I’m trying to remember how I first heard about NerdCon, and I think it was via a visit to Rainbow Rowell’s website in late April. I had just read Fangirl and wanted to see what else she had coming out and if she would be on a book tour doing signings. (I was also only a few weeks into my time in that godawful boot cast, so reading and coloring were major stress relievers. Still are, but that’s for a separate post.)
Fast forward to the big weekend, which far surpassed any expectations. Actually, I don’t know if I had any expectations other than hearing smart people talk about cool stuff. And getting my Rainbow Rowell books signed:
She’s awesome and I got to tell her how Fangirl inspired me to propose a course on fandom/fan creations/participatory media. But this isn’t a post about that. Believe me, I’ll update you with those specifics once they are written down in complete sentences. Right now I just have a stack of books, a folder with sample syllabi, and a padlet of ideas.
Like I said, I didn’t really go in to NerdCon with specific expectations, but each and every minute in that MSP Convention Center was beyond wonderful:
- Podcasters, vloggers, artists, and writers, all of whom are fans of the other podcasters, vloggers, artists, and writers there, spoke about why stories matter, the roles of the creators, the different things communities of fans can do, and the need for safe spaces to discuss this kind of stuff.
- Hilarious things happened: juvenilia, games, mock debates, musical performances.
- Celebrated authors like John Green, Pat Rothfuss, Rainbow Rowell, Dessa Darling, and Téa Obreht shared their feelings about writing and the other stuff that comes along once your writing takes off. It’s usually good stuff, but there’s tons of bad advice and frustration too. At one point I felt they needed this panel more than we did!
But I NEEDED this weekend too, and that’s what was most unexpected.
It wasn’t the usual academic mumbo-jumbo with which I surround myself. As a tenured professor of English, I obviously love the academic side of things, but this year has been A BEAST. Personally (cue the chronic pain) and professionally (thanks for nothing, Gov. Walker), it’s all I can do to get through the day. Last week, I sketched out my schedule for the week and even wrote down what hour I knew I’d be home so I could turn my brain off and pause the performance that is Dr. Daisy.
I thoroughly enjoy teaching and I’ve got a great group of students this Fall, but sadly I don’t get to spend a lot of time focused on them. I’m in depressing meetings about budget cuts, writing reports to defend the stuff we need, or trying to navigate the wreckage of mistakenly sent emails since a ton of staff have either switched jobs or took the early retirement deal.
I NEEDED this weekend to remind me that smart people who like to read and write and live-tweet exist. I know I have people in my life and on my campus who also like to do those things, but I needed to be literally surrounded by 3,000 strangers who like those things to remember how great that feels. And that all our stories matter.
However, one of those 3,000 people wasn’t a stranger. She was my Digital Humanities student, Sara. I didn’t see her until the very end of yesterday’s events, but I kept up with her tweets all weekend. This one links to her blog post, “What it Feels Like to Be in Your Element,” and the paragraph below totally inspired me to write this post today:
I go to college and I often get wrapped up in the stress (so much stress) that comes with it, like money and classes and decisions about the FUTURE. But being here at Nerdcon, I’m in such a good mental environment. I’m with my people, and it’s the best mini vacation I could have asked for. I’m seeing my heroes discuss topics that resonate so deeply with me, and I feel so light and great. I’m writing this post to remember that feeling and hopefully find a way to reach it again when I’m stressed in the future.
On Sundays like this I can easily slip into a routine of laundry, house cleaning, and Netflix, which invariably leaves this blog neglected. Today, though, my eyes have not left this laptop screen and it’s been all good. I’ve gained some new followers on Twitter, found some great resources for my PCA roundtable on “Shame, Gender, and Cultural Capital: The Problems of Reading and Writing Fan Fiction” like “Why must we hate the things teen girls love?” and “Mental Health Awareness Week 2015: How to Use Your Fangirl Powers to Practice Self-Care,” and have started a Storify to recap my favorite moments from NerdCon. When I’m done with that, I’ll post it here, but right now I’m going to log off and read a book.