Today, I’m heading off to Louisville, Kentucky with my friend Sako for Imaginarium 2021. I applied to be a panelist, was accepted, and was looking forward to attending writing panels, taking tons of notes instead of working a convention, and networking.
I’m going to be on one live panel and 2 virtual ones.
When I made the decision to attend Imaginarium 2021 last month, the numbers were looking good, I was fully vaxxed, and I live with no at-risk people.
With less than 3 days to change my mind, a new study came out showing that the Delta variant numbers are looking far more contagious and my Pfizer vaccine is perhaps not-so-fully protective (although, still mitigating the chance I’d need hospitalization). But, the new study isn’t definitive and I don’t want to back out, last minute.
Where does that leave me?
Masking and bringing hand sanitizer. Yeah, I was already planning on both of those things, but I was feeling lax. Maybe not masking 100% of the time. Rewearing the same mask all weekend. Hoping just to dodge a little con-crud — the sinus crud many convention attendees typically go home with.
I’m going to very, very careful.
Here’s to hoping that the panel room capacities are still limited, with plenty of space. I hope to be taking notes from live panels, and not holed up in my hotel room watching the virtual session. But, I’ll just have to see how safe I feel when I get there. Plus, I imagine I’ll be eating in my room, more than eating out.
Since the convention is hybrid, you might wonder why I’m making the trek all the way to Kentucky. It’s a 9 hour trip — before traffic and potty breaks.
The business reason? Networking!
The long version?
I’ve missed conventions. I’ve missed just attending and hanging out, rather than working behind the scenes. I’ve met many people working conventions, but it’s hard to have time to chat virtually to staffers, and it’s hard to get any sort of rapport with my fellow panelists on a 50 minute panel.
I love meeting new people and chatting about our mutual love of books (and/or writing).
I think I know my local speculative fiction crowd pretty well, since I’ve been attending the local con for years and then became a staffer. But, I’d love to broaden my network, and meet a lot of my virtual friends in-person, finally.
I’ve found virtual events scratch the itch, but they’re as fulfilling as junk food. While both types of conventions are ‘real’, I find the virtual ones just as exhausting as an in-person convention, but only a fraction as satisfying.
Partially because I find myself multitasking at virtual cons. Watching discord while half-listening to a panel. Cleaning my kitchen while half-listening to a panel. Wandering off to go change my laundry. An in-person convention forces you to be in the moment a lot better.
Thoughts on Being A Panelist
What does that mean? I’m the one giving the tips, not taking the notes (at least for 3 panels. And if a co-panelist has great advice, I’m still going to write stuff down).
While I knew that Imaginarium 2021 was hybrid, I was surprised, weeks after I got my schedule, when I realized that the virtual panels were not at the same time as the in-person panels of the same names. Now, if an event is “LIVE”, that’s a different story, but that means I’ve only got 1 in-person event.
So far, in my “being on panels” career, I’ve managed one in-person event, back in November of 2018. I spent 2019 traveling for work, but thought 2020 was going to be my year. And it was. Virtually.
I’m feeling pretty comfortable with virtual panels at this point, even if I’m driving 9+ hours for them. But, you know I’m still pretty excited for my second ever in-person panel.
In case you’re wondering how a… shall we say “pre-published” writer gets on panels, remember that I’m a firmly established blogger. Plus? I try to only volunteer for panels in which I feel at least moderately qualified. I’m not there to take seats from the pros.
My panels in question are:
Fri 3:45pm (In Person) Social Media Platforms
Sat 11:15am (VIRTUAL) Character Creation
I’ve created tons of characters — from my own writing, to tabletop and video gaming characters. Plus, I’ve got plenty of tips from the pros to share.
Sun 11:15am (VIRTUAL) Zoom Etiquette
In this wave of virtual conventions, I’ve been on a lot of zoom meetings. I’ve hosted zoom parties, watch events, panels, and even a zoom wedding. I’ve trained dozens of people how to use zoom. I’m feeling pretty confident I can help people with this one.
While the risks are higher than when I’d planned this trip, the benefits are still there, like an itch to be scratched. I’m going to up my safety precautions, but still hit the road. Wish me luck that the benefits are worth the risk, and that Covid avoids the convention.