August 22-24, 2008
I was excited about attending 3Pi-Con. This was the first convention for which I was on the program independently, rather than as part of Broad Universe. I had joined the Pi-Con LiveJournal group and contributed to the Programming Wiki. I had a half-hour reading time, and I was scheduled for three panels--two of which I was moderating. Just before the convention, there were apparently some cancellations, so I volunteered to fill in on two more panels, which meant I was going to be busy on Saturday. With my lengthy experience teaching classes, doing workshops, and leading Unitarian church services, I wasn't nervous, but it was a lot to prep for. I didn't want to give 3Pi-Con anything less than my best. I spent a good chunk of the week organizing panel notes and rehearsing my readings. Unlike Readercon 19, this time I got some promotional materials printed out before the convention.
I was sharing a hotel room with sister Broads Morven Westfield and Trisha J. Wooldridge. Morven had kindly arranged the reservation for all of us, but she was the last to arrive due to work obligations. I had volunteered to fill in on a panel at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, so I planned to get to the hotel by 4:00 p.m. so I could get settled and collect myself for the panel.
The drive out to West Springfield was smooth, although the traffic was much heavier than I expected. The hotel, The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, was very easy to find. But when I went to the front desk to check in to the room, the clerk (wearing a trainee name tag) couldn't find my name in the system. She also couldn't find Morven's name, or Trisha's name, or any other clue I could think of. I finally called poor Morven at home on my cell and got the confirmation number from her. With that, mirabile dictu! our information popped up--with everything spelled correctly and no hint as to why it was so elusive before. But there was another mystery. The clerk told me "someone had already checked into the room." She wasn't sure who!
I went to the room that the clerk gave me--on the ground floor, but otherwise as far away from the front of the hotel and the function rooms (and the wi-fi signal) as we could have been. I had to wander around and ask several times before I even found the room because it was in a wing called The Tower. There was no sign that anyone else had been in the room. I opened the drapes, put down my things, noted that we had a fridge but no microwave, and went to finish unloading and moving my car. The confusion at the front desk had taken a lot of time and I still needed to register with the convention, pick up my packet and find the room for the panel. Eventually, I ran into Trisha. Oh, she asked me, didn't I see her bags, and the note she'd left on the bed?
I felt very foolish, not to mention tunnel-visioned unobservant (gods, there could have been a mad slasher hiding in the closet, would I have noticed?). But when Morven arrived, the mystery was solved. The hotel had put Trisha in a different room! We finally got everything sorted out. But this was only the start of our hotel adventures, as I had to have my room key re-magnetized twice and Trisha had to get hers re-done at least once. Other 3Pi-Con attendees reported other problems. I noticed the sets of low steps that rendered whole sections of the hotel non-handicapped-accessible, for example. The supply of water pitchers and glasses in the function rooms was inconsistent, housekeeping tended to knock on doors very early or not get to the rooms until very late, and our room lacked promised amenities and a shade for the entryway light--it was a bare bulb. I will say that the hotel staff was unfailingly pleasant and helpful in untangling all the problems that we brought to them.
I dropped off a box of my books and some of sister Broad Sherry Thompson's at the Broad Universe table in the Dealers' Room. I'd already met sister Broads Elaine Isaak and Phoebe Wray, but we were all going to panels immediately. At 5:00 p.m., I sat in on "Women and Technology," which Trisha moderated. Guest of Honor Randall Munroe was on the panel with us. The audience was small, and the discussion tended to make an oblique orbit around the topic, but we filled up the fifty minutes and everyone seemed to enjoy the panel.
From 6:00 to 7:00, Trisha and I attended "Blogging 101" with Guest of Honor Cory Doctorow, K.T. Pinto, Shira Lipkin, and Kat Toomajian. I picked up some good ideas and tips. I have more blogs than I know what to do with! After that, I went to author readings. Elaine Isaak was scheduled to share the 7:00 to 8:00 slot with Terri Osborne, but Terri had not arrived, so all of us in the audience told Elaine to keep right on going. She read from the forthcoming third book in her series, The Bastard Queen. At 8:00, I read from Mortal Touch. I didn't think I read quite as well as I did at Readercon, but the audience seemed to enjoy it and applauded at the conclusion. I then stayed to listen to Joy Marchand and applaud for her reading.
After that, I went back to the Broad Universe table for a while, then Morven, Trisha and I went to our room to eat snack food, drink wine and hang out. After my roommates turned in, I booted up the computer, checked my e-mail, and caught up with my journal, mostly by the light from the entryway, the way I used to read in bed after lights-out as a little kid.
That was the last time I got any journaling done at 3Pi-Con! Saturday I hit the ground running and never stopped. I got almost no sleep, which is typical for my first night in a new place. My roommates got up in time for the complimentary hotel breakfast. I vegged in bed until exactly 10:04 a.m., when I very suddenly decided to get up. In twelve minutes, I was showered, dressed, packed and out the door, without even trying to rush (I thought!), and I headed down to check out the panel that Trisha was on, "What Do Fairies Mean to Us?" When I arrived, I got a very enthusiastic welcome--because, it being the first panel of the day, they had almost no audience. Clearly, the fairies had booted me out of bed to get my butt down there and be supportive! (That's what I get for writing the Tylwyth Teg into my series...) The panelists--Trisha, Sara Harvey, Terri Osborne and David Sklar--had an informal discussion, punctuated by attempts to persuade passers-by in the hallway to come in and join the audience.
At 11:00 a.m. I went to hear Elaine Isaak, David Sklar, Cecilia Tan, Joy Marchand and Kierstin Cherry discuss "Writing the Opposite Gender." After that concluded I went back to our room to finally get some breakfast. Since I'm on a weirdly restricted diet, I pack in all my own food. There is very little restaurant or commercially prepared food that I can risk eating, although I do cruise the Con Suite for potato chips and fresh fruit. At 1:00 p.m., properly fortified, I moderated the panel on "How To Get Published," with Keith R.A. DeCandido, Elaine Isaak and Sara Harvey. I thought that went very well. We talked about contracts, taking criticism, finding markets, not getting discouraged, mistakes to avoid and good resources to know about. I had brought "show and tell" items, a copy of The Writers Market (which is about three inches thick) and a copy of Locus magazine.
As soon as the publishing panel concluded, I scurried across the hall to a panel I was participating in, "Tarot and Writing." I had scanned and printed out an assortment of Tarot cards for us to pass out to the audience for a writing exercise, and like everyone on the panel--Cecilia Tan, Trisha, K.A. Laity and Sean Kane--I had brought an assortment of my own decks and books for "show and tell." We also had handouts for the audience. The card that I drew for the writing exercise turned out to be extremely relevant to my current writing project, and left me with a lot to think about. I thought the panel as a whole went very well.
I spent some time covering the Broad Universe table and perusing the Dealers' Room until 5:00 p.m., when I emceed the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. Morven Westfield had organized this and done a very nice flyer. All the participants--me, Morven, Phoebe Wray, Trisha, Elaine Isaak and Michelle Murrain--read well and the audience really seemed to enjoy the readers.
I had volunteered to fill in on "Short Stories v.s. Novels" at 7:00 p.m., but that panel ended up not happening at all, because we had no audience! It may have been dinner time for a lot of people--anyway, a number of program participants hung out and had a very lively conversation for a while, and then Morven and I went back to our room to have some wine and food and kick back until it was nearing the time for Morven's next panel at 9:00 p.m., "Tech Tools for Writers." By that time, I was starting to drag a bit (no sleep, exciting panels, wine...) and I went to the ending of Cathy Kane's presentation, "Taste of Tibet" and played some of her Tibetan bowls and bells. That really perked me up!
I went to the "Tech Tools for Writers" panel (with Keith R.A. DeCandido, Genevieve Iseult Eldridge, and Joseph McGee) and emerged with a craving for more tech tools. I went to hear Jennifer Williams and Cecilia Tan read from 10:00 to 11:00 and both of them were very enjoyable. Jennifer read a story she called "a zombie story" which really was nothing of the kind--it was a lyrical, gentle allegory. Cecilia read two pieces of Harry Potter slash fanfic. I object to fanfic on principle and I think most Harry Potter slash is just plain silly--but these were quite good!
