I'm back from StokerCon - the first writing convention I've ever attended – and I've been reflecting on my whirlwind of new experiences. I was summoned to StokerCon – the convention of the Horror Writers Association - when BABY TEETH was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Since that's where it all started, that's where I'll start here, too, with the Awards Gala.
|Playing w/ magnifying glasses w/ Jen @ the Gala|
To be perfectly honest, being in the bustling banquet hall with hundreds of chattering people was a very uncomfortable experience for me. I struggle with sensory overload. I like quiet. I like mellow. I'm a Highly Sensitive Person and to be in the midst of that kind of chaotic energy made me want to shut down (or flee to my room and lock the door). Thank goodness I was there with my friend Jen, as I don't know if I could've handled the weekend without the presence of a friend.
So anyway… I'm old & wise and though I've never been nominated for an award like this before, I knew not to go into it with expectations. I had not expected the nomination in the first place, and it continues to surprise me when BABY TEETH is on anyone's radar. The First Novel award was presented second-to-last in a line-up of sixteen awards, which meant it was a long night and a long wait. I got more and more nervous as the night went on, imagining myself going up to the podium and speaking in front of everyone. Again, it wasn't that I expected to win, but I felt the need for some mental rehearsal in case it happened.
It did not.
For two months I knew I was a nominee, and for two hours I waited for the winner's name to be announced. And in a flash someone else's name was called and I watched her give exuberant thanks while I clapped and tried to sort out my jumble of emotions. I had not expected to win, but the truth is I was very disappointed that my name wasn't called. This is the only debut novel I'll ever have, and I'm not in the running for any other awards. One of the things that really troubled me was not getting to publicly thank the people who'd been so instrumental in BABY TEETH's journey – and that's the primary reason why I decided to write this post. I can thank them here:
BABY TEETH would not be the book it is without the vision and support of my agent, Sarah Bedingfield. The day she sold BABY TEETH set a trajectory in motion that not only altered the course of my career, but the course of my daily existence. I live in a different city now, at a standard that was previously impossible while having only Federal Disability as a source of income, and my life revolves around my writing. It was a shocking turn of fortune, and I will forever be grateful for Sarah's crucial role in my midlife pivot.
I will also always be grateful to my dad, who was game to read pretty much every piece of crap I ever put in front of him. He is not one of those dads who offer empty praise and love everything, and he set the bar super high by using Stephen King as his reference point in recent years. I hate it when people blow smoke up my ass, and my dad helped me understand the difference between bullshit and genuine enthusiasm. I nearly burst into tears the day he referred to Stephen King as his "second-favorite writer," as I had become his first.
And I would not be here – here, as in a writer wanting to thank people – without the readers who have devoured my book. After I "lost" in my category it was readers, more than anyone, who made me feel like it didn't matter; their support of my novel wasn't diminished in any way, and every time someone says they can't wait for my next book I can feel my heart smile (cheesy, but true).
|With fellow nominee, Tony Tremblay|
(photo by Jennifer Green)
|After my panel (Photo by Jennifer Green)|
This trip to StokerCon in Grand Rapids, Michigan marked the first time I'd been on a plane in fifteen years, so my travels were their own kind of milestone. The long weekend away presented some difficulties: I didn't have the energy and stamina to fully participate in all that StokerCon had to offer, and I often wished I could "do more." Even with a daily afternoon nap, I only attended four classes – and that includes the one in which I was a panelist. There were many more I would have liked to attend, but I tried to prioritize my energy and time.
The Ice Cream Social and Mass Autograph Session on Friday had sounded like so much fun… The ice cream was delicious, but only about seven people dropped by my lonely signing table. They wanted to know if I had copies of BABY TEETH for sale – as most of the authors seemed to have copies of their book(s) on hand - but I have no way to sell copies on my own. I had hundreds of bookmarks with me, and bookplates I could sign, but not even all seven people wanted a bookplate. (Welcome to the awkward world of being an author.) Still, I got a little thrill when the co-author of "The Shape of Water" – Daniel Kraus - came by for an autograph, though, moron that I am, I didn't know who he was in that moment. Sigh… He even posted a pic on Instagram of my bookmark & signed bookplate and I was super chuffed, and it went a long way toward making up for my lonely Ice Cream Social. (Thank the goddesses Jen was there to chat with me during the entire ninety-minute event – seriously, a friend is the best remedy for stress & anxiety & loneliness!)
Another high point of the trip was meeting people I'd previously only "known" in an online capacity, or as a reader of their work. Alma Katsu ("The Hunger") was part of a terrific panel on doing effective research, and I later ran into her and was so glad we could chat for a moment. She is so nice and I have mad respect for her! I also got to meet one of BABY TEETH's very first beta readers, Kim Chance. Kim is a YA author ("Keeper") whom I first got to know in a PitchWars Facebook group back in 2015. She lived close enough to come meet us for dinner, and we dug deep into "writer talk" and enjoyed a great evening.
Unfortunately, there were quite a few people I intended/hoped to meet and we just didn't cross paths (likely because of my limited capacity to attend stuff). I'm hopeful I'll get another chance to meet some of these folks in the future – especially the ones who live in Pittsburgh! And this post wouldn't be complete without giving a shout-out to the Amway Grand Plaza – truly the nicest hotel I've ever been in! Jen and I liked it so much we're thinking of going back to explore more of Michigan. My room was absolutely fabulous, and every single employee was nice beyond anything I've encountered in the hospitality industry.
There you have it: a complex experience. I learned yet more about my own limitations (I guess it's better to know than not know), but I also learned many helpful things. I ate good food, met nice people, saw new places, and wore fancy shoes (burgundy velvet Doc Martens). Jen was about the best travel buddy I could've hoped for, and I hope we get to do it again. And finally, I did a Q&A for editor/publisher/writer Michael Bailey right before StokerCon and he posted it after we both got back. I guess there's some question about whether or not BABY TEETH is even a "horror" book and I was glad for the chance to address that: in short, the book scares readers, and that's good enough for me.