Thrown Chairs and Drowning Brownies




What a summer it's been! I'm going to talk about Imaginarium in a moment here, but I wanted to explain my absence on the blog for the last few weeks. 

The local school district voted to change the school calendar, so exams happen before the Christmas holiday instead of after. That meant losing a week of the summer vacation. This decision, although good, made us schedule our vacation earlier than normal. We went in early June.

When we got back, my computer decided to not charge the battery anymore. I'm hypervigilant about backups but knowing my computer could crash at any moment kind of ramps of the urgency. Meanwhile, I researched computers and, after a week of balancing everything, found a decent computer I could afford.

During this time, we learned my father-in-law was at end of life. That shifted our plans even more.

In the midst of all of this, I headed to Imaginarium in Louisville, Kentucky. This was my third year as a guest, and my first time with a vendor's table. I hadn't planned to do a table because this conference is so far away, and the workshops and panels are always helpful. My brother was going for the first time, and he convinced me to share a table. I figured we could tag team it, so I'd still be able to attend a few sessions outside of my own.

Unfortunately, my brother had a last-minute emergency that prevented him from attending, so I had the table and his books as well as my own.

This conference for creatives is so different from any of the others I attend. It's a cross between a conference supporting and teaching creatives (authors, artists, game designers, script writers, film makers, song writers, poets, cosplayers) and a science fiction fantasy con with cosplay and the speculative fiction things you see at a comic con kind of event. At its heart, it is a teaching conference where creators of all genres come to share and learn together.



Notice I said share first. People actually are interested in helping each other. This comes through in the panels and workshops, sure, but also just the general atmosphere. Plus, once you've been there for a year, you're family. I see the people of Imaginarium once a year because our paths don't cross in the other events I attend. I look forward to catching up with them beyond Facebook and Instagram.

My husband and I got there on Thursday night. I'm humbled at how supportive he is of my writing endeavors and appearances, especially this year. After spending over a week at his father's bedside, he was still willing to drive me the 7+ hours from the Dark Corner of South Carolina to Louisville. I tend to get sleepy on long drives, so it's not safe for me to undertake the long drive by myself.

Upon arrival, I immediately spotted Holly Phillippe, Co-Director of this amazing event. She gave me a huge hug, and we tried to catch up for a moment before letting her go on her way to continue the never-ending work of running a large conference.

That night, I found my table location (first priority), then visited with others who'd arrived on Thursday. It's amazing to me how easy people at Imaginarium are to talk to. I spotted Brian who has stayed in touch since the first workshop I taught three years ago, and visited with him, his wife, and his friends. Although new to me, his friends took me right in and chatted with me like we'd known each other for years. After his friend, Michael, learned I drink hot tea instead of coffee in the morning, he brought me his favorite brand of tea, Harney & Sons, on Saturday morning. Michael warned me I'd be hooked, and he wasn't wrong. The blend he gave me, Victorian London Fog, was delicious. I foresee ordering this in the future.

The next morning, I hurried downstairs to get my registration packet and set up my table. There was a momentary concern over where my brother's books ended up (he had shipped them to the hotel), but thanks to Holly's wonderful grandchildren, fondly called the Minions, they surfaced quickly. FYI, those kids are great! They stayed on the move, helping people the entire conference. They even remembered me from last year when I couldn't get the TV turned on for my workshop presentation. I'm tech savvy, but this TV challenged everyone. It took the youthful eyes and determined searching of these young men to find the on/off button.

I had great neighbors on either side of my table: Lisette Blythe, a new adult author and creative, and Amba Eileff, a phenomenal poet whose  poetry speaks to things we all know and experience. A special shout-out to Amba, whose book, Maiden, Mother, Crone, won the Imadjinn Best Poetry Collection Award this year! FYI, having good neighbors in a convention like this really makes a difference. When there's a lull, there's someone to talk with and share experiences. Also, they can keep an eye on things if you have to step away.

I had fewer workshops and panels this year. That worked out for the best because the traffic at my table rarely stopped. I love getting to meet people and chat about books and their interests. 

My first panel focused on newsletters. Although it didn't run along the discussion line I'd anticipated (that happens), it was quite informative. Even though I was on the panel, I took notes, and most of the other panelists (Sandy Lender, Morgan Hazelwood, John Palisano, Shannon McRoberts, Marilyn Barr) did the same thing. Each of us were at different points in our newsletter journeys, so it helped to hear from different perspectives.

On Saturday, I ran a workshop, The Pitch, Query, and Synopsis, Oh My! You never know how many people to plan for, so I made 15 handouts, but over 20 people showed up. People stepped up to share or scan copies, and it worked out. They had great questions and comments, and I walked away feeling like I'd helped a lot of people. I even had one attendee contact me pre-conference to say his panel occurred at the same time, and could I meet with him later and give him some notes. I said yes, of course. I love helping other creatives achieve their goals!

On Saturday afternoon, I ran a slush fest panel. I'd been concerned that no one would show up or have their first page printed for us to discuss, but we had a large crowd and more first pages than we could fit in the 90-minute panel. It was great, and my fellow panelists (Rob Smith, Marian Allen, Morgan Hazelwood, Kyle Hannah) gave phenomenal feedback.

You know your panels and workshops hit the right note when people follow you to your booth or come by later. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE helping other writers?

Kindness at this conference abounds. Carma, a dear friend, dragged me to one party where I got hugs all around from friends from previous years. I skipped the other parties, needing to rest. When you get a lot of creatives together, the conversation can go in odd directions. Add alcohol, and it really gets odd. One friend had imbibed way too much, but her conversation kept many entertained. At one point, she pronounced, "Did you know if you eat brownies, you can't drown?" 

She had our attention. We questioned her, and she swore she'd tried it. According to her, if you eat brownies and go in swimming, you won't drown because the water turns to Jello! Yep. That was her story, and she stuck with it.

I spent Sunday at my table, chatting with so many people. I met others who'd driven from South Carolina. I keep telling local writers about it and hoping more will attend, so this made me happy.

My conference weekend ended with an author reading. Afraid I'd miss my timeslot, I slipped away from the table early and settled in the reading room next to Stephen Zimmer, Director of Imaginarium. I shared this on social media, but in case you missed it, I wanted to address the rumor that I threw a chair during my reading. 

It's true.

The author reading before me, Tommy B. Smith, read from his horror story. He started by shouting the first line while grabbing a chair and tossing it across the stage. Ok. That worked; he had everyone's attention.

Thanks to my fibromyalgia and back issues, I eyed the chair, wondering how I'd navigate around it when my turn came next. It had landed at the top of the stairs to the stage. Tommy did move the chair, so I walked up on the stage, announcing, "I'm not going to throw a chair."

Everyone laughed, but then someone (I later learned it was Dwan Hearn) started chanting, "Throw the chair! Throw the chair!" The other people in the room picked up the chant. 

So I threw the chair. What can I say? Challenge accepted.

I must say my toss went as far as the much younger Tommy's, so I'm pretty proud of that. Remember how I said I only see these people once a year? That means, they still have a lot to learn about me. Turns out no one got a video of me throwing the chair because no one thought I'd do it. (At least I have photo proof!) Guess they learned a bit more about Barbara V. Evers, huh?

Overall, my trip to Imaginarium was filled with laughter, hugs, and lots of great people. Next year, you should register to attend! Who knows what I'll do next time!


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