From Thursday to Sunday, Balticon and all its associated shenanigans took place at the Hunt Valley Inn north of Baltimore. With overweight luggage and plans for more than a few reading opportunities, I arrived on Thursday afternoon with plans to mingle with creatives who I only see once a year.
Thursday’s preview of Balticon gave me the opportunity for introductions and reintroductions. With my husband accompanying me to his first Balticon and his second full convention, we had lots of opportunities for introductions and short stories about podcasts and audiobooks. It was fun to watch him associate a name and face with a voice and project as we sat in the lobby and chatted with folks as they came in. We went to dinner with a large group of people and chattered about all things geeky, and returned to the hotel for more conversations outside with more of the podcaster ‘tribe.’ The convention seems to be marked by late-night exchanges of stories, and this year didn’t disappoint at all.
Friday marked the start of the convention, with more people arriving and the realization of a different dynamic with my husband with me. Having him travel with me kept me relaxed, and we spent a lot of time talking about the business of narration and voice acting while speaking with people and attending panels. Once we got badges and started to map out the weekend’s obligations, things began to fall into place and I enjoyed hearing people before actually seeing them.
My first panel on Friday provided the initial “who are these people and why the hell did I get scheduled with them” moments that always seem to happen when one is not simply an author. It was a little odd, sitting with other authors and having my SWC book sitting in front of me while they had their works displayed in front of them… and no, I hadn’t done that much before. I didn’t try to be overly self-depricating with my work because none of the other four people did. Best part? The most “established” author on the panel, CJ Henderson, spoke up when I mentioned The Ballad of Iron Percy by Edward Clark and said, “Now that’s a great title. Pandemona’s a good name, but that… that’s a GREAT title.” I grinned at that; Ed does come up with amazing titles.
The Balticon Meat and Greet was wonderful, and it provided me the opportunity to see people with whom I’ve often not spoken. I wore one of my work dresses, and the effect was very complimentary; several people whose fashion sense I admire mentioned that they liked the dress, and it was a pleasant way to start the conversation. Although there were a couple of awkward conversation moments and I got a rush of barbecue smoke in the face at more than one point during the night, but… worth it. Lots of watching and listening and just enjoying the podcaster tribe.
My reading happened that night, and I shared the time with two glorious authors who are delightful, witty, and charming. KT Bryski is very sweet and very savvy, and she read this lovely fantasy piece that wove itself through time and space with an elegance that I envy. Val Griswold-Ford is a multitalented wordsmith with extremely sharp wit, and she read the start of a ghost story that took the paranormal and smashed it up against CSI in a brilliant take on the standard investigation story. I read a scene from Book 4 that will likely have some folks a little upset.. but so worth it. LOVED it.
Dirty Mad Libs was a riot. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how my husband would react to it, but he laughed as loudly as anyone in the room and contributed as best as he could. I think he now realizes just how sick and twisted that crowd can be. And of course, the bar provided the chance to quick-quote a project at a professional rate, with Balticon being in full swing for barely a day. Brilliant.
Saturday brought only one prescribed panel, so I got to sit in panels and take notes about the technical side of narration and writing. We got up just in time for Jay Smith’s reading, and we hurried over to Panera afterwards for food and more coffee. The rest of the morning passed somewhat in a blur, but I confess that I had a dozen ideas running through my head and not enough time to get them down.
My Sunday schedule had me running through the con hotel from room to room and panel to panel; having my husband with me meant that he could get my Kindle if I left it in the room and remind me about things like tea. Being busy is a blessing; it means that I know where to direct my attentions and where to concentrate focus. Sunday’s panels had a common theme of validation and reassurance. I had the good fortune of a half-hour conversation with J. Daniel Sawyer that was part audio editing tips, part studio building tips, and part psychotherapy with respect to confidence and conviction. I got to meet with a genuine and empathetic individual who graciously shared his knowledge so that I can keep working toward improving my recording and editing abilities. I would have happily sat and listened to him for hours, but… well, let’s face it, he wrote a book and I bought it, and I should read it again.
I took notes throughout all of my panels today, and I managed to get a lot of really good information that I’ll be able to use in blog posts later on. There was a lot of learning, a lot of brainstorming, and I’ll definitely be able to use the information to grow and change and do better.
The HHM launch was awesome. The readings for Dirty Magick were wonderful; I’d love to contribute to one of the future anthologies. I loved being evil in the Metamor cast, and it was a delightful rush to be on panels and talk with folks whose work ethic I admire and enjoy. Just… Sunday reminded me that, at Balticon, I seek out people from whom I want to learn and improve. And… well, in conversations, more than one person commended me on my work ethic, which meant the world. I was humbled and pleased that of everything that would define me, my work ethic does that the most.
Monday brought a 9AM panel on the Magic Spreadsheet, a handful of hours after the defining conversation of the weekend. I thought the panel went very well, with commentary from everyone and my own coping mechanisms in place so that I could moderate without things completely falling apart. I recorded the panel so I could share the audio with my fellow panel members. After we finished the panel and I managed to say a few of the more necessary good-byes, it was time to pick up dragons and head to the airport.
All in all, the weekend went well. I pulled out one of the best acting moments of my life on Sunday during a dynamic voice acting panel, and smudged my mascara and cursed the moderator for giving me something to read that hit so precariously close to home. I played a villain in one of the most famous fullcast performances of Balticon, and I attended a launch party for a ‘cast where I was announced as the heroine for an old-time radio drama. And in the middle of all of that brilliance and professionalism, I had a reminder of the insecurity that I still harbor with regard to ability and appearance, and reinforcement that I’ve not reached a stopping point with the ability to grow and improve and change.
I learned SO much. I took away so many fantastic ideas to improve the different aspects of my craft. I left Balticon with marching orders for things to do and people to contact. I have a renewed spirit to return to old projects and finish Hollow and deliver it so that I can move on. And… I feel like I’ve arrived, like I’m on equal footing with so many people.
I love Balticon.