Erica and I have returned from NECON 37. We had a wonderful time, met lots of wonderful people, and reconnected with old friends. Like last year, I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and drive. I’m energized, ready to work, ready to produce something that represents the best of my abilities. And I have the folks at NECON to thank for that. During the long drive home yesterday, I had a lot of time to think about why that is. What is it about being around my friends and peers that replenishes the well, so to speak? Is it a collective energy? Is it knowing that I’m not alone on this weird path toward…well, whatever I’m working toward?
Maybe that’s it. I used to believe that writing is a lonely gig, and the act of doing it usually is, but in the greater scheme, writing is communal. There are many of us. We’re all dealing with the same issues, the same ailments, the same struggles. Whether it’s how to progress in your WIP, or which agent to query, or which publisher to work with, we’re all there together in some way. When one of us succeeds, we all cheer; and when one of us falls, we all mourn. Last year, I told my wife I felt like a real author for the first time after attending. I felt accepted.
This year, I still feel that way. Perhaps even more so now, after further experiences at NECON. My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet or make connections with everyone.
NECON is a big hug. It’s a hug from your peers, saying “Hey, you’re normal here.” They’re saying, “You’re part of our family.” And I am. I’m honored to be a part of it.
So, before I wrap this up, and before I get even more emotional about this, allow me to recap some personal highlights:
- Having a late lunch with Brian Kirk, Jonathan Lees, Martel Sardina, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand at Flo’s Oyster Shack.
- Embarrassing myself in front of Brian and Jonathan by trying to demonstrate (poorly) how to open a beer bottle on a door jamb (spoiler: I ended up covered in beer).
- Spending my evenings drinking with Nikki Nelson-Hicks and her husband, Brian, whom I met for the first time this weekend.
- Discussing WIPs, graphic design, and a mutual love for all things Evil Dead with Catherine Scully.
- Chatting with Brian Kirk about publishing, his next novel, and his vision for its marketing plan (which will be incredible when executed).
- My novella, The Final Reconciliation, receiving a mention during Friday’s panel about the best books of the year (thanks, Frank!).
- Chatting with Barry Lee Desaju about his artwork and photography.
- Drinking scotch with Catherine Grant.
- Discussing podcasts and writing multiple projects with Gemma Files.
- Meeting and having dinner with Laird Barron and John Langan. The conversation here was probably the highlight of the weekend for me, affirming that I was on the right track, and inspiring me to do more with my work. I won’t share details–that’s something I’m going to keep for myself.
- Meeting and chatting with Tom Deady, who is probably one of the nicest guys in the world.
- Attending the many panels, which were all insightful and encouraging. Special mention goes to the Weird Fiction panel, the Guests of Honor panel, and the Collections panel which was interrupted by a fire alarm. I wish the latter had concluded, as it was a rather great discussion.
- Imbibing Nate Kenyon’s bottle of viscous, licorice-flavored poison. The drink worked its magic so well that I questioned if any of it had really happened. True story.
- Meeting Ed Kurtz. The guy’s voice is pure noir, and he spelled my name with three Fs.
- Finally meeting Pete Kahle, after somehow missing him at least year’s conference.
- Hugs from Linda Addison, Bracken MacLeod, and James Moore.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten others (and if so, my dearest apologies), but it’s late and my mind is racing. Thank you, NECON. It’s the warm hug I needed. This time last year, I started working on the story that became The Final Reconciliation. This year, I’m going back to finish a draft of Devil’s Creek. I’ll see you all on the other side.