Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Parafest 2013 Report

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because I know I ramble when writing reviews.

I hesitate to write convention reviews. I'm aware how much work goes into them, and know how heartbreaking a bad review can be. Conversely, when I have nothing bad to say, I'm always expecting a wave of comments of how biased or unobservant I am. Can't win, right?  I report what I saw. If my experiences don't match yours, just remember that these are my experiences and they do not in any way invalidate yours!

On September 6, I drove down to Parafest 2013 at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, PA to staff the Broad Universe table with members Terri Bruce and Kristi Petersen Schoonover. Kristi, unfortunately, wasn't able to make it due to illness, but Terri (and her friend Heather) did.

This was our first time at the paranormal and horror convention, and, to my surprise, it was also everyone else's first time -- it was the first Parafest! For a first-time event, it had a lot of big names: cast members from True Blood, Walking Dead, and Supernatural; actor Richard Kiel; medium Chip Coffey; and authors Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Michelle Belanger, just to name the ones I recognized instantly. The promotion and web site looked professional. The convention area was spacious, clean, and well-appointed with plenty of parking. The event was well-staffed. In other words, I was impressed with their maiden voyage.

I bought a ticket supplement so that I could attend seminars. Of course, since I was doing table duty, my time was limited, but I did manage to attend a few.

The first panel that I attended was a panel on Demonology. I'm not that interested in demons, but I wanted to hear authors Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Michelle Belanger speak. They were joined by Bill Bean and Corvis Nocturnum, whose work I was not familiar with. It was a stimulating panel: Bean attributes his success against demons to his Christian faith, Nocturnum (according to his web site) is a Satanist (I wouldn't have guessed; his comments were very prosaic and secular), Michelle Belanger is most popularly known as being a member of the vampire community, and Rosemary Ellen Guiley has written widely on the paranormal, spirituality, and the occult. Panelists often had different explanations for demons based on their unique worldviews and paranormal investigator Jeff Belanger did an excellent job of moderating.

On Sunday, I attended the True Blood cast member panel. Sam Trammell and Denis O'Hare had to cancel. As Kristin Bauer explained when she and William Sanderson started the panel, Sam and Denis had work, and when you're an actor, work takes precedence over appearances. Aaron Sagers from ParanormalPopCulture.com (the host and disembodied voice one heard throughout the convention), moderated, taking questions from the audience and asking insightful ones of his own.

Some of the noteworthy bits I gleaned from this panel include:
  • Since the outdoor vampire scenes are shot at night, the actors who play vampires often don't even see actors who play daytime characters. (I believe that Kristin Bauer said she's met Sam Trammel only twice on the set; night/day actors mainly get to meet at conventions like these!) 
  • Kristin was playing a preacher's wife on the TV series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" before she became Pam on True Blood.
  • William Sanderson earned a law degree, but instead of sitting for the bar, decided to try acting.
  • When asked what were her favorite episodes, Bauer (actually she's now Kristin Bauer van Straten) said she loved her backstory episodes. Sanderson cracked, "Any of 'em I didn't get killed in!" (He did add that he liked the ones where his character, Sheriff Bud Dearborne, got freaky.)
Both actors were warm, gracious, and funny, and I'm glad I was able to see them.

I didn't attend the party Saturday night or the good-bye gathering on Sunday. I didn't want to be overtired driving the four and a half hours home. I also didn't pay to have a picture with or autograph from a featured guest.

Would I go again? Like most writers who aren't at the top of the bestseller lists, I don't earn my expenses back from vending at these conventions; the profit margin on books is too small. But you don't go for the money. You go to meet other writers, to hear about things that interest you, and to network. Writer Rebecca R. Cohen, who also writes vampire fiction, had the booth to our right, so that satisfied my first requirement. I loved hearing the Pennsylvania Underground Paranormal Society (PUPS), the vendors on the other side of us, describing their experiences to people who stopped by. And, of course, I loved seeing the True Blood cast members in person and hearing their responses to questions from the audience.

But it was a long drive and I had to take a day off work. Though I enjoyed myself, I probably won't go again, just because of the distance. Don't let that stop you, though, especially if you're nearby.

No comments: