Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: May 2022

ConQuesT 53, Memorial Day Weekend 2022, Sheraton Crown Center, Kansas City, MO.

Pack Up and Do It Again

By Jan S. Gephardt

It’s time to pack up and do it again. When we have two sf conventions in one month, it’s something of an endurance run. My son Tyrell Gephardt and I just start getting sorted out and rested up (in my case this month also healed up), and it’s time to do it again.

As I noted last week, Demicon 33 was a good convention for me – but it also took a toll. Now it’s time to prepare for ConQuesT 53, my home “con.” I would hate to miss it, even though they expect it to be a low-turnout year.

Attending ConQuesT means I need to pack up and do it again, after it feels as if I just got home. But there’s a new wrinkle this time around. I’m doing the usual things – art show and some programming. But I’m also launching into (for me) an uncharted new adventure: a dealer’s table.

ConQuesT 53, Memorial Day Weekend 2022, Sheraton Crown Center, Kansas City, MO.
(Header Image courtesy of ConQuesT).

A Dealers Table? ME?

Yes, I recognize that many Indie authors make much or most of their income from dealers’ tables at conventions. It’s a marketing choice that can, and sometimes does, keep the con-going trip in profit-making territory. I respect that. But personally, I’ve always had several problems with this approach.

Most dealers rooms open by 9 or 10 a.m. But my circadian cycle is firmly skewed to the “Graveyard Shift.” Wrenching myself out of bed to be on time to open would mess up my sleep cycle and leave me a “sleep zombie” for at least a week afterward. I know this because I’ve tried it. It’s not pretty.

If you’re running a table, it’s important to always be there (as much as possible!) while the dealers room is open. This means if you’re going to connect with colleagues, network, be on panels, or visit other people’s panels or readings, you either do it at your table, arrange for someone to cover for you, do it after the dealers room closes, or you don’t do it. Your table is both your base, and your anchor.

And there is a lot of stuff to haul. I’m an older lady who walks with a cane for stability. There was a day when I could bend, lift, and haul stuff pretty well – but that was several decades ago. Nowadays, I have to be strategic about how I haul boxes of books. Hand trucks and my athletic son are my friends, but I can’t always assume they’ll be available.

Tables of displays from artists, crafters, Indie authors, and gaming suppliers in the DemiCon33 Dealers Room.
The Dealers Room at DemiCon 33. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt).

A Little Help From Friends

When I first started bringing my book (singular) to sf cons back in 2019, I often could find a general bookseller in the dealers room who’d work out a consignment deal with me. But since the pandemic’s ebb (let’s hope it’s actually waning!), it’s hard to find general booksellers running dealers’ tables at sf cons.

Ty observed at DemiCon 33 that most of the folks in the Dealers Room were Indie authors selling their own books, artists, jewelers, artisans, or other craftsfolk with a specific line of products, or stores selling gaming gear. That was my observation at Archon 44 last fall, too.

But this is my “home convention,” and I know a lot of other writers in the area who really don’t have enough books (and other resources) to justify having a whole dealer’s table of their own. Three of us have banded together and decided to see if teamwork and our collected works can make a table worth the effort. So, we’ll give it a try, and see how it works. One of us has already said she can cover mornings (blessings upon her!), so at least that worry is alleviated.

But when I pack up and do it again this time, I’ll have considerably more to pack than usual.

A box full of books and other Dealers Room supplies, with covers for Jan’s three books, “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.”
I’m packing up my dealer’s table supplies. (See credits below).

Meet my Table-Mates

For this dealer’s table adventure, I’ve paired up with a couple of wonderful writers I met in local fandom and critique groups. From working with them in writers’ groups, I know they write good stuff. I’m proud to be associated with them, even if I am the “odd science fiction writer” in the mix.

M. C. Chambers

I first met Mary through KaCSFFS, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, about which I’ve blogged in the past. She just looked like an interesting person from the get-go. We talked and discovered we have many things in common (including our birthday). I invited her to join my then-current writers’ group, and we’ve been friends ever since. Her work includes a bunch of wonderful short stories, several of which have won awards, and the fantasy novel Shapers’ Veil. She’s also the mother of five boys (“Mother of Heroes”), a flutist, and a variable print programmer.

