Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Prompt: Reflections on DragonCon 2013

I tried to write about DragonCon a couple of times while I was there, but it sounded too whiny to my ears. I was too *in* it and too tired, I think. Which is certainly a significant part of the experience! But first, a little chronology, and then some reflection. Or, more likely, mixed…

Pre-DragonCon…because it starts even before it starts! 

OMG, the chatter on my Facebook feed for at least the past two weeks has been crazy! It was hard not to get caught up in the frenzy. As it turns out, it might not have been an entirely bad thing, if it helped me get a little more organized and packed in advance. As it was, I hoped to get packed up Wed night, go to an appointment in Chapel Hill on Thu morning, and continue from there, which would have gotten me down to Atlanta around 6pm, time to meet up with folks for dinner and some relaxed fun before the crazy started on Friday morning. But I had a little too much left to do on Wednesday and finally decided I needed more time to pack up on Thu.

So I left home about 3pm, which still could have gotten me to Hotlanta not-too-late. Except for 2.5 hours of traffic around Charlotte. That’s right, folks who know. It took 2.5 hours to get from Kannapolis to the border. It was painful. One part construction, and one part messy accident, which by the time I reached it, still had dozens of police and I swear what must have been every fire truck in the county. So my long frustration was tempered by the realization that my night didn’t suck as badly as the folks involved in that mess. It was a good cautionary tale to drive safely the rest of the way to Atlanta.

I originally snagged a room at the Doubletree (formerly “the other Marriott”), but chose to give it up and roomshare in the Marriott Marquis instead. Except we got moved to the Hilton. And there were so many people in the room! And the major downside to living with men, crystalized in the hotel roomshare experience: bathrooms and snoring. Need I say more? Really, the people were very nice, it was just challenging to rest or relax in such a crowded space. So by Friday morning, I was already feeling a little of the downside to DragonCon.

Astonishingly, I walked into the Marriott Marquis Starbucks with only 4 people in front of me at 8:20am on Friday morning! Now, let me take a moment to praise this particular Starbucks. I don’t know how they are the rest of the year or for other conventions, but they sure have embraced DragonCon. They are slammed non-stop day and night, with extended hours, basically closing for only about 3-4 hours in the wee hours of the morning. And they remain cheerful and hard-working the entire weekend! I verify this with a stop each morning and afternoon.

Next stop, the DragonCon Charity Events booth, and my volunteer time begins. Daughter asked me tonight (when we chatted on the phone while I was driving home) how many hours I worked. Let’s see:

Fri 8:30am-11:45am, 2–5:30pm and 8:15pm-1am
Sat 9am-10:30pm
Sun 8:30am-7:30pm

The Charity Events team is about ¾ familiar faces and a couple of new folks. Now we’ve worked together a couple of years, and have a kind of groove. Each year, our processes get better and better. It’s fun to see the donated items coming in and to get them ready for the auctions. This year, the auctions are split into four: Art & Literature, Costuming, General, and Stargate. Yes, the Stargate track generates enough enthusiasm for their very own themed auction!

The best part of Friday was a luncheon with one of my favorite authors, Faith Hunter, and her street team, called the Beast Claws. And the model who incarnates Faith’s character Jane Yellowrock came in full costume! She is tall. And beautiful. And very friendly. We had a lovely lunch and were most amused when Jane left and a businessman approached to ask in awed tones, “Who was that?”

Back to the Charity Events booth for the afternoon of course. Slacker that I am, I took a “dinner break” that was more of a “rest and post pre-prepared blog” break, then headed to the Stargate party. This is the 2nd year I’ve helped out with that, and they are a fun group of people, so I enjoy it. I wore a glittery dress and left a glitter trail everywhere, possibly including a couple of Stargate uniforms I hugged goodbye. Oops *wry grin*

I left the SG party and stopped in to check on the drum circle, which has evolved from a few brave souls out on the smoking deck to one of the large Hyatt Centennial ballrooms every night from about 11:30-2 or 3. The sound and overall feel changes dramatically from night to night. The music was good and the dancers were fun and welcoming on Friday, but I only stayed till about 2, so I could get a few good hours of sleep before what I knew would be a long day on Saturday. I admit, I was feeling lonely among the crush of people, and I would love to have a companion to hang out throughout DragonCon, even if we didn’t do everything together. I had friends I hoped to connect with over the con, but our schedules didn’t really mesh. That’s one thing I’d really like to make better in the future.

Did I mention snoring?

Saturday saw a longer line at the Starbucks just half an hour later, but I was still the 1st staffer to the booth, so yay me. The Art and Lit Auction tee’d off at 11:30, so we did not feel too rushed getting ready. It went really well, although the items I was interested in bid much higher than I wanted to pay. But good for our fundraising efforts!

We didn’t really get a break between the two auctions, so we slid right into the Costuming auction at 3pm. Afterwards, we had some late donations to enter into the system, and between that and balancing out the day’s receipts, it was about 10:30 by the time I left. Yeah, kind of skipped the dinner thing, though I had a good salad for lunch. I wandered the halls enjoying costumes, stayed at the drum circle a little longer, wandered the halls some more, ran into a couple of people I knew and enjoyed chatting for awhile, then headed back to the room for a few more hours of sleep. Sat in the hallway to post my blog at 2am.

Did I mention snoring? And creeping around in the dark so as not to disturb sleeping roommates? *sigh*

An earlier start on Sunday, since the “main” or “general” auction tee’d off at 10am. It went well, though non-stop, again without much of a break before the Stargate auction at 4. Two Stargate actors, Dan Payne andAlex Zahara, came in and were *fantastic* - funny and charming through the entire auction!

 We ended the auctions by 6, closed out about 6:45, and got everything into the storage room by about 7:30. I promised my boss to return after dinner about 9pm to help him cash out. Which I did, but he wasn’t there.

I found dinner at the Peachtree Center Food Court, which is kind of an extension of DragonCon at this point. CafĂ© Momo, which has a decent buffet. Wish I’d known about the Indian place – that is tops on my list to try next year (if I can find it)!

I wandered into the Hyatt and decided to write my blog on paper, then post it as quickly as possible when I returned to the room, because I neglected to bring my laptop power cord – doh! I sat outside the Art Show room and listened to Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands. Except I kept dozing off in my chair! I decided that didn’t bode well for the drum circle, and besides, I still had to post my blog and get a good night’s sleep for Monday’s drive home!

So discretion (we won’t say age, will we?) won out, and I headed back to the room. Well, I wandered around and took some photos, which I’ll post on Flickr eventually and link here

When I got back to the Hilton, I decided to find a quiet spot to write before heading up to the room. There had been sleepers in the room almost all the time I was there, so I figured I would be out in the hall again to post my blog. So before heading upstairs, I sat outside the Hilton’s ballrooms at an empty table and came up with a pretty good story, if I do say so. What did you think of yesterday’s post?

Surprisingly, there was only one person, awake and working on his laptop, when I got up to the room. Okay, I might have invaded his space a little while I tried to get my own laptop setup, but he bailed and went to bed and determinedly went to sleep as fast as possible. *shrug* Just as well, less disruption to crank out my blog and get some sleep myself.

It was a treat to sleep in on Monday morning, thought there were occasional disruptions. I finally rousted myself and made my first foray to the Americas Mart, which housed the dealers and exhibitors this year. I wandered the 1st floor and saw several things I liked, but thought the layout pretty light. Upstairs was *much* better though. Better still, I found several of my favorite people! I bought a new hair clip from Circle Works (yes, these are lovely enough to be worthy of note), goodies for Daughter and my great petsitters, and suddenly who did I see but Richard and Wendy Pini, of ElfQuest fame! Wendy was too tired, I think, to do much more than sign, but Richard was very friendly and I was glad to get a print signed. Annoyed I had not brought one of my many EQ items for them to sign as well!

Could the day get better? Oh yes, it could! Peter S. Beagle, author of two of my favorite books from my teen years, The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place. I told his manager, Connor Conlan, how much I appreciate his efforts to revitalize Peter’s name in the marketplace. I bought a print of artwork from the lovely young Rachel Cox, who was there and signed it for me, as did Peter. Oh, you know, I’m not even sure he signed it. But he did sign my two books, and told me he had a special place in his heart for the name Margaret because of a special person in his life many years before. He took a photo with me, and was overall such a lovely person. But wait, there’s more! They’re arranging a screening tour of The Last Unicorn in theaters on the East Coast starting this fall and continuing next year! I am so excited and will definitely plan to attend with Daughter. And if I didn’t get the print signed, I’ll take that along with some other books *grin*

The final best thing in the dealers’ room was the booth with my favorite “Magical Words” authors, including John Hartness and David B. Coe, who both personalized books for me with such kind words, and Tamsin Silver, who I had just met at the Friday luncheon. And I got to tell Alethea Kontis how much I enjoyed her book, Enchanted, which I had picked up at Mysticon earlier this year. Needless to say, my to-read list has grown once more!

A quick stop at Moe’s in the Peachtree Center Food Court left me just enough time to return to the room before our 1pm checkout. Except the bellstand said it would be 1.5 hours before they could come up for my bags. *booo*

So I ate my lunch, fended off the housekeeper, and decided to carry my own bags down in stages. Snaps to the bellman attending the “luggage storage” zone – a sea of carry on bags with stick-up handles. He was kind enough to let me leave my bags there while I made a 2nd trip, then went to find my car in the self-park garage. Which I did with surprisingly little walking around, clicking my "key". *wry grin*

So it was still about 2:30 by the time I got on the road. I did *not* have to stop for a nap, and I did *not* drain my car battery in a repeat of last year’s return trip debacle. I made reasonably good time with a couple of long stops and am finally home safe and sound, with dog pressed against me, contentedly snoozing, and cat facing me from the corner, I presume contentedly snoozing. I worked on a couple of story ideas, including some of the remaining sequences of my novel, Mira's Children, so I am pumped to get those on paper over the next few days.

DragonCon is certainly about extremes. For me, this year, I felt a lot of isolation among the crowds, which is reflected in my Saturday blog post. I’ll post the picture that inspired that story as soon as I pull the lot from my camera. Working so many hours means missing most of the panels and activities I would like to attend. I would have liked to see George Takei, William Shatner, Mythbusters, Laurell Hamilton, or Jim Butcher, for instance. But I can’t imagine standing in long lines to be in a large crowded room to hear someone speak for however long. Breathing the same air isn’t much of a tradeoff at that point. I think that’s a sign of getting older???

I love working on the Charity Events. I really like our director and staff – we make a good team! I’m proud to raise so much money in such a short period of time. This year, the con switched things up in a couple of ways. First, the fans voted online for the charities to support, and the top three winners are Noah’s Arc, an animal sanctuary, the Georgia Conservancy, which protects natural spaces, and the Marcus Center for Autism, which helps children and families with special needs. Second, they split the programming into four separate auctions, with three themes and one “general”. Finally, DragonCon committed to match up to $50,000 raised by Charity Events this year! I won’t know final numbers for awhile, but I’ll add them here eventually.

I’ve had an on again-off again relationship with DragonCon for years, for a variety of reasons ranging from personal to financial to con-related. A couple of years ago, I decided this is something I really do love, so I plan to return every year that it’s at all possible. Next year, I hope that includes my own room, or at least only a couple of good friends as roommates. Now, I have to decide whether Daughter may attend as well…

Dogs in house



Random classical mix

Time writing:

85 minutes

September word count:


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