I just got home from the fourth writing event I've attended this year. NerdCon: Stories, developed by Hank Green and Patrick Rothfuss, was put on this year for the very first time. As with any convention or conference in its first year infancy, there were good aspects to it, and some things that I expect to be modified and fixed before NerdCon returns next fall. Overall, I'm glad I attended, and I would definitely consider returning.
The conference was held in Minneapolis, a city I had been through before, but not in any way that required me to leave the airport. If nothing else, I have to say how much I loved what I saw of Minneapolis. Downtown was clean, easily navigated, and full of helpful people. Nothing about it felt sketchy, and I didn't feel at all nervous, even if I was out after dark, like I'm used to feeling in a large city environment. Also, the skyway system is incredible. The fact that you can basically walk from one end of downtown to the other without going outside is just fascinating to me. So, clearly, I loved Minneapolis.
Friday was the first day of the conference, and I think the most valuable day in terms of what I learned and was able to glean valuable information from. There were some very funny moments during the morning and afternoon main stage events that were a nice way to break up the day. I was able to meet, get autographs from, and take pictures with two of the authors in attendance, Maggie Stiefvater and John Scalzi. Maggie Stiefvater is an author whose work I've recently begun exploring, and I find her writing very rich in detail, but especially strong in characterization. Some of the magical and more supernatural elements she pulls into her fantasy stories aren't things I'm particularly in favour of, but I'm very glad I got to meet her. I was genuinely blown away by how fantastic her character development is, and it was a honour to have the brief interaction I had with her. John Scalzi, who is very funny in person and on paper, is another author I have only recently been introduced to. I found his writing to be punctuated with a little more profanity than could really be justified, but he wields such a clever wit that I was excited to get a chance to interact with him. He was very friendly and took a moment to speak with me, which I appreciated greatly.
After meeting John Scalzi, I discovered that the panel I'd intended to attend was full, as was the one my friend had gone to. This was a result of some of the panels being held in rooms that were too small, although I'll admit to some gratitude to the problem in this instance. Not being able to squeeze into the two panels I was interested in, I ended up slipping into the main auditorium to listen to the panel on how to include diversity in one's storytelling. I hadn't intended to go to the panel, in part because I had already heard some similar information at this year's NorWesCon, but mainly because it's a topic that often leads to speakers jumping on a soapbox and lecturing, which I don't find really benefits anybody. While my fear of the panel being a lecture was in part justified, I found that several of the panelists did a very good job of forcing the topic to focus on how to acknowledge everyone's complexities, rather than attacking a particular group for having a type of privilege that another doesn't. I took far more notes than I expected to, and left feeling like I had been given valuable information to keep in mind when telling stories, which is why I attended NerdCon: Stories in the first place.
Saturday, while still worth attending, I didn't feel was as strong, though I haven't yet been able to define why, precisely. I went to a good panel first thing in the morning about how to continue creating after reaching your first success, which was probably the most valuable information I wrote down during the course of the day. I was able to see some creators I was very interested in interact with each other and the audience in ways I found both informative and entertaining, so that was valuable was well. My friend and I were unable to meet Hank Green, something we had been hoping for, but not necessarily expected, so it wasn't as upsetting as it could have been. As difficult as the signing process was to work with, given how it was structured, I had a great deal of respect and gratitude to all the authors who participated, signing for hundreds of people without charging them anything. They didn't have to do that, and they made a lot of people very happy by being there and being willing.
In the evening on Saturday, the New York Neo-Futurists performed their play "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," an hour long show in which the performers attempt to perform thirty plays within the sixty minute time constraint. We got to see them complete right around twenty, and it was a really fascinating show. Artistically and from a writing standpoint I found a lot of it very clever. There was a lot of gold star quality in the show, and I am glad my friend and I stayed to watch the performance. Originally we hadn't decided if we would stay for the entire performance, and in the end we never even discussed leaving. However, the show would have benefited overall from the complete omission of two or three of the included plays, as well as some of the unnecessary profanity punctuation. There was also a little bit of that whole element of a speaker getting on his soap box to lecture incorporated in a few of the plays, and I thought that overall it really detracted from what could have been a very good point by itself, or a particularly clever bit of acting. It was an interesting experience in how it provoked me to think and consider the information, which I believe is part of the performers' goal in the first place. I commend them for their skills.
Overall, I'm glad I attended NerdCon: Stories. I believe it was a valuable experience, and I look forward to seeing how it grows and develops in its sophomore year, even if I don't attend. In the meantime, I'll strive to use what I learned to improve my own writing.