My First Con
A Newbies Tale
Are you thinking of coming to something like ELLCon 2018, and wondering what happens at these events? Does the idea of attending a Con on your own daunt you? Worry no more – I attended the Diva Literary Festival on my own, and wrote this article to highlight the highs and lows of flying solo at a Con.
So how did a Lesfic Con virgin survive her first outing into the lesfic world? I think I will be fangirling for the next twenty years! If I had to summarise the event in one word – awesome!
I only discovered lesfic a couple of years ago. Being a voracious reader has been a real bonus – it has helped me catch up to everyone else with my reading. When I saw the DIVA event advertised I knew I had to go, I was really curious. But my wife is very private and didn’t want to attend. It was a really big decision, but the thought of being surrounded by books and authors for a whole weekend was really exciting, and I kept wanting to be there. After some deliberation, my wife & I decided that I would go solo.
Early on I made the choice to stay at the venue, to reducing the worry of getting to and from the event. I also decided that I would not attend the evening events, because I didn’t have enough confidence to do that on my own. (please see the item at the end of the article on the EllCon Buddy Scheme).
On the day, I arrived at the Festival a little early, registered and got myself a coffee. This allowed me time to read the programme, and get my bearings. It was a really good decision, as it gave me time to ‘acclimatise’.
Then I saw Jen Silver in the distance, I recognised her from her blog. I have read all her books and to see her in the distance was the first of my ‘eek!’ moments. I later plucked up courage to speak to her, and felt as if all my words were trying to get out of my mouth at once. I only hoped that I wasn’t speaking too much garbage. It’s only after the event, I realised that I didn’t tell her that I had read all her books!
There were a number of panels/workshops/films running in parallel, and one of these was always much larger, catering for about 200 people. This had the panels miked up, and the audience asking questions via a microphone.
Once the welcome speeches were over I headed to my first panel, and suddenly had Andrea Bramhall, Wendy Hudson, AL Brooks and G Benson in front of me. More ‘eek!’ moments. It was an intimate panel, holding about 40 people and very informal. We were encouraged to ask questions if we wanted.
I attended one or two of the bigger panels, but mostly stuck to the smaller ones. There were a number of book stalls set up, and somewhere to buy food and drink, so I was really happy to just sit, or wander, between events.
In the morning, I attended panels with I Beacham, Helen Davis, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows. In the afternoon, I was able to hear readings from Cari Hunter, Michelle Grubb, Suzanne Egerton and Jenn Silver. Most of the panelists read excerpts, and discussed their books, and a variety of lesfic topics.
My biggest Eek! momement of the Con was when I spotted Harper Bliss and Her Mrs. I have listened to their podcasts for a long while, and plucked up enough courage to fangirl to them about it. But once again I didn’t mention a single one of Harper’s books that I had read!
There were a number of people, like me, on their own. We kept passing each other, and I tried to be very good and introduce myself. Everyone was very friendly, and I was comfortable being on my own at the panels and and while having coffee. I did find it difficult at the end of the first day, when I wanted to have a drink in the bar, and didn’t know anyone. Jen Silver and her wife came to my rescue.
There were also interview panels with Kiki Archer, Clare Lydon and Clare Ashton which I missed ☹, but I couldn’t attend everything! I know I am name dropping, but the authors were there and available to talk to. This gave me the opportunity to speak to Clare Lydon and Clare Ashton.
By the time I spoke to Clare Ashton I had even managed to get enough confidence to think of books to mention! I talked about After Mrs Hamilton and Poppy Jenkins and she was happy to share her thoughts with me. All the authors were wandering around the event, and looking at authors books, or sitting drinking coffee just as I was. They also signed copies of their own books for readers.
In summary, it was well worth attending and getting to both see and meet all those authors whose books I really enjoy. I loved my Eek! moments, even having a mouth full of rushing words coming out at all at once. It is invigorating for both authors and readers to find that passion and enthusiasm. If you get the chance you should do it!
I (Valden) am co-ordinating the ELLCon 2018 Buddy Scheme. If you have never been to a Con before, and are coming either as a couple, or alone and would like to have a light touch Buddy or two then please have a look at our buddy scheme announcement on the website. Please don’t let attending solo stop you – we will endeavour to make you feel very welcome at the Con.
A German adventure of meeting the Bold Strokes Family
When I first arrived on Saturday I was positively terrified, I’m pretty shy and an introvert; crowds make me very anxious. On top of this, I wasn’t quite sure my English skills were good enough to actually keep up with a conversation. (It’s different conversing using text, within the safety of your own computer screen – you can reread things and use a dictionary…).
