Saturday, August 11, 2007

From Trinoc*coN to 2Pi-Con (II)

Saturday at Trinoc*coN: The earliest thing on Saturday was 11, so we got to sleep in a bit more than usual. While Gene headed off to the first comics panel, I went down to join the Writing Workshop with Allen Wold, Alex Sokoloff and Sandra McDonald. There was a pretty large group -- about a dozen -- from high school students to a retiree. It’s a difficult thing to offer spur of the moment critiques, but it was a fairly fearless panel and everyone was enthusiastic, particularly for the two high school girls who showed a good bit of talent. There were some terrific paragraphs (an opening paragraph is about all you can do in a brief workshop). We left them with the exhortation to revise and improve for part 2 of the workshop the next morning.

After that I went to hear Elizabeth Hand read. I love her books and I was thrilled to hear her read a story with an Icelandic angle. Susan had mentioned she wanted to speak to me, so we made arrangements eventually to meet up for an early dinner, since I knew our lot would be eating before the auction. Mildred and Birdie saw everyone as they gathered materials for the auction. Up next for me was the panel “How to Keep Writing While You Still Have a Day Job” with Dale Bailey, Nathan Ballingrud and Sandra. We offered tips and tricks, mostly coming down to the truth that if you really are a writer, you will make the time.

I headed over to Gene’s panel on writing about comics, which took place as a kind of roundtable since the audience had ended up being small (there’s a large contingency of web comics folks, but not as much for comics as a medium). We took a little break before the auction set up, which went about as smoothly as it ever had (could it be the co-chairs who organized everything so well?). We all met up with Liz and her son Tristan and headed over to the Skybox.

On the plus side, Liz and I bonded over Iceland and Finland and had a great time yakking. She signed my copy of Mortal Love with a very nice and personal inscription, which is so much more satisfying than a simple signature. I just love her style ever since I first read Waking the Moon, which was recommended by folks on the Horror list.

On the negative side: Worst. Service. Ever.

The Skybox is known for its poor service, but that night really took the cake. We heard the next day that they had hundreds of dollars in walk-offs, which was no surprise at all. It took too long to get the food and it became nearly impossible to get the check, and when it came, it took even longer to finally get it right. Gene and I were finally got the last portion of the check more or less correct and I ran off to the auction, which was already underway, while he headed over to the Marvel vs DC Jeopardy (where he did quite well, of course). Fortunately, there were so many volunteers helping at the auction that I was not necessary until late in the show.

The auction ran late but raised a good deal of money for the Literacy Council of Wake County. We missed John Kessel’s presentation of his episode of “Masters of Science Fiction” so we’ll have to catch up with it later. Instead we decided to enjoy a well-earned celebration (well, earned by Mildred, Birdie and Susan -- can't say I worked that hard) and hit one of the sponsored parties. We even made a late night trip back to the Skybox where we got the absolute best service ever. Go figure -- we asked the server why she wasn’t there all the time. Food came at once, drinks even faster and the check as soon as we asked for it. Was it really that difficult?

Saturday at 2Pi-Con: Breakfast is included with my room -- not bad, a buffet of the usual stuff. Only Lipton tea, as in my room (which is why I do bring my own tea like a snob -- life is too short to drink Lipton). I went to the small press comics panel to tell them Gene was not going to be there and ended up being the audience for the two panelists, Rick Silva and Mike Luoma. We all talked about the comics we’re working on. Of course, I only have the one so far, but I was pleased to have a chance to show off Elena’s fine work.

My 11 am panel was supposed to be on Myth and Folklore, but the audience was slow to materialize, so Sara Harvey and Michael Kabongo (thanks for the nifty pen!) and I just chatted with the gradually increasing audience about a variety of topics, occasionally dragging ourselves back on topic. While the audiences haven’t been strong so far, I have to say I’ve enjoyed all the other panelists I’ve met. We’ve had great discussions that an eager audience might have appreciated. There are people here -- somewhere. Maybe they’re all LARPing.

My battery has been acting weird, too. Last night it suddenly went from about 68% to nothing. I didn’t really think too much of that as it’s been on its last legs for a bit (have to break down and buy a new one, about $125). But it failed to charge this morning, I noticed when I first started writing this post, showing only about 25% for ages. I popped the battery out and then put it back in, jiggled the cord which was showing green instead of amber (which indicates it’s charging) and now the battery shows 100% again. Hmph. If all else fails I carry the cord down to the lobby, too.

