Two conventions, both alike in dignity, in fair Seattle, where we lay our scene, from comic heroes to desperate writers, where networking and sketches make lips tire from smiling. From forth the creative brains of these two organizers I travelled to both to compare what each meant to life; that misadventures in that ever-trending way where those still on the path needs must enjoy the journey in equal or more parts than the end, and those who come to each must be ready to give, give, give, give, and organize all the business cards they receive. May this now be some simple traffic on this page, to which you with patient eyes shall read, what here shall miss, my toil shall strive to mend.
Alright! I started writing notes about AWP14, The Associate Writers and Writing Programs conference at the end of February, and then before I posted anything, I went to ECCC, the Emerald City Comic Con. Technically, AWP is a conference, and ECCC is a convention, but I still loved going to both, and thought it would be fun to compare the two.
Writing Conference Survival 101
AWP focused mainly on writers with masters degrees, as author Pamela Beason pointed out to me. There was the hardcore group of self-published authors that flocked to the wise musings of Hugh Howey, one of the many success stories that are popping up, but mainly people at the writing conference were looking for business, and with more than 13,000 writers in attendance, it seemed you didn’t have to look far. The conference was divided into a few groups, writers looking for recognition, universities looking for students, and people looking for writers. I was looking for writers to sign up for contests and book reviews for my internship at www.ChantiReviews.com. I really wanted to be able to tell who was a writer, and who was after writers at a glance, but it was impossible since so many people hunting writers are writers as well. I had an image in my head of writers wearing deer masks and tentatively tiptoeing around the Seattle Convention Center, while people into marketing stalked the well-carpeted floor in loincloths with spears aloft.
Unfortunately there were no such things. I learned some great information about book reviewing, that I felt held true to writing in general. However, the panels about writing itself were the ones that ended up disappointing me. I suppose I should have known that panel presentation is a form of performance, and just because you can write or run an organization does not mean you are the greatest public speaker. Most writers would just read excerpts from their own books. This, by all accounts, was not the norm for the conference, but just my luck that the events I could attend in between tabling were hit and miss.
My organizational skills in trying to attend panels were also greatly lacking. Hopefully, the next writing conference I attend will be one where I have more of my information prepared in advance, and also plenty of money for going out afterwards. As at least one of my two bosses say: “Writers sure like to drink.”
At Midnight, all the Agents…
The Emerald City Comic Con was quite a different experience. Having never been to a con, I knew about cosplay, but was still delighted when I saw the first superheroes walking the earth among mere mortals. For those who don’t know, a cosplay is when people dress up as characters form some form of media that they love. Even better, were the signs posted that this was a harassment free zone – some people vest their unwanted attentions on the cosplayers – and the signs were a great reminder about consent culture, something that is gaining a hell of lot of beautiful momentum.
Many people think folks into comics are nerdy and shy, but Comic Con is a place where nerdiness is king, and I felt awkward in the button down shirt I had worn a month earlier for the AWP, when I could have just drawn a scar on my forehead and been everybody’s Harry Potter fantasy come to life. And the people to meet! At AWP the focus is on groups, writers, and how to be successful from your newfound connections, with only some emphasis on meeting your heroes. ECCC focuses on connecting fans to creators. I met Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content), Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots), E.K. Weaver (The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal), Jennie Breeden (The Devil’s Panties), and, my most tongue tied introduction, Cecil Baldwin. Everyone, except Cecil, writes a webcomic that I have either read all of, or am planning to read (sorry Devil’s Panties, soon, I promise). Each comic deals with the human experience in terms of friendship, family, sexuality, and just the random curveballs that life is always throwing us.
Then there’s Cecil.
The Voice of Night Vale
“Oh, that guy is cosplaying Cecil?”
“No, David, that is Cecil.”
Cecil Baldwin is the voice of Welcome to Night Vale, a podcast that focuses on the small desert town of Night Vale that draws inspiration from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor (Who I often think of as Jeffery Fink). The thing I love about Night Vale is the complete abandonment of reality in a way that does not feel forced and lets magic happen effortlessly. You never have the sense that the writers don’t have the answer, even if the listeners do not. Cecil’s voice is melodious, and the news sections are often sprinkled with hilarity and good thoughts for breathing.
So, I met Cecil. I had no idea what to say. I asked for a picture, he smiled at me, and obliged. After the photo, he started to turn away. I couldn’t miss this moment! I stuck out my hand.
He blinked, laughed, and shook my hand. “I’m Cecil.”
And that was it. Afterwards I figured out the words I was looking for and said them to the webcomic writers and artists I met later. “I love your work and the things you write about mean so much to me.” Emily told Cecil I enjoyed how he relayed the news, something I had asked her to say the day before when she met him. He chuckled. He was very nice. It was awesome.
The Roller-coaster Only Goes Up
In all, the convention and the conference were a ton of fun with different energy. There was a need to be recognized at AWP, a need to improve, and a need to keep going. ECCC felt like the end result. People there were there to appreciate and love everything that was going on around them. It was a community of artists coming together to share their art, while AWP was a community of artists getting together to share tips. Both are helpful, both are important. I had a pretty great time doing both things, saw and met some very nice people and old friends. I met some people who felt like old friends even though I just met them. That’s the great thing about writing, you get a chance to know someone without meeting them. It can make the initial conversation difficult, since you feel like you already know so much about them, but they’re still people. They still want to know you as a person, separate from the work they do.
Both encouraged me to keep writing, to keep creating. The only way to fail is to not try.