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Mo*Con V: Kelli Strikes Back

(long story, but here’s the edited version):

Bob and Kelli and I drove down to Virginia, woke Joe up from his nap, threw our suitcases (and four boxes of the LAST RITES chapbook) into Joe’s car, and started on our 10-hour drive to Maurice’s house. On the way we drove through Flushing, Negro Mountain, a Pony Pull, and October. We arrived at Mo’s around 1am. There was Jack Daniel’s steak waiting on us. I love that man. (Maurice, I mean.)

Friday morning started the way it should…with Kelli, on the trampoline. We sat back with our Jamaican coffee and watched Maurice’s awesome wife Sally mow the front lawn in her Wonder Woman boots. We picked up Brian Keene from the airport, got all pretty, and met Jerry Gordon for some really awesome cajun food at Yats. No lie — I had “chili-cheese crawfish étouffée.” Have you been to the Broad Ripple Village section of Indianapolis? It’s a little bohemian. It reminded me a bit of my beloved East Nashville (though with too many bars & not enough cool little shops…and currently four feet less water…but I digress).

Kelli took a nap, the boyz played Magic, and Joe and I explored a bit around Broad Ripple. It was a nice little respite before Maurice started the show and we had chicken marsala (a now-staple and tradition of Mo*Con because it’s The Princess’s favorite). Open Mic Nite began last year as a poetry-reading homage to Linda Addison, and I swear it’s one of the best things we’ve ever implemented. It’s a great way to break the ice and introduce everyone to each other — the new blood and the old regime alike. To get a feel for the range of genres and talent, the senses of humor (you’ve all seen the performance of “Dracula’s Winkie” by now), and to kill Brian Keene…again…and again…and again. We met Wes Southard, remembered what a talented poet Lon Prater is, and made faces at Gary Braunbeck when he trampled like an elephant over his allotted 5 minute time slot.

Saturday started off with a bang once everyone got in and settled — Sara Larson brought the coffee filters and evolved from Maven to Goddess of the Kitchen. Kelli hopped up on stage with her I-wanna-have-sex shoes and announced exactly how she’d be running the show: she’d be picking the panel participants out of the audience, and in the absence of moderation she expected everyone else to ask questions, provide comments, and keep the conversation going. And you know what? They did. We did. And it was a beautiful thing. Of the three panels that day, I think Wrath James White was the only participant on all of them (way to be opinionated, Wrath). The blogging was informative, the spirituality was intriguing, and the sex was hilarious.

The art reception was ramped up this year — we had our own little wing of the church (which was unfortunately rather far from the festivities…but we had the wine). I got to chat with Steven C. Gilberts a little more, which is always a pleasure, and I was very impressed at Jim Leach’s wood block prints. Next year I’ve requested that there be a short — maybe even 15 minute — panel introducing all the displaying artists and giving them a little time to talk about their art, their inspiration, and their processes. Essentially, to have all the conversations I didn’t get to because I was too busy manning my table. I sold five pieces!! I’m super stoked about that. And, as promised, I’ll be putting a few up on Etsy in the next few days.

The other Fabulous New Thing this year was a running live Funky Werepig show Greg Hall hosted in the middle of everything. As people wandered in and out of the art reception, Kelli dragged guests on stage to be questioned. I have to tell you, the more I know Greg Hall, the more I love him. Who doesn’t love a man who makes everyone laugh? And I’m still one of his son’s Top Three Girlfriends. I hope Greg’s on hand to do it again next year — it not only kept the energy of the day upbeat, but we now have it to look back on forever and ever and ever.

I gave a sneak-preview reading of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween to a very excited crowd, and then we took up two tables in a massive signing of Dark Faith. (I held up the line with all my glitter pens. And I so don’t care.) It was amazing to be part of something so big. This a very important book…and gorgeous to boot. (Do you have your copy yet? You need one. Use this link.)

But “carnivorous vulvasaurs” or not, somewhere in the middle of that last panel I hit a wall, the wall that demands I de-Princess immediately. But I was surrounded by dozens of people — I couldn’t just be “off.” It’s a convention — and not just ANY convention, it’s MY convention, the convention I reign over as royalty. “Off” is just not allowed. So I subtly removed my tiara and hoped no one would notice. It wasn’t 15 minutes before Jerry looked over at me and said, “You’re like Maurice with all his costume changes.” “What?” I asked him. “Weren’t you wearing something different a minute ago?” he said.

What a difference a tiara makes.

I went back to the hotel fully intending to change and return to Maurice’s house for Part Two of the festivities. Instead, I cried about my lack of focus and my sudden (and not a little scary) lack of convention stamina. So I wasn’t there for the buckets of Absinthe or the Black Hole Liquor Store — Kelli’s got those covered in her happy con report. But Joe reminded me of something very important: family. I’ve jokingly referred to Mo*Con as a “geek family reunion” before, but I needed to remember what that meant, exactly. Of the 75 people that attended Mo*Con this year, I’ve known most of them for four years. They made me their princess. I’ve slept on their couches and roomed with them at conventions. I’ve cried on their shoulders too, and escaped to their houses, and sought refuge in their basements. I’ve read to their children and talked to them about their divorces. I’ve got their numbers in my phone and–thanks to Twitter–I talk to them every single day. These are people who are going to notice when I’m upset or tired or frazzled — not because I’ve suddenly fallen “off”, but BECAUSE THEY LOVE ME. Because those are the kinds of things that people who love you notice. We call those people family. And I cried all over again, and there was no green fairy to wipe my tears.

Sunday morning I helped Chef Rob chop things for his Mediterranean/California salad while he prepared a garlic pasta dish and the most succulent Chateaubriand I have ever put in my mouth. (I’m telling you, it was a divine experience. NEVER miss Sunday brunch.) Goodbyes were lingering, as always, but they came with a contract for my story in the upcoming Nick Cave anthology from PS Publishing…so there was hope in the sadness. We drove home through a constant rainstorm–the fog made every town we passed seem as if it were on fire, and we had to pull over in West Virginia when we couldn’t see the road anymore. I had heard something from my friends about rain in Nashville too–but April always brought tornadoes and flash flooding so it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. (Or so I thought…but I digress. More on that tomorrow.) There were candy bars and red Doritoes and catnaps and white knuckles…and more goodbyes…and then it was four in the morning and we were back in PA and it was over.

We still can’t quite believe it’s over. I barely saw Maurice (he was a bigger whirlwind than ME, and that’s saying something), I didn’t get to say goodbye to Jason Sizemore or Geoffrey Girard, and I have that nagging feeling that I’ve left something behind. I suspect it might be family.

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