A Weekend at Potlatch/Foolscap

I spent the weekend at a “reader’s spa.” Chocolate fondue, rest time, reading time, conversation, coffee, brunch, board games, even a masseuse at the ready.

Actually, it’s not called a spa.You could call it a weekend-long book group meeting, with food.

But it’s not called a book group either. It’s called a con, short for convention. But it’s unlike any other con I know about. I’m not altogether sure how to explain it. First off, it was a hybrid between two different cons — Potlatch and Foolscap. I’ve never been to a Foolscap, but I’ve been going to Potlatch for years. It is all about science fiction/fantasy book fandom, and beyond that it means different things to different people. There’s a hospitality suite with free food (and a donation kitty, of course) and hardworking volunteers. There’s a “book of honor” rather than a “guest of honor”, and the book provides a focal point for conversations that take place. As for the conversations, there are two kinds of programming: panels and microprogramming. The panels are decided in advance and involve lots and lots of audience participation. Usually the audience talks more than the panelists. The microprogramming are events that get decided on the spur of the moment. People write them up and then people attend them.

(Now when I said there was a book of honor rather than a guest of honor, that only applied to the Potlatch side of things. Foolscap has a guest of honor – in fact, two. Nancy Pearl, celebrity librarian, and Michel Gagné, artist and cartoonist. And they were responsible for the chocolate fondue.)

Potlatch is extremely well suited for introverted readers and writers. We just plain have difficulty with conversation. Not only that, but we do conversation differently. Actually, what I mean is that *I* do conversation differently. I hear something, and it sets something off in my mind, and then I take a long time to mull it over. Or I read something in a book, and although I might like to talk to somebody about it, maybe nobody around me has read the same book and then before long I forget whatever it was I wanted to say. So in general, in my daily life, I simply don’t talk about what matters most to me.

Put another way, cocktail party conversation is hell for me.

At Potlatch, on the other hand, I might attend a panel with something pre-prepared to say. Or I might spark off some idea somebody else had. Or I might derive some casual conversation to share with somebody later in the elevator. Or I might just remain silent and then go home and write about it later.

That would be now.

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