Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CONvergence 2009 day 5 (Sun) Kelly's Con Report


Yes, really, Day 5--this was a very long, very cool con.

We started the day off by hitting Perkins for breakfast with Anton who happened to be the first liaison we bumped into: "Hi Anton." "Would you like to go out for breakfast?" "Yes." "Let's go." Everyone should have liaisons.

After breakfast we made our way back to the convention and crafted a scavenger hunt for Jenn. No, really. Laura was doing some kids' science programming and she needed 2 toilet paper rolls, a stack of 3x5 note cards, a cup of peanut M&Ms, a foam plate, and a couple of other things. So I called Jenn and asked if she was up for finding a list of strange items for Laura's event, and not only was she up for it, she seemed pretty happy to have an actual challenge as part of her liaising. It took her just under half an hour.

While Laura was teaching science to the kidlets, I wandered off for a chat with my friend Karl, who I do not get to see very often the exigencies of life and schedule being what they are. In the process I ended up providing another old friend with the final square on his nerd bingo card: "published science fiction author," and having my picture taken with a very polite young fan (young being a relative term which I now apply to anyone under the apparent age of about 25).

Back at the kids programming room Karl got sucked into helping rearrange furniture and I bumped into the fan who picked up my old license plate and the copy of Weird Tales at the auction, and we chatted for a bit. Turns out he grew up a mile or two from where I'm now living. Then Laura was done and we were off to my interview.

Interview, for a con?

Yep. CONvergence does a video-taped interview with every GoH, usually as late as possible in the con so that they've had a chance to experience a good chunk of the con. I suspect it also helps to give the interviewer and interviewee some common ground beyond the GoH's work. That latter wasn't a problem with my interview since it was done by Tim Wick who (as was mentioned earlier) I have known since I was 6.

It was actually a lot of fun as Tim and I have crossed each others' paths with varying degrees of contact on and off for 35 years now and it's interesting to talk about the parallels and divergences. For example he got out of theater as a primary career in part for the same reasons I did--falling in love and realizing that theater and real relationships make for a really really hard mix to manage.

Apparently some of the notes we struck hit home for our camerawomen as well (another theater refugee) who said she had a real hard time not laughing so loud as to be heard on camera several times. I'm not sure if any portion of the interview will be available anywhere other than the CONvergence 2009 DVD, but if it is and you're still curious about my rug-burned knees story, there's a close up of the injury and an explanation in the interview.

Bigger picture

The other thing the interview did for me was to help put the whole weekend in perspective since career perspective was part of the flow of conversation. The biggest component of that in regards to GoHing is, in retrospect, getting a sense of how much the work I do matters to readers. As much as I may make light of what I do, telling stories is important. It's important enough that good stories change peoples lives. That's why we have fandoms and cons and why people like me get the amazing opportunities we do to connect with readers, both through our work and through things like being invited to be a Guest of Honor at a convention or to read and sign our books.

At a big multi-media con like CONvergence my part of that is only a tiny sliver of what draws in fans, but it's still important and that's very very cool. It's stunning and humbling as well. Enough so that if this writing thing ever takes off to the degree that Laura and I can afford that getaway place in Scotland, we're naming it "Flabbergasted."

Final panel

After the interview I needed to head off to my final major piece of programming:

3:30 PM: The Twin Cities School (Panelist(s): Kelly McCullough, Hilary Moon Murphy, Michael Merriam, Ruth Berman

In which we talked about the Twin Cities writing scene: Whether there's a distinct regional voice (no). Its history (deep and long). How you can be a part of it (write something). Why it's so strong (incredible fan support has a huge amount to do with it). Etc. This was a fun, hopeful, panel to close out the con.

Jerry Pournelle was wrong

My next event was closing ceremonies where I was supposed to get up and say something about my experiences at the con when I was introduced. Here is approximately what I said:

"Jerry Pournelle was wrong. I'm a Writers of the Future winner, an event where they treat you amazingly well. So well in fact, that Jerry Pournelle told a bunch of us: 'Enjoy this experience as much you can, really soak it up because you will never ever in your writing careers be treated this well again.' Jerry Pournelle was wrong. At CONvergence I was treated not just as well as I was treated at Writers of the Future. I was treated better. I've had an incredible experience here this weekend. Thank you all so much."

Other random notes from closing ceremonies: I got a tribble. So did Laura. They were on all the GoH seats as well as scattered throughout the main stage seating. I got to see Dwayne hit a near life size picture of Wolverine with a cream pie, and Brian hit himself with another. Like opening ceremonies these were handled expeditiously and professionally. I now know the ASL sign for ball--translated from the chanting of the crowd demanding the return of the beach balls we'd been batting around.


After closing ceremonies we went to Khan's Mongolian Barbecue. "We" being the GoH's and spouses, all or most of the liaisons, and some substantial chunk of the concom--something like 40 people in all. Dwayne had at least three fortune cookies because he couldn't get an actual fortune, just platitudes. In fact, with two exceptions all we got were platitudes and only one of those exceptions was a fortune. The best non-conversation / company thing about Khan's was the incredible care they took with Laura's food, scrubbing out a separate cooker and having the manager cook her meal himself to make sure her food didn't get contaminated with gluten from the house sauce. On her second go-round the manager went so far as to take her food away from her before she could eat it and to personally fill a new bowl and cook it for her because he realized that the cook he'd assigned the task had made a mistake with the sauce. Incredible service.

Dead dog

With our return to the hotel we headed for what had been con-suite and sat around with Brian, Jenn, and Lisa for a bit, noshing, chatting and drinking more of Brian's bourbon. Since we were pretty beat, we decided to call it quits sooner rather than later and were actually about to head back to our room when Anton showed up and "very subtly*" suggested he'd really like it if we stayed around for just a bit longer. Then he went off and made a quick call. Okay, at this point we kind of guessed something was up, but even so I was totally stunned when Perrin showed up with a big blue box and handed me a beautiful glass award/sculpture thingie commemorating my stint as a GoH.

One of things about this con that I have to note here was the capacity of the people involved, both at the concom level and in terms of fans for surprising and delighting me. Every time I thought to myself, "well, that's it, I'm so blown away that I can't be blown any further" along would come someone or something else to make me that much more happily astonished.

Now, as you will remember, Laura and I had been on our way to bed before the trophies arrived. But of course we had to stay for Brian's presentation. And then Dwayne and Charlotte showed up so we stayed for that (Pat was in his room asleep at this point but came out later after we had left). And then Perrin insisted that, if I was going to make happy sounds about Brian's bourbon, I really ought to try some of the single-malt he was carrying for comparison and I would have been a very ungracious GoH to refuse that, right? But some hours later we finally did head for bed, where I did not pack before sleeping, which will amaze and shock those who know me well.

And then it was Monday and time to return to the real world, where I do not have liaisons eager to make sure that I get fed and caffeinated on a reasonable schedule, nor people lining up to get me to sign their books, or invite me to parties displaying murals of my characters.


And, yes, of course, I'm going back next year.


jen@ywt said...

Thanks for writing these posts. It has been such fun to read about your trip and your pleasure with it all is palpable. I'm so socially anxious that it sounds like a living hell to my pov, heh, but I am ecstatic for you that you had such a great time! I truly hope that it only gets better for you every year.

Kelly McCullough said...

You're welcome, Jen. I really did have fun, but yeah, hell for introverts. Thanks for the good wish.

Jonna said...

Glad you and Laura had such a great time. It sounds exhausting, but wonderful, to be a GOH. Enjoy your vacation!