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I only recently began writing seriously a couple months ago, but as a marketer, I knew that I had to get my name (Sophie Partlow 😉) out there. Little did I know how much I would be taking away from this incredible experience. Although I’ve attended our local HeroesCon here in Charlotte, Capricon in Chicago marks the first time I was invited to read my work and participate as a speaker. 2023 ushers in the 43rd annual event for this preeminent science-fiction literary convention, and the theme this year is all about The Afterlife.
Thursday, February 2
My brother-in-law Steven traveled with me to enjoy Capricon as an attendee and as my (self-proclaimed by him) minion. The first day was really light, so we flew in, got registered, checked out the vendors, caught a couple of readings (Bill Thomasson and Kathryn Sullivan pictured), and finally were able to jump on some deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno!
Friday, February 3
Today was pretty major. I was invited to read from my work in one of the largest rooms, the Missouri. The meeting spaces at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk are all named after states and lakes, such as Michigan and Ontario. I'm pretty sure this fooled some folks into believing I'm more worldly than I actually am.
For my reading, I selected the first two episodes of my serial, Gnawed, which explores how a golden locket can save humanity from itself. I like this story because there are a couple of emotional roller coasters in just that short bit, and I enjoy trying to take Andy's impression advice from The Office to give my grandmother character Clementine a Kentucky drawl.
Much of my marketing for Capricon was crafted to promote this reading, including my cards, website, and the hundreds of golden lockets where I hid a secret invitation to this session.
Friday of the Con was also my first opportunity to deliver a presentation I created in response to my own failures around work-life balance. The "Grindset" is often lauded as the only way to find success as a creative or an entrepreneur. I sought to debunk this myth and offer alternative avenues to achieving aspirations with wellness in mind. Watch "Fuck Hustle Culture" here:
Saturday, February 4
This was my first opportunity to truly experience the con as an attendee. I spoke on two panels this day, but the major preparation needed for Friday was behind me. From left to right, I caught incredible readings from Deanna Sjolander, Brendan Detzner, Jeri Shepherd, Steve Bellinger, and Mark Huston.
My late afternoon panels included "Writing Short Fiction" and "Let's Talk About Ghosts." The first one on flash fiction was packed with amazing information that I will certainly implement as a fledgling writer myself. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to contribute to the conversation, though. The biggest difference that I noticed was that my marketing background forces me to look at myself and my writing as a brand in its entirety. Conversely, the more seasoned authors on this panel sought to submit their individual stories for publication, award, or inclusion in anthologies and magazines which I didn't put much stock in prior to listening to them. The confidence I'm feeling in my way forward was simultaneously expanded and reinforced.
The real shocker of the evening was just how good the ghost conversation went. I represented the tiny faction of folks in the room who do not believe in the supernatural. My hope was that attendees could walk away from the discussion with new story ideas and approaches to novel themes through science and neurology. I wouldn't say we got into an argument, but the strong clashes of opinion and fruitful audience input made for a rich and profound conversation that I believe accomplished what we'd intended.
There were really creative and fun parties each night. Saturday, we got to check out Donna J. W. Munro and her son Matthew's stellar hard lemonade/comic trivia/gooey butter cake party. The trivia prizes were Donna's amazing drawings you see on the walls.
Sunday, February 5
Our last day at Capricon was just as lovely. I was selected to moderate the final panel of the entire conference called "Immortal Consciousness." Just as with the ghost panel the previous day, I brought the more scholarly voice. Having a graduate-level certification in Cognitive Neuroscience helped me to approach the idea of prolonged consciousness irrespective of the physical body from an objective view. This butt heads with some of the more esoteric thinkers on the panel, but again, made for a stimulating and thought-provoking chat.
Capricon held its closing session soon after and that was that! Steven and I arrived only knowing each other, but we both left feeling like quasi-celebrities. Everyone was so kind and welcoming, we're already planning our return in 2024!