Hey! Melissa here recapping what was an empowering female convention for us female nerds – GEEKGIRLCON 2013!
I attended with Ash’s wife/my sister, Christina. It was her first time in Seattle and my first trip back in over ten years so we trampled around a bit and caused some mischief of our own.
Picking up our badges on Saturday morning was refreshing – I have to say these girls have it under control, and Comic-Con could take a lesson or two. Our first panel was “Strong Female Characters in Young Adult Literature”. It was a rough start, due to two of the panelists not arriving, but it ended up being one of my favorite panels. The setting was intimate, the room was small, and the conversation was casual. The panelists, Tori Centanni and Faith McKay, led a discussion on strong female lead characters such as Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, and Clary Fray. The panel asked “What would you like to see more of in books [in regards to the female character]?” Answers ranged from more diversity to more real life situations as it relates to teenagers who cope with depression, eating disorders, homosexuality, and rape, to the desire to see more romance where the female is more in charge and not helplessly in love.
I raised the comment during open discussion that I would like to see less villainizing of a strong female adult in YA. It seems to me that in a lot of literature if a female character has a strong personality, has a successful corporate position, is wildly attractive or rich, that she is then ultimately sinister or put into the villain category. I’m not only suggesting the archetype (which we’ll talk about in the next panel I attended) of the Wicked Witch or the Evil Queen, I mean the stereotypical Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada or the common “slut” or the “bitch”. I think it is unfair to the strong girls and women out there that are determined, flirtatious, confident and/or competitive. Am I wrong? This panel definitely gave me more to think about, especially in my own writing.
Next up was “Witches, Princesses, and Warrior Maidens: Exploring the Archetypes of Women in Fantasy”. This was my dream come true panel it seemed. Up on stage were the EMP Museum directors, Robin Hobb (international best selling fantasy author), and Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time), moderated by Brooks Peck (curator of Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition at the EMP). In this panel they showed slides of the new exhibit at the EMP “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” where you’ll find Buttercup’s dress from The Princess Bride, models from The Dark Crystal, an animatronic dragon, and the Wicked Witch’s hat from The Wizard of Oz. The panelists discussed archetypes, what they are and how they shape fantasy stories. Some of the favorites mentioned were the Created Child: C3P-O, Data, and Pinocchio, the Wise-Old Man: Dumbledore, Gandalf, and Mr.Miagi, Tricksters: Tinkerbell, Rumpelstiltskin, Mary Poppins, and of course the Maiden Warrior: Buffy, Eowyn and Mulan. This panel was so informative, but a little formal and stiff. I really enjoyed the perspectives on their personal favorite archetypes and the history behind some of them.
One piece of advice I took away from Ms. Espenson was to give your characters contradictions. She mentioned the first line she ever gave Cordelia from Buffy “I do well on standardized tests…what? I can’t have layers?” OH! and one of the most interesting things I took away from the whole panel regarding the Maiden Warrior was that most of these fairy-tale heroines we know and love were no more than nursery tales passed down by, yes, women. Espenson points out- Prince Charming didn’t even have a first name.
Next up was the panel “Playing God: What it Takes to Create a Universe” with Hilary Heskett Shapiro and Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows along with BioWare’s Karin and Patrick Weekes. The panel was great, and they talked a lot about letting your creative juices flow. The most important thing I learned was that you’ve got to get it out on paper (or virtual paper). It does nothing to keep your universe or idea in your brain – let it out and let it flow. You can hear the whole panel on the Rated NA podcast coming soon!
Christina and I ventured around the exhibition floor and saw some really cool art and handmade trinkets. Namely: the Gorgonist, idolatre, Ye Olde Dragon’s Hoard, the Seattle Attic and so much more! Then SURPRISE! We met Karen Prell- the voice of Red Fraggle!!!
I was even able to share my photo with her, explaining that I knew it was Gobo in the photo but thanking her for being such a huge part of my childhood.
Sunday was a day for shopping (YAY! I bought an awesome red capelet), exploring, and two more awesome panels about freelancing from Miellyn and Hilary. “Life as a Lone Wolf: Tips for a Successful Freelance Career” featured Crabcat’s Holly and Jessica and was moderated by the author of many titles, including The Star Wars Craft Book, Bonnie Burton (and her Ackbar puppet). It was a really fun panel. Bonnie was a such a delight and gave some really important information on what it means to work for a company before heading out on your own.
In the “It’s Not Too Dangerous to Go Alone: Finding the Bravery to Do it Yourself” panel moderated by Geek Portland’s Kenna Conklin, Miellyn and Hilary were joined with musician Marian Call and Kara Helgren (non-profit advocate, bike shop owner and President of PDX Brown Coats). The whole panel gave terrific advice on financial stability and getting an accountant. One of my favorite quotes was Meillyn’s “…being freelance means doing anything anyone will let you do.” It made me think of my own talents and how over the years I have done my own self-based businesses (mayyokehandmade.com) and all the things that I have to offer with not only my education but also my experience. It was an empowering feeling.
Christina and I took the rest of the day easy (due to my back injury that was manifesting). So we headed to the lower level to play some games. We played some Popcap games on the provided iPads, namely Peggle, Bejeweled and Bookworm (if you didn’t know- Christina and I are a little obsessed with word game and jewel game apps).
We bought Fluxx the Boardgame and a card game called Gloom. Afterwards we attended the Ladies of the 80s in a giant room where we sang along to some of the best/worst music videos of the 80s. This was followed by a really sweet closing celebration with the Doubleclicks performing their anti-bullying song “Nothing to Prove”.
Last, we ended the night at Dragonfish on pure recommendation from our friend Marissa Meyer (who was attending the Boston Book Festival the same weekend). IT WAS MAGICAL. I can see why she likes it so much. Christina and I imagined we were Cinder and Scarlet eating dinner together somewhere in the Eastern Commonwealth. Haha! We had tempura fried BACON! Yes, you heard me correctly – TEMPURA BACON! Magic.
I really enjoyed Seattle. It is a really beautiful city that seems to actively support local and independent businesses and art. I especially enjoyed the girl time I spent with Miellyn and Hilary at the hotel – like a grown up slumber party with awesome snacks (c/o Christina) and silly adverbs (c/o Hilary’s reading of…well, we don’t need to talk about that). It was a great con! See you next year GeekGirlCon’14.
(Christina sure knows how to buy snacks! Amiright? )