I’ve attended StokerCon, the Horror Writers Association’s yearly convention, via my computer the last two years. This year it was in Pittsburgh, which is not a difficult trip for us at all. And because my dad’s family and my husband and his family are all from the area and I’ve spent a lot of time there, I’ve always felt like an honorary Pittsburgher. Basically, I had no excuse to not attend in person this time.
I have so many thoughts that I’m having trouble organizing them, which is why this recap took so long.
I got to catch up with old friends of mine from workshops. I got to meet people who I’d only ever talked to online. I attended several fun panels and a great Tarot class taught by E.V. Knight. I got to see the Final Frame short film festival in person for the first time, and it was a blast seeing those movies in a room full of horror fans.
And I got to hug the amazing Linda Addison (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Addison_(poet)), who really helped me out when Tidepool was published by featuring me in her Seer’s Table column in the HWA newsletter. Because of Linda, my book and my face were on the HWA site’s front page during all of August 2021, Tidepool’s release month. All because I happened to mention to her in a virtual StokerCon chatroom that my debut novel was coming out in a few months and I was freaking out.
I tend to be shy about approaching people who are already talking in a group. When I saw Gwendolyn Kiste, another author who helped me a lot in Tidepool’s debut year, chatting with people in the lobby, I hung back, figuring I could say hello later. Imagine my surprise when she came right over to me, greeted me, and congratulated me on the new novella. She is as sweet and gracious in person as she is online.
I’ve already fangirled Gabino Iglesias in this space and elsewhere, so I’ll say two things: 1. He is every bit as friendly and affable in person as he is online, and 2. Judging from the way the audience about blew the roof off the place when his novel The Devil Takes You Home won the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel, I’m far from the only person who thinks the world of him and his work. That was a great moment to see.
I saw quite a few people I wanted to approach but got shy about it. I’m trying to get better about that, but it’s a work in progress.
Oh, and I had my first in-person reading. I read a selection from The Shadow Dancers of Brixton Hill. The three people in the audience (including the other person reading in my time block) seemed to enjoy it. Oh well. It was still fun. Every author I know has a story like that, and now I do too.
A bit of panic ensued earlier in the year when Taylor Swift announced two concerts in Pittsburgh the same weekend as StokerCon and our official hotel immediately sold out of rooms. But you know what? The many Swifties staying in our hotel were delightful. They dressed in awesome, sparkly, glittery clothing and lent a very fun vibe to what was already a good time. There’s nothing like being around two big groups of people who are both really excited about something. And I could actually see Taylor’s concerts from my hotel window on Friday and Saturday; the stadium was wide open.
I don’t know yet if I’m going to make the 2024 StokerCon in San Diego, CA. I really, really, really, really, really, really despise flying and there’s no other realistic way for me to get there. We’ll see. But when it returns to the East Coast, I’m so there.
PS: The hotel was awash in Pittsburgh native son Andy Warhol imagery. Its restaurant/bar was called The Factory, a name I guessed was inspired by more than Pittsburgh’s industrial history. A big portrait of Warhol dominated one wall in the lobby. My room had a print of a Warhol quote: “I think everybody should like everybody…”
Well. My room was one of those places where everything looked nice but was just slightly off. Things were a little too high or too low. The hand sprayer in the shower didn’t work. The refrigerator kept things lukewarm at best. It took me ages to figure out how to work the infernal coffee-pod machine thing because I am An Old and prefer drip pots. When I finally sat down on Saturday morning with my hard-earned cup of coffee, I looked at that stupid print again and said “You know what, Andy? I don’t like your hotel room.”
Seconds later, the lid of my coffee cup popped off and I spilled hot coffee all over myself. It was like the ghost of Andy himself said Yeah? Well, I don’t like you either, bitch.