When I think fondly back on my first Camp NECon
experience in 2008, it's to the lounge area of the Bayside Conference Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island I travel. On a ridiculously large and comfortable sofa decorated in wild colors outfitted with matching ottomans, I and two of my favorite wordsmiths from my first writer's group sat and wrote on a lazy Saturday July afternoon while other attendees played miniature golf, bowled, swam, or hung about in the dealer's room. I wrote several stories at that year's NECon, on that sofa, and sold all of them upon my return home. I was courted by the as-yet un-launched Ravenous Romance
to be their first signed novelist (and as of this entry have seven novels and numerous short stories in both their back and front lists). Briefly, I entered into a relationship with a New York agent as a result of the conference. But it's that afternoon's session under the cool, beautiful a-c on a miserably humid day with Scott T. Goudsward
and Tracy L. Carbone
, writers whose work I adore and whose friendships I cherish, I remember most.
I missed the intervening years of the Northeastern Writers Conference's summer gatherings between 2008 and 2012 for a number of reasons, so it was with great anticipation that I prepared for this season's event, a late birthday gift. Tracy would be absent for the first time in memory; a regular NECon fixture, Scott would be there. So, too, would good friends David Bernstein
and Sandy Shelonchik, the dynamic duo I'd last seen during my trip to New York City.
Also of paramount excitement, the Sisters Dent
, Karen and Roxanne, invited me to carpool to Rhode Island with them. On the Wednesday night before heading out, a silver Volkswagon traveling at Mach 12 ran into a telephone pole down the hill from our home. Lights flashed and flickered. The power lines waggled as though tightrope walkers were having a conference of their own up there. But while the rest of the neighborhood went dark on a brutally hot night, we never lost the juice -- we never do at our antique fortress thanks to being on the same circuit as the fire station. Despite worries of bad omens and portents, I traveled to Wednesday Night Writers Group as roadblocks were raised around us and emergency vehicles took up guard duty. I returned from writer's group to see the lights on in our home while the rest of the landscape sat dark, packed efficiently in the morning, and headed out for Massachusetts to meet the lovely Dent Sisters.
|(Me, with Scott T. Goudsward, Karen Dent, Roxanne Dent)|
Despite one or two last-second snags, we hit the road on time amid a flurry of talks on the writing life, our present and future projects, and what to expect when we reached our destination. Honestly, I didn't know apart from my own dated previous experience. I was wearing one of my three new WRITER T-shirts, the one with the dripping red candle for the "I", and when we stopped for a quick bite and a bathroom break somewhere near the Massachusetts border, two young men working behind the counter jumped upon me with glee, driven into a frenzy by the message. It turns out, both are writers. We told them about the conference, I offered them a few leads on where to submit their stories, and off we went, soon there.
Seeing the conference center unleashed the happiest of emotions. I loved my one previous NECon stay, and I was hopeful the experience would be like the literary equivalent of a palate cleanser following my spring visit to World Horror Con. From the moment we arrived, my expectations were exceeded! To start with, I discovered that I had my own private hotel room -- no roommate (not a bad thing, but there was something decadent about knowing the space was mine, all mine!). Within seconds of checking into the conference, I met up with Scott and was able to hand him a copy of The Call of Lovecraft
, which contains his excellent story, "That Place." Up to my room, a-c cranked, I turned on my new laptop and got onto the WiFi, listened to a little music, found the local ABC affiliate, and enjoyed my afternoon dose of decadence, General Hospital
(featuring the return of the fabulous Kassie Wesley-DePaiva in the role of Blair Cramer, her character from my late, lamented One Life to Live
). I moseyed downstairs and shook hands, hugged, and enjoyed reuniting with a parade of lovely, literary faces. Scott, Karen, Roxanne, and I gathered in the central courtyard outside and caught up. It was another of those moments I'll never forget, memorable for all the right reasons. My biggest 2012 resolution has been to be around healthy, happy folk; to surround myself only with good people away from home, as I am surrounded at home where I spend 99% of my life. I couldn't have been in the company of better.
Thursday nights at NECon culminate with an annual welcoming event known as the 'Saugie Roast.' Saugies are the prime rib of hot dogs and are found only in that region of Rhode Island. The Saugie Roast was scheduled for 10 p.m. -- a notorious early riser, ten is normally well past my bedtime. But I was hopeful that I'd join the rest of my peers in the central courtyard. At 8, immersed in the new season of Project Runway
up in my icy hotel room, I figured I'd make it, but then the dinner I ordered arrived, and Runway
ended with me passed out and sleeping soundly. I didn't get a single Saugie. But I left Camp NECon with so much more. Read Part Two for the deets!