Monday, June 30, 2014

Con Report: ConTemporal, Saturday

Saturday started early for ConTemporal’s fledgling writers’ track, with new guest Suzanne Adair’s workshop on “Plotting with the Hero’s Journey and Creating Archetypal Characters”. Given that this was a new addition to the con, I wasn’t sure how much of an audience we would have. I confess I was disappointed to only have two people pre-registered, but ultimately seven people participated, which is an excellent number for a first-time workshop offering, and a good size group for interactive discussion.

The next morning lit panel was “Nostalgia for the Future”, with Guest of Honor Emilie P. Bush and new-to-the-con guest Winfield Strock, talking about why the science fictions visions from the past continue to hold so much power over our imagination.

A spate of mid-morning panels included “Under Sung Heroines and Heroes”, with GOH Emilie Bush, as well as Lady Attercop, Tanith Tyrr, Emmett Davenport, the Gin Rebellion, and JM Lee—discussing women and minorities in leading roles in literature, comics, movies, games, and more.

One of my personal projects came to fruition as we brought in Jean-Michel Margot, one of the world’s leading experts on the life and writings of Jules Verne. Margot gave a wonderful presentation on Verne’s life and his role in the early rise of science fiction and “fantastic tales”—to the extent that we are not even aware of how completely Vernian references have infiltrated into our culture. Margot has also been instrumental in bringing out a series of Vernian stories that had never before been translated into English. As Margot says, if Verne had not told his Extraordinary Tales, steampunk may never have come about!

One disappointment is that we didn’t have a larger audience for Margot’s first presentation. And although he had graciously agreed to give a second presentation for the Apprentice track, we didn’t have *any* attendees for that. Daughter and I enjoyed sitting and talking with him during that time, however. We also learned that Margot leads a monthly geology walk at Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough, which we will definitely plan to join soon.

This is one of the perpetual frustrations of con running—you simply never know how many people will “tune into” any given event. I’ve had concerts with three people in the audience, and panels with more panelists than audience participants, and “meet the guest” tables with no visitors. At best, the few enjoy the time together, often with unexpected discussions. At worst, the guest(s) feel unappreciated, and the con runners are left scratching their heads over how to do it better next time. I do indeed have a few ideas about how to do it better next time, and I’m already talking with people about some of those ideas.

The morning also included a “Meet the Guests” session with Clay and Susan Griffith, longtime supporters of ConTemporal. I always enjoy talking with the Griffiths, and we truly appreciate their enthusiastic and gracious participation.

The Griffiths joined another new-to-the-con guest, Suzanne Warr, as well as Braxton Ballew of Valentine Wolf, to discuss the comic book heroes and mythos of the 30s and 40s—tying into the overall theme of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

We had a lunchtime trio of “Meet the Guest” sessions with Danny Birt, Misty Massey, and Mark Van Name. Early afternoon sessions followed with our two Suzannes—Suzanne Adair and Suzanne Warr.

The afternoon started off with Allen Wold’s “world of writing” workshop, featuring panelists Darcy Wold, Misty Massey, and Danny Birt. I’ve participated in this workshop perhaps half a dozen times in the past, and I find it invaluable for beginning new stories and receiving immediate feedback from published authors and editors on how to improve the beginning in a way to draw the reader along further into the story. We also had about half a dozen participants in this workshop, and I am sure they gained a lot from the experience.

Our fledgling writers track included a discussion with Chris Berman on “Writing Effective Air Combat Scenes” and with Suzanne Warr and Danny Birt on “Writing Humor”. As with so many other panels, I would really have enjoyed listening to these! The downside to *working* a con is that you don’t really get to attend very much of it! Last year, I made a point of participating in Allen’s workshop, and I didn’t make a similar commitment to attend any one thing this year. As a result, I really didn’t attend *any* of the lit or writing track events. I think that’s something I need to do for myself next year and in the future!

A great writing/gaming crossover panel idea centers around “world building”. Allen Wold moderated a panel featuring Todd Stewart, Tanith Tyrr, Mark Van Name, and Win Strock as they discussed building worlds that make sense within their own reality. This overall idea is one I hope to build upon as we grow our writers’ track.

Several of our guests were willing storytellers for “Steamkids Storytime”—another under-attended session that I hope will grow in the future. Our thanks to Emilie Bush, Danny Birt, Scotty Sunshine, Sarah Black, and Stephen Chapman!

As the sun went down, the seamier side of 1933 Chicago emerged, with speakeasies, gin joints, burlesque shows, and the infamous “Creeper Capone” and his nefarious gang. Daughter and I retreated for a quieter evening relaxing in our room.

Dogs in house:

Time writing
 ~45 minutes

June word count

1 comment:

  1. Writing report:
    Novel editing, Ch28, preview Ch29

    time: ~20min