This weekend I got to hang out at the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference which will hear by be shortened to DFWCon.
This was the first time I’d gone to a writing conference as opposed to a writing convention (or writing workshop, I promise I’ll get my VP blog up someday). “What’s the difference?”, you might be asking. Near as I can tell, a convention focuses on celebrating the fandom of the thing, with a couple of panels for aspiring creators and the chance to hear industry experts speak. Armadillocon (a great con that I highly recommend) averages about 50/50 fan/creator. The entire focus of the conference is craft and the business. There’s pitch sessions, there’s one-on-one editing sessions, and there’s a whole lot of wonderful panels.
Friday night I showed up in Dallas (almost a whole day later than planned, sorry big bro, didn’t get a chance to stop by) and immediately went to the pre-con mixer where I met a bunch of awesome other writers. I was nervous at first, but conversation led to conversation, and I eventually wound up with the group that closed down the mixer, moseyed on down to the hotel restaurant, and talked about writing and life until the wee hours of the morning.
Saturday started bright and early, with classes going from 8am until almost 6pm. Four hours of my brain being stuffed with info, a catered lunch, and then five more hours of pure knowledge. Let me tell y’all, the food was actually really good. No Jason’s deli cold cuts, it all rocked. (except for 1 tiny incident on Sunday that I’ll get to later). The classes were awesome (and included a spicy romance class where I was the only attendee). I got some great pitch advice from Brent Taylor, and after the classes headed to dinner with another large group of writer type folks. The introvert in me was freaking out a bit, but I survived, and I had duck wings. DUCK WINGS(!!!!). They were delicious.
That night was the mixer, a cocktail party type thing where authors could get the liquid courage to talk to editors and agents that were imbibing a bit. Which is great! Less great when you’re on of the folks that doesn’t drink. Not that I begrudge anyone anything, but I was still as nervous as ever and had just the same barriers as always to approaching strangers. This meant that I mostly kind of social-butterflied around the people I already knew for the night, and when a hyper vigilance episode came up, I waited around for it to pass. But I made it through the whole night without a panic attack, and even talked to one agent, so I’m calling it a win.
Sunday started just as early as Saturday. Pack. Get ready to leave, emotionally and by checking out of the hotel. Say the first goodbyes. Go to more great great great classes. Then lunch.
This is where I learned some things that had nothing to do with writing. The lunch itself was pretty damn good, especially for a hotel catered Mexican buffet. I fill my plate, eat my fill, and then I notice they have churros for dessert. Boy, I love churros. Enough to go back for seconds. While grabbing a fresh hot churro, I notice they also have tres leches . Now, I’m technically on a diet, but as you might have guessed for two churros, the rules don’t hold well outside the Austin city limits. So I decide to be all the way bad and grab a slice of cake.
Halfway through, I notice something else. There’s some translucent shavings on the back of the cake. Decorative, and quite reminiscent of coconut. Some readers might remember I’m slowly coming to terms with a mild coconut allergy. But still, no big deal. Just don’t eat the icing covered cake end, I think.
Except… halfway through the lunchtime keynote and farewell remarks, my mouth is burning in an obnoxiously familiar way. There must have been something like coconut milk as one of the three milks. But still, no big deal. One Benadryl should be enough to quiet the symptoms while keeping me alert enough to drive home.
Except… I’m still coming to terms with this allergy. I’m not prepared, I have no meds of my own. I ask around the table. No luck. I get the idea to ask the super helpful con staff. They’ve been amazing and informative so far, so obviously they’ll know if there’s anywhere I can grab some antihistamines without walking all the way back to the hotel gift shop. Turns out, the words “Allergic reaction” do not relax con staff, even if prepended with the word “slight”. They leap into action, and within a few minutes I’m downing a Benadryl. Yay! I’m saved, all in time for my one-on-one editing session with the fabulous Tex Thompson.
Except… we’re talking through some of the finer points of the manuscript when I hear someone say “Aha! Here he is!”
I look around. One of the staffers is pointing at me, waving down the hall. “Pardon me, some nice gentlemen with the EMS need to have a word with you,” she say.
So, that happens. I get a quick once over from the EMS, and once they’re convinced the antihistamine has cut down the itching, returned me to a normal color, and stopped my voice from sounding like I’m talking through brambles, then they have sigh a release saying I don’t need to go to the hospital. I had a similar conversation with the hotel security manager once the EMS guys left. He lets me know the con staff reached out to him. He checked the registration desk first aid kits and the lobby gift shop and wasn’t able to find any antihistamines. So while on the way TO A CONVENIENCE STORE TO BUY ME PILLS, he calls the EMS, in case they’re out and I get worse before they can get me something to get the reaction under control, not knowing the con staff managed to secure some for me in the meantime.
Let me reiterate, this man did everything I’d expect and then some. The hotel and the con staff went above and beyond in taking care of me. But I’m also feeling a little silly for stirring up a fuss. Then they bring in the head caterer. That’s when I find out that there was, apparently, no coconut even in the cake.
Seriously. Even though a few other folks tasted coconut, and we saw coconut, the official word is there was none in the cake. Which either means that a) catering folks got some wires crossed on ingredients b) I’m allergic to an unknown something else in tres leches, or c) my psychosomatic reactions are insanely powerful. Honestly, any is as likely as the other. But there’s a chance I really wasted everyone’s time, and if I did, I’m truly sorry.
Once that little distraction was taken care of, I wrapped up my session with Tex, climbed into my faithful Shadowcat (cars can be named after Kitty Pride, damnnit) and made my slightly drowsy way back home, having made new friends, learned many new things, and had a great time.
I’ll be signing up again next year and hope to see you there! (I’ll be the guy with the jumbo pack of Benadryl)