Karin Rita Gastreich

I met Karin in a different writers’ group, and I’ve recently had the privilege of beta-reading her latest (really wonderful) novel, which I don’t believe is available yet. She’s also written multiple short stories and won several awards. But she’s best known as a writer for her woman-centered fantasy Silver Web Trilogy. All this, and writing is not even her “day job.” In the rest of her life, Dr. Karin Gastreich, ecologist and author, serves as Chair of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences at Avila University in south Kansas City.

M. C. Chambers’ Author photo and the cover for her novel “Shapers’ Veil,” with the three-cover collection of the “Silver Web Trilogy” and Karin Rita Gastreich’s Author photo.
My table-mates have written some cool stuff! (See credits below).

Pack Up and Do it Again: Art Show

It wouldn’t seem like I really was at a convention if I didn’t have anything at the Art Show. Moreover, ConQuesT historically has an outstanding art show, especially for a convention of its size. I don’t just say that because I was the Art Show Director for three years (a decade ago). People have long come to this show to buy art, and the artwork comes in from all over. It’s now run by the highly competent and awesome Mikah McCullough, who is a way better Art Show Director than I ever was!

I’m bringing essentially the same pieces to ConQuesT that I brought to DemiCon. That’s possible, because the work I sold in Iowa was part of a multiple-original edition. Not all of my paper sculpture artwork consists of multiple-originals, however. Some are one-of-a-kind. And Mikah has arranged for me to glom onto the end of a table for my Ranan mini-maps , so they’ll be displayed to their best advantage.

Jan’s paper sculpture on display at the DemiCon 33 Art Show.
My artwork at DemiCon 33. The display won’t look much different at ConQuesT 53. (photos by the author/artist).

Fewer Panels than Usual

I missed a key communication with ConQuesT Programming somewhere along the line, so I’m only on two panels this time. Considering my dealers table commitment, this is probably just as well. But this programming schedule is unusually light for me.

On Friday night, I’ll pair up with my friend Kathy Hinkle for a feature we’ve repeated the last several times we’ve had an in-person ConQuesT: SF & F Name that Tune (or Show). Kathy and I both love the music of science fiction and fantasy media. We’ll draw from our respective deep libraries of music we’ve collected, play selected cuts, and see how quickly our audience can name them. In past years it’s been a lot of fun.

Then on Sunday afternoon (after Art Show check-out, but before Closing Ceremonies), I’ll moderate a panel called Curiouser and Curiouser (on which my table-mate Mary is a panelist), about how protagonists’ curiosities can get them into trouble – and bring readers along for an interesting quest. Much to my disappointment, there are no author readings at ConQuesT 53. This is because when they had them they weren’t well-attended, and they’re restricted in the number of programming rooms available. I understand, but I’m still disappointed.

Time to Pack Up

And now it’s time to end this post and get back to work preparing for ConQuesT. Especially with this one, when I’m getting ready to pack up and do it again, it turns out I have a lot to pack!


Many thanks to ConQuesT 53 for their website’s header, and to my son Tyrell Gephardt for the photo of the DemiCon 33 Dealers Room. I took the photos of my dealer’s table preparations and my DemiCon33 Art Show display. I’m grateful to M.C. Chambers and Karin Rita Gastreich for their author photos, and to Amazon for the photos of Shapers’ Veil and the Silver Web Trilogy. Grateful appreciations to all!

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”

The Best and Worst Time

By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ll spare you the Charles Dickens opening line, but DemiCon 33 Weekend really was the best and worst time I’ve had at a convention in ages. Regular followers of this blog have already figured out that I came home from it with a bad cold.

No, it wasn’t classic “con crud.” That’s some new thing you contract at a convention, when you encounter something your immune system can’t fight (possibly because you partied for several nights in a row). I came to DemiCon 33 with a scratchy throat, desperately hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Among other things, that really cut into the partying (like, ended it before it began).

I stayed masked, did my best to socially distance, and I washed my hands a lot. Since my son Tyrell Gephardt and I were teamed up for all our panels, I “let” Ty do most of the talking (for once – like I had a choice!). And I hope to God I didn’t become a vector of con crud to anyone else! It really was the worst I remember feeling at a science fiction convention, ever. But when you’re that far from home and you’re part of the program, you do your best.

Demicon 33’s welcome table.
The welcome table by the front door offered new arrivals information about DemiCon 33 and some of its features, as well as free face masks and hand sanitizer. (5/6/22 photo by author).

DemiCon 33 Was the “Best Time” Part

It’s really a pity and a waste that I was sick, because DemiCon 33 itself was awesome. The con committee did everything they could to welcome people back to con-going safely. Everybody seemed really happy to be there (that I saw), and they were all very warm and welcoming. A longtime friend gave me a tin of mints when I ran out of throat lozenges.

I took pictures in the hallways before they got really full. That was partly out of respect for people’s privacy, and partly because I tried to avoid crowds (or at least stay distant from them). I wasn’t coughing too much (and I was masked) at Opening Ceremonies, but after that I kept a lower profile. Don’t imagine from my photos that no one came, however. They did, and many of them were absolutely fabulous in their hall costumes.

But at a convention where one of the first people I met was a young person handing out “In Science We Trust” badge ribbons, people were (mostly) taking sensible precautions. Part of what makes this year a contrast of the best and worst time is that we’re all really lonely for a good “fhannish” get-together with each other, but we know we have to be careful.

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”
Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon model their costumes outside the Missouri Room on the lower level of the convention hotel. Upstairs, a mock-up of Dr. Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. stood by the front door across from the welcome table at DemiCon 33. (5/6-7/22 photos by author).

The Art Show

The DemiCon Art Show had a new crew at the helm, bringing the operation more fully into the 21st century via electronic record-keeping. They overcame tech glitches at the beginning. But I’m sure they fought for most of the weekend with the hotel’s less-than-stellar Internet service. Why do convention hotels so rarely provide good Internet?

The overall quality of the artwork I saw was outstanding. One of the best, in my opinion, was the wearable art piece called Dandy Lion. I didn’t get to the Masquerade, so I don’t know if it was entered there, but it’s a genuine piece of artwork all on its own.

I saw new work from longtime art show favorites Sarah Clemens and Theresa Mather, and I was impressed by the excellent craftsmanship and creative range of “Random Fandom.My own display was small compared to some in the past, but I’ve been busy with a lot of non-paper-sculpture work (writing, blogging and working on Weird Sisters Publishing  projects) during the Pandemic.

Jan’s DemiCon 33 paper sculpture display and a closer view of the mini-3D maps on the display table.
My paper sculpture display was small compared to some in the past that took up several panels, but I recently discovered that the mini-3D maps display much better lying flat, so I was glad for the corner of the table. (5/6/22 photos by author).

The Best and Worst of Panel Experiences

Ty and I were Team Gephardt at our panels – they scheduled us together for all three, and that was it. Just us. I had the best and worst time there, too. Best, because Ty is fun to partner with on a panel. He’s witty, well-spoken, and knowledgeable. Plus, we had excellent, (relatively) large, and very interactive audiences. That always makes it more fun.

But it was the worst, because the longer into the convention we went, the less voice and energy I had. I could croak a few thoughts, but Ty carried them, especially on Saturday. We were prepared, however. From the time we’d received our schedule, we’d been thinking about our topics. Then we put our heads together to find common themes, suggest possible lines of discussion, and make notes we could share in common.

Topics ran a pretty wide gamut. On Friday night, when I still had something of a voice, we led a very well-read and engaged audience in an “If This, then What?” set of adventures in alternate history. By Saturday, when it was time for “Smoke and Mirrors Steampunk,” I could still talk, as long as I kept it short (a great trial, to be sure!). And I had begun to sound like a foghorn. It’s a good thing Ty knows his Steampunk. Someday we’ll have to do a joint blog post on the sticky ethical wickets this subgenre presents, and its clouded future.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
I’ve been going to conventions for quite a while, and participating in panels almost as long. But I don’t think I’ve ever been completely unable to participate on a panel or reading before. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

As Saturday Waned, So did my Voice

I got a respite for my voice – and a chance to do one of my favorite “con things,” attend another author’s reading – after the Steampunk panel. Adam Stemple writes in an amazing range of genres, including horror, literary fiction, and heroic fantasy. Adam set up his three books on How to Write Fantasy Novels, then read completely other things: The Boy from Buanfar, Werewolf Elegy, and a great piece of character development from Galloch, second in the Mika Barehand Trilogy. Wonderful, funny, engaging stuff. Highly recommended!

By Saturday evening’s “What are an Artist’s Rights Online?” panel, I could say only about one word to every four to ten of Ty’s. But we had a good, sound outline, resources at need, and he is well-versed on many nuances of this topic. The audience was a little smaller, but they were interested and had great questions, which I’m happy to say that Ty answered very well.

Finally it was time for my long-anticipated reading. A straight hour of nothing but XK9s and me. I was doomed! Except, I wasn’t. It was the worst and best of times at a reading. Worst, because I could barely speak. Best, because good ol’ Ty came to my rescue yet again. He did an outstanding cold reading of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One, “A Walk in the Park.” If you’d like to see what he read, click here or on the Chapter title.

Adam Stemple reads at DemiCon 33.
Author and writing guru Adam Stemple read from several of his works, while displaying his How to Write Fantasy Novels series. (5/7/22 photo by author).

Yes it was the best and worst of times at a convention for me. But Demicon 33 itself was 100% awesome!


I (Jan S. Gephardt) took all the photos used in this post, except those noted below. They were taken during DemiCon 33, May 6-7, 2022. Where people are shown, they gave me permission before I clicked the shutter. I particularly wish to thank Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon for allowing me to photograph their costumes, and Adam Stemple for allowing me to photograph him during his excellent reading.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT, but I can identify my fellow panelists. In the 1985 photo they are L-R: Dell Harris, Ken Keller, me, and the late Roland Schmidt, my former co-teacher and a fantasy watercolorist. BTW, that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, done back before desktop publishing made them easy to print.

In the 2012 photo that’s me on the left. Tracy S. Morris sits in the middle with her book Bride of Tranquility. At the right is fellow Kansas City writer, artist, and longtime sf fan Sherri Dean.

Finally, I owe Tyrell Gephardt thanks for photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading. And most of all, I owe him an unending thank you for all he did to make the best and worst time I ever had at a DemiCon an overall positive memory!

I hate to waste sick days actually being sick - Unattributed

Taking a Sick Day

By Jan S. Gephardt

Americans give a hard side-eye to any talk of taking a sick day. The Pandemic has taught us a few chastening lessons recently, it’s true. Perhaps in today’s contagion-conscious workplaces, taking a sick day is less “suspect” than it has been in the past. But I’m dubious that will last.

This is the country of rugged individuals, at least in our imaginations. We’re tough, we tell ourselves. We plead with the coach to “put me back in, I’m fine!” even when we’re concussed. We proudly proclaim, “I can sleep when I’m dead!” and go out on our morning commute bleary-eyed and half-asleep. We “heroically” (we think) go to work, even when our nose is running like a faucet, our eyes are puffy, and our sinuses feel like concrete. And even when we thereby spread our cold, flu, or whatever to the rest of our co-workers.

Heaven forefend that we should admit weakness, even when it’s patently ridiculous not to admit we’re sick.

I hate to waste sick days actually being sick - Unattributed
However, when you’re actually sick you should take them. (See credits below).

No One Here But Us Workaholics!

Those of us with ambitions for our careers may do anything we can, to avoid being suspected of “slacking.” I personally know people who take pride in being “workaholics.” Managers are alleged to love and reward this kind of behavior. Promotions and bonuses do seem to come often enough to the driven, that it strengthens the belief.

So people come in early. They go home late. They work toxic quantities of overtime, even on weekends. They live on their phone or computer. Notoriously, they forget, ignore, and miss family anniversaries. Kids’ birthday parties, ball games, concerts, recitals, school plays, and even graduations? They’ll skip them more often than they attend. It’s not just a cliché (guess why it’s a cliché). I’ve known real people who’ve done all of these things.