Just through the door I met Brey Willows and Robyn Nyx, who immediately made me feel very welcome and they had no problem slowing down a little so I could keep up with all the information. Brey also asked me if I’d like to be introduced to Rad; “later” was the only response I could muster at that moment, my head was spinning and I was stunned speechless by the atmosphere in the room. Brey still took the time to introduce me to Amy Dunne, who very patiently talked to me about her book and let me find my bearings in my own time.
I also had never seen so many physical lesfic books before and I felt a need to explore the variety. For some strange reason, even with the internet and Amazon a click away, lesfic paperbacks are relatively hard to come by in Germany, and it usually involves a patient wait spanning weeks.
While working my way through the crowds at the book table Carsen Taite spotted me, and came over to say hello, she also introduced me to Radclyffe. Now I was standing in front of the person who had introduced me to lesbian fiction and who’s books meant the world to me, and all I could come up with was “it is a real pleasure to meet you”. The Midnight Hunt was my first ever lesfic book, I found it on audible at a point in time I was in a very bad place and felt very lonely, even though I was constantly surrounded by people – or maybe that book found me.
Over the two days I sat through informative, funny and light-hearted panel discussions and readings. I got to smile and laugh along with the rest of the room and was surprisingly able to even keep up with most of the jokes. I also got to meet so many warm-hearted people and had a chance to put a face to so many names I had seen on book covers before, but had never seen in person or in a photograph. Audiobooks and eBooks unfortunately come without a back-cover photo.
Also, I met authors I haven’t read before, like Nicole Disney or Mickey Brent to name only two, whose books now are on my to-be-read list, and are just waiting till I have a little bit of time, so I can cuddle up and get some reading done.
It was something of a small adventure to get my books signed. I only had two books I had brought from home, so I bought about ten books during the weekend. (My back keeps reminding me that next time I should consider a suitcase with wheels instead of my trusted backpack!). In the beginning, I was a bit terrified to go up to the authors and ask them to sign their book. I had about a dozen “what ifs” running through my head (probably a byproduct of working in the film industry and having a few questionable encounters along the way), but it turned out every single one of them was unfounded.
Everyone was really nice, some, it seems, were almost humbled that I wanted their autograph, and that I had enjoyed reading their work. Everyone was really patient with me, I have real trouble with spelling in English, even my own name. The reason is that there are letters in the English and German alphabet that sound the same but correspond to a different letter. Unfortunately, I have a few of them in my name and I never seem to get it right. Well, I just unearthed my drivers license, there it is all nicely printed out and after having very patient authors spell my name back to me numerous times over the weekend, I have it finally committed to memory.
The book signing had at least one fun side effect – Cari Hunter made a point of telling me that she likes German HARIBO. If you by any chance read this Cari, maybe you would like to let me know what kind, and maybe I can manage to bring some the next time I come over. To be sure, sooner or later I’ll be back!
During the weekend, I also had a chance to meet fellow readers and have many pleasant conversations. A big thank you to Susan, who sat in front of me on Saturday morning and made a point of turning around and introducing herself. For taking the time to repeat herself until I understood everything she said and made sure I didn’t get lost during the two days. I value the conversations we had and I hope we will stay connected!
We also had the fortune that some other lesfic authors were amongst the visitors. Amongst them was Jody Klaire, with Ferb and Em. We previously connected through a Ferb post on Facebook that she wrote in near perfect German and I couldn’t help but leave a lengthy comment under. It was great to meet you in person (Jody), it was great talking to you! Having a cuddle with Ferb was also great, he gifted me with enough fur that I took it all the way home with me. 😉
The after parties, both times, were a great way to finish out the day! Even though we were a little short on chairs the first evening and the loud music, for my taste, made it hard for me to have a conversation. Thanks Dena Blake for finding some barstools and sticking around to chat.
I also greatly enjoyed all the conversations I had on the second evening in the relaxed outdoors environment.
Apparently sometimes the universe gives you exactly what you need, when you need it. For me, it was the discovery of lesbian fiction two years ago, that should bring me all the way to Nottingham this past weekend and introduce me to a community so much bigger and richer then I could have ever imagined!
A whole hearted THANK YOU! to everyone who took their time and patience to talk to me, it was a real treat to meet each and every one of you and I will cherish those memories made for a long time to come. I’ll hopefully get to meet you again someday in the future!