At 11:00 p.m. I moderated a second panel for the day: "Could Literary Vampires Exist in the Modern World?" with Jennifer Williams and K.T. Pinto. I thought this panel went really well, and it had one of the largest audiences of any panel I was on for the whole convention, despite (or maybe because of?) the late hour. But we got started late because the panel ahead of us, "Best Web Comics You Never Heard Of," ran late. They were clearly having a fantastic time because they left cups and bottles of liquor all over the table! No fair, all we got was iced water!
After the Vampires panel, I went to the "BDSM Panel" at midnight. We eventually got asked to leave the function room because they were locking up for the night. The panel and audience moved to another function room that had no curfew, but at that point, I figured I better get back to the room so I wouldn't disturb my roommates by coming in really late. I was fairly pumped up from the last two panels, but I planned on checking e-mail and so on until I got sleepy, and that's what I did.
I slept somewhat better Saturday night, and got up at the same time as Trisha and Morven. They slept in a little later because they didn’t have a panel at 10:00 a.m. I hung out with some of the Broads until noon, at which point Trisha and I were at the Broad Universe table agonizing over whether to go to Cathy Kane's presentation, “Path of the Empath” or “Young Adult Fiction,” which I am publishing and Trisha is writing. “Personal or professional?” we asked Elaine Isaak, rhetorically, and she said, “Professional. Always professional.” We had to agree, so “Young Adult Fiction” it was. And in fact, we were glad, because it was an excellent panel. The moderator was Patricia M. Cryan, "General Partner" in Mike's Comics, who I had met at ConBust. Other panelists included Cory Doctorow, Shira Lipkin, Debra Killeen, and a bona-fide young adult, 13-year-old Elayne Jade, Shira Lipkin's daughter. Elayne was a most impressively intelligent and articulate young person. She got asked numerous questions and was given a round of applause. Patricia had us all do a great exercise, too: taking a cue from Fahrenheit 451, we all had to pick a book that we’d be if we had to preserve one book by memory. That was a stumper for me--assuming that I couldn't be one of my own books--until I suddenly realized that of course, I’d be Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
After that, Trisha and I went to “My Day at Work,” with Guests of Honor Cory Doctorow and Randall Munroe. That ended up being utterly fascinating because both of them have such dramatically different working styles. I’m nocturnal like Randall but otherwise I have a very strong affinity for Cory’s much more controlled working style, for a lot of reasons: keeping to a routine, not wanting interruptions, scrupulously managing time, and so on. Too bad I’m not as productive as he is--I need to work more at that! It was very educational.
At 2:00 p.m. I went to “How to Write Pages 1-5” with Elaine Isaak and Genevieve Iseult Eldridge. The "first five pages" and indeed, the whole first chapter, or the opening page of a short story, tend to be the most challenging parts of writing for me. I probably stress over it too much, but as a reader, I like stories with good beginnings, and prefer not to be dropped into the middle of a situation and then have to spend ten chapters figuring out what's going on--especially in fantasy or science fiction where all the rules have been changed.
I got a brief palm reading from Cathy Kane, who is completing a book about palmistry. I haven't had a palm reading for decades, and it was interesting to hear her interpretation. I gave two complimentary Tarot readings to people who bought a copy of Mortal Touch during the weekend. After 3:00 p.m., Phoebe, Trisha, Morven and I were all bustling around helping to pack up the Broad Universe table, and otherwise getting ready to leave, due to concerns about the traffic as it got later in the day. I was so busy saying goodbye to people and running back and forth, I completely forgot to pick up my extra postcards and business cards from the freebie table, which I was slightly annoyed with myself about. I also planned to register for 4Pi-Con and forgot to do that--but I will!
But altogether, I had such a great time at 3Pi-Con, I hated to leave! I could have stayed another day, at least! That's very unusual for me--even when I have a good time, I'm generally eager to get back home to my cats. I'm definitely looking forward to next year's Pi-Con!