Sometimes, after they do this long enough, they only get to see their kids once in a while on “coke dates” and alternate weekends. That is, on agreed-upon, non-custodial parent visits, post-divorce. But think of the bonuses they banked!

I missed my dad a lot growing up, even though we were together as a family. My dad was really a workaholic. And he was always working.-- Steven Spielberg
Here’s a snapshot of the fallout from having a workaholic parent. (AZ Quotes).

Suspicion of Malingering

Any adult who’s been in the workplace for any length of time can attest that apparent “slackers” do exist. They watch the clock at the end of the day. If they can, they slide out early. And they have a highly suspicious habit of taking a sick day on Fridays an Mondays only.

I hate this behavior. These self-centered actions place genuinely sick people under suspicion of malingering. This means, depending on the culture where one works, that taking a sick day can give a person a bad reputation. Even if they’re really sick.

This is especially true if the boss is a self-appointed “hard-nosed capitalist” who sees all things through a lens of “time is money.” That’s why, especially in low-wage jobs where in many cases management already suspects their workers of being shiftless slackers (because they’re women, minorities economically hard-press . . . the list goes on), it’s rare to find paid sick leave.

Workplaces need to respond to the reality of family life in the 21st century, and allowing employees to have seven sick days a year is a bare minimum, the fact that the United States is one of just a handful of countries that does not require paid family or sick leave is nothing short of shameful. -- Rosa DeLauro
Lower-wage workers, especially women, bear the brunt of this lack. (AZ Quotes).

Taking a Sick Day

I remember taking a sick day occasionally when I was a teacher. It was a disruption to my students and a burden on the administration to scare up a decent substitute. But when you’re in daily contact with the seething germ-stew that exists in most schools, even the healthiest teacher gets sick sometimes.

I’d call in for the sub feeling guilty, even if I had a temperature of 100 degrees and could barely speak. I always hoped I sounded “sick enough” on the phone, so they wouldn’t suspect me of being a slacker. I had a responsibility to take care of myself and remove my germs from the “stew.” I had a right to take those days. My reputation was anything but being a slacker. But still I felt guilty.

I still do. This Sunday I came home from DemiCon with a raging cold. I tested negative for Covid on the home test, so it’s probably a more run-of-the-mill malady. My voice was so “gone” Saturday evening for my reading that my son Tyrell Gephardt stood in for me. He saved the day delivering a very creditable “cold reading” of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One. I still feel pretty listless today, but I also feel guilty about missing a blog post. So I’m only taking a sick day . . . “lite.”

And then there are days when you must rest. – Unattributed
Therefore, I’m taking a sick day. (Thanks, Kristi Jo Jedlicki).


I took it easy with a shorter-than-usual post and some pre-made quotes (see attributions in cutlines), except I couldn’t find a rendition of the first one that I liked. It’s an unattributed quote that has been making the rounds as a meme or a square-shaped quote on an uninspiring background. It was short, so I did a DIY on the first one. Many thanks to for the background photo. it illustrated a good article on taking sick days. Check it out!

And now, I hope you’ll understand when I say, “That’s it. I’m taking a sick day.”

Photos of Bookmarks, badge ribbons, and books barely unpacked from a crate surround a 2020 photo of Jan with some of her S.W.A.G.

Preparing for DemiCon

By Jan S. Gephardt

This week I’m preparing for DemiCon 33, to be held in Des Moines, IA May 6-8, 2022. There is a lot to do. Would you like a glimpse of my process?

My son Tyrell and I had been in the habit of attending 6-8 science fiction conventions per year before the Pandemic locked everything down. In our attempts to evade the roller-coaster of Covid dips and peaks, we dared to attend Archon 44 in person last October. But the Omicron surge (and an extremely untimely snowstorm) shoved us back into attending Capricon 42 virtually, last February.

Preparing for a virtual convention differs dramatically from preparing to go in person. There are logistics involved with both, but it takes far greater organization and effort to attend an SF convention in person. Either way, we have to iron out membership details, but an in-person appearance means making hotel reservations and lots more planning ahead. Not to mention hauling all our stuff several hundred miles to go encamp somewhere for several days.

