I had a fantastic time attending my first ChessieCon convention this past weekend! Everyone on the convention staff was lovely, and I made some great new friends.
I’d also like to specifically commend this particular convention for their dedication to accessibility throughout the events, such as offering gender neutral restrooms and reserving seats in every room for people with physical or sensory issues who might need them.
I had no issues picking up my participant packet on Friday, and I arrived in time to see my local NaNoWriMo organizer perform her concert! Lee is a fantastic guitarist and singer, and I enjoyed listening to both original works and covers during her “Dystopian Set.” (Her husband Jon provides lovely backup.)
Since I had some time to kill before my reading, I ducked into the last half of a presentation on “Finding the Funny in Star Wars and Star Trek.” The presenters were delightful, and I managed to stalk them the rest of the weekend (more on that later).
I’d heard terrible things about the hotel restaurant even before the convention (regarding service, not food), but Lee, Jon, and I gave it a shot. It took 30 minutes alone to get my beer, which I ended carrying to my panel while Lee and Jon had my food packed up. Carrying beer to my panels ended up becoming a bit of a theme with me for the first two days of the convention.
My first panel was “The Care and Feeding of Critique Partners,” which was well-attended. The panelists shared descriptions of the various types of critique groups they’d been in, and we exchanged stories of how things can go both well and poorly. As with most things in life, the key to a successful critique group appears to be communication!
(Since this was a local convention and I wasn’t staying overnight at the hotel, my husband tempted me away to meet him and my cousin for dinner, which I still had not eaten at that point. I finally managed to eat my hotel pizza for lunch on Monday. It was actually pretty good.)
I arrived back at the convention in time to hear my fellow Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction student give his reading. Even though Jay Smith graduated the program 9 years after me, that place creates a bond.
Then I had literally 4 hours to kill before the next thing I had to do, and there was a weird space where nothing on the program interested me personally. So remember those delightful presenters from Friday? I totally found their table at the dealers room and became that awkward person who Just. Wouldn’t. Leave.
I’m kidding. Cristin Kist and Jeffrey Gritman are awesome people who write a science-fiction comedy series called Prison Dad, which you should totally check out. We bonded over the regular sort of geekiness and had a lot of fun together all weekend. (Which included ordering pizza for dinner rather than attempting the hotel restaurant.)
My second panel of the weekend was more reader-focused, on the “Evolution of Women in Fantasy.” After I got over my freak-out of being on a panel with C.S. Friedman, an author I’ve admired for years, we had a great discussion on the presentation of women in speculative fiction of all stripes.
I manned a table in the lobby for a bit during the official book signing period, which mostly involved sneaking Jeff and Cristin to my table to sell their stuff in return for letting me hang out with them all day. I also continued a great conversation with a woman who’d been on the previous panel with me, and it turns out that she lives 5 minutes from my house! Jamaila Brinkley writes romantic historical fantasy, and we bonded over the perils of writing in niche genres.
My final event for the evening was participating in a live game show version of “What’s My Line?” The audience had to use yes or no questions to guess SF-themed occupations. All of the players either completely stumped the room or had their profession guessed in four rounds. Lots of hilarity ensued either way.
I was getting pretty tired by that point, but I stuck around to sit in on one last panel on “Everything You Wanted to Know About (Writing) Sex.” Mostly because those panels are always hilarious but also because I’m going to finally have to take that dive in my current project, and I’m gearing myself up for it. The moderator did an excellent job on keeping tabs on what can be a tricky topic. Some laughs were had, but I also got some great insight.
After way too little sleep, I headed back to the convention. This time, with surprise guest in tow: My mom! She took advantage of my first local convention to take the opportunity to come see me on panels, even though I mocked her for dressing way too formally for the occasion.
My first panel that morning was on “Being a Woman on the Internet.” The crowd was small, which is par for the course for the first panel on the last day of a con, but the people who were there were very interested in the topic and helped contribute to the conversation. I’ve been active on the internet since being a young teenager during the Dark Ages of the mid-1990s (and had to warn my mother that the statute of limitations had run out on some of the stories I told). I also shared some of the experiences I had during the other “Dark Ages” of the years I lost playing World of Warcraft.
Then I subjected my mother to the epitome of nerdiness, a panel on “Who’s Writing Optimistic Science-Fiction?” Unfortunately, the panel degenerated into one of those where names of authors and books are tossed around and not much philosophical discussion of what optimism in SF looks like occurred.
To make up for the fact that she almost fell asleep during that panel, I treated my mom to lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. Not at the hotel.
We headed back for my final event, which was “Common Scientific Mistakes in Science-Fiction.” The room was packed, and the discussion was lively. I got to extol on my personal pet peeve, which is the treatment of traumatic brain injury, along with discussions on computers, technology, time travel, other biological issues, and characters just plain being dumb (or too unbelievably smart).
On the way back home, my mom told me she was impressed by the breadth of my knowledge on both that particular topic and how much of the genre (books, film, and television) I’m familiar. Easily the best part of my weekend.
And finally, the haul:
- Beer glass that says “Whovians don’t really get drunk. They get wibbly-wobbly drink-winky” by +2 Charisma
- Zombie teddy bear, compliments of Jay Smith
- Delicious, delicious fudge
- Book signed by C.S. Friedman(!!!), though I did not purchase it at the convention
- Prison Dad volumes 1 and 2, by Cristin Kist & Jeffrey Gritman
- The Diary of Jill Woodbine, by Jay Smith