If you have been following this blog for the last year or so it will come as no surprise that I am a proud member of the Supernatural Family. One of my favorite parts of the fandom is the opportunity to go to conventions, not just to attend panels and meet the actors, but because you get to spend the weekend geeking out with other fans. I've been to 2 Supernatural Conventions and will be attending the Giving Back tour this fall and I've always walked away with new friends and great memories!
This past January I happened to see a post on Facebook looking for submissions for a book called CONventional Wisdom, which has become a way for fan to share how conventions have changed their life in some way. I sent off a submission and since then have been lucky enough to become part of the CONventional Wisdom Family.
Since January a lot of work has been done on the book and this past weekend I was able to interview the ladies behind CONventional Wisdom, April Vian and Melissa Kennedy!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about CONventional Wisdom and what inspired you to create this book?
Melissa: The initial idea was all April’s. After the con in DC in November 2017, (which we both attended, although we hadn’t yet met) she posted a request for inspirational con stories on the “Salute to Supernatural” Facebook page. She asked “Did you hear or experience something that inspired you to make a change, take chance, give back? Meet anyone who made a lasting impression?” Originally her goal was to look at the mental health benefits of being involved in the fandom, and specifically in attending cons.
I sent her my story, because my first con, DC 2015, brought about some really important changes for me. Some things happened there that shifted my thinking in ways that enabled me to make progress with some mental health issues I had been struggling with. Just the experience of the con itself, and my unexpected emotional reaction to it, shook me up, in a good way. So I wrote out my story and sent it to April. We talked about our con experiences and how they were wonderful and perplexing at the same time. Neither of us is exactly a squee-ing fangirl. We’re adults with children and responsibilities, and tend to be pretty practical, analytical, rational people. But at the cons, we were different. We both found ourselves feeling . . . giddy. Overflowing with emotions. Exhilarated. I reconnected in some ways with the person I used to be. The con was so much more than just a fun weekend, and that was really unexpected.
When we started talking to other fans and reading the stories they submitted, we realized that’s true for a lot of people. So many fans are eager to share their stories of how important the con experience was for them, but there aren’t a lot of outlets for that other than personal blogs. We ended up shifting the focus from stories dealing with the mental health benefits of cons, to really being a snapshot of the variety of experiences people have at (and as a result of) conventions--which includes mental health benefits, for some.
April: My first con took me by surprise, I’d never really been a fan before and was genuinely surprised that I became a little giggly and silly while I was there. After I came back from my first con I found myself making changes and looking at things from a different perspective. The whole story will be in the book but that con brought about some really big changes for me.I thought it would be fun to collect some fan stories and see if it was just me and at first that is all I was going to do. I put out an all call on a few FB pages and received a really positive response It became clear that were some stories that needed to be shared
2. How did the two of you meet?
Melissa: After nine months of talking and working together on the book online, we finally met in real life just this past weekend. We carpooled and roomed together at the NC-Charlotte con, along with some other friends. And had a blast.
When I first sent April my story, we spent a lot of time talking, first about the cons, then about life in general. It turns out we have a lot in common. You know how it sometimes feels like you were just destined to meet a certain person at a certain time? It felt that way. I really, really wanted to be part of putting this project together; the show and the cons have been literally life-changing for me. And I work as an editor and have a master’s in literature; it’s right up my alley. I was trying to think of a way to offer to work with April without making things awkward if she didn’t want that, when she asked if I’d like to be a co-author. I jumped at the chance.
April: We actually just me in person this past weekend at Charlotte con. Melissa responded to my post about con stories and emailed me her story I was impressed with her writing and her story, and honestly just felt moved to ask her if she wanted to help me write this book. Once we started talking we found that we had a lot in common even outside of the fandom and it’s just progressed from there.
3. What was the process of reviewing and selecting submissions like for you?
Melissa: Amazing. There are so many stories that made us laugh, or brought us to tears. It has been really moving to see how deeply con experiences have affected many of us. It’s hard to turn down any story.
April: This has been my favorite part and what has changed the intent of the book I think. The stories have been amazing and profound and funny; reading everyone else’s experiences has really brought to light how important the cons can be.
4. What has been the hardest part of the process? The most fun?
Melissa: The hardest part . . . well, we had some really cool people lined up to write for us who later fell through. That was discouraging. Also, Google Docs is the spawn of Satan.
The most fun? Reading the wide variety of experiences people have had at cons. Some really are laugh-out-loud funny.
April: Definitely having writers fall through has been the hardest part, and having some stories that we just couldn’t include. I second Melissa’s assessment of Google Docs; we may be approaching a record-breaking number of docs.