The DemiCon 33 header says: “The After” – DemiCon 2022, Des Moines’ 33rd Annual Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Gaming Convention, May 6-8, 2022.
Jan and Ty are preparing for DemiCon 33 (header courtesy of DemiCon 33).

To Attend or Go Virtual, That is the (First) Question

Even as we’re preparing for DemiCon, we’re keeping a wary eye on the recent rise in Omicron BA.2 cases. I’m double-vaxxed and double-boosted (Ty’s too young and healthy to need the second booster). Both my Beloved and I are in a higher risk category because of our age. And my family also cares for my frail, 97-year-old father, whom we’d like to keep alive and well.

I know a lot of the country is young, healthy, and really, thoroughly beyondtired of being careful. For well or ill, however, my family still can’t afford to take undue risks with Covid. So it was with considerable caution that we decided to give DemiCon an in-person try. They’re following local health guidelines at the con, but we’ll definitely bring our hand sanitizer and masks!

Hovering above the undulating graph of Covid peaks and troughs during the Pandemic is a photo of a burning car, way up on top of a roller-coaster.
This is kind of how a lot of people visualize the Covid “roller coaster.” (See credits below).

When I go to a convention, I no longer go just as myself, but also a representative of Weird Sisters Publishing. That somewhat alters the advance publicity planning. For one thing, I decided this year to try advertising in conventions’ program books. This might raise awareness of our little company, and it also might help financially-distressed cons – which means most of them, these days.

Preparing for DemiCon Way Beforehand

Advertising means I must design an ad. Ad deadlines usually come a month or more before the convention. But it’s a way to represent, when we’re still too small to support a dealers’ table. We don’t have many titles in print yet (also, the hours I’d have to keep, to run a dealer’s table, might seriously end this confirmed old night owl).

But, few or many, preparing for DemiCon means I had to have some books. In stock. At the con.I have more on order, and I’m lucky to have what I hope are enough for DemiCon already in hand. We currently have print editions of my three XK9 books. That’s it for now, but not for long.

My sister’s Deep Ellum Stories are too short for individual print copies bigger than maybe a booklet. Those might be more expensive to print than I could ask people to pay. We’re holding out for an omnibus edition before we print it, once she’s finished the other two stories she’s planning. Starting this fall, once my late brother-in-law’s Windhover Tetralogy is back in print, I may have to make a different calculation about that dealer’s table.

Jan sits behind signs for all three of her books, plus G. S. Norwood’s two “Deep Ellum” stories She’s laid out bookmarks and copies of her books in front of them.
Here’s Jan, masked for Covid protection at Archon 44, October 2021 (photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Long Live S.W.A.G.!

Lacking a dealer’s table, I am a mobile exhibit. I’ve made signs. I always carry a copy or two of each book. And I like to come loaded with S.W.A.G. for the freebie table or to give away at autograph sessions or my reading.

What is S.W.A.G.? I wrote an entire blog post about it, a while back. The acronym stands for “stuff we all get.” That is, free things handed out at a convention. For Weird Sisters, it consists of bookmarks for each book, a postcard that promotes What’s Bred in the Bone and my reading, and badge ribbons. I do have new bookmarks to hand out since the Pandemic: I had some made for The Other Side of Fear, A Bone to Pick, and my sister’s story Deep Ellum Blues.

Making bookmarks and badge ribbons are two other long-term projects, along with ordering books and making ads. I first have to figure out designs and badge ribbon one-liners. Then I compose and design them, and place my orders so I’ll have them when it’s time to go to more conventions. Preparing for DemiCon, plus preparing to have enough S.W.A.G. for the rest of the summer and fall, took a while.

Photos of Bookmarks, badge ribbons, and books barely unpacked from a crate surround a 2020 photo of Jan with some of her S.W.A.G.
A lot of work goes into the creation of “freebies” at conventions. (See credits below).

The Art Part

Anyone who’s seen me at a convention knows I nearly always have artwork in the Art Show. I’ve “always” been a visual artist. I was an art major (printmaking and graphic design) for my undergraduate degree (I minored in journalism). During my full-time teaching career, I worked as an art teacher who also taught some publications. But, although I steadily honed my writing craft in the background, in the early years the artwork always came first.

