brandon sanderson · spocon · spocon 2013

SpoCon 2013

It’s that time of year again!

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend Friday and Saturday, but those two days were fantastic. I was able to catch up with some lovely folks I only see at this convention (including the very talented Frog and Esther Jones and Erik Scott de Bie, who apparently bought a sword at some point during the weekend.)

I had a great time on my panels, especially the one where Frog and I discussed Kindle Worlds. Frog is a lawyer, and he dropped some pretty serious truth bombs about what publishing with Kindle Worlds really means. I hope he writes a blog about it someday. The information is really sobering. In a nutshell: If you ever plan to write anything other than fanfiction, DON’T PUBLISH WITH KINDLE WORLDS. DO. NOT. PUBLISH. WITH. KINDLE. WORLDS.

Also, it was an absolute delight to speak on a panel with authors Rosemary Jones and Mike Shepherd. Just being a room with them made me feel smarter! I hope our panel (about getting your foot in the door of the publishing industry) was helpful to the lovely people who attended.

On a side note, I sold all the paperback copies of Flicker I brought with me, which was a very pleasant surprise. (Some were given away as raffle prizes during my reading.) Also, the fine folks who attended the reading got a first look at the cover of Brightly and heard me read a SpoCon exclusive scene that I haven’t posted or shared anywhere else. They were a lovely crowd.

At the reading, I connected with a young woman I actually met last year at SpoCon 2012. After the con, she requested a copy of Flickerat her local library, read it, and apparently liked it, since she came to my reading this year. It’s mind-boggling for me that someone would actually carve time out of their schedule to listen to me read, especially when there was a Brandon Sanderson panel going on upstairs at the same time. Every time something like that happens—every time I get a message from a reader who wanted to let me know how much she enjoyed Flicker,every time someone buys a paperback from me, every time someone downloads an ebook—I am absolutely blown away. It’s an incredible feeling. I feel so grateful to have each and every reader, and I’m so happy that they enjoy spending time with my imaginary friends.

The highlight of my weekend came on Saturday. I always look forward to SpoCon—there’s nothing quite like a local convention—but what makes it special every year are the guests. The first year I attended, Patricia Briggs was the Guest of Honor. (I was lucky enough to win a copy of River Markedsigned by both Patricia and by Dan Dos Santos, the cover artist for all the Mercy Thompson books. Incidentally, River Marked is my favorite book in the series, and it has my favorite cover.)

Last year, as you might recall, I met Peter S. Beagle. Peter S. Beagle. The man who changed my life through The Last Unicorn. When I met him, I was completely overwhelmed, and I sort of cried. He was wonderful about it. (He attends loads of conventions, and I suspect fans like me probably cry at him all the time, so he’s probably used to it by now.) Later that weekend, I sat in the front row during a showing of The Last Unicorn where Peter S. Beagle (Peter! S! Beagle!) gave commentary the whole time. It was surreal.

This year, the Guest of Honor was Brandon Sanderson. Yes, theBrandon Sanderson. All year, I’ve been ridiculously excited for SpoCon so I could see him—for myself, yes, because I’m a fan (though I’ve only read Mistborn and Elantris so far), but also for another reason…

(The rest of this massive round-up post under the cut.)

I’ve talked about my best friend Jordan before. He’s a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving in Chile. Missions typically last two years; he’s been away for just over one year. I miss him terribly, and it’s been hard to be without him for so long (especially since we can only communicate through letters and emails), but I know he’s doing something that really matters to him, and I support him completely. Getting photos of him helps a great deal, as I worry about him constantly.

Jordan is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. He adores the Wheel of Time (which he started reading long before Robert Jordan’s untimely passing) and the Mistborn trilogy. Before he left for his mission, he left some of his books in my care, to make sure they’d be kept safe while he was away, including his Mistborn books. As soon as I heard Brandon Sanderson was coming to SpoCon, I knew I had to get his books signed. I absolutely had to do it.

Now, I’m actually a pretty shy person. I can work myself up enough to do just about anything, if I have to… but man, sometimes I do need a lot of working up. This was one of those times.

I knew Brandon Sanderson would be ridiculously busy all weekend, as the Guest of Honor—and, y’know, as Brandon Sanderson. I mean, he had a signing at the Barnes and Noble in downtown Spokane the night before the convention and, as I hear it, the place was absolutely packed.

I studied the convention schedule and figured out where he would be and when, then cross-referenced that with my own schedule of panels. On Saturday, I got to the location of one of his panels half an hour early, then settled in to wait in the hallway near the elevator like a complete creep. (We do what we must!)

As I waited for him to emerge from the elevator at the end of the hall, I became more and more nervous. What was I going to say? How was I supposed to ask for an autograph? I know it’s a pretty straightforward conversation (“Hi! I’m a big fan. Could I possibly ask you for an autograph?”)—but in the moment, it didn’t feel that way. In fact, it felt like something that I could potentially screw up so royally that it would ruin my entire life.

If the autograph had just been for me (like with Peter S. Beagle, when I even mustered the guts to ask for a photo with him, though I felt like I was going to nervous-barf in addition to crying), I don’t think I would’ve felt so stressed. But I wanted to make sure I got that autograph for Jordan… hence the internal wig-out.

At last, the elevator doors slid open, and there he was: Brandon Sanderson. (Brandon Sanderson!) I had Jordan’s Mistborn books tucked under my arm and a pen in my hand, powering myself up to speak to him.

He walked down the hall, getting closer and closer. For a second, I was stunned. I looked at him and thought, “Oh, crap. Am I going to be able to do this?”

Then he turned his head, saw me standing there with a stack of books, smiled and said, quite brightly, “Do you have some books you need signed?”

“Yes,” I said with a nervous laugh. I explained that the books belonged to my best friend, who was away on his mission. He asked where. (Context: Brandon Sanderson also went on a two-year mission to Seoul, South Korea—which I guess means he speaks Korean! In case you don’t know, missionaries work very hard to become fluent in the languages of the countries in which they serve. When Jordan gets back, his Spanish is going to be radical.)

He signed and personalized all three books without a problem, and was perfectly personable the whole time. (He also signed something else for me, but I won’t share that just yet, because it’s a special surprise for Jordan and I want him to know about it first.)

“You’ll have to apologize to him for me for my signature,” he said. “It’s even worse when I sign standing up!”

Somehow, I think Jordan won’t mind.

“It’s so great to meet you,” I told him, as he handed the books back to me, and it really, really was. “It means a lot to me.”

And it did. It really, really did.

The best feeling is meeting someone you admire and finding that they are every bit as kind and friendly as you imagined they would be. I had exactly that experience with Brandon Sanderson. By the time I said goodbye, I couldn’t believe I’d ever been so nervous to meet such a great guy. The rest of the day, I couldn’t stop gushing about it to my poor mother, who is my faithful convention buddy.

“I feel so much better now!” I told her approximately five hundred times. “He was so nice! I’m so glad he was nice!”

(Also, on a side note, he was much taller than I expected him to be. Most people are tall compared to me—I’m about 5’2—but I’m so used to it that I don’t usually notice, unless they are extraordinarily tall. That is, most people don’t strike me as tall, even if they’re quite a bit taller than I am. I’ve grown so accustomed to looking up at people in order to carry on a conversation that I just tend to think of pretty much everyone as near my height. It’s strange, I know, but it’s how I am. At any rate, when I met Brandon Sanderson, my first thought was, “Wow, he’s so tall!”)

All in all, an incredible weekend. I can’t wait for next year!

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