ConGregate 2014: Official Athena's Daughters Launch Party & Panel

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to head to Winston-Salem, N.C. for a brief stopover at ConGregate, a new sci-fi and fantasy convention put on by some of the same folks who have extensive experience running RavenCon, ConCarolinas, StellarCon and Dragon*Con.

Most of the conventions I've gone to have been out-of-state (as in, I drive anywhere from 6-10 hours to attend) so it was nice to attend one that was relatively close to home! My con experience started on Saturday.

In the morning, I sat in on a fitness panel with @WriterMaggie (on which @janinekspendlove was a panelist. Meanwhile, Maggie and I functioned as the resident peanut gallery, and heckled her in a kind and loving way.)

In the afternoon, we went to a second panel about "The Myth of Strong Women," where I finally got to meet AD and Wynde author Tricia Barr for the first time! She, Janine, and several other fabulous ladies (plus our male moderator, who was an excellent sport) led the room in a discussion on what it means to write engaging female characters. (Hint: treat them as complex people, not types.)  They also talked about why representing all kinds of women is important in fiction, even if those characters aren't physically strong with typically masculine qualities. (Although we absolutely respect women who can do amazing physical feats: a reference to this video of Kacy Catanzaro completing the full American Ninja Warrior course came up more than once.)

After that, it was time for the official Athena's Daughters launch party! Authors Gail Z. Martin, Janine, Maggie, Tera Fulbright, and Tricia were all in attendance. We had a lovely spread of food ordered for the party, including a sheet cake, and had an excellent turnout considering the size of our cozy convention! I'm happy so many people were able to attend the launch. There was a free raffle with books and assorted prizes from some of the authors in attendance. We ate, drank, and signed our little hearts out.

Here are Janine and Maggie, setting up our head table:


Our beautiful paperback -- complete with art cover by Tietjen Alvarez--next to another Silence anthology:

And the fabulous sheet cake, chosen by Tera:

The next day, Sunday, was our main programming panel on Athena's Daughters. Silence in the Library's CEO, Ron Garner, was our moderator. For an hour, Gail, Janine, Maggie, Tricia and I fielded questions about why we got involved with this project, why we thought an anthology "for women, by women" was important, and discussed why writing stories about female characters was individually powerful for each of us.

We also chatted about the amazing communal experience we'd had during the Kickstarter itself, being able to promote the anthology with a group of enthusiastic, talented women. We gave background on our individual works from the anthology, made callbacks to a few of the other crowdfunded campaigns, and brought up topics ranging from newly-genderflipped Star Wars characters to Jezebel to Joanna Russ. (I brought up Joanna Russ. I always bring up Joanna Russ. :)  )

Overall, it was an amazing con experience. I was so pleased to have been a part of it, and I can't wait to head back for ConGregate 2015 -- this time in High Point, NC. Next year's guests of honor will include Mike Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Albin Johnson, and Scott Rorie. Hope to see some of you there, too!