Friday, April 27, 2018

JordanCon 10 Recap Post

It’s that time of year again, the one where I force my sleep-deprived, whisky-soaked brain through the equivalent of mental olympics and parse together a post to recap the best little literary convention that ever was.

JordanCon. Home.

“Welcome home,” said the video from the Opening Ceremonies, with succinct perfection. In less than seven minutes that video commemorated the ten years the convention has run, and the author whose series brought us all together: Robert Jordan, AKA Jim Rigney Jr, and his brain child the Wheel of Time. Let me tell you, I’m rather pleased I was waiting my Opening Ceremonies cue and didn’t watch until the video was posted on the JordanCon YouTube channel because holy crappit, pass the tissues. Whew!

For the unfamiliar: JordanCon is a sleepless bender literary convention that is held in Atlanta every April. I’ve attended all but the first two years, and it gets bigger and better every turning of the Wheel.

This year’s Author Guest of Honour was none other than my bestie, Jason Denzel, who was also celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dragonmount, a nerdy little website he created back in the day.

The Artist Guest of Honour was the impeccably talented Stephanie Law, and I am oh so delighted to have an original of her work gracing my collection.

Clockwise from top left: Moiraine wins Best In Show; author guest Brandon Sanderson with Artist Guest of Honour Stephanie Law; dedicated Art Show volunteers working tirelessly; Author Guest of Honour Jason Denzel and myself.

Naturally, it’s difficult to pick my favourite moments from that whirlwind weekend, and half are going to sound like inside jokes (apologies!):

Opening Ceremonies I: Everything I could see from the back of the room was both hilarious and heartwarming. One of my favourite moments was when Con Chair, Jennifer Liang, and Co-Chair, Jimmy Liang, were honoured for creating JordanCon, including being presented with epic replica objects of power, the Choden Kal, thanks to the machinations of Asha’man Phillip Edwards. (Thank you again for organizing that, Phillip!)

Opening Ceremonies II: I played Min to Paul Bielaczyc’s Rand, wearing my drunky pants. Our job was to announce details about the hotdog Art Show and Dealer Hall. I blabbed it to pretty much everyone, but I chugged about half a 26er* of whisky to steady my nerves before the Opening Ceremonies, even though I didn’t have a speaking bit. This is not an exaggeration. Anxiety is a bitch, and yes, I am an introvert. FYI: if I smell like maple at JordanCon, it’s the whisky, not the Canadian genes, haha!

Clockwise from top left: Playing Min Farshaw to Paul Bielaczyc's Rand al'Thor; stealing Jason Denzel's friends at Speed Friending; doing shots during the costume contest with Seth Lockhart; Jeff Bernard and Melissa Word representing the JordanCon Charity Auction.

Speed Friending: Always a favourite of mine, Speed Friending is plugged as a place for first timers to meet people quickly (duh). It’s loud, but I love it, and try to attend every year to help bridge that gap between JordanCon veterans and new attendees--and usually in costume, because it’s a visual ice breaker. This year I brought Clementine, my baby Trolloc, and pretty much made everyone I interacted with hold her for a photo from that point onward, possibly to their dismay. Perfection. Creepy, creepy perfection.

JordanCon attendees with Clementine the Trolloc baby. Pictured here: April Butler and Vanessa Dial; Cooper Blackwood; Seth Ralston; Phillip Schultz; Ebony Adomanis; and JordanCon Co-Chair Jimmy Liang.
Friday dinner: usually I partake of the Rereader dinner (I missed you guys!), but due to new food restrictions for the ease of everyone involved I opted to head to dinner with my similarly-food-restricted friend Kelcey Casson. After the whisky before Opening Ceremonies, and the three drinks I chugged at Speed Friending I was feeling pretty good (Serenla makes a mean Old Fashioned, guys, and I barely slowed down to taste it--still worth it! And our resident Jello-shooter gourmand Perry Minchew tossed me two Jello shots--literally, they landed on my cleavage and Clementine’s head, haha!). Of course, cue Kelcey saying we’re being joined by our Artist Guest of Honour, Stephanie Law, and allllll that alcohol finally hitting me. She was incredibly gracious and didn’t seem to mind my giddy company. I tried not to be obnoxious. (Not very hard, but I tried. haha)

