. The Wyrdsmiths rocked the show, being three fourths of the panel. People asked good questions, and we did our best to respond. It was the kind of panel you look back at and think about the good ole' days.

After tha, I hung with Doug and Kelly at the sign out, then Doug and I cleared the room and packed up the cars. After a round or two of goodbyes in the hallway, I hit the road back to the Twin Cities.

I'm already plotting what food we'll have next year. Gotta top this year, right?


tate hallaway said...

Wow, that was an awesome con report. Even though you told me some of that when you stopped by on Monday night, it was cool to read. Thanks for taking the time.

Now go write. *tease*

Bill Henry said...

Great con report!

See, you couldn't have done that on FB—even in the supersecret and extra-cavernous recesses of the Wyrdsmiths private group—could you?

Now go write.