October 21, Merrimack Valley Book Festival - Haverhill, MA
This is all new to me. I finished writing my first novel just five months ago. It’s been a long time coming. There’s been so much to do since I finished the first draft, more than I ever imagined. I new I’d have to edit it, but I never guessed how much work that would be, because I’d only written short stories before. I found out I needed to have a website, start a blog, as well as get active on facebook and twitter. Last and not least, I needed to network. As far as networking goes, the best thing I have done to date was join the New England Horror Writers.
The NEHW seemed like a good, solid group, right away. I immediately got involved in the facebook discussions and tried to help by contributing to the website. I had a chance to meet some of the members at Rock and Shock, and then about a month later at Anthocon. Those two events were great places to start and meet a few people, but the best chance to really get to know some people was going to be the Christmas party at John McIlveen’s.
Driving there was a bit of an adventure for me. I had trouble following the mapquest directions, and found myself wishing I had taken the GPS from my wife’s car. Overall, Haverhill is not that far from my home city of Peabody (pronounced Peebuddy, Jason), but once I got past Georgetown, I was in unfamiliar territory. It probably took me about a half hour longer to get there than it should have, because I turned around and backtracked so many times. In the end, I made it though.
Now, I’ve been an introvert all my life, so meeting new people isn’t really my specialty. I’m sure a lot of you other writer types out there can relate to this. I walked into the conference room where the party was being held and all those old anxieties came to the surface. All the seats at the table were taken, which didn’t make it any easier to blend in. Luckily, Dan Keohane got up from the food table and asked in anyone wanted to play pool. A few of us teamed up and we played some pool. This gave me a chance to mingle with just a couple people to start and break the ice. As an added bonus, our host John McIlveen brought down enough alcohol to supply a frat party. I’ve been in enough social situations to know the lubricating powers of alcohol, so I grabbed a beer and tried to relax.
People came and went, but I had the chance to talk to Paul McMahon, Scott Goudsward, John McIlveen and Tracy Carbone during the day. Eventually, Stacy Longo and Jason Harris showed up, the two people who I’ve had the most contact up until now. I’m not so good at mingling that I had the chance to meet everybody, but hopefully I’ll get there eventually. I’m learning more all the time. Everybody had their own experiences and their own advice to share. The NEHW is a very friendly, supportive community, and I’m glad I can be a part of it. As day turned to night, the partygoers dwindled to a level I was more naturally comfortable with.
At eight o’clock, those of us who had stuck it out that long, gathered around the television so we could check out Tracy Carbone’s appearance on Animal Planet. This was the best time for me. We all got a kick out of Tracy’s appearance on some show that had to do with exotic pets. It lightened the mood up for a fun conversation. At that point, Scott Woolridge and Gardner Goldsmith were telling stories about convention experiences, other writers they have met, and the British sci-fi comedy, Red Dwarf, a show I had never seen before. Gardner really had some great stories to share about Red Dwarf and what the show meant to him. Gardner and a friend of his even flew over to England one year, just to watch the show on tv.
As Gardner was telling us this story, he described his big, burly friend who went with him. He looked around the room, reached over and tapped me on the shoulder, “Kind of like this guy,” he said. I have to chuckle about this. I have been part of a few different social circles over my life, such as hockey players, construction workers, Boy Scout fathers and now writers. Everything being relative, I seem to be some sort of hybrid. When I am around the athletes and construction workers, I am generally one of the smaller guys, but when I hang out with Boy Scout dads and other writers, it goes the other way.
Anyway, it was a fun day filled with interesting people. I’ve never completely fit in with the athletes and construction workers. Nothing against them, mind you, I’ve been part of that crowd for over twenty-five years. Still, it’s nice to finally find a group of people who can sit around all day talking about H. P. Lovecraft, Star Wars, the next Stephen King mini-series and the zombie apocalypse. I hope I get the chance to get to know more of this group over the coming year. Maybe by the 2012 Christmas party I’ll even know the names of the others that I didn’t get a chance to meet. I guess I’ll wrap this up now. I think I’ll watch one more episode of Red Dwarf on Netflix before bed.