The following is a guest post from horror scribe Sèphera Girón, whose chilling novel Mistress of the Dark was the first modern horror novel penned by a woman that I read, featuring one of the most sadistic, twisted, and memorable female protagonists in the form of Abigail Barnum. Sephera and I were on the “Social Media for Writers” panel that I moderated this past June in New Orleans at The Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013 incorporating the World Horror Convention, which she added many great insights to.
Here is a guest post detailing her experiences at this year’s con and some good advice for those who are thinking of attending future ones.
The Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013 incorporating the World Horror Convention
When I heard that World Horror and the Stokers were going to be combined in New Orleans, I knew I had to go. After all, I was born in New Orleans and had never been back since I was an infant. I attended the very first World Horror in Nashville in the nineties. In fact, I attended pretty much every World Horror except a couple right up until I was a Toastmaster in Toronto in 2007. I even went to one pregnant with my second son, Dorian. They were such a blast and the only reason I’ve not attended in recent years has been because of finances.
I’ve also attended many Stoker banquets and award ceremonies over the years. The last Stoker Weekend I attended was in Burbank in 2010 to receive the Silver Hammer Award.
So it’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to see my friends, peers, editors, and publishers. All of these exciting ideas combined into a fabulous weekend experience for me. It was a tough juggling act to attend the convention and see the sights of New Orleans but I believe I managed to fit a lot in.
My main con duties involved working registration for a few hours, being on a Social Media panel, working the HWA booth for an hour, reading my poem from The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, autographing books at the mass signing, attending the Samhain cocktail party, rocked rocking out to Heather Graham’s band and party, attending part of the HWA annual meeting, and watching parts of other panels. I also hung out at the bar to network before the siren song of Bourbon Street lured me back out again. I also went on a graveyard tour Friday morning that consisted mostly of con attendees.
Outside of the con, I spent the rest of my waking hours exploring the neighbourhood, something that isn’t always possible at cons. At some cons, you are put into a hotel far from anything and you really can only do the con. This con was the type where you are plunked right in the center of a cool city so you tend to only do the most important con things while taking in the sights and sounds of a new city.
You may have relatives and friends who wonder why you would invest so much money into a con. There really is nothing that can compare to putting names to faces. Even when I was sight-seeing, I mostly went out with a pack from the con, and different people every time. Bonding over graveyards and dance clubs also makes for building relationships that you will carry forward for years. You can’t share those kinds of experiences through email.
In looking back over more than twenty years of World Horrors, it’s no wonder that I knew so many people and fell into a step that felt so familiar despite my many years away.
Conventions offer a chance to network with working professionals and learn how to carve out your own niche in your craft. You can go to pitch sessions, attend panels, learn skills at workshops, get autographs from your favourite authors and even talk to them for a while.
Having drinks with famous editors and agents whether at a party or a bar can’t be beat. When you attend cons, you will meet many people who may or may not be able to help you propel yourself forward. The aspiring little fan you meet this year might become head of a major publishing house in five years. However, the best outcome from a con is creating memories and relationships that will last a lifetime.
Always be polite, try not to harass your idols but don’t be afraid of them either since most people in the horror field who attend cons are friendly and approachable.
Another interesting element of this con was the haunted hotel where we stayed. The Hotel Monteleone is a notorious hotspot for spirit sightings and most con guests had some sort of story to tell. There were shaking beds, shaking chandeliers, laughter and screams, foggy patches, and I myself even caught a glimpse of an apparition on the rooftop level at dawn.
On Bourbon Street, I discovered my roots. I finally understood why I like to dance all the time. How civilized to have live bands playing constantly so that you can go in and dance as you wish and then get on with your day. You wouldn’t need to ever go to the gym. I returned to several bars to dance, sometimes by myself, sometimes with a pack.
The draw at the end of every evening was The Dungeon which was decked out like a dungeon but laughable compared to the hard core fetish dungeons in Toronto. It had two floors and loads of heavy metal. There was a jukebox where you could pick a tune or you could make a request from the deejay. We all danced and swooped and bonded in a way that isn’t possible on Facebook.
As well as understanding my urge to dance, the tarot readers also intrigued me. The voodoo shops, vampire store, and more all rendered various vibrations through me. There was one voodoo shop I visited the first night while wandering around with a giant cup of bourbon sour that I wanted to return to in order to purchase a couple of small items.
When I returned the next day, I had to leave the shop quickly. A wave of nausea and a pounding headache had suddenly befallen me. It cleared up after I left the shop and wandered around some more. At the time, I figured it was a long delayed hangover, after all, I’d seen the sun come up that day, but the way it vanished again led me to believe it was related to the voodoo shop. I had browsed several voodoo shops before that one with no ill effect. So I wasn’t certain what it might have been that was in there that I shouldn’t be around.
Each time I passed that shop on my adventures over the next few days, I’d get an uneasy sensation, of someone or something watching and waiting for me. I attempted to enter one more time but partway up the steps, I decided to turn away.
Ask anyone who knows me what I’m all about and how I’m perfectly matched with my birth city. I’m the girl who loves to dance and throw beads, have a few drinks, hang out with friends, read tarot, cruise graveyards, bond with ghosts and my son could tap dance on the streets to earn a living as well. Living in New Orleans would not be a stretch for this fun-loving city girl.
The vibe in New Orleans is different than any I’ve experienced. I’m not a huge traveller but I’ve been to Manhattan and San Francisco many times and they too, have a distinct vibe. The vibe in New Orleans was a familiar echo that called to me. My birth place was resonating with my bones. Business connections went smoothly, although I didn’t see everyone I wanted to which happens when there’s hundreds of people to see.
Magic connections were made, like minds dancing together in lively conversation and then flitting off to meet with another. Coincidences and kismet abounded. The karma wheel turned. I lost my favourite sunglasses and lo, there they were at the front desk lost and found. Combining a horror convention with the carnival atmosphere of Bourbon Street was a great idea. So much has inspired me, from the ghost sightings to panels to cocktail parties with friends that I’m going to be drawing from the resonance of this fabulous experience in many stories for years to come.
Next year, The World Horror Convention is in Portland, Oregon. You really should attend if you are serious about building connections in your career. Sign up for as many pitch sessions and workshops as you can. When you get there, talk to everyone about everything. If you see me, talk to me! Go to as many panels as you can and take notes. Your experience will be priceless. You will build memories and new friendships that will last you a lifetime. Most importantly, you will realize you are not alone in this crazy business. You do indeed have a tribe.
Bio: Sèphera Girón is the award-winning author of over 15 published novels and many short stories. She received the “Marty” in Established Literary Category from the Mississauga Arts Council and a “Silver Hammer” from the Horror Writers Association.
She’s a professional tarot counsellor and writes horoscope columns. Her latest hobby is paranormal investigator! Sèphera also dabbles in acting and appears as “Ruby” in the movie, SLIME CITY MASSACRE. You might also catch a glimpse of her as an extra in THE LOVE GURU and a few other movies. One of Sephera’s day jobs is editing books for other people. Her books include House of Pain, Mistress of the Dark, The Birds and the Bees, Borrowed Flesh, Eternal Sunset, The Witch’s Field, Weird Tales of Terror and many more. For more information, you can visit her website, find her on Twitter, or find her on Goodreads.