Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Art of Connection

Two weekends ago, I attended the Florida Supercon at the Miami Beach Convention Center, during the weekend. My friend Corissa procured a table in Artist’s Alley for herself, me, and another artist Megan Wilson. She and Megan manned the table Thursday and Friday while I worked at my internship, and then I joined them for Saturday and Sunday. The year before I had missed the Supercon due to extenuating circumstances, so this time I made sure to do all the preparations in advance, including buying ten copies of Carousel and the Flux Fiction anthology that featured my story “Blood Lioness”.

For those who don’t know, Artist’s Alley is the part of a convention where local artists, writers and vendors can rent a table, set up a display, and watch people stroll by, potential customers or new friends. This is perfect for a starting artist, as opposed to the expensive Exhibition Tables, which are better when one is more established. Comic legend Neal Adams was also at the con, and he was with the more higher-up tables.

I actually have tabled before, albeit at the Miami Hurricon when the latter debuted in 2012, so I figured this would be a better version of a local convention. Cory and I get along very well in that we squee at every awesome cosplay and at good news, and she said we would probably sell out of copies. We’d connect with dozens of fantasy readers and become the next Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman for women. 

That didn’t happen. In fact, I learned the hard way that I was pushing the table’s products on people too hard, rather than letting them explore the wares without any intrusion. Megan was selling wonderful art that she had made, and she gently corrected me on day one. Eventually I  learned to lean back, read the thrilling fantasy novel I had bought from the table across from us, and let the people that come by judge our table while being friendly. I also got to marvel at the many cosplays, including several Five Nights at Freddys cosplays that freaked me out. Author Phil McCall who created the Flux Fiction anthology also let me take several pictures with cosplayers of his characters from his work Dr. Daedalus. We even got to talk about creating a sequel to “Blood Lioness” that would involve quite a bit of world hopping.

With that said, the sales that we did make mattered, and we had quite a few compassionate and meaningful interactions. One man in a wheelchair noticed the Flux Fiction anthology and told me that he loved “Blood Lioness”. One girl on Saturday, my first customer Theresa as a matter of fact, bought Carousel after she heard the pitch and read through it; she also took the hastily scribbled information I gave her. A jeweler that made customized copper rings also came to buy a copy, after I had agreed to buy a nice ring from her whose marble stone resembled a dragon egg. In fact, I had agreed to buy the ring with a larger band after one that I had worn to measure the thickness of my fingers had gotten stuck on my right hand and needed soap to remove. I was happy to write every signature. An author that had written a detective noir set on the moon came over and purchased Flux Fiction after I had bought his story with great intrigue, and I recommend it-- Lunatic City-- if you like the old-fashioned thrillers. 

This is an important lesson; to find a new reader, or a new author, you have to have a connection with the other person. That connection has to exist in a crowded place, so that another human being will give you his or her time. Amanda Palmer achieved connection first as a living bride statue and as a performer; with books, you have to rely on the other person being a reader and a fan of fantasy.

After selling each day, Phil had arranged for Cory and me to talk on and attend two different panels, one about world-building and the other about publishing. After spending years listening to writers give their advice, via blog or interviews, it was quite a chance to be on the other side of the table. I enjoyed answering questions about how to create a new kind of good and evil, to hear what the audience wanted to know and hearing Phil shut down a potential argument over a question regarding Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight.  I even met an MD in the audience in the second panel who attended my alma mater and knew some of the doctors in the same medical program. 

Energy filled the room. The connection was there again, as four of us authors, including Phil and Cory, and about four cosplayers and a musician posed for photos and listened to our audience. We were offering something of value to about forty people, including our experiences and encouragement as writers. Our experiences mattered because we could use them to help others. 

By the next Supercon, I'd like to perfect my ability to connect with people over books and fantasy before the convention, the way that I connect with people on Deviantart and Tumblr. This year was a good start, however, in showing me how to make fellow readers and writers happy with one written adventure. 

No comments: