ClawofCat (clawofcat) wrote,

WriterCon - The Friday Edition

Though several days after the fact, at last I’ve gotten a chance to write up my experience at this year’s WriterCon. In contrast to others who might have had a much more fannish few days in Minneapolis, I spent the majority of my time with only_passenger and was really interested in seeing the city and getting a feel for the local culture. Last year on my road trip, most of my time in MN was spent in the suburbs, so it felt important that I get a taste of what downtown Minneapolis had to offer too. This report will include a fair amount of detail for the benefit of those that weren’t in attendance, like descriptions of the spaces, so feel free to skim if certain things are already familiar to you. I plan on posting three separate parts – one part for each corresponding day of my stay. So without further delay, this was my Thursday and Friday.

*FYI - the coding for using people's LJ names persists as a problem and ruins my formatting, so everyone's names will just be bolded.

My journey began when I arrived at the Minneapolis airport Thursday afternoon. The only thing that distinguished the terminal from others I’ve been in were the kiosks for Caribou Coffee, which is a Midwestern chain in direct competition with Starbucks. Finding the cab stand was a bit challenging and I took a couple of false turns at various escalators, but did eventually call a service to take me to Pass’ home. Skies were partly cloudy with a good deal of sun as we sped along the highway, until abruptly a rain shower started spattering the windshield. It lasted for maybe five minutes and was already and thing of the past when I pulled up to the curb in front of Pass’ front lawn. From what I understand, that’s pretty typical of Minnesota weather – variable and short lived.


Pass got me settled and we spent some time chatting until we called her son in. At 5 ½ he’s a big fan of X-Men and superheroes. A former comic book geek myself, I couldn’t help but feed his enthusiasm. I brought 14 or so X-Men trading cards for him drawn from my Fleer ’93 and ’94 collections, which I’d compiled with my dad when I was 7. Passing the mantel felt pretty rewarding; the cards were given the royal treatment and displayed on a premo spot on his bedroom wall.


Pass and I had errands to run in preparation for the Con, including buying a 12 pack of Newcastle and a bottle of red wine at a local liquor store. It was pointed out to me that there’s a regional disposition in Minneapolis called “Minnesota Nice” that’s characterized by a certain passive aggressiveness. Instead of, for example, saying that you’re hungry, a person might suffer in silence until it’s decided by the group you’re with that everyone is hungry. I mention this only because I walked up to the register at the liquor store to ask the cashier if he could recommend a not-too-dry red wine to me for under $25. He registered the request with mild surprise, but directed me to a bottle that I really enjoyed. When we left, Pass said that a Minnesotan would have never gone and asked, but rather would have waited until they were approached by a clerk. Apparently, my forwardness is a New York trait, as well as my service-minded mentality. Small differences like this, though seemingly inconsequential, are worth noting because my anthro brain finds regional differences like that fascinating. Anyway, an evening of Chinese food and the results show of So You Think You Can Dance later, Pass and I headed for bed so that we could get an early start to the hotel.


Friday morning, with two huge bags each, we boarded a city bus for our ride downtown. Unlike New York, their public transportation system does not use MetroCards or another form of automated payment. Without a bus pass or transfer card you need change to ride, which can get tricky if you don’t have small bills or quarters available. On the return trip, one unfortunate guy desperately ran up and down the bus asking anyone is they could break a $5 bill.


During the ride, Pass pointed out specific landmarks to me and their significance to her or the people she knew. Once we got downtown, the street where Purple Rain had been filmed and the venue Pass recently saw Beyonce made the Greatest Hits list. I’d also like to point out that MN buses are nicer than those in NYC. They look similar, but our buses don’t have padded cushions. We have hard plastic, probably because they’re easier to hose down – ew.


The bus dropped us off right in front of the Radisson; all we had to do was cross the street. Early check-in was available, so we headed straight for room 728 to drop off our luggage before heading to registration. As hotels go, this one was quite nice. The beds were very comfortable and the bathroom was gorgeous. This particular Radisson had its guest rooms and business area separated by two different elevators, so if at any point you wanted to visit the conference rooms set aside for WriterCon, you’d have to go to the lobby and then take a separate elevator upstairs. Pass and I went to register, but the intro session was going on at the time so no one was manning the table. We signed ourselves in, got our badges and picked up our “goody bags,” which included a composition notebook, pencils and a book of collected sci-fi works. They also sold WriterCon t-shirts, had a table full of items to raffle-off, a list of the attendees at various workshops and a message board where you could leave notes for your buddies.


The first person I saw and greeted at the Intro Session was the always graceful slaymesoftly. We had met previously at a JM concert in Long Island in 2007, so lots of hugs were exchanged, we chatted and then Pass and I took off to go in search of food. One criticism I had about WriterCon, though the overall experience was great, is that it was very hard to find people. There were a number of Buffyverse writers I only ran into once and some I didn’t see at all, like nwhepcat, antennapedia, sahiya, and tabaqui. I think it would have been helpful for there to have been fandom meet-ups, so that at least you could see who was available, get introduced and try and organize amongst yourselves. Most of the run-ins were purely by chance, which was too bad since one of my goals was to schmooze with people.


The Con Suite, which was the hub of social activity, eating, drinking and reading when there was a lull between panels, offered a lot of opportunity to try and connect with people. Pass and I met and spoke to on several occasions to viciouswishes and a college friend of hers. I also ran into executrix a number of times, who ran a panel I attended on Saturday. Slaymesoftly joined us there later in the morning for a quick chat and nibble. It was then that we got news that herself_nyc wasn’t going to be able to make it because of terrible thunderstorms back in New York. Pass and many other people had been looking forward to meeting her and participating in her Inner Lives workshop, so I gave her a call to confirm the bad news.


Though we didn’t have the company of Herself, Pass and I did spend a good deal of time with mere_ubu and philips, who I’d been dying to meet. We were on our way out to take in the city when we ran into both of them coming down in the elevator, Mere’s “What the Foo, Bubba?” shirt proudly on display.

Identifiers like that are key when you go to a conference like this where there’s tons of people you don’t know or alternatively don’t know what they look like! We chatted and hugged and exchanged numbers in the lobby so that we could meet up later and Pass and I continued on our way in search of food and a bottle opener/cork screw. What’s the point of alcohol if you can’t get at it?


One interesting thing about Minneapolis is their network of skyways. Because of the brutal winters, there are a series of clear, glass walkways that connect a decent amount of buildings, so that you never have to go outside. The area where most of the fannish parts of the Con took place was connected by skyway and escalator to a Macy’s next door. We snooped around their kitchenware section for a bottle opener, but no dice, so I swung by their Starbucks food court kiosk to get myself an egg sandwich. Apparently, Minnesota Starbucks’ do not serve breakfast sandwiches; you can get them in most large New York locations. Philips also confirmed that they’re available in D.C. branches, too.


Since Macy’s was made of fail, we hit the street. At the corner near our hotel the iconic Mary Tyler Moore statue stands, so here’s a picture of me with it.


I’ll freely admit that I’ve never seen one episode of the show, so this was taken for novelty’s sake more than affection for the character. Something that I asked Pass about as we walked around was what the street life was like in Minneapolis. New York City, as one might expect, has an incredibly lively street scene with performers, musicians, sidewalk cafes, pedestrian malls and other neat things that catch your eye. It’s something I love dearly about the city and adds to the appeal of walking. Though MN doesn’t have the plethora of choice when it comes to street performers, there was an elderly trumpet player standing outside of Macy’s who was rocking out and several other musicians, especially guitarists, which were planted at various street corners. We stopped in to have lunch a Panera’s and also picked up a combo cork/bottle opener for $5 at a local liquor store.


Much of the afternoon was then spent walking the city’s clean and nicely maintained streets and taking in the sites. The weather was beautiful, so Pass lead the way across town through a pretty greenway, which was half park, half “green streets” if you live in NYC. This shady, landscaped walkway lead directly to a pretty neighborhood that bordered, Loring Park, one of Minneapolis’s larger parks. We passed by a public kiddy pool, pond, horseshoe throwing pit, and up onto an overpass that connected the park to the grounds of the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden. Here’s a pick of me with “Cherry on a Spoon,” an awesome looking huge public work that also functions as a fountain.


We walked the grounds and sat and chatted and then circuitously made our way back around to the park and walked past the campus of Minneapolis Community Technical College, which Pass attended several semesters and set a scene of her WIP Switch. Many of the places local to Minneapolis in that story were pointed out to me as well, which was incredibly cool. I’ve always wanted to write a fic set in New York, but it’s a lofty goal. Spike vs. Nikki in 1977 New York will probably stay locked away in my brain forever.


