It was hard to say last year whether FWA 2011 was an isolated instance of wonderful, as I’d only been there once, but it sure seemed like an experience that would be repeated, based on the staff and their attitude. I am pleased to report after FWA 2012 that it is definitely a trend. As always, though, my experience is as a future and current Guest of Honor, so take that with as much salt as you need. I will say, however, that the opinion was not mine alone. Many people, from convention veterans to first-timers, told me they were having a great time.
The con starts with Opening Ceremonies, which in this case were held Thursday night. I was brought up on stage and shown off to what looked to me like a big room full of lens flares. I was assured that they were people by Kit and Brer and Kenket, who were in the audience. Tigerpaw, the CEO of FWA, made some short announcements, said some crazy nice things about me, and then declared the con open.
Friday I launched my new book, Green Fairy, to a small mob of people (Sofawolf was also launching Rukis’s Red Lantern, which more of the mob were seeking out, but they still had to come to my table, so there). I signed a bunch of books in special green pen to commemorate FWA (those pens are now retired) and then went to the “Meet the GOH” panel.
Rukis and I give good panel, I think. We fielded a lot of interesting questions (“What’s it like to be a GOH?”) and had to be told by a staffer that our time was up. That’s one of the great things about FWA: the panel rooms were all along one hallway, and a staffer was just stationed in that hallway. Whoever it was (Hux or Conan Kitty were the ones I saw) knew who was supposed to be moderating the panels, and asked if I had everything I needed before each panel(*). Very well organized and staffed–like most everything at FWA.
* Best story: in one of my panels, before it started, someone asked why I liked FWA so much and I mentioned that the staff were attentive and on the ball, always asking what I needed, though I didn’t need much, just water. “And I forgot to ask for that this time,” I said. “But that’s my fault.” Not two minutes later, Hux poked his head in the door and asked if I had everything I needed. I asked for water and he brought two cups in right away. I mean, damn, if we’d planned it we couldn’t have executed it that perfectly.
Later Friday I did a reading from “Green Fairy” which was longer than I usually choose for readings, but I picked that excerpt for a reason: it spans the framing narrative and the two interior narratives and it introduces most of the main plots of the story. It worked well (despite me finding a typo that did make it into the final book :P) and I ended with ten minutes to spare for people to ask questions. I think I picked the excerpt well as everyone seemed intrigued to buy the book.
Friday night we had the God-level dinner to attend (top-level sponsors at FWA are “GOD” level), which is a fabulous feast at a local restaurant. If you are a GOD level member of FWA, then the bus and the dinner are part of your package and are worth it almost by themselves. We had a great chat with Tigerpaw–so much so that the return bus left without the two guests of honor. So Tigerpaw made them come back for us. Someone on the bus asked as we were getting on, “Guess you don’t feel very honored,” and I said, “Are you kidding? We made you turn around and come pick us up!”
Friday night, Rukis and I hosted the Adult Fiction panel, which might be my favorite panel across all the cons. We talked with people for two hours until my fatigue and scratchy throat made me stop. The panel “degenerated” into generic writing questions by the end of it, but the room was packed and everyone was curious about why we write adult fiction, where we feel certain boundaries are, how we decide what kind of language to use, and so on.
Saturday (as I tweeted) was maybe my favorite day at a hotel con ever. And Friday was pretty dang good, too! It was so busy that Saturday morning felt like Sunday morning to me–but of course we had two full days of con to go. I started in the dealer’s room selling more books, and then hosted a panel on “From Amateur to Pro” (summary: have a personal passion for your work but a professional detachment for the business side of it). Kit and I explored the Artists’ Alley in the afternoon and were amazed by the talent there. We got a couple cool sketches and then I went to host my “Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Writing” panel (I put my notes online for the people who couldn’t make it).
