Tuesday, July 14, 2009

CONvergence 2009 day 4 (Sat) Kelly's Con Report

Getting going

As some of you may recall I ended Friday in a case of complete gearstrippage due to all the cool stuff that had happened. Thus I began Saturday in a sort of advanced state of shock exacerbated by knowing what my first panel was going to be. More on which, later.

I had an earlyish panel, so we didn't have time to got for breakfast and I just asked my liaison if she could grab a couple of sausage and egg biscuity things from Burger King for me and some yogurt for Laura and bring them by the room. I found this remarkably hard to do, despite the fact that that's one of the reasons they assign us liaisons.

I'm not that into me

So, my first panel on Saturday was one that I had very mixed feelings about beforehand:

11:00 AM: The Works of Kelly McCullough (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Eric Heideman (mod), David Lenander (mod)

The reason for this is that I'm just not that into me. Now, don't get me wrong, I've got a very healthy ego and I love to be the center of attention--I am a former actor after all. But at the same time, one of the joys of writing for me has turned out to be the time I spend alone sunk into make-believe worlds. Over the 18 years I've been writing my extrovert/introvert balance has shifted from 90/10 to something more like 50/50. Beyond that, I feel like I haven't really got a large enough published body of work to make for much of a discussion.

Maybe in five years if all the books now under submission are published (which would bring me to 25 across 9 series when the proposal books are added in) there will be something to be said about my body of work. But now...I was more than a little worried about this panel. Needlessly, it turns out. David and Eric were fabulous at making me feel comfortable and making comments and asking questions that really made for a good discussion. Further, I had a great, interested, audience that included quite a few people who had beta read for me at one point or another and who could talk about my work in ways that never would have occurred to me. That said, this panel took a lot out of me, both in terms of worry beforehand and hard mental work during.

Which is why it was great that my next panel was:

12:30 PM: Meet the Wyrdsmiths (Description: Kelly McCullough, Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, Sean M. Murphy, Doug Hulick

where I could sit back and let my fellow Wyrdsmiths carry most of the load. I've done four or five of these panels now and they're always an enormous amount of fun, in part because I know going in that the panel will go well. There are any number of ways a panel can fail: bad group dynamics, bad moderator, lone wolf panel hijacker, insufficient material, no audience interest.... With the Wyrdsmiths I know that 1-4 aren't going to be an issue and that thus far the audience has been amused by "The Wyrdsmiths Variety Hour." Even more than that though is that I know going in that I will be on a panel with friends who share my passion for writing.

In which I "volunteer" to moderate

After the Wyrdsmiths panel I had my third back--to-back programming item of the day.

2:00 PM: Genre Blender (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Jeannie Holmes, Matthew Davis, S.D. Hintz, Dana Baird, Jerrod Balzer

When I arrived at this panel I was intercepted by my liaisons bearing diet coke and asking what I wanted them to bring me for lunch. Lunch? That's a great idea. What are you having? Pizza? w00t! Me too. Can you tell I was getting used to having minions?

Since I hadn't really had much previous interaction with the other folks on this panel I asked the "who wants to be the moderator?" question, which is essentially an invitation for everyone else to say "You!" which they did. I was okay with that for a number of reasons. 1) I'm pretty good in the moderator's chair. 2) I would often rather moderate than hand the gavel to an unknown quantity. 3) The moderator doesn't have to talk as much as everybody else if the panel is of any reasonable size.

So how did the panel go? Funny you should ask. I have almost no memory of this panel beyond the opening. I know that it went fairly well despite being somewhat low energy, beyond that.... No idea. Several days of being on had put me in a sort of fugue state where audience response was of more interest to my processing centers than precise tracking of what the hell I was saying or other higher cognition functions.

Then my pizza arrived! It turns out that the blurring was from lack of food as much as anything, and eating helped me recover enough for:

3:30 PM: Kelly McCullough Signing

I headed for the table where I was supposed be signing, pizza in hand (actually I ate at the table in the passing time between events).

our narrator (me) pauses and blinks because...there were people waiting in line to have their books signed, twenty minutes ahead of time.

Now that may not seems unusual to the people reading this, but this is the first time I've ever had a signing go like that. Usually I get to a bookstore about ten minutes early, get set up, and maybe one person arrives just at the opening. Then people trickle through, or if I'm reading, there are people waiting when things start, having arrived at most ten minutes early, and most of the rest show up in the first five minutes. I don't know how many books I signed because I was too busy signing and chatting with my readers to keep track (another first), but Laura and my liaisons tell me that I had 20+ people, which is more than double my next largest pure signing event and bigger even than most of my reading/signings. Again, stunned and humbled.

Time for a liedown

This is the point at which Laura, in consultation with Jenn and Lisa decided it was time for me to go have some down time, which was a really good idea. Then, since we had five conflicting invites to dinner, mostly from people we get to see rarely, we had Jenn and Lisa scare us up some take-out and went back to our room, inviting our various dinner invitors to come back and hang out with us. 2-1/2 hours of not being on as GoH was just what the doctor ordered. I loved the whole CONvergence experience and would sign up to be a returning GoH in a heartbeat, but it was really nice to spend some time just chilling with old friends. Plus, there were fireworks. Our room had a great view of at least two sets.

After that we headed out to the parties, MNPoly (since several of the gang hadn't yet seen the Furies) and Skepchicks, because that's where a number of our friends were hanging out. Not too long after that Laura turned into a pumpkin and I had to take her back to the room, where I almost immediately conked. As it turns out, our timing was perfect, as a medical emergency resulted in a half hour lockdown of the entire wing of parties we had just left, which would have resulted in me falling asleep in a corner of the skepchicks room.

BTW: This programming event never happened. I swear.

11:30 PM: Guest of Honor Cage Match (Panelist(s): Patrick Rothfuss, Kelly McCullough, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Brian Keene, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Dwayne McDuffie


lydamorehouse said...

Wow... that sounds remarkably INTENSE. The only downside I can see to the whole GoH experience.

Greg Laden said...

Sure. The lockdown started five seconds before I headed out of the Skepchick party. I didn't like it. Well, I can think of much worse places to get locked down than a room full of Buzzed Aldrin wielding skepchicks. But still..

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly! It was great meeting you at CONvergence. Funny you should say you don't remember the Genre Blender panel. It's a bit fuzzy in my head as well. I assume it went well since no one came after us with the Cone of Shame. Take care and good luck! :)

- Jeannie Holmes

Kelly McCullough said...

Hey Jeannie,

It was nice to meet you at the con.