And after 40 years of bringing artwork to science fiction conventions, it just doesn’t feel right if I don’t have an Art Show display! Thus, preparing for DemiCon means gathering enough work for a display, getting registered, and preparing the paperwork needed.

If you’ve followed this blog, you have seen lots of “Here’s my art show panel at X” photos. I’ll probably post one of this year’s DemiCon display, too. Sorry to say, it will be smaller than in past years. Between writing fiction, working on my monthly newsletters, blogging, and working on covers for Warren’s Windhover Tetralogy, I’ve had less time than usual for paper sculpture.

Jan’s art show panel at Archon 43 in October 2019, when she won an award for “Best 3D” (photo by Jan S. Gephardt).

Panels, Readings, and Presenting Myself

Conventions, large or small, are entertainment venues that operate on thin profit margins. They often give panelists free memberships, but that’s not just because they love them. It’s because they’re relying on them to help provide a worthwhile experience for con-goers.

I spent too many years as a teacher preparing lesson plans to stomach just walking into a panel “cold,” and “winging it.” To me, that’s grossly unprofessional. But that means I must develop materials for panels ahead of time. My ideal? To go into a panel with enough material (even if I’m not the official moderator) to guide the panel into interesting discussions for the full time we have. If we don’t get to all (or any) of them, that’s okay, as long as the audience enjoyed the panel.

For readings, especially when I share a short time slot during a session with one or more other authors, I plan ahead. Readings are like auditions for my books, so I practice. I time myself to be sure I respect others’ time allotments. And, although it’s always a challenge at this end of the “con season,” coughing fits are not entertaining. I try to get my voice in shape, so I’m able to read all the way through smoothly.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
Here’s a walk through the decades that Jan’s been going to sf cons. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

Preparing for DemiCon

As you can see, preparing for DemiCon – or any convention – takes a lot of work. I think it’s worth it, because I love science fiction conventions. If you also go to conventions and enjoy the special exhibits and/or panels, now you have a bit more behind-the-scenes understanding of what goes into them. And if you’re a newer creator, getting ready for an early-career foray to a convention, maybe this post has offered some ideas (the teacher in me hopes so).

And thank God the conventions are coming back! Many thanks to all the dedicated convention committees and their financial backers. And here’s a hope for the DemiCon committe, my fellow panelists and exhibitors, and all my fellow attendees, that with all of us preparing for DemiCon, it’ll be the best one yet!


First of all, many thanks to DemiCon 33! Thanks for inviting me, for providing me with a venue to show and read my work to others, and thanks also for your header graphic at the top of this post!

I assembled the “Covid Roller Coaster” montage with two images: Statista provided the graph of Covid cases in the US from the start of the Pandemic through April 9, 2022. The burning roller coaster photo came from Inspire More’s article full of Covid-related memes (the credit there said only “Instagram”). Tineye Reverse Image search found it on a website I can’t access, back in early September 2014. Other hints in its early record on Tineye indicate a possible location in the Los Angles area, but that’s all I could find in a quick search.

SF Convention Memory Lane

I owe Tyrell E, Gephardt repeated thanks for photos of me at conventions. He took the one of me, masked up behind my current collection of signs, books, and S.W.A.G. at Archon 44 last October (2021). He also took the one of me at Capricon in 2020 with my then-full display of S.W.A.G., at my autograph session. And he gets further credit for the photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading.

I took other photos of our S.W.A.G., as well as the wide photo of my Art Show display at Archon 43 in 2019. Sorry: the one at DemiCon 33 won’t be that big, because I’ve sold a lot of that artwork since then.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT in 1985 (ConQuesT 16) and 2012 (ConQuesT 46), but I can identify my fellow panelists. In the 1985 photo they are L-R: Dell Harris, Ken Keller, me, and the late Roland Schmidt, my former co-teacher and a fantasy watercolorist. BTW, that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, back before desktop printing made them easy to print. And in the 2012 photo that’s me on the left. Tracy S. Morris sits in the middle with her book Bride of Tranquility. At the right is fellow Kansas City writer, artist, and longtime sf fan Sherri Dean.

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