Five night stay at the Sheraton hotel: $1000
Car rental and gas $600
Plasters for blistered feet... I don't even know how much that one cost!
Seeing Papa Smurf walking around with an Avatar movie alien: Priceless.
Even more priceless was getting to hang with my 'online' friend (who long ago surpassed 'online' friend status even though we hadn't actually met face to face until Dragon.)
In short, an excellent weekend!
I attended three writers' workshops, of which I can only speak glowingly of one. Diana Gabledon was incredible--so was everyone else on that panel, but she really stuck out. Hearing her talk about how she puts her books together was unreal... she just writes a scene and then another scene and then some more and puts this in front of that and moves that thing over here around and 800 pages later, it's on the NY Times bestseller list! She, and her fellow panelists, were genuinely lovely people and it was just luck of the draw that they all happen to plot--or not-plot--the same way I do, so it was nice to hear them talk about their process. It was also good to hear four working authors say things like "stay true to yourself and your story." If you want to talk about something that is truly priceless, it's advice like that. I also appreciated that they came off as real people giving very real, very useful advice.
The back story there is that over the last few weeks I've become progressively more frustrated with the same old trite advice being dished up in writers' magazines and websites. It's always 'follow the formula,' and 'obey Da Rulz'. The panel that Ms Gabledon was on were very honest about the rules they broke--and that if you do break Da Rulz, you're going to have to do it really, really, really well! You can't throw the rules out the window willy-nilly (and you certainly have to know what they are), but you have to write the book YOU want to write. Huzzah! (Oh yeah, and you have to keep at it, keep writing it, even when you hit a snag or even a brick wall. After all, if you don't like what comes out, you can always hit the delete button later!)
I also went to a wonderful artists' workshop, with only one presenter: Marrus. I was unfamiliar with her work, but I wanted to attend at least one workshop for artists and I'm glad I did. She said much the same things about being true to yourself and your vision and not letting yourself believe the people who tell you "you can't" as the folks from the previous writers' panel. Further, she gave the wonderful (and difficult) advice of surrounding yourself with only the people who are going to be supportive--that may mean taking stock of your friends. If there are people who aren't supportive or who hold you back, why exactly are you hanging onto those friendships? Like I said, good but hard advice. I applaud anyone who can say that because it's the kind of truth a lot of people are not going to want to hear.
Unlike some other advice-givers, she gave the very positive message of "present yourself as if you already are what you want to be", whether that's an artist or a writer or what have you... and if you don't want to do that professionally, that's ok, too, keep painting, writing, whatever brings you joy. Marrus was an absolute delight to sit and listen to for an hour.
And yes, there were a couple of panels and panelists who gave what I consider the same old trite and usually bad advice that I've been gotten sick of reading about... the one that got me the worst was the 'self marketing' panel in which we spent an hour hearing how the answer to our problems was simple: hire a publicist. Ok fine, ok good, but that's not exactly my definition self-marketing. I also took issue with the statement that all writers use pen names. I happen to personally know an author who uses the same name he's had for the twenty odd years we've been acquainted.
Frankly, I've spent the last several years building a name for myself under my real name (something I'm not supposed to do.... apparently it's a no-no to do any kind of marketing until you've sold your manuscript...oops.) At any rate, at this point, I would rather change my legal name than change the name under which I write. I mean, sure, I recognize the dangers of the occasionally mentally unstable reader, but I do have a PO box and I don't ever post my address on anything. However, having a pen name compromised by a bad-apple or a hacker or what have you is, in my opinion, no better for my career than having a legal name compromised, because regardless of which name I use, it's still my reputation on the line.
I went to a couple of celebrity panels over the course of the weekend. All of the actors were lovely and gracious and had wonderful stories to tell. I was really happy to be able to see Frazer Hines, from Doctor Who--the science fiction conventions around here don't typically get actors and getting someone like Frazer would be more unlikely still. He was positively delightful.
I also went to the Battlestar Galactica panel, Babylon-5 panel and one of the Star Trek panels. My husband and I were going to go see Brent Spiner (Lt. Commander Data from Start Trek TNG) speak, but his line was already wound around the building and out the door, so we decided to walk around instead. We headed over to where the actors had their tables set up for autograph signing... and wouldn't you know it, Brent Spiner had only a handful of folks at his table, so we went up and said 'hi'. So instead of standing in line for two hours to sit in a crowded room, we got five minutes of one on one time...not bad, huh? We also talked to Jason Carter while we were there... he's unbelievably delightful. (And again, everyone was, but he really stands out as being an amazing personality.)
My husband went to see Stan Lee and the True Blood panel, and he and my daughter went to a couple of late-night concerts (mama's not a night owl any more, at least not when I've been on my feet since 7am!)
As for the rest of it...there really are no words to describe wall to wall to wall to wall Storm Troopers and Steam Punkers, Ghost Busters, Pirates, Trekkies, Time Lords, Aliens (of all types), Brown Coats, Faeries, Elves, Super Heroes (even Captain Underpants made an appearance!) and celebrities.
I came home with an idea for a second tarot deck: Steam Punk tarot (I'm sure somebody's done it or is doing it, but I have an idea, so I'm going to roll with it!) and trilogy of books nearly fully formed in my brain. Updates on those projects will be forthcoming.
So, with not even 24 hours recovery time, we are plotting next year's adventure to DragonCon...