The first weekend of November (yeah, over a month ago and I'm just now getting around to posting this) we drove to Vegas for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival, which is part of the annual Vegas Valley Book Festival. The Comic Book Festival was a one-day event on Saturday, November 3rd at the Clark County Library and its environs.

     The Clark County Library had invited me to be a special guest, along with Aaron Alexovich and Drew Rausch, at our publisher SLG's booth. Drew and Aaron have a dark and Lovecraftian new hardback graphic novel called Eldritch.
     It's like, really cool, and they drew a pretty picture in my copy just for me. Here it is:
Drew drew, and Aaron... aaroned.

     I was promoting The Royal Historian of Oz, Skelebunnies, Stitch, and my newest lil' cutie, The Weirdling Woods. (see THIS post)
     The festival organizers had also asked me to present 2 one-hour-long writer's workshops, and even though I feel like I barely know what I'm doing, I said sure. Confidence, bitches!
      The plan was to limit each writer's workshop to 12 participants, who had to sign up beforehand at the festival registration booth. About 15 minutes before the first workshop, Anthony and I swung by the registration booth to check out the sign-up sheets. I was fully expecting either NOBODY, or just a few people interested. To my surprise it was actually over-filled, and I ended up with about 18 participants for the first session.
     Ever the pessimist, I thought, "Well, I'm sure it's just because people really want writer's workshops, not because any of these people have ever heard of ME before." Which is totally fine, of course! Really. But then during the first session when I had people introduce themselves and say what they're interested in writing, a woman with two teens said, "Actually, we're just here because they're both big fans of your work, and we just wanted the chance to get to meet you!"
     So that was a really nice surprise.
     For the second session, the festival organizers tried to keep to the 12-person limit, and we only ended up with one or two more than that. They said they had to turn a bunch of people away, because there was so much interest in writer's workshops!
     In case you're wondering what I did for a whole hour, I used a PowerPoint to introduce myself and show my various works. I had everyone introduce themselves by name, what they want to write, and one thing they hoped to learn in the workshop. (Don't worry, I allowed shy people to "pass.")
     After sharing my own experiences regarding the creative process, and how I personally ended up getting published, I then talked about the importance of dialogue, particularly in comics. I described how a lot of my ideas begin as characters that form in my head and start talking. Dialogue is usually the first thing I start writing for a new project. I love that stage in the creative process when these different personalities are forming and having conversations, and it's like you don't even have to "try," you just let them speak and try to catch it all on paper.
     I reminded them that when we're kids, we ALL do this, EVERY DAY. It's what our childhoods are made up of, mostly. Inventing personalities and dialogue and adventures for our Star Wars figures, our Transformers, our Barbies, Smurfs, Monchichis, whatever. And it's EASY when you're a kid. Do you remember ever sitting down with a pile of action figures and sparkly accoutrements and saying, "Uh... I don't know what to say... I don't know what kind of story to tell..."
     As we get older, we tend to start losing that ability to freely play and create. Writers need to retain that, or to recapture it.
     So then I bossily guided them in a dialogue-writing exercise in which I passed around a big canvas bag full of all sorts of toy figures, and had each person select two. I gave everyone a sheet of lined paper and a pencil, and told them they had 5 minutes to write a dialogue between the two characters. They weren't going to have to show it to anyone, either, it was just for THEM. For FUN. I suggested they look at the characters and try to figure out what their individual personalities might be like, and how they might relate to each other. Maybe they didn't even like each other.
     I loved seeing the participants pair the Creature From the Black Lagoon with a pirate, or a dinosaur with a Bratz Baby. And almost all of them wrote like crazy, not wanting to stop until I called time, and even then hurrying to finish a thought. It looked like fun.
     I think I even said, "Language is a writer's toybox." Later I thought, Wow, that's such a hippy-dippy douchey kind of thing to say! But I did mean it, and I wasn't even smoking weed.