Oh THIS is what a con can be: Narrativity Report: Part 1

I’ve attended a few writing conventions in my life and come to the conclusion that they really weren’t for me. Some were too geared toward fandom for them to be what I wanted them to be, and those that were craft-oriented had been marred by a lack of focus and ended up unwieldy.

Besides getting the opportunity to meet a couple of authors I really admired, I just wasn’t getting much out of my con experiences and I stopped looking for cons to attend.

Enter Narrativity. I’m not sure where I first heard about it but I’m guessing it was in a tweet from Steven Brust. Here was this little convention that would be gathering writers together for its inaugural session just fifteen minutes from my home city of Fridley. The cost was next to nothing compared to other cons I had attended so I looked deeper.

What really caught my interest was the single-track programming, the idea being that because there would be only one panel going on at any given time there would no reason for conversation to not carry over from one panel to the next. Conversation could go potentially deeper because each panel would be part of a continuous over-arching conversation and not contained within the boundaries of its sixty-minute time-frame.

There were two other notes about the intentions of Narrativity that I thought were quite cool: 1. The con was about craft and improving at the craft of storytelling specifically. 2. Storytelling was the broad craft to be discussed and all disciplines of folks who tell stories would be welcome to participate.

I’m tipping my hand here by cutting from the decision to sign up to the end of the con, but I feel it necessary to lead in to the “Con Report” portion of this post with the framing that Narrativity was an absolute, unmitigated success and that I left Sunday night feeling so completely in love with stories and determined to tell some really good ones.

The programming was important in realizing the success of Narrativity. We had panels on “message” fiction, how to keep growing as a storyteller, the “chewy” bits, “competance porn,” knowing when you’re done, and others. There were a couple of panels where the invited panelists were non-writers who talked about reading and what effect good writing had on readers. The number of panels hadn’t seemed like a lot when reading them off on the online agenda, but in practice they were plentiful and, to borrow a much discussed term from the con, “chewy.”

The one bit of programming that I had kind of arched an eyebrow at was the little paragraph at the bottom of that page of the website that mentioned there would be ‘music circles’ at the end of each evening. This didn’t really surprise me to see because I knew that the one doing the programming, Steven Brust, is also a musician. The reason I was at all feeling dubious of it was that I’d been to theatre school and I’ve seen many a music circle in my time. Music circles that I’ve attended have often tended towards unfettered self-indulgence and wanton belting of show tunes (Nothing against show tunes, I just can’t handle continuous wanton belting).

But the music circles were excellent. I, surprising myself a bit, joined in sing-alongs of “Barrett’s Privateers,” listened to sea-shanties, and took in some lovely, earned performances of a couple show-tunes. It was good, warm, welcoming fun (the warmness caused in equal parts by good songs and good scotch).

And that warm, welcoming feeling was perhaps the strongest feature of Narrativity. There was no ego, no stratification, no ranks expressed in the three days spent at the Crown Plaza. We were simply storytellers all, sharing our experiences and trusting that the experience of others passionate about our common art form would aid us in our own growth.

On any given panel, you might have seen an author working on their first romance novel, a neuro-scientist who works in the realm of poetry and fanfic, a self-published urban fantasy author, a small press publisher, and an author published by DAW or some other household name. You might even hear from a painter or a photographer.

And the panels were better for it. The varying viewpoints and levels of experience only served to deepen the conversation. (I know I’m leaving out the specifics of what I gained from listening to the panels but this post is getting long enough and I still have enough to chew on in that subject that I think I’ll reserve that for another post.)

Just by virtue of the books mentioned, and generously tracked by con attendees and con organizer Liz A. Vogel, one can tell what an astounding range of discussion took place.

It was an incredible experience and one that I’m really looking forward to repeating in 2020.

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