I’m back from a huge week of traveling and have a big enough backlog of tasks that procrastination-through-blogging is looking pretty good, so here I am.
Fourth Street is a new-to-me convention, and also a pretty new convention in general. The impetus to attend came from the fact that I wanted to finally, finally meet Marissa Lingen in person after eight or nine years (or more) of pleasant internet-based interaction. The fact that it is also a cool regional con with a lot of other interesting people to meet was icing on the cake. (Marissa, by the way, is exactly as advertised, and don’t let her catch you disgracing your Scandinavian ancestors. It’s possible she will let it slide if you disgrace other ancestors, but you probably shouldn’t risk it.)
I arrived early and stayed late, which is unusual for me, but is much nicer than the rushed Friday evening to Sunday brunch schedule I usually keep for cons. Things started with a storytelling circle on Thursday night, in which I participated, and ended with sushi and ice cream Monday afternoon, of which I also partook.
I would say that Fourth Street is more serious in nature than the average convention, and oriented strongly towards avid lit fans and new writers. There is nothing there for media fans, there are no costumes, no dealer’s room, etc. There is filking, although Fourth Street calls it “music circle,” and my impression is that even that is a bit more earnest than the average con filk circle. (Not a filker, here, so I really have no idea.)
I felt very welcomed by the convention. I was frequently invited to join perfect strangers in their meals and activities. It seemed very easy to me to meet new people, and also easy to retreat or to sociably stick my nose in a book when I was feeling low energy or shy.
The hotel, the St. Louis Park Marriot Spring Hill Suites, is one of those places that caters to business travelers. The meeting space was perhaps slightly inadequate, but otherwise the hotel was lovely. Very clean and well-appointed. The suites were capacious and included a proper kitchenette. The rates were extremely affordable.
There were a couple of slight drawbacks to the hotel, however. Lack of a bar and restaurant left no default option for eating and drinking. Folks quickly discovered a nearby liquor store and adapted, and in the end I think this saved a lot of money, but it still wasn’t quite the same as having a “the bar.”
Also, I got kind of tired of eating out, leading to a major self-care fail on Sunday evening. Being unmotivated to seek out another restaurant meal, which would involve either tracking down companions or doing the lonely “table for one” thing, I retreated to my room and wallowed in self-pity instead. Delivery options were scarce, as I wasn’t interested in pizza. Normally, when I hit that wall, I order room service, but that wasn’t an option.
I realize now what I should have done was fill the minifridge with some basic food from the nearby grocery so that I could have that “don’t feel like going to a restaurant and by the way I am alone in a strange city surrounded by strangers” episode. I will do that next time.
This experience does make me more interested in attending out-of-state regional conventions, because I realized that Michigan fandom is very familiar with me. It was interesting to have conversations with fans and writers outside my usual orbit, and realize that there are rewarding connections to be made and business to be done. (Yes, I did some business at Fourth Street.)
Usually, I either stay in-state where everybody already knows me and my whole deal, or I attend large national conventions with a lot of heavy hitters where folks are not terribly interested in me and my little career, so I am feeling the love for the small regional cons.
Any recommendations for cool, small cons outside of Michigan to visit? (Granted I have limited money and time budget for conventions, but it’s something I’d like to think about.)