Norwescon 39 Recap

Norwescon ribbons

My lowly assortment of con ribbons.

Norwescon 39 has come and gone, so here is my recap of a fun weekend. This was my first Norwescon, but hopefully not my last. There were more positives than negatives, though the negatives were aggravating. Thankfully (I guess?), most of the negatives happened right at the beginning and the con experience greatly improved once I got over those hurdles.

The main negatives: 1) Parking is atrocious. The lot at the DoubleTree isn’t small, but for a con with a few thousand people in attendance it doesn’t cut it. Being in Seattle that’s not surprising, but the hotel didn’t do anything to help the situation. The ticket booths to enter the lot were unmanned, so the poor souls that didn’t arrive early on opening day (I didn’t get there until 3pm) got to drive around for however long you could stand it until giving up or being fortunate enough to find someone leaving their spot. I get it, parking frustration isn’t a new thing, but it would’ve been nice if Doubletree had posted a staff member at the ticket booth either directing people away or putting signs up indicating the lot was full (they did start to put up signs later on during the weekend). Because the hotel is right next to the airport there was airport parking/garages available, which kinda sucks, since the con rate for parking at the hotel was $8, and parking at the airport garage was running somewhere in the $20+ range.

2) Registration at the hotel (not Norwescon reg) was super slow when I got in. This is really more on the hotel than Norwescon, since you’d think if the hotel knew thousands more people than usual would be in that weekend then it might be a good idea to have an extra person or two at the registration desk.

Again, not the end of the world or all that unexpected, but coming on the heels of the parking frustration, seeing the row of empty stations at the registration desk and the lone person trying to handle it all…

My #3 actually got fixed by the second day, but originally programming was scheduled up to the hour without a break. As in, panel A goes from 10-11, panel B from 11-12, etc. Without a break period, you’d have panels cutting into the subsequent panel’s time. At the end of each panel there’d be an awkward shuffle to get people out of the room and then to get people waiting in the narrow hall (that’s my #4 gripe) in, settled, get the speakers situated, etc. It really sucked for the authors’ who had readings where the panel before them ran over and ate into their reading time (usually 30min). This did get fixed though, and panels started ending at 10min to the hour.

4) Norwescon is so-so, in my opinion, on being accessibility-friendly. The big plus is that the elevators were decently sized, there were 4 of them, and they ran quickly. I never encountered long waits or broken elevators. The Doubletree in Spokane for Worldcon was a different story. However, the halls for the conference rooms where the panels were held weren’t very wide. I guess Norwescon can get away with it since attendance is only around the 2-3k mark, but there were times where the flow of traffic had to completely stop so that someone in a scooter or wheelchair could move forward because the halls weren’t wide enough to accommodate a lane of traffic moving in both directions.

There also wasn’t a lot of seating available if one needed to sit while waiting for their panel, and what seating there was could end up being a long way from the room where the panel you wanted to attend was located. I know there were volunteers running around, but I’ve been to cons in the past where each room has a door attendant who usually handles getting someone with accessibility needs into the room without fuss or fanfare. I didn’t really see that at Norwescon, but that’s not to say they weren’t around. I’m also not sure if people were issued accessibility badges or stickers or whatnot to access rooms ahead of time.

I went solo to Norwescon and am fortunate to be in a position where most of the accessibility issues don’t impact me anymore, but having been in the situation where they once did I tend to be sensitive/aware of them or the need. Norwescon isn’t the worst with regard to accessibility, but it isn’t the best either. Some of that isn’t its fault in a direct way; they can’t control the physical width of the hallways. But these are things to consider for non-able bodied people.

Now that I’ve ranted about all the negatives (oops. I’ll cut some of it down in post), Norwescon really is a fun con. I think of it as Worldcon Lite. Lots of programming dedicated to the many aspects of SFF fandom, writing, cosplay, etc. An eclectic mix in the Dealer’s Hall, and a nice-sized art show. It was great to be able to meet up with friends that I rarely see otherwise, and to meet some in person that I’d previously only conversed with via social media.

Oh, and the DoubleTree’s food is actually pretty good. Not inexpensive (not surprising), but tasty, and they re-worked some of the items on the menu to cater to attendees with dietary restrictions. Example: the roasted cauliflower soup apparently is normally a vegetarian option, but they made a vegan version for Norwescon. And it was good. Maybe the server who told us that was making it up, but considering that she went back to talk to the chef, I doubt it. Or bravo for going through the work to make up an elaborate story. Never did find out why the bread pudding wasn’t considered vegetarian though.

I mainly attended Norwescon for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop, which was lovely. My critique session was Saturday night with Catherine Montrose, Elizabeth Guizzetti, Tim McDaniel, and Pat MacEwen. I submitted a short story for the workshop, and was selected for an individual critique. The critiques were held at the top of the DoubleTree tower in the Mountain conference rooms, which do have a few stairs down to the table, though they were quick to note this during the workshop registration process. I imagine accommodations are made if you can’t navigate stairs. Our only gripe about the room was that we couldn’t get the lights to go above what we were calling “mood lighting.” The other room didn’t seem to have that problem, but we managed just fine. It was light enough at 7pm to get by, and dim lighting is a better trade than getting roasted by the sun with all those windows.

The workshop was great from registration to the actual critique. The guidelines were clear, and the workshop was great with communication. They make accommodations so that you don’t get put in the same group for a round robin session with someone you’re already critiquing with outside the workshop if that applies.

My critique went well, and I’m all squeeing inside because overall my story was well-received and doesn’t need a complete rewrite. They gave suggestions for ways to tighten it up and other revisions, and it was pretty nice—and telling—that all four agreed on what the structural flaws were. Onward to revisions I go, and hopefully can get it out to markets in April.

The novel’s progress is steady if also a bit slow. I’m past the first act of the rough draft and wading into the soggy middle. I think I said last blog post that I was hoping to have a post about the novel/my writing quirks…well, maybe next month! It’s only a few days away after all.

I was able to get a crash course on pitching as Jennifer Brozek offered to teach a 2hr class for the workshop participants on Thursday night. My takeaway is that the cobbled together logline I had for the novel was actually decent, but my title needs work. Brozek is a big proponent of titles not being generic, and fulfilling a promise to the reader in that it tells a little something about what the book is about. So I need to work on that. I’ll be attending the one-day workshop hosted by Cascade Writers next month covering the business of writing and will be doing some more pitching there, so this was a nice starter.

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