11 March 2008

EPICon 2008...days 3-4


In a stunning show of what working conventions are like, day two didn't end until nearly 1 am into day three, and that was PST...not EST, making day two a twenty-hour day. Like day two, day three tried to start at 1:30 PST, but I managed to coax the sleep meter out to 6 am PST, giving me a solid 5 hours down. For anyone keeping track, that makes 41 hours on the go and 12 hours of sleep over the first two days, and the convention hasn't officially started yet.

The morning was a rush of last-minute preps and impromptu meetings, punctuated by bouts of silliness and a housekeeping matron who kept attempting to clean the room around me. By early afternoon, I'd scheduled the board meeting (did I mention that I'm the president of EPIC?) and had finally succumbed to a sinus headache. Sinus meds and a quick nap (about an hour of nap) later, I was back in service.

In the meantime, I learned two interesting facts about the hotel. One was that there was an elevator that wasn't made of glass...but it stopped a floor short of my hotel room. The other was that the stairwells were lockdowns. If you entered the stairwell, at any point, you could only exit at ground level. Of course, there were no signs mentioning this delightful fact, so I found myself making a full circuit down ten flights of stairs and back up the elevator. So much for me taking the stairs up a flight or two as a form of exercise.

At this point, it should probably be noted that one of the convention coordinators and I were in the same hotel and communicating by e-mail. One of my board members and I were in the same hotel and communicating with cell phones. And, two of my committee members and I were leaving each other post-its on room doors and phone memos on the hotel phone system. The only thing we were missing was a centralized message board for the convention.

Registration/check-in formally opened at 4 pm. At that point, it was hard to find someone in the hotel lobby (besides their own desk crew) that wasn't with our convention, though there were two other conventions in the hotel (including a convention of grade school and middle school cheerleaders). People with questions used the time to find the other conventioneers they needed, and old friends caught up with news.

The desk closed at 6, and the board and EPPIE chairs took off for a business meeting at a local restaurant. It was the longest single BOD meeting we'd ever had, a full two hours, and we decided on a lot of changes and programs to be implemented in the coming year.

Back at the hotel, we hit the opening mixer. If there was someone there feeling out of place and too shy to mix, I didn't see it. It was a lot of fun, and we left there at about 10:30.

Lisa and Leslie went right to sleep. I didn't. I checked the awards I'd been given to hold, those that Carol was a finalist for, so she couldn't assemble them. Putting one of them together was a challenge, since we had one broken base. I knew Carol would understand being given the base that needed replaced, so I cobbled the one she won together (The Pat White Service Award) as best I could. Since the permanent base would have to be sent to her anyway, it only made sense to give her the broken one we'd be replacing.

I learned we had a full 15 New Voices winners attending, so I child-proofed more of the leftover 2007 binders for the kids and stuffed them with YA promo gear.

That accomplished, I wrote the last thing I had to for the convention...the information I'd cover at the business meeting...and worked on my travel blog. All told, it's after 1:30 am PST, and I'm finally considering bed. That makes for an 18 ½ -hour day...so far (discounting the hour nap, of course). If I go to bed soon, it will be my shortest work day so far this trip.

FRIDAY- Day Four

Day four started at 5:45. Since I was still awake at 1:30, there was no wake-up for my husband's alarm at that time. All told, I managed 4 hours of sleep...plus the one-hour nap for the headache, bringing my total to just shy of 60 hours of work and about 17 hours of sleep in the first three days of the convention, but most of the prep for the "real" work is now accomplished.

Over a breakfast of juice, croissant and fresh fruit, I fielded questions and problems. That led right into the EPIC business meeting. It went off without a hitch. The membership seemed content with choices we'd made at the BOD meeting and even went as far as suggesting further improvements that we'd said we'd consider and pass along.

One very encouraging thing was the willingness of those suggesting changes to volunteer to run them. Since EPIC's only "paid subcontractor" is our web master, and we typically see a core volunteer base of only 5% or a little more of the membership, that was music to our ears.

The meeting ended, much to Jeff Strand's tongue-in-cheek dismay, without a single person yelling at me.

I've learned to pack my backpack with all the notes and such I'll need for the day to minimize the amount of time I have to spend running back and forth to my room. That came in handy, since immediately upon leaving the business meeting, I had to teach a class on using a pen name. It was a sparsely-attended class...up against some powerhouses, but we had a good time and covered the planned material...plus some.

After a quick change in the room--different clothes for the keynote luncheon, my afternoon panel on paranormal, and our presentation at Ooligan--it was off to the luncheon.

On the way, I learned that...while the treasurer had Lisa and Leslie listed correctly on her database, the con chair and registration desk didn't. Luckily, they'd accidentally listed Leslie as attending the full convention, so her meal tickets for Saturday were handed over to Lisa...and they made her a name tag on site. If that hadn't been the case... If they had Leslie listed as a day attendee and still missed Lisa entirely, we would have had a problem with meals. As it was, we had a gent show up on Friday, hoping he could register for the convention on site. We could accommodate him for classes but not for meals.

Note to self... When we put together the EPICon necessities, purchasing a few extra meal places...with these two eventualities in mind...will go in there. We did it in VA Beach, and we have the money to do it.

