Although as I write at 10 a.m. Sunday Conestoga XIV is still going on in Tulsa, I'm back home. I arrived there at 7:15 p.m. Friday evening and left Saturday at 1:30 p.m. There just wasn't enough going on, and enough people there, to keep my attention.
I attended Conestoga in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but skipped last year after it moved from its previous summertime date to April. Those previous Conestogas were some of the best cons I ever attended.
Last year I went to SoonerCon in Oklahoma City instead; after what happened on the road (my car's transmission melted down and I was stranded overnight in Henryetta, I decided to skip SoonerCon and return to Conestoga.
I'd say attendance this year at Conestoage was half of what I had last seen, not more than, say 60% of Con DFW. The guests were equally sparse, and so the panels were fewer. There were a handful of old chums to chat with - Bill Ledbetter, Brad and Sue Sinor, James K,. Burk - but attendance was really puny.
I wasn't scheduled for an autographing - which in light of the fact I've got "Fantastic Texas" to tout was a big negative in my 'book', pardon the pun - and only two panels, one at 9 a.m. and one at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Hence Saturday after lunch I looked around and decided it wasn't a good investment of my time to hand around any more,
The good news is that the two panels I participated went very well - the panel at 9 a.m. Saturday on "Is Literacy in Decline?" - which I moderated - was well received by the faithful who attended. The panelists were all bright, helpful and infornative - Matthew Bey from Austin, of "Space Squid" fame - Stacy Nyikos of Tulsa, a young adult author - and Gary Babb. Two of the listed panelists didn't show. Bill Eakin said he had gotten an email that said he could be on the panel, but he wasn't on the program. He sat on the front row and still helped out a lot.
I wasn't in the program book myself, and had to ask to get my schedule last week. Apparently the con has had some sort of implosion in regards to its programming. I understand one of the key organizers had to move away. This kind of ball-dropping happens in all sorts of volunterr organizations, you just take it in stride.
The panel at 11 a.m. was in the main ballroom, on the subject of E-Books and Kindles and Nooks and all that sort of stuff. There were only three of us on the panel, myself, moderator Steve Wedel and Will Thomas. Although the attendance was smaller than you might expect at mid-day on Saturday in the main ballroom of the con, everyone enjoyed it. The small size actually helped, the members of the audience were able to participate and contribute very well to the discussion.
Overall, I'm glad I went; I picked up some useful gossip, tips and ideas; but in light of the size of the event, I didn't think it was worth staying the whole weekend. I hope they do better next year.