After that, we got to see the amazing little Geoffrey’s cats that CCI, the con’s charity, had brought (I will talk more about Blotch’s and my contribution to the charity auction in a future post). Then we ran off to Trader Vic’s for dinner with the Sofawolf contingent and an artist working on a new project for them, and then Kenket and Kit and I had to race back to the con for “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I thought that was going to be like the TV show, but instead four teams of us were given easels and markers and made to draw crazy things. Then our teams were split up and moved around and hilarity did, indeed, ensue. Kenket and I did not win the game (the prize went to Chibi-Marrow and Matthew Ebel, deservedly), but we had a giddy good time.
Kit wanted dessert after that, so we repaired to the bar with Brer, Hux, and IC Wolf, and were joined later by Hali and Tsoro and Kenket for a nice evening of conversation (Twilight joined us for a bit) before I had to run downstairs to judge the fursuit dance contest.
OMG you guys, the dance contest. You can now see the whole thing on YouTube, and it’s worth watching. It was so hard to pick a winner from all the talented contestants; there were several I wanted to recognize for one thing or another, especially Dante for his amazing flips and Metsonga for his choice of music and choreography, and just all of them for the amazing dances. But in the end we narrowed it down to a few who really stood out to us. It impressed me so much–there’s a ton of talent here, and people creating something that’s unique to furry and really amazing to watch.
And then, half an hour late, I ran upstairs (escorted by staff!) to the Knotsheathed podcast, where Fuzz and I started at midnight and went ’til 2 am talking about where the fandom’s been and where it’s going. And here was where perhaps the most amazing thing of the con happened (at least for me). We were talking about IHOP and I said Kit wouldn’t let me go there any more. From the audience, he said, “I’ll make you pancakes whenever you want, honey.” So I said, “How about in fifteen minutes?” He kind of hung his head, and then he walked quickly to the back of the room and ran out the door. I knew I had to keep the podcast going ’til he got back, and sure enough, fifteen minutes (maybe twenty) later, he ran back in with a styrofoam box and placed it on our table. I opened it and revealed: pancakes. He is truly a magic wolf (and the pancakes were delicious).
And after that, until about 3 am, we stayed up with Fuzz and Hux and IC and Kenket and Laura Garabedian and had late-night pizza in the hotel cafe and then collapsed into bed.
Sunday I was pretty tired. But I still did my Novel Writing panel, which went okay despite being kind of disorganized. And I sold a bunch of books, and Brer declared the launch weekend a success. He also said that he was having a blast at FWA and would really like to return sometime, which makes me happy and waggy.
Closing Ceremonies were kind of sad–end of the con and all–but at the same time there was a lot of great stuff there. We found out that Yippee Coyote, a very cool guy, would be one of the GOHs for 2013, and Hibbary, awesome artist, would be the other. So you know it’s going to be a great con. We also found out that the total attendance for FWA 2012 was 1,903 people–growth of 17% or so over the previous year. Which is why the con has to move to the Westin Hotel, sadly.
The Sheraton is a terrific venue: the staff love the con, so much so that when we first arrived, we noticed they’d put plushies in all the light sconces and were wearing ears. And
this is their official comment card for the weekend:
Which I think is pretty cool. But the function space is just too small for the con to grow. The good news is that the Westin is just two blocks away, so we can come to our favorite bar one of the evenings and hang out when we come back next year.
Oh yeah. Kit and I are coming back next year if it is at all feasible. So you should plan on it too.
Lastly, I was honored to be invited to the post-con staff dinner on Sunday night, and that was a great time. The only thing I’d like to say about that is that it really solidified for me one thing that makes this con different. The staff felt like a family–singing along to a bunch of songs, laughing together–and they wanted to be here kicking back after a successful con. I’ve never really seen that before, but Kit and I both felt not only happy to see the people who’d worked so hard on FWA really enjoying themselves, but also really included in the celebration. Clearly, we haven’t gone through what these people did together, and they have a bond we won’t ever share, but they went out of their way to make us feel welcome anyway.
So there it is. Sorry for anything too rambling or redundant–I’m typing this while jetlagged in one long stream of memory. But I wanted to get it out while it was still fresh, both to let you guys know how cool this con is (most of the things I did are things anyone can do there), and to remind myself with this entry, so I can look back on it.