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June 19th, 2009

So, about the Stoker Weekend...

I just had my first full 8 hours of sleep in months, so I think I'm ready to talk about the weekend at last!

This will be a more impressionistic rundown than what I'll be giving to the HWA Newsletter - that one will be the official recap.

I was overall thrilled with how well the 2009 Bram Stoker Weekend went. John Little and I worked hard for months in advance on hundreds of small-to-large details, all with certain very specific goals in mind. We wanted our guests to know we appreciated them. We wanted to create an atmosphere that was rich in networking and business opportunities. We wanted to shine a good light on the Stoker Awards, by acknowledging the nominees throughout the weekend and offering up a star-studded awards presentation. And we wanted to show off HWA as a vital and healthy organization. I think we succeeded in all four main goals.

I've been saying for a while that putting this on felt like I was producing a low-budget film, and now I feel like I've won a film festival. I'm very grateful to our volunteers, our guests, our members and of course the astonishing John Little, who can teach us all a thing or ten about organization.

Random impressions:

- Bag stuffing Wednesday night. Wow, in the time it took me to go get a pizza, the rest of 'em finished stuffing 250 bags with flyers, books, bookmarks, magnets, coasters, DVDs and more. Got to meet Vince Liaguno at last, who was everything I'd hoped for...and more. Finally got to spend time with Nanci Kalanta, who I now officially adore. And seeing Deb LeBlanc again is always a delight. Most HWA members have no idea how much she's done (and continues to do) for this organization. She's amazing.

- Hal Bodner's tour of Hollywood Forever Cemetery was (pun intended) to die for! I'm still sorry we didn't work out transportation more in advance, but those who made it all had a great time. I must call Hal and arrange our own picnic there.

- The Thursday night signing at Dark Delicacies - well over a hundred people packed into a 2,000-sq. foot store, and it was still fun. Why I didn't bring more books from home to get signed, I don't know.

- Friday started the show in earnest, and once again I stand in awe of my volunteers, all of whom arrived promptly at their scheduled times and performed above and beyond the call of duty. They kept Registration moving smoothly, and made my life one heckuva lot easier.

- Personally, I found the ticket situation during the opening ceremonies very amusing, but I guess it was a bit irritating to some. Next time we'll figure out a better system. (If you weren't there...I printed 250 tickets for the opening ceremonies giveaways, but only about 100 people showed up, so we endlessly pulled tickets that didn't match any in the audience.) Cody Goodfellow is a bad boy. I love him.

- Poor Gary Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder! John and I had planned on picking them up in person on Thursday, treating them to lunch, having fun...but their plane was delayed overnight in Dallas, and they didn't make it until Friday afternoon. Given all that, they were, of course, the picture of grace. I do like the two flipsides of Gary I got to witness: Before the panel when he was set to interview Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and F. Paul Wilson, he was outside smoking and sweating bullets; but when I caught him coming out of that panel he had the biggest grin I've ever seen on his face. Obviously it went well.

- Readings. I really wish I could have seen more. I did catch John Little, Hank Schwaeble, and Michael Louis Calvillo. Calvillo is just as eccentric a reader as he is a writer - he paces back and forth spitting out words in rapid precision, coming across as an insane mesh of Beat Poet and Mad Professor. My own reading had a grand total of three attendees (and that includes Ricky and John Little), so once again I remain unconvinced that readings are a great way to grow a following.

- The Gory Ghoul Ball was a complete astonishment (John and I had nothing to do with setting it up), but the highlight for me was watching Steve Jones lust over the Aurora monster models that were decorating each table. We did manage to score "The Witch" for him.

- One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the simple joy of sitting down to lunch with John Little. After months of planning via phone and thousands of e-mails, it was a tremendous pleasure to sit with him in person and just bask.

- My own business-ing (I just made a new verb!) was good, considering how little time I was able to devote to it. One pitch to a publisher went very well, and they've got a novel now. I was invited into more anthologies. I got to hang a little with my LUCID DREAMING publisher Roy Robbins, who really is a great guy. And, even though it wasn't strictly business, I loved the kaffeeklatch with Larry Roberts of Bloodletting - like me, Larry is a geek for the physical object of the book itself, and hearing him talk about the design, layout and binding of his books was beyond cool. Tip to future kaffeeklatchers: Larry gives away free books. :)

- I'm sorry I didn't get to just enjoy the UNSPEAKABLE 80s shindig more - I had to focus on getting things ready for the banquet - but DAMN I enjoyed some of that '80s music! I'm becoming an old fogey, I guess.

- The awards presentation was amazing. Jeff Strand, as usual, was hilarious. The presenters were all funny, the winners kept their acceptances sprightly, and our little surprise during Tom Monteleone's presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to F. Paul Wilson resulted in exactly the waves of laughter I'd hoped for (if you weren't there, I'm not going to tell you!). I was happy to have a chance to honor the memories of Joseph McGee and Forrest J. Ackerman, and was beyond gratified to receive (with John) not one but two standing ovations for our work on the weekend. It was also satisfying to hear the round of applause Steve Jones and I received when we announced the alliance between HWA and WHC2010.

- I'll post separately about Sunday's signing for MIDNIGHT WALK, which was nuts. Suffice to say that most of Sunday consisted of cleanup for me. It's now Friday and cleanup continues, as trophies are mailed, hotel bills settled, leftover decorations redistributed, and thank-you notes sent and received.

- Oh, yeah - and I won the Stoker Award for Nonfiction.