Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why WonderCon?

Yesterday, before leaving the office, I told the supervisor of the Invoicing Department that I would be out on Friday and Monday.
"Where are you going, Erick?"  The Invoicing Supervisor is somewhat nosey and always asks me what my plans are, even on the eve of normal weekends.  
"I'm going to Anaheim.  I'm attending WonderCon this year."  
"WonderCon?"  She screwed up her face and looked up at me.  For a moment I was in a Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon failed to get a ticket to go to Comic-Con in San Diego, and had to settle on WonderCon.  "Why are you doing that?  You don't go to WonderCon.  You go to Comic-Con and WorldCon.  Why are you going to WonderCon?" 
After getting over the minor surprise that she knew my routine all that well, I fumbled about for an answer for a bit and came up with, "Because...  I want to.  That's why."  
I grabbed my stuff and left work, driving straight to Anaheim and my hotel next to the convention center.  My colleague's question started a meandering sort of consideration in my brain.  What did I want to accomplish at WonderCon?  Why was I adding it to my routine of two conventions a year.  Just because I wanted the extra time off?  Just because I thought it would be fun?  Both were true, but both seemed to be rationalizations for something else.  
For the other conventions I go to, Comic-Con and WorldCon, I have had bigger reasons.  In the past, I went to Comic-Con to meet with the people publishing my comic books and to stay in touch with the other creators I knew.  With WorldCon it was to meet with people in science fiction field where I was spending most of my creative time in recent years.  I have noticed that Comic-Con has become more of a habit, and the excuse to go to places I've never been to before, like Yokohama, Japan and Sydney, Australia in the past and London this year, as well as see a growing number of WorldCon-going friends, have become stronger motivations.  Was WonderCon meant to make up for something?  
Here are the events that have defined the experience thus far.  
The Announcement Board.
This isn't a WonderCon associated thing, except that I wouldn't have seen it had I not come to the convention.  
In the lobby of my hotel, the day I arrived, I spotted this announcement board for a tour group that had been staying there: 

It's in Japanese.  It was dated that morning.  I stood there and tried to read it.  Morning Call for the group was at 6:30.  Breakfast was 7:00 to 8:15.  Everyone would gather right after breakfast at 8:15 (Have your Luggage!).  They would depart at 8:30.  Today was the day they would sort the luggage.  And absolutely...  Something I couldn't make out about their passports, wallets/purses and cell phones.  I assumed it was something about not forgetting these items, but I couldn't make out the kanji.  
I felt good, though, about being able to read that much.  I almost got through the whole thing.  On the off-chance I might run into one of them, I put on one of my kanji t-shirts, the one that read, "Samurai."  
I later released that the group was long gone, having departed at 8:30 that morning.  
What's Hot in YA Fiction?  
This was the first panel I went to at WonderCon.  A large panel of writers and at least one artist working in the field.  It was the panel that interested me most in the programing listing for the first day.  
One of the panelist talked about how she liked writing YA fiction more that regular adult fiction because one could, "lay out emotions straight.  Thick.  Be more reckless.  These are teenagers, right?"  Another author, Alyson Noel, author of a series called, The Immortals, talked about how she took the tragedies going on her life (five close family members dying within six months and her husband contracting leukemia) and poured it into her writing.  "I let my characters deal with that stuff.  I didn't want to."  Someone asked a question about all the love triangles that appear in YA, which got the response that love triangles need to be about choosing a life for oneself.  "Life with one will be different than life with the other, right?"  This made sense to me.  YA, the panel seemed to agree on, was about stories where the characters defined themselves.  
Defining oneself.  Huh.  A good thing to do, I suppose.  Something a teenager needs to do, for sure.  But a middle aged production manager?  Most of the audience were much older than the intended YA audience, so maybe self-definition is an issue for us all.  
The Art of the Pitch.
Not the panel I was expecting it to be.  It was a collection of people from the Disney/ABC Talent Development program, graduates and people that ran it, talking about their experiences.  They did give advice on pitching in general.  One should find the audience for the story; what in the story would appeal to people outside the genre.  You should take your life and truncate it into sentences.  Tailor the pitch to the person you're talking to.  Put your personal background into the pitch, especially if it entails conflict or even misery.  That's conflict.  Stories need conflict.  
You're not pitching a story.  You're pitching yourself as someone to work with.  That sounded like an important thing to remember.  One of the panelist, who started as a child actor, went into working on the set, then later came out as a director and writer told everyone something his mother told him when he was auditioning for roles as a child.  "They may not be looking for you.  But you are the only you there is, so if they ARE looking for you, you've got the job already."  
They took volunteers to pitch themselves.  First directors, then writers.  I squirmed a bit during this part.  I wanted to be one of the ones raising my hand to volunteer, but...  Everyone else was so much younger than I was and...  Ok...  I'll volunteer, I'll volunteer.  If only because I should.  I'll just write down something real quick here...  
That's when they asked for writers to raise their hands.  They picked half a dozen in three seconds.  I didn't have my hand up.  
The last thing the moderator of the panel said was, "No one remembers what you told them.  They remember how you made them feel."  Right at that point I was feeling a bit out of sorts.  
Comic Creator Connection
This was something I did last year, the one day I attended WonderCon in 2013.  It's speed dating for artists and writers.  The artists sit at a row of tables, with their portfolios laid out.  The writers sit before them.  For five minutes they talk about what they are looking for or what they have to offer.  There are usually many more artists than writers.  
Right before it started I realized I'd forgotten my business cards.  They are sitting on the TV table by the door in my apartment.  Stupid.  That was dumb.  I took a deep breath and tried to clear that out of my head.  I also remembered what they said in the panel I'd attended previously.  Pitch yourself.  I brought up screen shots of items I had published.  As I sat before each of them, I gave them a quick run down of what I'd done.  I then told them how each of my published comic book work resulted from an artist coming to me and asking me to develop a story idea they had, but which they couldn't write.  I was a perfect five for five for getting published after such a collaboration.  I then asked them if they had a story idea that they needed help on.  
A lot of the artists there were looking to sell their services to writers with concepts of their own.  They had not interest in collaboration.  One even told me, "I know I'm going to sound like a dick, but...  I think my stories are scripted just fine.  I mean, I took English in college.  I can write." 
At least he knew he sounded like a dick.  
But there were a couple of artists there who were looking to collaborate.  One guy had a small stack of CDs with his work on it.  Not enough to give to everyone.  He gave me one.  Another guy handed me his contact info even though we didn't talk together during the connection.  
After the panel and friend of mine going to the convention and I went to eat pizza together.  A pair of Japanese girls sat at the table next to us.  As we got up to leave, one of them waved toward us.  
I looked around to see if there was someone else's attention she was trying to get.  I looked back and pointed at myself.  She nodded and pointed at me.  "Samurai!"  
Right!  My t-shirt.  I'd forgotten about it.  I came up to them and said hello in Japanese.  They were from Osaka. They'd gone to Disneyland that day.  They'd enjoyed themselves.  
"What is that gathering for?" the girl that had waved to me asked.  
"Where all those cos-players are at?"
Oh, yeah.  That's a comic book convention, I told them.  WonderCon.  I'm going there, too.  
I said good-bye after that and wished them well.  I left the restaurant, feeling pretty accomplished, the way I usually do after having a conversation in Japanese that went smoothly.  
Accomplished.  Yeah.  That's it.  That's what I want to feel.  That is what brought me to WonderCon.  A desire to feel more accomplished in my writing.  
Now that I've figured that out, guess I need to do something about it. 


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