Costume Contest: OMG, you guys, the costumes. We really went all out this year, folks. Kudos to all who entered the contest, and you all amaze me with your creativity every year! Ava Cash and her Asmodean, complete with instrumental performance! Rosemary Williams had hidden weapons and a quick-release skirt to her dress! Sophie Coleman of Ta’veren Tees had FUNCTIONING WINGS on her Draghkar! WINGS! WINGS THAT MOVE! Gah. I can’t possibly describe them all, in part because I was in a jittery haze myself, but that’s what pics are for!

Clockwise from top left: Joe O'Hara (of TWoTcast) as Mat with a pair of badgers; Ava Cash as Asmodean; Rachel Little and Brandyn Butler; Richard Blaylock, Elizabeth Rawitsch, and Linda Taglieri cosplaying as Team Jordan's Alan and Amy Romanczuk and Maria Livington Simons.

Clockwise from top left: Rosemary Williams and hidden weaponry; Serafina Virciglio and Christina Catherine as Seanchan High Blood; Molly Weiss as Rey and BB8; Sophie Coleman as a Draghkar.

Best In Show: Since this was JordanCon’s 10th anniversary, I really wanted to go big, and I knew the structure of the contest had changed. Instead of all contestants competing against each other, we were tiered into groups based on previous awards. If you have never won a costuming award you are a Novice; if you had won once you are a Journeyman; if you had two or more awards under your belt you are considered a Master (cue my insufferable adorable bragging to Mr Lannis that he’s married to a Master Costumer, and his chuckled reply that I could brag when that pays bills. haha). The tiers allow more awards to be granted, and it’s less intimidating for Novices to compete against those of us who have been doing so for years--basically more fun for everyone all around. Kudos to JordanCon Director, Susan Martin, who runs the contest, because they worked terribly hard to structure it in a way to maximize all participants’ enjoyment. As a costumer with a competitive streak, I knew I needed something flashy if I wanted to snag the inaugural Best In Show award. I’m planning on piecing together a post about the build process for those who have expressed interest. The Reader’s Digest version: it’s a live depiction of Ariel Burgess’ Moiraine, which denotes Moiraine’s character arc through the series including accoutrements symbolizing important moments along the way. I’ve always wanted to do a Moiraine costume, and Ariel’s artwork was exactly what I needed for it to stand out. Thank you, Ariel, for graciously granting me permission, it was all worth it!

Left: Ariel Burgess' Moiraine; Right: the costume version of art.

Tiaras: Wearing my tiara proudly--a newer JordanCon tradition that is sure to continue, because WE SHOULD ALL BE WEARING TIARAS ALL THE TIME.

WoT-Geekery: Making my two Warders kiss my cheeks before departing my presence--they’re neither of them blademasters, and they’re hella disobedient, but I think this means I’ve managed to get them started on the track of listening. Maybe. Haha! In truth, they’ve definitely pulled my ass out of the fire a time or two** and have earned their bestie titles proudly (and Mr Lannis is thankful, because it means he’s no longer inundated with exhaustive verbal diarrhea when he gets home, haha).

Introvert Dinner: An impromptu date, my friend (and JordanCon 10 Toastmaster!) Aubree Pham and I decided to grab dinner together at the hotel restaurant on Saturday night after the costume contest. It was a lovely break for the two of us introverts, a moment to breathe and decompress--and eat vegetables!--and amid the rush and bustle of JCon, it takes moments like these to ensure you get a chance to see some of your busiest friends. Introvert dinners for all!

