My First Time

No, no, not THAT first time.

This isn’t that sort of blog.

I recently spoke at a science fiction convention for the first time. It was a very small, cozy convention, and I was working both as staff and a pro. And by pro, I mean that very loosely.

I have yet to be paid for my writing, but I have been pursuing writing quit seriously for some time. Of course, it’s my own fault that I have yet to be paid, but I think there’s nothing wrong with working steadily to improve my craft before sending out stuff obsessively.

In this post, I plan to cover the good, the bad and the best things that happened to me at this convention. Before I get any further, I must plug the convention, Rustycon. It is likely the only convention I will speak at for, for the time being. I don’t intend to apply to be a pro at any others. While I thoroughly enjoy writing, am involved in the community and take my writing quite seriously, until I sell my work consistently, applying the title of pro doesn’t seem appropriate.

I was put on staff at this convention because of who I knew through Cascade Writers, a writers’ organization I’ve been involved in for about a year. I have a kiddo, enjoy doing crafts, and work with kids through my son’s cub scout group. So I got placed on the Family Track.

Paper beads, a craft I did for the convention. I’m so addicted to making them now, I keep asking my friends to make them with me. They may be beginning to think I’m a little nuts. Which… is probably true. 

For those who don’t about conventions, this means as part of the programming team for the convention, I handled the kid and family oriented panels, discussions and workshops. I set up four craft workshops for kids, and a few panels about raising kids in the geek/fandom community. Some of the topics were gaming and bullying. All the family oriented panels were lightly attended, but seem to have been well received.

I had my friend Larissa, a librarian, come and do story-time with her puppet, Orville. She was wonderful, enthusiastic and a great help. She’ll be taking over next year, which is awesome because while I am happy to help and working with kids is something I enjoy, being IN CHARGE ramps up my anxiety big time.

Larissa Castagno Estes Hammond

Larissa Castagno Estes Hammond, the fabulous librarian with mad story-time skills, and her buddy Orville. Find her on her website:


I have control issues, so while I handled making Jellyfish in a bottle, I had wanted to let the kids paint, and had brought nail polish for coating our paper beads. I couldn’t handle the thought of doing either once it actually came time. Paint and children was just beyond my coping skills. We had fun, though, and the kids seemed pretty darned happy working on the projects. So it was worth it.

I was also put on a couple of panels on which I was actually a speaker. These panels were: “Writing Mental Illness in Characters”, “Sucker Punch: Sexist Drivel or Most Feminist Film of Our Time?” and “YA Fiction and the Adults Who Enjoy Them”.

The first one was horribly intimidating and I was outclassed by far in experience by my fellow panelists. I was terribly nervous, considering it was my very first panel, and it was pretty well attended. I got maybe five lines out. I’m a little afraid I came off hostile.

My next panels were the next day. I had a couple Family Track panels, which were nice and casual. During our board gaming family panel, we actually played a card game. It was a lot of fun.

Six o’clock rolled around and it was time for my “Sucker Punch” panel. One of my friends helped talked me through it, giving some excellent suggestions and thoughts, so by the time it was time to speak, I was pretty relaxed. Only one panelist and I showed up, and we spoke to an audience of about four. It was a really enjoyable discussion and I felt like my opinion was well received. It was worth the research I put into it.

sucker-punch-poster-banner-hi-res-600x200 (1)

Sucker Punch, a dang good, and in my opinion, feminist movie.

My final panel was about YA fiction, which I am pretty passionate. I was, again, out classed by my fellow panelists. But I was moderator, which made it so much easier. I was asking the questions and able to direct the focus off myself. We had a decent sized audience and I think I fell into my grove by then.

By the end of the convention, I really felt like I could handle moderating and speaking on panels, as long as they’re topics I feel like I can handle and have a good amount of experience in.

But the best part? The people. Everyone was so wonderfully kind, understanding and fun! I felt like I made some great connections and new friends. There was such an air of respect for one another, that people at this event cared about each other, the community and learning for the sake of learning.

Every time I participate in these sorts of events, my fondness for the writing community and the Pacific Northwest grows. True, there are a few people who rub me the wrong way and a few others I don’t know if I’d trust, but by and large, it’s an inclusive, kind and caring community.

As far as conventions go, I highly recommend Rustycon for that aspect. It felt like family, it felt like coming home, and I felt appreciated and respected even though I was the noob.

Rustycon: A science Fiction & Fantasy Convnetion.  January 15-17, 2016

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