PM me your address, and I’ll go ahead and get some mailed out to you on Saturday.
Here at last, and months late, is my con report as writing track lead for Midwest Fur Fest 2015. My apologies to any who have been expectantly waiting for this report (or more likely, given up on me producing one).
When I attend a furry convention, one of the first things I do is to look over the schedule and see what panels I might like to attend. Given my particular preferences, those usually tend to include the panels on writing and literature. Midwest Furfest had inconsistent offerings in that area, usually about four or five panels, sometimes more. One year it had only one. Some years, writing wasn’t even its own track but got lumped together into an Art and Literature track, and you can guess which of those most of the panels were about. A common sentiment among writers in the furry community is that they get overlooked while artists and fursuiters get the lion’s share of attention, leaving us wondering what we could do to bring more visibility to writing and literature. In 2012 I attended Anthrocon and was impressed by the writing track there. They had more than 20 writing panels all held in one room dedicated to the writing track. RainFurrest, I soon found out, had become something of a writer’s mecca, with even more panels than Anthrocon, and there were other furry cons that had a strong slate of writing panels. This had me wondering what it would take for Midwest Furfest to have a strong writing track.
At MFF 2014 I spoke with Kodi, the MFF programming lead, who agreed to put me in charge of the writing track. To start with, working from the writing tracks at other conventions (not only those I had attended but others whose programming schedules I was able to view online) I set an initial goal of 15 writing panels with a stretch goal of 20. The plan included coming up with a list of potential writing panels so we’d have decent coverage of the most important topics - here also I drew from the schedules of other conventions. I came up with a basic list that would cover some of the key writing topics, for which I would solicit panelists. I knew I needed to leave room for unsolicited panel submissions as well as any others the panelists I solicited came up with in addition to these.
Next step is to get panelists. I probably sent out 50 or 60 emails to potential panelists, many of them to people who had done or expressed interest in doing panels at MFF in the past, those who had done panels at other furry conventions, and some others from the Furry Writers Guild. I expected that many of these people wouldn’t be attending MFF but I wouldn’t know if I didn’t ask and it doesn’t hurt to cast a wider net; besides, it might get MFF on more people’s radar as a convention to attend in the future for its writing track. I was disappointed when a couple of responses from past MFF panelists indicated they wouldn’t be attending in 2015, but I needn’t have worried, as I found out soon enough that we have a depth of writers in the fandom who are interested in sharing their craft by doing panels. Most who stepped up to lead panels probably would have attended MFF anyway but I know of one panelist whom I believe decided to come largely because of a desire to do panels and support the writing track. For a time I nearly had the opposite problem, as I ended up having more panelists than I needed for some panels (I was shooting for three panelists at each) and had to ask some to step back.
As for scheduling, I would have preferred to get all panels in one room, which would insure that no writing panels were scheduled opposite one another, and would effectively place an upper limit on the number of panels that could be scheduled over the course of the weekend. This would also facilitate bringing my own whiteboard and any other supplies, as well as making it a good place to spread any swag or flyers that are particularly geared toward writing and literature enthusiasts, and would make a better case to request a specific room configuration (I had hoped to get the room in a classroom configuration (chairs and rectangular forward-facing tables)). Ideally it would in the mind of attendees become the room to go to for writing panels, the ‘writing track room’, so to speak. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, and the panels were split between three rooms with some of them scheduled at the same time, and for most of the weekend they were in theater configuration (rows of forward-facing chairs), though I’ll concede that a few panels were well enough attended that we made good use of the additional seating capacity of the theater configuration.
During the weekend I was concerned that my activity might be seen as ‘helicoptering’, though in reality I attended many panels simply because I was interested in them as a writer. In fact I discovered (both there and at RF a couple of months earlier) that I reach a saturation point on writing content and somewhat feel like I’ve missed out on all the other fun stuff I could have been doing at the convention. In 2016 I probably will take more time to do just that.
There was one instance brought to my attention of bad chemistry between panelists, so this year I may have to who not to assign to the same panels. Only a couple of other minor issues came up over the weekend. The magnetic locks on the panel room doors were a nuisance throughout the weekend, and in one case, a projector was removed from a room when I knew there was a panel coming up later in the day. Con ops got the projector back in time for the panel, so kudos to them for that. They said they’re aware of the magnetic lock issue but there isn’t a way to shut them off and maybe this year we’ll get some good doorstops that will allow the doors to close most of the way (to block out outside noise) without the locks engaging.
Based on my experience at MFF2015, I think 20 panels is a good number to shoot for. If programming gets more function space for smaller panels I might try for 30 but as long as we are limited to what we had in 2015 I’ll keep the target at 20, and might even have to dial that back some if some of the other programming tracks want to schedule more panels. I’m also aware that the Kodi and the other programming and convention leadership have a lot to deal with and if I’m going to make requests or suggestions, I don’t want to pile on more work for them, and if anything should try to make their jobs easier.
Finally, while my primary task is to get a good slate of writing panels on the MFF schedule, I have a secondary objective of promoting writing and literature in the furry fandom. Toward this objective, some of the things I would like to see are to get at least one story in the conbook, a writer guest of honor (the last time we had one was 2007, if you don’t count inviting all the past GOHs back in 2009). We have the furry small press, of which all of the ‘big three’ (Sofawolf, FurPlanet, and Rabbit Valley), have been dealers at MFF the last few years (and panelists too). I’d like to think I’m doing my part to drive more business to them and other publishers in the fandom, both in terms of purchases from MFF attendees and submissions to future publications.
To all who read this far (and waited this long), thank you for bearing with me. As the time grows near to start kicking preparations for MFF 2016 into high gear, I hope some of you will join me for the ride.
Thanks for posting, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job promoting and expanding the writing track!
Sounds really cool! I’m impressed. I ran six writing panels (which was the entire writing track) at Furlandia 2016 this year, and I was exhausted by the end of the weekend - although part of it was that I was also a dealer.