by Pat L.
My first con as a con committee member was the second con I’ve attended. So what was similar or dissimilar between the first and the second con experience?
I was nervous and excited to attend, but for different reasons. The first con I knew no one ‘in person,’ only some names by online chatting and a few by episode chats. Being shy, this was a bit of a hurdle, but I leapt anyway, and was very happy I did. This time, my nervousness was from hoping everyone would have a good time and that everything would go well. I felt responsible that everyone would enjoy himself or herself, and I’m sure that was true for J’Ecris, the con chairperson, as well. I think it was a successful con, and I’m proud to have played a role in bringing it to fruition!
How did I get to be on the con committee after attending only one con? Simple! I suggested ideas to the next con chair. As the saying goes, ‘let no good deed go unpunished,’ um, wait I think I meant ‘be prepared to back up your ideas with action.’ Anyway, she asked, and I said yes. What followed was an eye-opener about what it takes to put on a con. I recommend it highly if you are ever sitting in your chair in the audience thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to put on a con in my city.’ A good con may make it look easy. But it’s like a duck in the water looking serene on top while his feet are paddling furiously underneath the surface of the water. Just know realistically what it will take before making that leap.
It takes a village to put on a con. There are the ‘virtual villagers,’ the planning committee who communicate across the internet exchanging ideas, making decisions, finding resources, soliciting preferences, creating games, proposing panels, identifying presenters, awaiting replies, counting costs, envisioning fun, fearing the worst, planning for the best, scheduling and re-scheduling, and let’s not forget, praying that everything turns out as hoped!
Then there is the ‘present village’ of helpers who magically appear before the con starts who help with anything and everything that needs doing. I noticed that J’Ecris pressed family members into service. Help arrives in many shapes and sizes!
We looked at four major areas of consideration: crafts, games, panels, and ‘traditional’ activities. We asked for input from those who had registered. Let me make a plea on behalf of the next committee: if asked about preferences, please respond! We truly wanted to shape the con around what would please the most attendees. Within the committee, we each had our own preferences, and it often resembled the fable of the blind men describing an elephant by what part of the elephant their hands touched first. I tried to guard against bias through my own personal preferences, but in a situation of little feedback, it is easiest to fall back on what you like! But I think we had a pretty fair balance by the time the con was to start.
Because I am so new to fandom and cons, I admit that I like to hear from celebrities. I had heard they were not easy to get. Now I understand what they meant! One of my jobs on the committee was to draft a letter to the celebrities we were trying to get. These letters are never easy. First, and most important, the letter must compel them to read it! Second, the letter must convey, in the classiest way possible, that expenses would be paid but nothing above that. And as an alternative, we offered to Skype an interview with them if the celebrity could not attend in person.
We had our eye on four celebrities. For a while, we thought we might actually end up with four celebrities. However, one by one, the possibilities dropped out. We were certain of David Greenlee (Mouse) until the last few months before the con, his health became an issue. But he came through on Skype, so we were able to talk with him live at the con. We made sure that every new con attendee got to chat a few minutes with him, and then he took questions. I do think that Skyping may be a way in the future to extend our reach to celebrities who might be reluctant to come in person, but who might decide spending an hour on-line in the comfort of their home might not be that great a sacrifice!
One celebrity interview we had hoped to show was with Roy Dotrice. I had been talking with Roy throughout the year, trying to find a time to get together with him and record an interview. Unfortunately, we were unable to pull that off. However, he did speak to the con by phone in a surprise call, and we were all able to share our love with him and tell him we missed him!
Another major job I had was creating games (one of those ideas I gave!). So I worked on Wheel of Fortune (I even made a spinning wheel for the contestants!), Password, Pyramid, and Trivia Pursuit. We also had Family Feud and Jeopardy to round out the roster.
One of the parts of the con I got to emcee was the talent show! I even participated myself. I had to think of something I could do that wouldn’t send folks screaming for the door, so I read a very short story that was suggestive – until you got to the end! I read it ‘Victor Borge’ style, with spoken punctuation. JoAnn Baca was kind enough to provide the story, and while I was not perfect, I think it went okay! We had a pirate poem, complete with a bevy of pirates, which was spoken by Skippy. Laura, myself, Michelle, and Skippy re-enacted Sibling Ribaldry which Laura wrote as a fanfic. WinterRose read her poem, The Raccoon. Michelle sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserable. Kari sang Defying Gravity from Wicked, and Suze sang Let It Go from Frozen. CB sang a song from a Stephen Sondheim show. Father’s Fairies showed up (Judy and Karen). And the CHSBB dedicated their performance, CHSBB Salutes an American Classic, to Marilyn Howard.
I made something for the con bag this year. I found red and crystal roses that I ‘planted’ into a small dessert glass (or shot glass for those more liquid oriented!). These roses were originally a Valentines item, so by the time I stumbled upon them, there were not many left. So I drove all over buying everyone I could find, and Donna B even covered her territory for me. The hard part was shaving the green potting foam to fit the glass. I had flakes of this stuff floating all over my living room! Sandy T generously gave her permission to use a picture of hers, on which the back was printed a sweet poem from Vincent, so the effect was a gift from Vincent to Catherine.
I also got crafty (me, crafty! Imagine that!) and did a stained glass version of Vincent’s window in window color and another of the word ‘love’ with C and V superimposed on the ‘o’ and ‘v’ of love. I made several to sell at the dealer’s room to contribute to the charity. Who knew what talents I would develop through fandom!
The hotel was fabulous, and the staff was so kind and helpful. We caught the event manager and some of her crew taking ‘selfies’ with Bubba as we were packing up! They loved us!
The add-ons for the con were super. Caves and caverns were interesting, and learning about the criminal history of St. Paul with a gangster guide (Baby-faced Nelson!) was a stitch!
We even managed to squeeze in two Beauty and the Beast movies – the recent French film and the Cocteau classic!
We danced to folk music at the banquet! We did this ‘snake’ dance where we were going in all sorts of directions, and it was the neatest thing to do and watch at the same time! And the music was so pleasant to listen to during dinner without interfering with conversation.
Lots of laughter, many hugs later, the con ended. Not without the circle, of course. And here we also added our own touch. J’Ecris mentioned that Roy Dotrice had commented that it felt strange reading about winter when it was July, and that we ought to write new words. So that’s what we did! I hope everyone liked them and found them a fitting replacement.
So what was different about my second con from the first? Obviously, I was much more involved. Many of the things I did, such as the talent show and the stained glass items, I would have done without the committee. And I would encourage all the newbies who plan on coming to Calgary next year to see if you can find a talent for the show, and one for the Dealer’s Room! The more you participate, the more fun you have, and the more connected you feel to the group and to the charity the con supports. As far as being on the committee, it was a pleasure to serve J’Ecris and work with the other committee members, and I can’t help but feel proud of what we accomplished.
Pat wrote her con report as
a first timer last year: