This past weekend, I was in Portsmouth, NH at one of my favorite writing conventions: Anthocon. Run by Tim Deal, JOhnny Morse, and Mark Wholley, Anthocon celebrates speculative writing, art, and gaming. It’s a wonderful con: small and welcoming, professional and fun.
Writing can be an isolating and lonely endeavor, often making you feel like this:
So conventions are important, allowing you to connect and reconnect with a number of fantastic people.
As usual, I was lucky enough to hang out with a lot of Borderlands Boot Camp friends, including Michael Bailey, Kelly Rumble, Olivia Monteleone, and Gard Goldsmith, as well as two of our instructors, F. Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone.
Being with the Boot Camp people is important to me, because if it weren’t for them, my writing would be the literary equivalent of this:
I was also able to spend more time with the lovely and talented Marianne Halbert, April Hawks, Diana Catt, Errick Nunnally, and Tony Tremblay, strengthening friendships old and new.
And I met a ton of other wonderful people. Too many to name. But if you ever get to attend this con, you will be surrounded by awesomeness.
As in years past, the con was well-organized, offering interesting panels and ample opportunities to hear readings.
One that stands out (probably in all our minds) is Tom Monteleone’s reading of “When I Was.” I have heard Tom read before, and he never fails to impress. It’s really more of a performance piece than a reading. He, literally, cannot sit still while he’s doing it, and his accents, his inflections, his pacing are spot on.
Tom is a terrific writer. I enjoy his stories a lot. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t miss his calling…
The highlight of the weekend for me was AnthoJam. AnthoJam is a Saturday night event, where the more musically-inclined members of the community grab their instruments and perform. A playlist is set months in advance. Then these talented people practice by themselves, rehearse together a scant few times on Friday, and give a kick-ass performance on Saturday.
Last year’s show was amazing. I loved listening to the band and watching them have fun.
This year’s AnthoJammers were JOhnny Morse, Thom Erb, Frank Michaels, TG Arsenault, Erich Bruning, Marianne Halbert, Danny Evarts, and Alex and Bobbi Scully.
The guys played a number of rock songs, including “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion and “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young.
Marianne did a great rendition of “Goodbye to You” by Michelle Branch and sang “Hallelujah” with Danny (reprising their awesome performance from last year).
Alex and Bobbi wrote their own lyrics to a classic Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings tune, calling it “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Writers.” It was totally hilarious.
And this year, I was able to perform a song.
A few months back, Tracie Orsi, a vivacious member of our community and my closest writing friend, passed away after a fast and furious battle with cancer. The guys at Anthocon wanted to do something to honor her.
I had heard her sing a song at a benefit in the fall. A duet. I thought it would be appropriate.
After hearing JOhnny sing last year, I knew what an awesome voice he had. So he was the first person I thought of to sing with me. And when I asked him, he did not hesitate to say yes.
I knew he’d be great. But me? I don’t usually sing in front of people, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
One thing was certain: I was nervous. Really nervous.
Fellow AnthoJammer, Frank Michaels (bassist) said, “Just have fun. No one cares if it’s perfect. If you’re scared and nervous, everyone else will feel scared and nervous. But if you’re having fun, everyone else will, too.”
This was sound advice, which I totally took to heart.
Another AnthoJammer, Marianne Halbert, said, “I need a glass of wine before we go up there. Want one?”
I took this to heart, too.
The tricky part about wine is, you want to have just enough to feel like this:
without having so much that you turn into this:
Fortunately, I had the just right amount and, with Johnny’s brilliant performance on guitar and vocals, I had a great time. And I was able to honor Tracie in a way I knew she’d love: through laughter and song.
(The first half is an intro about Tracie and the song. The actual singing begins around the halfway mark.)
One final note:
In the days following the convention, my Facebook feed was filled with pictures and comments about the con. Positivity and kindness were reflected in everything.
It might be easy to envision authors and artists of dark fiction as something like this:
After reading those posts, however, the reality is more like this:
To be surrounded by people who are not only talented, but also kind and compassionate, is a true blessing. I am lucky to be part of this community.
Thanks again to Mark, Tim, and JOhnny. I can’t wait for next year.