BizarroCon was very educational. I learned not only many things about writing, but also about life and my fellow human beings. Without hyperbole, I can say the experience changed my life. Below are some of the many valuable tidbits I picked up.
1) Everyone is just as nervous as you are. Some are just better at disguising it than others. I witnessed many authors read their work throughout the Con and while their voices were steady and their expressions never wavered, trembling hands and other tells gave them away.
2) John Skipp is one of the nicest people on the planet. I say this not just because I want him to publish my book. The author, filmmaker, and editor of Fungasm Press took me under his wing at the Con. In his workshop, I was too apprehensive to read my work aloud, and he read it for me. He always had a sympathetic ear and a sly expression on his face.
3) Authors are more than happy to sign books. After buying 18 books at the Book Nook, I endeavored to get each signed. I feared I would be a bother. Instead, the authors were more than willing, filling my books with illustrations and kind messages.
4) You can steal Brian Keene’s drink if you’re smart about it. At his performance for the Bizarro Showdown, Maxwell Bauman stole a sip of judge Brian Keene’s whiskey. If you know Keene’s reputation, you realize how brave this is. Not only did Max get away with it, he won the “Big Balls Award” for his daring.
5) Don’t tell someone you like their book if you can’t remember what that book was. There were a lot of familiar names flying around, many of whom I had read. Unfortunately, my poor memory struggled to connect the authors with their titles. An embarrassing situation I repeated far more than I should have.
6) If you like earwax, you’ll love Jeppson’s Malört. It’s a tradition for the newcomers to partake in the wormwood-flavored liquor Malört. Bert Stanton warned me, but I didn’t listen. As a seasoned Campari drinker, I could handle the bitterness. But that aftertaste will haunt my nightmares for years to come.
7) Never eat gelatin made of pickle brine and whiskey. The first night was the Bizarro Pickle Contest. One of the entries looked like brown Jello. I saw it on the counter and I thought I’d give it a try. How mistaken I was. I’d rather drink a gallon of Malört than touch that stuff ever again.
8) The words “bechoked” and “rebechoked.” On the first night, a group of authors stood on the porch of the Ad House smoking cigarettes and inventing words. S.G. Murphy’s tie inspired “bechoked,” and when it was loosened and re-tightened: “rebechoked.” Skipp jotted this word down on his infamous note cards.
9) Female hyenas have penises. Well, pseudo-penises. Resident hyena expert Peter Dale kindly explained this to me using illustrative models. The more you know, I guess.
10) Authors are human beings too. This was the biggest revelation of the entire trip. In my mind, they were monuments, giants, but the more time I spent with them, the more I realized they were mortals like me—and soon even friends.
I hope this taught you something as well.