Well I have been back from PantheaCon for a week now and I’m still taking in some of the things that happened. It’s amazing that anything happened at all, considering how short my stay was and how some unplanned “adventures” tried (but failed) to derail an awesome weekend.
I enjoy traveling. I like the whole process of flying from booking flights to picking up checked luggage and everything in between. I like to think of myself as an experienced planner of trips and an adaptable traveler who can overcome whatever random obstacles are thrown at me. Well, I kind of blew it in that regard this time.
In an effort to book an affordable flight, using my preferred method of payment, I ended up booking a flight that didn’t even leave until after 8 PM on the Friday of PantheaCon. That was a huge blunder and I will never repeat it simply to save $75. As a result of this decision, I reached my hotel room (about 3 blocks from the primary hotel) at 11:30 PM. I was too tired and it was too late to go over to the con so I hauled my 100 pounds of luggage (no lie) up to my room and crashed.
Saturday morning at PantheaCon is a wonderful thing to see. I got a good night’s sleep and hoofed it over to con fairly early on Saturday morning. I had to hang around a few minutes for registration to open, but they whisked me right through. By the time I had checked in at the Green Room (since I had a workshop scheduled), the Llewellyn table was up and running. I gave Elysia a big hug and got to meet my publisher, Bill Krause, for the first time. After apologizing for missing the Llewellyn’s author “get together” on Friday night, we chatted for a bit before Elysia was off to another panel and I took a quick tour of the vendor’s room.
I thought that the vendor’s room was a really nice mix this year. Last year it seemed a little lopsided, but this year I thought there was a great mix of vendors and that they were well distributed. I was surprised to see several vendors with large assortments of buttons for sale. I thought that was very cool. It was refreshing to see a good assortment of less expensive items for sale. I also like PantheaCon’s policy of having a vendor’s room that is open to the general public. I’m not sure if that’s to appease a California law or just good business on the Con’s part, it is a smart move that certainly won’t hurt the vendors.
PantheaCon brings together quite a diverse spectrum of people. The most recent head-count I saw put attendance over 2,400 people this year. As you can imagine, attendees run the gamut from strict Wiccans to free-wheeling Solitaries to many who do not describe themselves as “Pagan” at all. People from a huge variety of lifestyles and spiritual backgrounds gathering under a single roof has some pretty obvious opportunities for conflict. Luckily, the energy of PantheaCon is a very positive one of inclusion, so conflicts are rare and generally handled quietly. Sitting in the hotel lobby, as I did for several hours, is one of the most unique “people watching” opportunities I have encountered.
Around lunch time on Saturday, I moved towards my workshop rooms. The Con had doubled my space from last year and I had brought enough materials for 64 people (at least a dozen more than had been in my best-attended workshop in years past). I know that the previous year I had planned for 30 people and had just enough materials to allow 35 to make incense. I thought that more than doubling my planned capacity would be enough. I was wrong.
For workshops, attendees cannot get into line more than 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. I had to set up for 64 people inside the room as well as set up the projector to work with my netbook, get my PowerPoint queued up, and get merchandise out for sale. Needless to say, I was completely occupied for the 45 minutes leading up to start time. I was blown away when one of the wonderful Con workers came to me and said that when they allowed people to line up, 53 people immediately got into line for this workshop. That was still 15 minutes before the doors would be opened.
I just can’t say how humbled I was in that moment. To think that so many people were interested in spending a little time making incense just took my breath away. Once the doors were opened, the 64 seats filled quickly and I ended up with another 20 people sitting around the edges of the room. A few of them even bought incense making kits so they could join in on the fun! I’ve participated in many festivals, retreats, and conventions, but I have never been so moved by an audience at a workshop.
The workshop itself was awesome. This was the first crowd to get to see my PowerPoint. It was an amazing group of people. I was very fortunate to find so many people to share my little corner of the universe for a few hours. I do not know if I lived up to their expectations, but I can say that they completely exceeded mine! I was wiped out of books in a matter of minutes. I sold dozens of incense making kits and related material. Everyone was kind and patient while I helped people roll incense and check out with their books.
A very wonderful lady stayed behind and helped me clean up after the magnificent mayhem subsided. We cleaned up and cleared the room for the next presenter in record time. Aside from 9 sets of measuring spoons vanishing, it was the most flawless workshop of my career! My deepest and most sincere thanks to everyone who attended the workshop this year. There were only 3 of the 85 attendees who had ever been in one of my workshops before, so I hope that I set the other 82 firmly on the path of using natural incense. If there is anyone who wanted to attend but couldn’t get in (is that even possible??) then I can’t wait to see you next year.
Assuming I am lucky enough to be chosen to present again at PantheaCon next year, I plan to propose a second workshop for those who have already attended the beginner’s workshop.
After my workshop, the rest of the time at the Con was pretty much my own. I went back to my hotel room and took a rest before going back for some fun. I got to sit in on parts of a number of workshops (including a most interesting one on kyphi – sad I only got to stay for a few minutes since this is a topic I plan to cover in more depth as I work on the 2nd edition of my first book) and meet a lot of people.
On Sunday morning, I manned the Llewellyn vendor’s table while the Llewellyn folks went to offer a panel about how to get published. I was able to chat with a variety of Con attendees and meet a whole new assortment of friends. River Higginbotham and I spent a great deal of time discussing the Pagan community. We traded war stories about community building and he keyed me in to some very interesting things going on nationwide. It was a very enjoyable, and very enlightening, conversation and I really appreciate him taking the time to chat so freely with me. I didn’t want the conversation to ever end but I had to check out of my hotel room, so we parted ways.
I got to drop an incense making kit on an unsuspecting Oberon as he passed me outside the restaurant. His arms were full so he didn’t even have a way to refuse my gift if he had wanted to!
Is this a boring report from PantheaCon? If you’ve never been, it is difficult to explain just how overwhelming it is. There are so many interesting and powerful energies running loose that I have trouble focusing on anything for more than a few minutes. Needless to say, there is something going on every minute of every day from start to finish. I hope to be lucky next year and get called in the room lottery so I can stay in the main hotel. I think I will avail myself of the massive number of great parties and suites far more if I can stay in the hotel while meandering back to my own room.
Aside from getting food poisoning on Saturday night and nearly starving to death (again) in the San Jose airport while searching for something to eat that was gluten-free, this was a nearly flawless trip. I had such an incredible time, got to hang out with amazing people, have the most unbelievable workshop of my career, and got through it all safely. My car was waiting for me in long term parking and it took me right home. All I can say is that I can’t wait for next year!!!!