Back from Mythmoot
Because nothing can be merely accomplished without some drama involved, then the weather decided to throw a wrench at our cogs. Bobby was tracking throughout the week a winter storm set to hit on Saturday, the first day of the conference. He broke the news to me about mid-week, as the possibility began to really take shape. We decided to get a hotel room for Saturday night, just in case. By Friday night, Carroll County was under a winter storm warning with as much as an additional 10 inches (25 cm) expected, beginning mid-morning on Saturday. Thankfully, temperatures ended up being much warmer than anticipated, and while we got a couple more inches here in north Carroll, it was not enough to prevent our going home between days. (Which was our preference since we just laid out a lot of money to travel to England for the holidays.) And my very first conference was saved.
It started early Saturday morning. Because we were trying to beat the storm, we ended up at Arundel Mills Mall--where we'd be viewing the new Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in a private screening--at about 7:30 AM. Arundel Mills is huge, so we joined the mall walkers making the circuit before coming back to the movie theater and finding the line forming for Mythmoot. We got signed in, and after moving theaters twice, finally settled in a theater to watch the movie at about 9. We got concessions vouchers which--combining Bobby's and mine--brought a small popcorn and medium iced tea down to a reasonable $4. This was probably the earliest I've eaten popcorn in the morning.
I will withhold an actual review on the movie until I see it a second time because it was too early for me to process properly, and I feel like I missed a lot. Also, we saw it in 3D, which is not usually how I watch movies, and I found myself very distracted by how it made the movie look. I will settle for now with saying that I enjoyed the movie, keeping in mind that I view the movies as well-financed fanfic, i.e., the opportunity to enjoy the creators' visions of Middle-earth, not as a canonical film representation of What Tolkien Would Have WantedTM.
Then it was over to the Maritime Institute, where the conference was being held, for the conference itself. Lunch was first, and I was impressed with the selection and quality of the food. The woman collecting our vouchers at the door also told me I looked beautiful. (I was wearing my long, faux-fur-trimmed coat, so somewhat more elegant than usual perhaps, but the compliment--sleep-deprived as I was and not particularly beautiful feeling--caught me by surprise.) We ended up at a table with three fellow conference attendees and made immediate friends who we spent time with at other points throughout the conference as well. Social stuff is always my weak point in things like this. I enjoy socializing but don't like reaching out, and the effort sometimes feels too much, so I'll turtle up with a book or "safe person" I know (like Bobby). However, part of attending this was meeting and networking with other fans and people involved in the academic side of Tolkien fandom! Anyway, it was remarkably easy for a born wallflower like me, since everyone shared an interest in Tolkien and everyone I talked to was really nice.
The first reactions to the movie by the Riddles in the Dark podcast team followed. (I will be rolling some of these observations into my own forthcoming review.) Then we went to the first round of paper sessions. I was lucky to present on Sunday, the second day, so I had the opportunity to watch three presentations and decide what worked and what didn't, and tweak my presentation accordingly. The presentations were on politics in Middle-earth, chivalry in Frodo and Faramir, and proverbs of Middle-earth. All three presentations were very good and different enough to analyze my own style and make necessary adjustments. (Presenting stuff all the time as part of being a teacher helps too. There are certain things--like using visuals, summarizing, and pulling out key quotes--that I already do as a matter of course in a Powerpoint presentation.)
The second panel on reactions to the movie--which included questions and commentary from the audience as well as the Riddles in the Dark team--commenced next. All of this was just pure bliss to a Tolkien geek like me. Everything was kept lighthearted and fun, and there was much laughter. Then off to supper.
After supper was a panel on adapting Tolkien through art, with Ted Nasmith and Jef Murray. This was one of my favorite presentations that I attended, even though it was by far the most informal: We pulled up a bunch of chairs in the marketplace and had an informal discussion and Q&A. This topic was of obvious interest to me, given my interest in Tolkien-based transformative works; even though I mostly write fiction based in Arda, a lot of what they had to say held true for me as well, as a writer. For example, there was a discussion of how the creative process can take on a life of its own; Tolkien talks about this a lot himself, about how he discovered plot twists right alongside his characters. I've had this happen myself--AMC was written in such a manner--so it was interesting to hear others' takes on it. As part of this idea, they also discussed what I call the One Locked Room character development (or story-writing) process; Jef mentioned this specifically as something Flannery O'Connor was famous for. I've viewed this also as a valuable character-developing exercise or (in the case of AMC) even as a means to produce stories. There was some discussion about what causes this sort of creative auto-pilot; my theory is that successful artists in all media discern more readily than "normal people" what creates a particular emotional reaction. For example, a writer might be more attuned to what about a person in terms of precise features--that which can then be placed on paper--gives the impression of a certain personality trait, emotional state, etc. You don't even realize that you're doing it. I've long believed that great writers are often great less because of their skill with words than their skill with people.
While we were at this session, I noticed that the woman sitting next to Bobby was not only dressed in a great Fëanorian costume but also had a nametag that said "Curufin." Well, since I had made up my mind to be more social than I usually am in such situations, I thought, "I'm going to say something about it after the presentation." So I did. She replied, "Are you Dawn?" which made me kind of go suspiciously like, "Yeeees ..." wondering which reputation preceded me. Well, it turns out, she is a longtime fandom friend and SWG member whom I've never met in person (although we've lived in the same state for much the time we've known each other): mithluin!. Needless to say, I was excited; I think I blurted something out that was very squeeful.
Next was a pub trivia quiz in the hotel bar, so MithLuin and I formed a team (the Fëanorians, naturally, which disturbed some of our groupmates) and we proceeded to own that trivia. (MithLuin owned far more than me, as she is better versed in trivia across the legendarium, whereas I'm really only any good with The Silmarillion.) I think we frightened or impressed or maybe a bit of both of our teammates but, as is natural for any team being the name Fëanorians, we ended up winning the contest. (Bobby and I left before the final round because we had a long drive home and the temperature at home had dropped below freezing, which meant the roads might be a bit messy, so MithLuin really carried the team. Curufin indeed!)
The drive home wasn't bad till we got to Manchester and I slid partway down a long hill because they hadn't salted the turn lane. Then we got stuck in the pile of snow at the bottom of the driveway left by the plow, and Bobby had to shovel/kitty litter/push us out while I drove. This morning was a mess too until we got down to the main roads.
So this morning ... back to the Maritime Institute for breakfast and a session on transforming Tolkien's works into art and music. Then ... the paper sessions. Including mine. O.O I went second on a three-person panel on cosmogony and eschatology.
It went so well. So well. I knew it was going to be fine--I was well-prepared and had tinkered quite a bit with my Powerpoint before going to bed the night before--but I didn't expect it to go quite as well as it did. The Powerpoint received numerous compliments. (I am something of a Powerpoint artisan, as stupid as that probably sounds, and had made custom graphics and animations to go with the presentation. Yes, I know, overachiever. I do similar things when making presentations for my classes that I teach.) I had practiced reading it multiple times during the week leading up to the conference (including recording myself with my webcam), but this was the best reading with the fewest mistakes. I kept calling the "Blessed Trinity" the "Blessed Trilogy" and managed to catch myself before saying it in the presentation. The Q&A at the end went well; I felt a flicker of nerves here--because this, after all, was not scripted and one can never anticipate what kinds of questions people might surprise you with--before putting myself firmly in my place. I'd prepared, dammit, and knew my stuff. At the end of the session, several people came up and complimented the paper and presentation, and enough asked for copies that I ran out of the extras I'd brought and started having to collect email addresses. Not a bad thing.
(heartofoshun, I can hear you thinking that you told me so. You told me I'd be among the best prepared and I was. So you were right, as you usually are. ;)
We had lunch with our friends we'd made at lunch the day prior, and then sat in the third and final session on the movies with MithLuin, about predictions for the third film, which proved very interesting. The Fëanorians were honored for their trivia prowess, and Bobby and I took home a huge Hobbit poster for our part in it. And then it was over.
It was just an excellent weekend; I told Bobby that I'm usually worn out by the end of things like that, but I could easily get up tomorrow and do it over again. It was great to spend so much time with like-minded people in an atmosphere that was so much fun and so supportive. I'm already looking forward to next year.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!