I blog approximately twice a year, and one post is always about NECon.
And my NECon posts follow the same, basic formula:
- Answer the question: What is NECon?
- Make fun of Connecticut traffic
- Talk about the panels
- Talk about the people
- Make more fun of CT traffic
- Marvel at the amount of alcohol consumed
- Squeeze in another CT joke, if possible
- Say Thank Yous
This was my seventh NECon, so it might be time to change it up a bit.
What is NECon?
(I did say, “a bit”)
NECon is the Northeastern Writers Convention held in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. It brings together writers, artists, and fans of horror and dark fiction.
It has panels and presentations and an awesome art show.
It has mini-golf; and a super nice cafeteria staff with super okay food; and humid guest rooms with lumpy beds but no one really cares because we’re all in the courtyard drinking, anyway.
It has yummy saugies; a hilarious roast that we can’t say too much about (except that this year’s roastee, Matt Bechtel, was excellent); and a game show that we love to hate but secretly love because it’s kinda fun to tease Doug Winter and Craig Shaw Gardner about it.
It has a wedding. Okay … not every year. In fact, this was the first in NECon’s 38-year history. We were blessed to watch Jim Moore and Cullie Seppala marry each other. Although I don’t know Cullie well, I know Jim and can say he deserves every happiness coming his way. And she seems to make him very happy.
It has a toastmaster. This year’s was Errick Nunnally. With his sharp blazer, cocktail making kit, and thoughtful toast, he was all class.
It has a Hawaiian shirt contest, author signings, and a Town Hall meeting at the end because the organizers are awesome and give a damn what the attendees think.
And it has people.
Some of the kindest, most passionate people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.
People like my roommate, Marianne Halbert. She’s genuine and smart and from Indiana – so she’s really nice and sweet … but not so nice and sweet that I can’t swear in front of her.
Or people like Mike Squatrito, who’s down-to-earth and funny and opens his home to us every Thursday night at NECon for some delicious concoction his brothers have made. This year, it was a clam boil. So quintessentially New England, I swear to god I became a Red Sox fan for half a second*.
Or people like Tony Tremblay, aka The Nicest Guy in Horror, who totally lives up to his nickname and makes even the shyest and most introverted among us feel welcome (and in a roomful of writers, that’s saying something). And he’s NECon’s unofficial photographer, so we’re all thankful for that.
Or Erik T. Johnson, who is wild and crazy and fun and scary smart, and I think his bones might be made of rubber.
Or Armand Rosamillia, whom I’d never met in person before. We had been in contact through Facebook when he was running the super cool program, Authors Supporting Our Troops, but that was it.
I have a story coming out in Tales from the Lake Vol. 5 (Crystal Lake), and the editor, Kenneth W. Cain, provided us with a list of interview and podcast opportunities, which included Armand’s podcast, Arm Cast. Since I recognized his name, I scheduled an interview for August. When I then saw his name on the NECon attendees list, I decided to introduce myself in hopes of making the interview a touch more comfortable.
When we met, he said, “I’ve got some time in about an hour. Wanna do it then?”
“Sure!” I said, trying to sound confident and positive, while actually feeling like this:
I went back to my room for some fast and furious prep, then found Armand.
Turns out, all that worrying was for nothing. As soon as I sat down with him, Armand put me completely at ease. And instead of feeling like an interview, it felt like a conversation with an old friend. Yes, it was business, but I also got a friendship out of the deal. (If you are so inclined, you can listen to the interview here. Prior to mine is an interview with fellow NECon attendee, Paul McNamee. It’s definitely worth your time.)
Then there are people like Michael Rowe, who is super smart and has one of the smoothest voices around (he was unable to join us last year, and I missed him. Being with him again was fun and comfortable and perfect); or Brian Kirk, whose positive energy is contagious; or John Harvey, who’s an all-around good guy and talented blacksmith; or Kristin Dearborn, who just … well … god, she’s just awesome.
Or, finally, people like F. Paul Wilson, Doug Winter, and Tom Monteleone, who are my generous and erudite Borderlands Bootcamp instructors and – I think I can say at this point – trusted friends.
Worth noting are also the Guests of Honor: Dana Cameron, Helen Marshall, and David Wellington.
I’ve met Dana at previous NECons, and she’s one of the good ones: deliciously funny, intelligent, and kind.
Helen Marshall and I were on a panel together, What Inspires A Great Short Story? with Christa Carmen, Nick Kaufmann, Toni L.P. Kelner, and Ed Kurtz. She was witty and engaging, and I loved how she articulated her thoughts on short stories.
And David Wellington was charming.
Errick Nunnally (he’s everywhere, this guy) interviewed them for the GOH panel. I try not to miss this one, as the panelists are usually interesting and always drop at least one pearl of wisdom on us. And this year was no exception. Errick asked them great questions which showcased their talent, intelligence, and self-deprecating humor. They were delightful.
And the pearl?
None of them explicitly said this. But Dana said** when she feels like she can’t or shouldn’t write a particular scene or genre, that’s when she’s most-likely to try it.
That hit home, and reminded me that the challenge is what keeps it interesting. The challenge is what makes us better.
Of course, there are other people – many other people – who are amazing and wonderful, and I’m sorry I don’t have the time or space to mention them all.
So … What is NECon?
NECon is many things, but it’s mostly the people.
Oh, Yeah. And Heaven. NECon is Also Heaven.
As I said, I’ve been to seven NECons so far, but this one felt a little different than the others. I’m always excited to attend, but that excitement is peppered with some stress and nerves, particularly with respect to time: I don’t want to arrive late; I don’t want to be late for the panels; I don’t want to miss a meal.
But I didn’t feel that this year. I arrived when I was supposed to, I cruised in and out of panels, and I definitely didn’t miss any meals. Everything seemed to fall into place.
I was blissfully content and relaxed. As such, I listened better, learned more, and reveled in the company of my peers.
I had an even better time than I usually do (and that’s saying something, as well).
The reason for this, however, eludes me. Perhaps it’s because this is my seventh time at the dance, and I’m finally comfortable with my partner. Perhaps it’s because I’m working on being more present and being a better listener.
Or perhaps it’s because of the extraordinary amount of Canadians who joined us this year, bringing that whole “nicest people on the planet” vibe to the party.
I don’t know that it matters. I’ll take bliss whenever I can get it.
Thank Yo—Oh My God, I Almost Forgot the Connecticut Joke!
Connecticut has so much traffic.
How much traffic does Connecticut have?
Connecticut has so much traffic, its state motto should be:
Sara Booth, Mary Booth, Dan Booth, Matt Bechtel, and many others (including Jack Haringa, whom we missed a ton) put together a magical convention. Ask anyone who’s been, and the smile that blossoms on his or her face will tell you all you need to know. Thank you, guys. As always, I can’t wait to do it again.
*Just kidding, Mom.
**These are probably not Dana’s exact words, and she may have even said them on another panel…