Trisha’s Take: How to get the most out of one day at a convention, part 1

Approximately 10 years ago, I used to go to a lot of conventions, like the San Diego Comic Con (aka “Nerd Prom”) and Anime Expo. In fact, in 2001, I think I went to six different conventions on two different U.S. coasts.

My most traveled year was 2003 when I was working for the now-defunct Anime Insider as an associate editor and went to the Wizard World conventions in Chicago, Arlington (Texas), and Philadelphia; my busiest year was when I was an assistant editor for Sequential Tart and covered Anime Expo all by myself.

Being such an old hat at attending conventions, I knew what my preparations would be when I made the decision to attend only one day out of three for the New York Comic Con/New York Anime Fest mega-con which was held on October 8 through October 10 at the Javitz Center:

Make sure you have your badge and that your new digital voice recorder and your cell phone has a full battery.

Eat at least once in the middle of the day.

Stay hydrated.

Sit down if and when you need to do so.

One of the nifty things that Reed Expositions did for everyone who doesn’t have an iPhone or an Android phone to download their apps was to not only post their schedule online, but for the “cost” of signing in with your email address, you could create your own schedule of panel events and save them to your Microsoft Outlook calendar. Because my work Outlook calendar is synched up with my Windows Moblie phone, I did just that, and was able to cherry-pick the panels I wanted to attend. It was difficult to make choices, but in the end, I ended up choosing a few things that were different enough in scope to be interesting to me but familiar enough to where I’d be able to hang out with old friends.

Because I’m a wuss, after exiting the subway at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, I hailed a cab and paid $5 plus tip to get to the Javitz on Eleventh Avenue, which was closed to cabs dropping people off. My cabbie had to make an illegal U-turn and dropped me off outside the concrete barricades. All during the trip, he kept asking me about why so many people were going there, so I helpfully explained.

Unlike our esteemed gaming expert Adrienne Ryan, I had been to the Javitz for a previous NYCC and NYAF and so finding the press room wasn’t that difficult for me. I would find out later that they were charging something like $5.95 an hour for wifi access in the press room, where several people were already camped out with laptops and a few more were conducting interviews.

Had I more time, I probably would have investigated the press options more, but I was running late to the first panel on my schedule. As I walked towards the room, I saw voice actor/director Mike Sinterniklaas (Dean Venture of “The Venture Bros.”, Leonard from “TMNT”) chatting with a cosplayer. I gave him a hug and helped him by holding his smoothie and Danish while he got her contact information, for she wanted some more information about voice acting for his studio. Just as we were chatting, Rachel Lillis, another voice actor appeared and I walked with them to the panel room.

The title of the panel was “East Meets West” but as more American voice actors appeared (including Stephanie Sheh and Tom Wayland), they started to wonder if they were supposed to be on the panel or if it was a panel for Japanese voice actor Minori Chihara and maybe only one or two other people, for there were only three microphones on stage. Sinterniklaas volunteered to be the group’s spokesperson and after a quick conversation with the staff, another table and three more microphones came out. I was only able to stay for the first half of the panel, but one of the things I was glad to learn was that when Chihara-san records her audition tapes at home, she uses an Sony IC Digital Voice Recorder, just like the one I just bought in preparation for this weekend.

As I made my way through NYAF’s Artist Alley/panels area/Maid Cafe-and-stage, I remarked that the average age of the attendees seemed to be college-aged. For the most part, they were very rambunctious and giddy, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to linger to find out how the artists were faring in the basement. I also ran into Japanator editor Brad Rice, who took great pains to explain to everyone who asked that no, he wasn’t cosplaying as Harry Potter, thankyouverymuch.

Upstairs, I wandered through the Autograph area section, waving hello to some friends staffing the Otakon booth as well as Eisner-award winning editor Adam P. Knave (Popgun) and Attila Adorjany, two friends who joined forces to form Voltron purchase some booth space in the small press area. They were located next to Chris Hastings (The Adventures of Dr. McNinja). I would find out later on that the ended up co-opting booth space from Flaming Carrot creator Bob Burden, who himself traded up to a corner booth in the Alley and then later on Sunday would move into the larger Exhibit Hall on the north side, proving that even in the comic book trade it’s all about “location, location, location!”

Just beyond that was the comics Artist Alley section, and I was on a mission to find Finder creator Carla Speed McNeil, because in addition to being one of my favorite artists ever, she’s also a real good friend whom I hadn’t seen in about five years. My plan was to hang out with her at her booth for a while to tease her about “selling out” to Dark Horse… except, I had no idea how to find her.

This was a problem earlier on the NYCC website, where when you clicked on an Artist Alley name and a large graphic of their came up, but no biographical information or location information. However, I thought by the time the show came around, there’s be some information in the program book, but no dice. I would find out later on that there was one sign in the Artist Alley area that had a list of creators and their booth numbers. Not good, Reed. Not good.

Instead, I decided to wander the AA to see who else had shown up that I knew and remembered from my comics-peddling days and ran into Kevin Bolk from Interrobang Studios, who had no idea that Kara Dennison had written about him for this very website. As I wandered about, trying to find Speed McNeil, I found children’s book author and illustrator Nick Bell who was giving out free mini-buttons which read “i am great” to promote his new book Brian the Great and his existing book Mary the Tooth Fairy.

Listen to the interview with Nick Bell

Ever since I became the aunt to two very adorable nieces, I’ve become fascinated with the idea of finding children’s books which are smart and encourage young girls to grow up to become strong women. Since I had it on me at the time, I decided to do a quickie interview with Bell on my new recorder, and the results will go up in a few days.

A person could spend hours wandering the AA, but I couldn’t linger, for I had to get over to the north end of the convention hall to attend the only panel to whose press release I responded favorably.

To be continued…