The keynote luncheon was grand. I got to meet and talk to Michael Powell of Powell's Books. I found his knowledge of e-publishing a little sparse...which he admitted up front, but he was a great industry source, in many ways, especially on the subject of POD. I left him with some information about the industry to bulk up his knowledge, the contact information for Scott Pendergrast to try and make an affiliate deal with them, and the information for Bob Sanders at Mundania (to try and get our books into his stores). I also presented the certificate for the donation we made to Oregon Literacy ($500 in Michael's name), since he refused an honorarium for speaking.

From the keynote, I segued directly into the paranormal panel. The panel head was Murdoch Hughes, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the panel itself was rather quirky. The title alone was enough to bring a smile to your face: Bigfoot Has Feelings, Too! He sat the panel in his werewolf costume, complete with chicken that tastes like rubber and a pocketful of feathers. I started out said panel with my fairy wand and circlet, but that started to chafe, so I ditched it. In addition to the pair of us, Frances Evlin and Michele Levigne sat in. It was a round-robin panel, half serious discussion and half tongue-in cheek...and it went very well. We even got to hear "Little Harley," Murdoch's stuffed werewolf, sing Little Red Riding Hood.

We closed down the panel and ran...nearly literally...for the front of the hotel. Since my schedule was so full, Murdoch and I were showing up halfway through the Ooligan Publishing Outreach event (what used to be called e-Fiesta) at Portland State University. Since neither of us were natives to Portland, Arlene set up a ride for us with her husband instead of trusting public transportation. We arrived in good order and took our places up on stage...where Murdoch performed his "change" into Harley Wolf again; I decided to forego the fairy accessories for this venue.

The first thing that caught my eye, while the vivacious and well-informed Connie Crow did her thing on the changing tech of e-publishing, was that the schedule showed me talking about something completely different than I'd be asked to talk about. The schedule said I was talking about what EPIC was and not about the format wars and the search for an affordable reader. But, what EPIC is and what we do doesn't take up a full 15 minutes of base time plus questions, so I did that (off the cuff...always know your stuff inside and out, so you can whip out what's being asked of you, in a flash) and then tackled the questions sent to me ahead of time about formats and readers. We went on to Q&A, and the questions were detailed and well-considered, so I endeavored to make my answers much the same.

I handed it off to Harley...er...Murdoch for his talk on marketing then took the mic again (since we had another twenty minutes or so to spare) and added to the marketing discussion. We did a final Q&A on any and all subjects regarding the industry, and the panel played well off of each other.

We stuck around for a little while after the presentations and answered more questions, handed out the 9-page handout I'd carted along, promised more handouts to be sent from home...and basically enjoyed talking to the students immensely!

We returned to the hotel, the seven adults squeezed into an SUV with a third-row (half folded-down to fit all of the gear from the presentations). By that time, the convention was catching up with me. I could barely walk, because my leg muscles were knotted up. I'd been running and standing for the better part of 4 days, and my body was letting me know it. A hot shower didn't take the edge off. Neither did IB or eating bananas and oranges. So, I resigned myself to finishing the day's work and taking one of the muscle relaxants stowed in my bag.

Friday night was "dinner on your own," and Lisa and Leslie had decided on a little café in Portland that they both knew well, Rose's Deli. I can't fault their choice there; they had delicious food, and the desserts were to die for good.

We joined the rest of the EPICon crew at Powell's Bookstore after dinner. They'd taken the bus over, but we were only a dozen blocks away, so we drove back from Roses, found some parking (not always easy in Portland) and made my legs scream a little more.

Let me introduce you to Powell's Books! It's a reader's dream come true. Imagine taking the four buildings on a city block and blasting through doorways...building ramps and concrete stairs to connect them, since the floors don't line up perfectly, painting each room a distinctive color, building rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves and stocking them (JUST that main store...because they have six stores in the area, but the others are smaller) with more than a million titles. Because...that's what Michael Powell did. The store also comes complete with a rare book room, where people can handle books but not purchase them. And, the used books are right on the shelf with the new, so you can pick up a gently-used copy at half or less the price of new, if you aren't gift-buying.

There are two levels (more or less, since they don't really mate up floor-to-floor, as I noted), and it's highly suggested that you pick up a map at the entrance you come in to find your way to what you want to browse. They also give out stickers that proclaim you got lost in the world's biggest book store.

But, that's not enough. They have employees in every section, always mindful of anything you might need. (I TOLD you that people in the Pacific Northwest were much more courteous than I am accustomed to.) And...as if the human helpers aren't enough, there are customer computers in every room, where you can enter a title or author name and have the computer direct you to the correct color room and row to find your choice.

When I punched in Erin Hunter's Warriors series for my daughter, I went to that isle and found the books...but not the graphic novels. I went back to the information station and those helpful employees and learned that the graphic books were in the "children's graphic novel" section (just a few rows away from the one I was searching). It seems I had, in my excitement, not scrolled down far enough on the search computer. More impressive to me, the women at the desk not only knew the series and obviously enjoyed it personally, they knew without looking at the computer precisely what isle is was in and where on the shelf. THAT is customer service.

It might sound as if I spent a lot of time in Powell's, but thanks to my aching legs, I spent a sum total of less than 45 minutes there and left wishing there was one closer to home. Guess I'll have to shop at their online store. Grinning...

Back at the hotel, I took a muscle relaxant and poured myself into bed at about 10 pm PST, making for a 16.25 hour day, a necessity that night. Unbeknownst to me, Carol and Debi were trying to reach me at about 11:30, knowing my propensity for being awake late, but my roommates (gloriously) told them that, since I hadn't woken up at the sound of the phone, I wasn't waking up for it.

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