We ended our stroll with the theater and entertainment district and returned to the hotel to get an early dinner with Philips and mere_ubu. Here are a few pics of us chowing down at Chipotle on Nicollet Mall.


It has to be said that mere_ubu, if you couldn’t tell by her posts and Spaiku, is the most impish, sweet companion you could hope to enjoy. She also has this evil, naughty little giggle that pretty much defines trouble. Philips, her partner in crime, has such a sparkling sense of humor (see The Caseus Prize for how that humor translates to fic), interesting stories to tell about her travels, husband and children and is all around out going. The two of them combined were definitely a perfect match for our own mischievous streaks.  I was glad that we had the pleasure of their company for much of our stay at the hotel. It really made the experience.  


Once evening hit, we all headed back to shower and pull ourselves together before the cocktail party kicked off at 8PM. Pass, ever ready, whipped out her speakers and ipod, so we could enjoy a good old-fashioned, pre-gaming dance party. We bounced around the room jammin’ out to pop and rap, laughing and joking all the while. The empty beer bottles in the trashcan were considerable by the time we left the room and my wine bottle was missing approximately two thirds of its contents. A highlight of the whole affair was definitely listening to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” which as Pass pointed out, could easily be a song told from Faith’s POV about Buffy. Who knows – I might be inspired to write a little something with the concept in mind.


With drink tickets in hand, Pass and I weaved our way to the cocktail party held in one of the large conference rooms. Aw, how cute that our beer and wine are all snuggled together, too.  

Though there are no pictures (I weep!), I ended up wearing my “Buffy Red Pants” to stay with the fannish theme. Below is a picture of me in the get-up I wore (in homage to Graduation Day) in Duck Creek Cemetery down the road from where I’m currently vacationing in Wellfleet, MA.


Many of the graves date back to the 1700 and 1800s, so I thought it was a rather appropriate backdrop for the Buffy outfit. Note my whittled down paint stirrer-cum-stake.  I’m afraid the house we rent was fresh out of wooden lemon reamers!


Pass and I ended up sitting at a table with slaymesoftly, rahirah, lilachigh, rebcake, mere_ubu and philips. There were a number of party favors laid out on the table. Never one to skimp on an opportunity to make a spectacle of myself, I put one of the sparkly masks on the table on, which prompted one of the organizers to breeze over and give me another drink ticket. Score! Pass also got one for some reason… maybe for putting on the Mardi Gras beads? I couldn’t figure out exactly what they were looking for, but I didn’t pay for a single drink at the cash bar. Two freebies on them… I think you can all imagine that I was pretty far into Drunktown by then.


Despite any rapidly advancing incoherence on my part, I did have an interesting conversation with slaymesoftly (right) and lilachigh (left), who I met for the first time.

She would later run the Britspeak panel on Saturday, so it was rather serendipitous that she used the word fortnight in casual conversation and I asked her to confirm that this meant two weeks as Americans don’t use this word in common speech. This seemed to surprise her and we then launched into a conversation about it’s perception as a rather arcane word in the States and other linguistic peculiarities with a smattering of talk about the con itself.


I also had a chance to talk with rebcake, who has a penchant for writing fics with historical emphasis. Shapinglight is running a Darla ficathon this Fall, so we talked about story ideas since we both plan to participate.

I admit that I actually can’t remember most of that conversation, but that I did enthusiastically pull her up from her seat and drag her out to dance with Pass and I. Let it be known that rebcake can boogey and get down!


As the night wore on, things got more and more risqué on the dance floor. I’m sure there must be some scandalous picture of Pass and I grinding away floating about on the Internets, so if anyone sees it, send it my way! A few other ladies joined us too once we kicked off our shoes for some serious dancing. I know that Philips lent a helping hand to Pass and got her water or coffee, but I generally just sober up the old fashioned way – drinking water and staring at TV until the room stops spinning when I close my eyes. Pass went off to gorge in hospitality and I blearily watched the end of Knocked Up to get my bearings.

Overall, I’d say the night and entire day was a rollicking success! More Con reportage to come in the next installment, which covers the events of Saturday - panels, Spuffy fan event, sex boutique and clubbing.

Continued in Part II - The Saturday Edition

Tags: meeting members of the fandom, minneapolis, picspam, writercon

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