The most fun has been reading the stories and getting to know some of the contributors. I’ve been given the opportunity to make some amazing friends through this process.
5. The cover of the book (by Shannon Laree) was just revealed and looks amazing. How did you go about choosing a cover for this book?
April: That was really mostly Shannon. Melissa designed the symbol with the wings for our t-shirt campaign, I sent that to Shannon and she did the rest. She said that she thought that every light could represent a story and that’s exactly what we thought when we saw it.
Melissa: Shannon’s design is awesome. We just took a look at what she came up with and said “Yep, that’s perfect!”
6. I've been to 2 conventions so far, with another coming up in October, and have never left without several stories about the actors, the band and my fellow con goers. What's a memory from a convention that immediately jumps out for you guys?
April: Just coming home from a con yesterday, I don’t know that I could pick just one. Some of my favorites will be in the book. From this last con, if I had to choose, it would be the kazoos in the Louden Swain vendor jam. Kazoos are usually brought by a fan or small group of fans and handed out before the band sings “Medicated”. It’s always at the fans’ initiative as a nice gesture to the band. I had been asked by a friend (who I met through the process of writing this book, and who actually introduced to me to Shannon) to help pass out kazoos in Charlotte. We tried unsuccessfully to do so discreetly, but no one really seemed to know what we were up to until the band started to sing, and they were told to get their kazoos out. There’s a video out there of the mad kazoo-throwing that followed. A few people may have had to dodge flying kazoos; Rob refereed to ensure safety. I think just about everybody had one by the time the song started. The kazoo chorus was awesome, and there was a ton of participation from the fans--Rob even said it was possibly the best they’d heard since they started doing the vendor jams. It was my first time being involved in something like that, and it was just amazing to see everyone come together, and how happy the band was. I love that that the fans consistently work together to show appreciation for the performers, and just to make them happy. It was a very cool thing to be a part of.
Melissa: My favorite spans three cons. Back in 2016, Misha and Jared had been teasing back and forth online about the fandom being a cult, and the possibility of establishing a commune. That gave me a photo op idea. I had bought a giant, five-pound gummy bear, thinking I’d use it in an op with Jared. Then Allyson Callahan and I met in an online fan group, and decided to share a Jared/Misha photo op, posing as prospective cultists. We dressed in flowing linen dresses and flower crowns, and presented them with the giant gummy bear resting on a bed of kale, on a silver platter. Immediately after the photo was snapped, Jared grabbed the bear, lunged over to Misha’s son West, and tried to feed it to him. I have never seen anyone move so fast! Misha tweeted photos of West and Jared munching on it, and our gummy bear became a minor celebrity on social media.
The next year I wrote an intentionally-dreadful poem (it rhymed “squee” and “charity”) telling the story of the gummy bear and asking if this cult was going to happen or not--I mean, they accepted our offering, after all. I illustrated it with some photoshopped pictures of Jared, Misha, and the gummy bear, and had them sign it during autos. It got an evil laugh from Jared, and a world-weary sigh from Misha.
This past weekend during his panel in Charlotte (which happened to be on my birthday), Misha told the gummy bear story again, to my endless delight. That gummy bear is the best 30 bucks I’ve ever spent. He sparked a lot of fun, and I still get the giggles whenever Misha’s tweets about him pop up again on social media. He’s the photo op prop that keeps on giving.
7. There have been many articles about why Supernatural has lasted as long as it has and has managed to garner such a loyal fan base, I'd love to hear why you think Supernatural has stayed the course and kept us all on the edge of our seats for so long.
April: I think for me it’s relationships between the characters, not just Sam and Dean but the those between the other characters as well. I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and watch the relationships develop.They’re relatable in ways that you wouldn’t expect from a show of this genre. This is something we explore a bit in the book as well, the parallels between the show and the fandom, the creation of family put together through shared experiences. We don’t necessarily fight physical monsters and demons but a lot of the fandom can relate to having to having to fight metaphorical demons and leaning on a family that was found and made to do so.
Melissa: I could write a dissertation on this and still not say it all! I think the show appeals to a wide spectrum of people because there are layers to it that allow for enjoyment on different levels, by people at different ages and stages of development. It can be pure entertainment, if that’s what you’re looking for--it’s scary and funny and cleverly written. But it also often has allegorical layers that allow for more complex interpretations. The show is full of archetypes; universal themes and characters that speak to us on multiple deep levels. Monsters representing our darkest fears. Heroes who show us monsters can be fought. But they’re not all-powerful superheroes--Sam and Dean are fallible humans who make mistakes; sometimes really big ones. We can relate to their imperfection and struggle. Their world might be full of supernatural beings, but the emotions are real. The relationships are real. The show doesn’t shy away from darkness or complexity. I think especially if you’ve experienced trauma, Supernatural speaks to you in a way that little else out there does. For a lot of us, I think that explains our devotion to it. These are good stories about compelling characters, well-told with complexity and emotional realism. There have been some missteps, sure--and I’ll be heretical and say that I haven’t loved the last two seasons--but the world of Supernatural is one of endless possibility, because despite all the fantastical elements, it’s deeply real.
