4th Street Fantasy: An Amazing Experience.

Worth the Ten Hour Roadtrip:

I got home from the 4th Street Fantasy convention (Minneapolis, MN) on Monday. Even with some distance I feel confident standing by my first impression. This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a convention. 

I’ll confess that I’ve not been to many cons. I attended a Doctor Who convention way back when I was in high school. I’ve been to a few academic conferences (CCCC, smaller literature conferences). I went to Gen Con last year. The list isn’t extensive.

But, you know, sometimes you can just tell when you’ve come across something special. 4th Street qualifies.

The programming is top-notch. It’s a single-track event so you don’t miss out on discussion. That’s good news because every panel was interesting.

Imagine sitting in a room with bright, articulate and fun people—a mix of fans and professionals—as they discuss topics in the field. This year the program ranged from sentence level craftwork, history and fantasy, gestures, influences and more.

Got it? Now imagine that they interact with the audience. It’s a dialogue.

And it’s awesome.

The core concept is wonderful. The execution of it is great.

Can I gush more about it? YES. But first...

Where Wendy Violates the Code of Her People and Discusses Real Feelings and Junk—Skip if you Wish—

Like so many others I have issues with anxiety and social awkwardness.  My perception of the world is often one dominated by self-doubt and prohibitions. It whispers.

No.

Not so fast.

Not you.

Not here.

Not good enough.

Never.

No. Just No.

Maybe you know this voice. I expect it gets around. It loves to rehash, replay, second-guess, sabotage. It sucks.

There’s no reason to get into how this manifests specifically. The important part is that it sometimes gets in the way of what I want to do.

I’m lucky that Adam is really encouraging and supportive. I’m lucky that I can overcome a lot of my problems if I feel safe and comfortable in my role and environment.

It’s how I can work. If I’m in my role as a teacher, for example, I’m fine. I’m supposed to be there. I’m the one who needs to be steady, to reach out, to talk in front of large groups of people and with individuals.

 I like it, actually.

Hell, I love lecture. I’m fine with performance—speeches, readings, and all. I…

I know. YAWN.

I don’t like to talk about my real feelings all that much…so this all seems terribly self-indulgent. You know, it’s AWKWARD.

But, I wanted to share some context to get the next point to really resonate.

Despite all my internal wobblies--I felt welcome. I had a fantastic time.

That stupid little voice was still there, but it was muted.

I even heard a YES or two or three.

Resuming Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

---The Point---

4th Street Fantasy feels safe. It feels welcoming and it’s introvert friendly.

There’s even a quiet room they set aside so you can retreat if you don’t have a place to crash at the hotel.

You can sit in the discussion as I did and just listen.

You can participate. People are respectful. They listen. They adjust. It isn't about scoring points or self-promotion, or talking over people. It's about sharing ideas. Even disagreements are handled well. 

There are opportunities to interact with others even if you don’t get into conversations. I spent an absolutely lovely evening listening to talented people play music. I could have joined in more, but it was cool that I mostly stayed on the edges.

For every meal there are ambassadors. They take groups out to restaurants. You don’t have to eat alone if you don’t want to. You don’t have to try to muster up the courage to see if a group will include you.

All that aside, they mean it when they say you can pull up a chair and just talk to people. Really.  Everyone seemed very welcoming. The people I met were all awesome.

A lot of them, I suspect are kindred spirits. And if you’re a fantasy fan (and SF---it’s all part of the fold) there will be things to talk about.

Okay. I didn’t really take advantage of many free-form conversations. I wasn’t quite up to the Just Jump In level quite yet. I did participate in an Intermediate writers group talk. I did talk to people…including some writers I truly admire.

Those are baby steps, but significant ones. The atmosphere allowed me to challenge myself. I made an effort to talk about myself and my writing. Sure, it was awkward sometimes, but I did it. And I lived! I made myself go back downstairs in the evening to get into something social instead of hiding. And I was rewarded by music and fun.

I’m totally going again next year.

I recommend this convention without reservation. If this sounds good and you can go, do it! It’s small and there’s a cap, but I believe they want to grow. They deserve to grow.

And, you know, if this isn’t your main area of interest and the cons you attend (if any) don’t already do some of this---it’s something to consider. 

On with summer—

Now I’ve got a longer list of things to read.

I’m inspired to keep pushing myself in my writing and all that.

I'm still learning things in class. 

I’m looking forward to other trips and Gen Con.

Good things are happening. 

So...

What’s that LEGO song? Oh, yeah…Everything is Awesome!