The Nine Horse Hitch: Once again I assisted Chip Moore running the Nine Horse Hitch room party. We really are one of the best kept secrets of JordanCon, even if I do say so myself, and tell everyone I know, ha! The Dancing Tinker shooters were a hit, as were the Girl Scout Cookie and bourbon pairings. Nothing makes Chip and I happier than having the Nine Horse chock full of rowdy revelry, and I think we succeeded again this year.

Shenanigans at the Nine Horse Hitch! Top left: with Chip Moore; bottom right: with April Moore, the other half of my Hive Mind.

JordanCon's Art Show: I know I’m biased, but it gets better and better! So much of that is due to our dedicated group of volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes all. goddamn. year. folks! And our artists, who have helped us cultivate that inclusive, fun-loving vibe and helped us brainstorm and present some of the best Art Track programming that could ever exist. There are too many participating artists to name them all, but I am coveting all of my art treasures from this year.

Dealer Hall moments: Meeting new dealers, and artists who have submitted to the Art Show and also bought a table to be even more involved in JordanCon than they were previously, and hearing positive feedback from them about all our work. One of my favourite moments, though, was watching my two Magic: The Gathering playing friends nerd out with Charles Urbach, the artist who illustrated several cards, and Charles equally nerding out in return. Approachability is a big part of what makes JordanCon grand, and it makes my heart happy to see people enjoying new connections.

Elevator Selfie Parties: Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, and one of my favourite things to do at JordanCon, even though I'm fairly certain it scares the crap out of people. Bonus: the elevator at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia was ridiculously fast, so I'd walk in, the doors would close, I'd demand a group elevator selfie, and then waltz out when the doors opened. I'm scary friendly like that, and the results are almost always hysterical--even when it's a solo party.

Crowd in! Elevator Selfie Parties are the best!

Awkward formal pics: Friday we had Star Wars theme decor in the Nine Horse Hitch, and of course it was still on the walls come Saturday (because ain't nobody got time for redecorating at Jcon). For a portion of Saturday I was working the Nine Horse's door and camped nearby, thus the droid-backdrop awkward formal pics became a thing. I love all you weirdos for playing along!

Awkward formal pics.

Dance Party: The convention theme revolved around the Seanchan Return, so a Homecoming theme was apt. So this year, Saturday night’s (in)famous dance party involved tiaras and ball gowns, tuxedos, tuxedo shirts and mostly-naked horse headed persons dancing (wait, that wasn’t at your Homecoming formal? Crap. We must have gotten our lines crossed somewhere…)

There’s more, there’s always, always more.

The thing about a recap post is that no one attendee can summarize the convention. We can only summarize our own experiences, so apologies if I’ve missed something you feel is integral, or if you were there and we never managed to say hello--I do try to say hi to everyone, but at a record-breaking 852 attendees in 2018, it makes it a little tricky.

Recently, in the JordanCon Facebook group, the challenge was posed to imagine your life without JordanCon. After eight years of shenanigans with my tribe, I’m not being a sap (shut up, Ross), when I say that concept momentarily rocked me, panic flashing lightning-like through my core. My best and closest friends are in the ranks of JordanCon attendees. This group, this family, has affected me with such magnitude that I cannot put the value into words. I am who I am because of this group of nerds. I have leaned on them, and been leaned on in turn. I have connected, and cried, and laughed, and loved, and celebrated with these people.

In many ways my heart is whole because of them.

Without JordanCon, I would be lost.

This convention has an infectious sense of community, one I do my best to perpetuate. I laugh about connecting to the first timers, that I have a list for my newbie hunt, but the truth is I want everyone to be welcomed by the same positivity and sense of family as I was years ago.

Because JordanCon is home. For all of us.

Welcome home.

*That's Canadian for a 750ml bottle of booze.

**No joke, my Warders are hella useful. Case in point, this post: Ross Newberry saved my butt after I inadvertently discovered a Blogger formatting bug. Thank you, Ross! Now give me a kiss! [taps cheek] ;)