I also think the fanbase is so loyal because not only are the characters and stories compelling, but the actors who portray them are some of the most genuinely good human beings out there. They work hard, and give a tremendous amount to their fans and to the wider world. They all seem to truly enjoy working together, and that’s just enjoyable to witness.
8. What's coming up next for CONventional Wisdom?
April: We are working on formatting the fan stories and writing around the academic portions being written by Lynn Zubernis, Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph. We are planning a launch party at the con in Vegas in March, 2019.
Melissa: We’re still working out how this is all going to fit together. It’s a bit of a genre mashup--part anthology, part memoir, part academic study, a little history, with a few other things thrown in for fun. We’re both hoping to attend the Giving Back Tour con in Cleveland in October; maybe we’ll see the birth of a new type of con and have even more to write about.
Thank you so much April and Melissa for chatting with us! I can't wait to see what is up next for CONventional Wisdom and see the finished copy of the book.
if you want to stay up to date on CONventional Wisdom you can follow them on twitter and facebook and also check out their website CONventional Wisdom: Lessons learned. One con at a time
So this leg of the trip was always going to be my favorite. No matter where else I travel or what adventures I have, there is only one place that is home, and that's WY. I started travelling to Yellowstone and the Tetons when I was 6 months old, and have gone about every other year since then. My daughter, who is 9, has now been 5 times. This summer both parks were the busiest I've ever seen them, but even amid the crowds, there is something about the area that makes me feel whole. We kayaked, fished, saw a bunch of animals and hikes around some of our favorite spots.
As always Instagram is the best spot to see my pictures right now. I'm trying to figure out the best way to sift through and upload the 1000+ pictures I took on this trip, so hang tight, eventually I will figure it out!
National Parks/Forests/Monuments visited:
Devil's Tower National Monument
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Bridger-Teton National Forest
Shoshone National Forest
Badlands National Park
Mount Rushmore National Monument
Buffalo Gap National Grassland
Badlands National Forest
We also stopped for a night in Custer State Park in SD, which was beautiful and definitely has us wanting to go back!
So what was our grand total?
Over the course of 4.5 week we hit up 17 National Parks and 12 National Forests/Monuments/Grasslands/Etc.
It was an amazing vacation that we won't soon forget. We're already planning for the next one- we can't wait for more adventures in our National Parks!
We are on leg 2 of our 5 week road trip and I've been splitting driving duties for this part, which means more reading time for me! So over the past week or so I've been plowing through books, I've even had to stop at 2 different book stores for more books. This is by far my favorite thing- discovering new indie book shops. For a long time my go to road trip book stores have been Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI and The Book Peddler in West Yellowstone, MT. I was lucky enough to come across 2 more phenomenal shops- Back of Beyond Books in Moab, UT (amazing rare book collection- I could have stayed there for days!) and Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO. Needless to say, I've been reading a lot, and since internet is scarce in these parts, I'm not going to give a whole post to each book, I'm just going to smush them all into one post and let you guys know what I loved, what drove me nuts and which author is emerging as a new favorite.
The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
Release Date: May 24th 2016
Can fear be inherited?
Kelsey has lived most of her life in a shadow of fear, raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with nothing but her attacker’s baby growing inside her—Kelsey.
Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile for their own protection, but that plan is shattered when she drives off a cliff and is rescued by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker.
A few days later, she arrives home to face her greatest fear: her mother is missing. She and her mother have drilled for all contingencies—except this one. Luckily, Ryan is as skilled at emergency rescues as Kelsey is at escape and evasion.
To have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face all her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her.
And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.
My Ramblings: Meghan Miranda is phenomenal author. Time and time again her books manage to suck me in and keep me on the edge of my seat. For some reason I keep letting her books slip through the cracks, but I really need to stop doing that! This time the plot is relatively simple, or so you think, until little by little the truth that Kelsey thought she was living begins to come unraveled. Nothing is what it seems, and Miranda manages to keep the story propelling forward at a fast clip, while still making sure that nothing is left behind, even a past that might better be forgotten. I LOVED this book. I can't believe it took me this long to find it!
