This past weekend, I attended Imaginarium 2021, a small convention aimed at writers of all stripes. I met many writers and filmmakers, attended panels, shared some of my own writing advice, and played dress up.
I first learned about Imaginarium last year, through the award-winning Cassandra Morgan, who’s been my facebook friend since I joined The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. My virtual experience went well, and, as I may have mentioned before, I was excited about the prospect of attending a convention live again, and actually meeting people in person! So, when I got an email saying they still had panelist slots open, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.
Road Trip Out
After I signed up, I google mapped the trip and found out it was an 8.5 hour drive, without stops or traffic. My immediate response was to see if any of my fellow Northern Virginia writers wanted in. By the next day, Sako Tumi/Cass Voit was in.
I’ve known her for years, even before she joined the local writing community, and you might recognize her as a regular on my Lazy Sunday Afternoon Livestream, where we chat about writing and usually even fit in a few productivity sprints.
Yay! Someone friendly to keep me company on the road, take a few driving shifts, and a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.
The road trip started off with me sleep deprived. Because of limited hardware, I’d had two 5am-11am testing shifts at my dayjob, Wednesday and Thursday. I’d thought about napping before heading out, but was too wired. Sako showed, right on time, and we hit the road by 1:30pm.
We made excellent time, getting out of Northern Virginia long before rush hour hit — at least for a Thursday. My little red 4-cylinder 2012 Chevy Sonic struggled with some of the mountains, but she made it through West Virginia.
After the worst of the mountains, I turned to Sako, and declared that my little car deserved a name — for both getting us through the mountains and because she was already over 102,000 miles. Just then, we passed a literal sign for “Belle, West Virginia”. As I’d already packed my Belle gown for a costume contest, there was no question. My little red car now has a name.
We stopped for dinner just before Charleston. Going off of highway signs, we found our way through a ghost town to a Wendy’s. A very slow Wendy’s. A Wendy’s where the previous shift had walked off, and the current staff was struggling to catch up, while short-staffed, cause another coworker had left. After far longer than a fast food stop should take, we made it back to the highway.
After the mountains, as the sun was setting, interstate 64 crossed over into Kentucky. Later googling got us pictures and a name, but all we saw was the glistening of a steampunk city, straight out of a book. [The Catlettsburg Refinery].
As we entered the homestretch, (or, destination-stretch, really), the skies opened up, and the gods themselves went to war with each other. Lightening crossed the sky, drivers turned on their blinkers and slowed way down, and I had a moment of thanks that the weather waited for this flat, clear stretch, with wide lanes and decent lighting. Otherwise, I would have wanted to pull over and wait out the storm, and there had been many places in West Virginia where that wasn’t even an option.
Just around 11:30pm, we arrived at the hotel, thankfully, on the nearside of Louisville. We were checked in and unloaded by midnight.
One more note on the “road trip there” part. The next morning, I ended up having to call the front desk for tech support for the SHOWER! Apparently, as some of you might know, but I didn’t, some bath-shower combos switch to shower mode by basically pulling the ring where the water comes out, where the aerator should go, down.
I looked for switches, pulled the spigot and dial every which way, and called in Sako for a sleepy morning sanity check. Luckily, the front desk was probably used to these calls. Never expected to need tech support for a shower.
The convention itself was nicely laid out. Panel rooms surrounded the atrium and lobby space, with a creators space in the atrium, and vendors filling the hall. Indie writers, small presses, and short film creators were all well represented.
The convention attendees were primarily the same as the vendors and panelists, so we all got to talk writing with people who knew what they were talking about, but it did lead to low attendance at some of the panel sessions.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I like to approach a writing convention as if it were my chance to so-called recertify as a writer — earning my credentials by hitting every panel I can.
For panels, I managed to attend: Taming the Squirrel, A Love Story, Writing Anthology, A Writer’s Two Worlds, and Writing/Illustrating Comics.
For workshops, I hit: How to Marathon-Write Like a Creative Boss and Meisner for Writing. (And I caught the end of Writing with Voice).
Plus, of course, the panels I was on. And the opening ceremonies.
Saturday night was the awards ceremony, with a dinner beforehand, featuring a lovely belly dancer and a standup comedian. Unfortunately, I arrived after seating, right when the food was to be served… which meant I ended up in the back, and couldn’t really hear much of the comedy. As we got close to 8, I slipped out a bit early to get into my costume for the masquerade contest.
With the convention being split between online and in person segments, the contest itself was quite small. One couple, as Death and his Lady, Sako as Lady Death, and me, wearing a favorite of mine. What true con-lover can resist a pretty dress that involves two puns for the price of one? I waltzed onto the dance floor as “Beauty and the Mark of the Beast”, otherwise known as “Hell’s Belle”, and then celebrated my win with the DJ blasting “Hell’s Bells”. Sako raked it in as second place.
My evenings were spent chatting with friends and making new friends. And the DJ kept the music hopping til midnight on Saturday.
Did I take pictures of any of these things? No. I was having too much fun!
I met some great people on Friday, at the Social Media Platforms panel with Moderator John Pyka, De De Cox, R.A. Muth, Rose Marie Machario, Les Murphy, Morgan Hazelwood, and, I think, Tommy B Smith. I even took a few of my own notes there.
My other two panels were online, so I’d packed my lighting umbrella, a curtain with a pair of fridge clips, my webcam, and a selfie stick, just in case. At 11:15am Saturday was Character Creation, moderated by Kathryn Sullivan, with C.L. Polk, Kellie Doherty, L.R. Braden, Dan R. Arman, and Jonathan Zarantonello.
Then, on Sunday at 11:15am again was Zoom Etiquette, moderated by Sallyanne Monti, with Kathryn Sullivan (again). It turns out, Kathryn Sullivan was one of the people I trained on Zoom for CoNZealand last year! So, that was a great way to establish my credentials.
I like to dress up, it is known.
I spent Friday in a purple, sleeveless ruched top, with white buttons for a steampunk vibe, and a watercolored, flowing, ankle-length skirt. Saturday was my green plaid, 1950s style dress, complete with crinoline — until I traded out for the ballgown. Sunday, with the long drive ahead of me, was a grey and black color blocked pencil skirt — in basically t-shirt material, and a black t-shirt telling people to ask about my book. And I wore masks to compliment them all.
I was one of the few who masked up. Most followed the state guidelines of not needing to mask if they were vaxxed. But? I wanted to avoid any regional bugs, and the Covid delta news was making me nervous.
The Trip Home
With a near-10 hour trip back, we packed up as soon as my 11:15am panel was done. But, of course, we wanted one last trip around the con to say goodbye to all the new people we’d met.
I was given a new joke, curtesy of a friend’s kid — when someone hands you their business card, ask if they want to see a card trick. When they say yes, or you go ahead anyway, hold out their business card and ask “is this your card.”? It was hilarious. (at least to me).
We were almost out the door when I remembered that I didn’t remember packing my comfy sandals. A quick stop at hotel registration, and a sweep through the room had us back to the car, sandals in tow. It was coming up on 1pm, so we hit Arby’s and found out just how much non-hotel food had been within walking distance the whole time. Then, highway!
I dialed into a DisCon III planning meeting, then dropped for our special roadtrip LIVE, livestreaming as I drove through the mountains of West Virginia. My occasional guest, Doc Coleman, had been asked and agreed, to be our homebase, making sure someone stayed on the stream, so it wouldn’t drop, no matter how bad our reception was. And it worked! We had a little fuzziness, and I’m thinking microphones next time, because my bluetooth car audio wasn’t the best, but we barely had a blip, except when I tried to leave the browser window, and it made me reload Streamyard everytime I reopened it.
We were almost through the mountains when we stopped for dinner. A much wider selection this time, and wary of how long Wendy’s had taken us, we hit a Chinese food buffet, and was fed and on our way in probably 20 minutes.
Making great time, I was home by 11pm, and sent Sako on her way.
Then? I went to sleep.
Overall? I would hit Imaginarium again, and I’d have Sako for a road trip companion. Thanks to Stephen Zimmer, Holly Phillippe, and the rest of the hardworking staff for making Imaginarium 2021 a hybrid convention success.
How was your weekend?