Maybe I can get another spider baby. I had a beer in the Parrot Café last night between panels. It came in a plastic cup. Eventually I found out that this was due to the café’s proximity to the pool. People could take food and drink into the pool area, but they had to make sure it was not lethal. There were spider plants hanging all around the café which was tricked out to look like a lost Margaritaville cabana. I had to leave my big spider-plant behind in Houston, so I thought I needed another. Surely no one would miss it if I plucked a little baby from one of the shoots. I thought perhaps I could just walk by one of the ones outside the window and surreptitiously remove one, but when I stood up, one of the runners hit me in the face, so I just yanked the end off and dropped it in my bag. It’s in some water in a cup right now. Hopefully it will root easily.

This afternoon I had the Writing About Genre Fiction panel that was to have been with Gene. The one woman who showed at the start agreed that maybe we should just adjourn to the bar, but another audience member turned up and we all had a nice chat that kind of turned toward writing tips in general and how to break past the various barriers that we put in front of ourselves.

After that it was over to the Middle Ages on Film where I turned out to be the only panelist in attendance (I knew George Claxton wouldn’t be there because he had said so the night before at the Doctor Who panel). The guy from Higgins Armory wasn’t there, but some of his friends were, who also knew Amy West, a pal of mine from UConn. At least there was a pretty good audience, so I fell into teacher mode and put them to work for much of the discussion, asking them their faves and worsts, why so many medieval films are so terrible and what it would take to make a good one. It ended up being a lot of fun.

Next was the Retelling Fairy tales panel with GOH C. E. Murphy, who’d been on the Buffy panel with me last night. A good audience whom, once again, we put to work after we ran out of things to say. It was fun and there was an interesting variety of folks there to make the discussion lively. I had a break after that (until the horror panel at 10pm) so I decided to go to Northampton and check out Raven Books, where I bought a couple of things, then went to the Tibetan restaurant -- yum!

On the way back, in addition to seeing a red-tail hawk flying off with her dinner (maybe a rabbit?), I had a “I’m not in Houston” moment, windows rolled down on a beautiful day, the Pioneer Valley stretching out before me, Shonen Knife on the stereo, and green green everywhere. Ah.

Down to the lobby now to upload this. I doubt I’ll feel like writing after the panel, but I did get some done in between things today (including the serial!).

[So as I'm typing this Jeff Lord from Higgins introduced himself, so I finally got to meet him. Pity I still haven't seen his sword-fighting techniques, but ah well -- sooner or later. Missed him at PCA, missed him on the panel today, but finally we got to say a hello.]


Liz said...

Hey, glad you got back okay, and it was great to hang out!

As regards Worst Service Ever -- later that night, Dale Bailey and I were having a drink on the other side of the Skybox, and the same waitress almost dropped a big tray containing several plates and a platter of french fires onto Dale's head. I watched in disbelief as the tray tilted sideways, then lunged for it as the same time a passing waiter did, so disaster was averted. But that poor lady definitely needs to find another line of work.

-- Liz

C. Margery Kempe said...

Poor Dale! Yikes -- that must have been a bit of an adrenaline rush. There must be an "I hate Skybox" site somewhere. Somehow I thought it might improve after a year.

Anonymous said...


Anytime, it was fun to talk to you too.

Susan said...

I'm hoping after hearing two years of complaints from "us" (T*C ConComm) about the service and the high $$$ amount of walk offs, they will make some effort to improve things. IMO, this is the only bad thing about being in the new hotel. Well, that and sharing space with rowdy conference attendees whose children pull fire alarms and adults start fights in the bar.

At least they were "contained" on the other side of the hotel from us. In spite of the headaches of a last minute space swap by the hotel, it *really* worked in our favour. Can you imagine what it would have been like sharing space with that group?

C. Margery Kempe said...

LOL -- yeah, they were something, weren't they? Apart from the Skybox I found all the hotel staff to be courteous, friendly and helpful. I complemented the woman (Amanda, was it?) at the front desk when we were checking out.

It's nice that the "weird" SF folk were the good guys and the reunion group were the trouble-makers. Just goes to show...

Hey, at the 2Pi-Con hotel the bar and restaurant were *closed* on Sunday. Wow, forgot what it was like with blue laws. Good to be back in NY where you can buy wine on a Sunday (not that I did, but I like knowing I could).