Hey readers! Kate here! We’re shaking things up with the Monday blog post, as I was
presented with a rather unique opportunity this past weekend. Serena and I are based in Minnesota, as you all know, and the Second Annual NerdCon: Stories, occurred on Friday and Saturday in Minneapolis. Though Serena was unable to attend with me, as she was out of town, I went with our dear friend Alicia, a fellow librarian and former classmate of ours. So I thought that I would write about this convention and what Alicia and I did while we were there.
So what is NerdCon: Stories you may ask. John and Hank Green, two brothers (one of whom is an author, known for “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault In Our Stars”, and both of whom run a podcast together) founded a convention based on the idea of storytelling. It gathers for two days and brings in authors, musicians, poets, and many other people from many walks of life to talk about the importance of storytelling. It was held in the Minneapolis Convention center, spread out across many rooms and event spaces. I will be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Alicia sent me her schedule asking if I’d put mine together, and I responded with ‘Uhhhh….?’ Content to just follow Alicia around, I let her take the wheel and let myself just float from place to place, taking it all in.
One of the most prominent events of this convention was a large amount of panels. Many of them were about storytelling, though there were also panels where authors took the wheel, or panels about librarianship, or panels about different kinds of storytelling. I attended a few, and the ones that stood out for me were “Storytelling in Table Top Gaming”, and the two randomly generated panels “Lightning” and “Wild Cards”, where the audience came up with topics for various authors to speak on. As someone who just likes hearing authors talk about many different random things, I enjoyed hearing the likes of Paolo Bacigalupi, Patrick Rothfuss, Wesley Chu, and Mikki Kendall talk about foods they like, Halloween costumes, and childhood stories. But then in “Storytelling in Table Top Gaming” we had various gamers and storytellers (including John Darnielle, author of one of my fave books of last year “Wolf in White Van”) talking about how D&D and other role playing games can also tell stories, which is something that some may not think about. I’m a huge tabletop game fan, so this was my favorite panel of the convention.
There were also various opportunities to have social and networking moments. Alicia and I attended a library and librarian meet up group, where we ended up talking about different aspects of librarianship and what we do in our libraries. At the end of this group meet we were exchanging contact info with other librarians, connections that we may use in the future, or maybe not. But even if we don’t it was a rewarding little meet up group. Along with networking, we did have opportunities to meet different authors who attended the convention, and get them to sign their books. As an avid book lover and someone who has been collecting autographs since ALA 2014, this opportunity was an exciting one! I asked Cindy Pon to sign a book for me (“Silver Phoenix”, a YA fantasy novel with a BEAUTIFUL cover), and I asked John Scalzi to sign a copy of “Redshirts” for my husband (he gave him a very funny personal message too, which was very cool). The signings were well coordinated and I didn’t have to wait long at either signing, and both Pon and Scalzi were very kind and talkative when talking with the convention-goers.
By and large, however, my favorite events were the Variety Shows that happened twice a day. Presenters could present on whatever they wanted to, so you could either get authors reading from their works (such as Daniel José Older, John Scalzi, and Cindy Pon), or giving presentations on topics of their choice (like Joe DeGeorge talking about “Mrs. Pac Man” or John Green talking about Mental Illness and Creativity), or having an author conversation
on stage (like Patrick Rothfuss and Wesley Chu talking about video games). Or participating in a lip sync battle. Yeah. That did happen. These moments were fun and relaxing, and while it never felt totally cohesive it did showcase a lot of different and mostly interesting pieces that I enjoyed. One of the more powerful moments was a presentation on undocumented immigration and how undocumented immigrants are trying to tell their own stories now, and how important their stories are. I didn’t expect this kind of presentation, but I was really happy to see it.
And finally, one of the most important things of a convention, in my opinion, is the SWAG you can get! I love going to the expo and dealer rooms of conventions I go to so I can 1) get good information, 2) make connections with interesting people, and 3) get cool stuff to bring home and treasure! I’d be lying if I said that that I didn’t value point three higher than the rest. Not only did we get signed books, we randomly met up with audiobook narrator Kate Rudd and she gave us signed copies of a few mp3 CDs of books she’s done, all because we did her a solid! The expo area at NerdCon was smaller than other conventions I’ve been to, but boy were there a lot of books for sale, sometimes by the authors themselves. There were also tables being manned by local book related organizations, from Ramsey County Library to the St. Catherine MLIS Program. I got myself a cute necklace that has a tiny little version of the book “Emma” on it, as Emma (well fine, Cher Horowitz) is my personal hero. Lots of really cute trinkets, though probably not as much to see as you might at other conventions.
So is NerdCon Stories coming back next year? That isn’t totally clear at the moment. Attendance was down and it seems that it wasn’t the success that the organizers really wanted it to be. I think that a few factors kind of conspired against it this year. One is that the Twin Cities Book Festival was going on this past weekend as well, which also has lots of books and really neat authors to meet. Plus, NerdCon did have a pretty pricey attendance fee, about one hundred dollars for two days (one of which is Friday, typically a work day). True, it’s two days of lots of cool things and opportunities, but one of the big local cons here is four days at about the same price, and quite a bit cheaper if you register at the early bird rate. I think that locals just may not be as willing to pay that much when there are other, cheaper opportunities.
All that said, I did enjoy myself greatly at this convention. I think that if you like stories and you want an experience that is a bit more interactive and in depth, NerdCon Stories is a fun way to spend part of a weekend. If it comes back next year, I say give it a chance! So thank you, NerdCon Stories! It was a nice way to spend a weekend with a good friend!