It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Release Date: October 25th, 2016
One high school girl's comedic examination of her dating past as told by the friends, family, and boys who were involved!
Avery Dennis is a high school senior and one of the most popular girls in her class. But a majorly public breakup with the guy she's been dating causes some disastrous waves. It is right before prom and Avery no longer has the perfect date. She runs the prom committee, how could she not show up with somebody?
Post-breakup, Avery gets to thinking about all of the guys that she has ever dated. How come none of those relationships ever worked out? Could it be her fault? Avery decides to investigate. In history class she's learning about this method of record-keeping called "oral history" and she has a report due. So Avery decides to go directly to the source. Avery tracks down all of the guys she's ever dated, and uses that information, along with thoughts from her friends, family, and teachers, to compile a total account of her dating history.
Avery discovers some surprises about herself and the guys she's spent time with -- just in time for prom night!
My Ramblings: This was another great book. I was really hesitant with the format at first, written like an oral history, the story bounces from character to character interview style, with occasional input from the main character Avery. Strohm does a great job keeping the story line clear and making sure each person has a fully rounded persona, which can be really hard to do with this format. I really enjoyed following Avery as she tries to figure out what all of her past relationships mean about her. Throughout the story we see characters who by and large are incredibly realistic, some are nice, some are mean, some are smart, some are not, but all the character feel wholly realized. I had mixed feelings about the ending and whether or not I wanted Avery to attend prom alone or with a date, but the choice she makes works perfectly for her, so I'm okay with it! I can't wait to find some more books from this author.
Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Opal
Release Date: September 20, 2016 (apparently I'm feeling very '06)
Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.
But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.
As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?
My Ramblings: So I really wanted to love this book. In theory it should have ticked all the boxes. History, adventure, a little romance, danger, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately it also hit on my biggest pet peeve. Changing history. The Bone Wars are incredibly interesting- it was a time when two paleontologists went essentially head to head trying to unearth dinosaurs in the late 1800's. I can only assume that the parents of the two main characters are based on the two real Paleontologists, Edward Cope who worked out of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Othniel Charles Marsh who was from Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. Except the things these characters do in the book are not particularly attributed to the real people they appear to be based on. Yes, they had a rivalry at the Tar Pits in NJ, and they traveled west to discover new species (often butting heads in violent and underhanded ways), but the one dino they didn't discover was the T-rex, which was discovered by a man named Barnum Brown in the early 1900's. Except, this book almost exclusively revolves around discovering the T-rex in the Badlands. (it was found in Montana). I was so preoccupied by how not-correct the story was that the book ended up being a complete disaster for me. I spent more time researching the actual happenings of the Bone Wars then I did reading the book. This might be a me problem (and this isn't the first book I've had this issue with), but I can't stand when a book is so very clearly based on real people and locations, but deviates just enough to give bad information.
I wanted to love this book, but in the end it just kind of made me mad. I will say that it introduced me to a few historic figures that until now I was unaware of and it's been really interesting learning about the Bone Wars and how it impacted science, paleontology and the people (both looking for bones and those protecting their lands) at the heart of the expeditions.
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.
My Ramblings: This was a really interesting book that on the surface seems to be simply about a town where everyone gets a wish on their 18th birthday and how that can effect a community. The more I read, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was much deeper then that. At first blush it would seem that getting one wish would be fabulous. You can wish for (almost) anything and how could that be anything but good. Dig a little deeper, as Eldon and his friends do, and you begin to realize that life is never that simple and that one decision can have lasting and unforeseen effects. Sedoti does a great job at taking us through the town of Madison as Eldon tries to decide what he really wants out of life and what he is willing to do to get it. I also rather like that the magic of the wishes is left up in the air, there's no grand explanation, no big reveal, just the understanding that sometimes magic exists and it's not always something that should be used. I really enjoyed this story and the lessons that were hidden in between the lines.
The Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Serendipity "Pity" Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She's been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great....
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity's struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.
My Ramblings: Overall this was a really fun book that combined two of my favorite things, future dystopia and wild west, which are things that you wouldn't normally slap together, but somehow Ely really makes it work. Pit Jones is a great character- about to be forced into an arranged marraige she strikes out with a friend, only to encounter danger that she isn't prepared to face, picked up by strangers she finds herself in a lawless town with only one option... perform as a sharpshooter in the circus. Pity becomes a futuristic Annie Oakley, forced to not only shoot in the show, but also shoot to kill if she's ordered to. Pity has to find out who she can trust and what she is really capable of. This was a really fun, quick read and I'm glad I grabbed it off the shelf.
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