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Super Supanova

Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

I'm back from Melbourne! Thought I'd do a quick recap about how it went and stuff I need to remember for next time. Plus a few other bits and pieces.

I was going a little early to visit a friend from school, so it worked out better for Bec to take the big suitcase and for me to just take a little one. We brought the following:

Unfortunately while packing (and I did start early) I realised that we were going to exceed our luggage allowance by a LOT. Tiger Airways only allows 10 kg in carry-on, and you have to book check-in. I had booked 15 kg of check-in, but when I packed and weighed the bag initially, it came to 40 kg (and that wasn't even including my clothes)! I checked and Tiger Airways will only allow you to check in a maximum of 30 kg. So I culled the number of books we were taking (I had originally thought 50 copies would be good) and re-distributed some of the postcards into my carry-on. (In hindsight, I probably could have taken fewer postcards; even though 30,000 people walked through the doors for Supanova Melbourne, we were only able to hand out 1200 postcards. More about that later.)

Anyway, after revising the packing, I managed to fit one box of postcards in my carry-on, along with all my clothes and toiletries, and managed to get the big bag to under 30 kg. Then I booked extra check-in luggage to Bec ($71 including booking fee!) and dropped the big bag off to her on the day. It was easier for her to take it since she was coming later and it would save me trying to find a big enough storage locker at Southern Cross station while I went to visit my friend.

I flew down on the Thursday afternoon after dropping Astrid at childcare. (It's very sad when you know you're not going to see your child for four days and she doesn't understand what's going on—even when you keep telling her and telling her “Mummy is going on a trip so you won't see her for a little while. But then she'll come back again!” This was the longest I'd ever been away from her.) My bag was still too heavy for carry-on (bother those postcards!), so I was glad that I had booked that 15 kg of check-in as I used it anyway. Tiger Airways is squashy: it was good it was just a one-hour flight and that I had the row all to myself; I felt sorry for the passengers who were bigger than I was.

I was also hugely grateful for Melbourne's infrastructure: they make everything so easy. I booked us both SkyBus tickets online, which meant I didn't have to queue, and it was really quick getting into the city to Southern Cross station to meet my friend and her parents. I also think the new myki card is amazing; it works like Hong Kong's Octopus card, in that you put money on it that gets deducted automatically when you tap it against readers on trams and trains. Plus you can register it online so you don't forfeit your remaining balance if you lose it. If only Sydney had such a thing!

Thursday evening and Friday was spent hanging out with my friend and her parents. We had dinner in Docklands, then drove back to her place in Warragul, and then on Friday we wandered around the Dandenongs—Olinda and Sassafras—before they dropped me off at Belgrave station. It was nice to have that downtime before the intensity of the con. It was also really nice to indulge in a little shopping child-free!

Friday

I met Bec at Southern Cross station on Friday afternoon as she got off the SkyBus, lugging the two suitcases (the big one and the little one). We caught the train to Melbourne Central (again, grateful that Melbourne is pretty accessible, with clear signage and lifts aplenty, as the big suitcase was a real pain to lug around). We ate dinner there before heading to our accommodation, which in hindsight was pretty sensible as it would have been too late had we done it after.

Then we caught the tram to our accommodation. (We stayed in University College's academic apartments, which is where I almost always stay when I'm in Melbourne. They rent them out to get a bit of extra income. They're self-contained, nice and clean, not far from the city and most public transport, and they also provide meals.) Getting the big suitcase on the tram was a pain, but fortunately this girl took pity on me and helped (lovely Melbournians!) We arrived later than our indicated check-in time, but the tutor on duty didn't mind. He was really nice: he gave us our keys and all the info we needed, went back to find us a hair dryer (because I couldn't fit one in my suitcase), and even lugged our big suitcase up the stairs for us.

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We were pretty tired by this stage. Bendis was doing a free masterclass that evening at the con, but it would have taken us too long to get out to the showgrounds, plus it was too late by this stage. So instead we walked down to the local 7-Eleven to buy supplies for breakfast (as we would be missing University College's breakfast, which starts at 8am), and spent the evening half-watching Bewitched and doing craft (crochet for Bec, knitting for me).

Saturday

I was thankful I had slept really well and had packed the bags the night before as I was ready for the con. We scoffed down breakfast and went to catch the tram, which kindly waited for us. Unfortunately that meant we missed our connecting tram. It didn't matter too much, but it did make me a little anxious. Fortunately the next tram wasn't too far away. I remarked to Bec that we were obviously on the right one as it was full of cosplayers. The con didn't open 'til 10 am, but obviously these keen beans wanted to get a good place in the line.

It was a little tricky to work out where we had to go, and we had to ask a number of volunteers before figuring out which entrance we needed for the hall. We were issued with three exhibitor passes in the form of badges, then found our table in Artists Alley (which weren't labelled), said hello to our neighbours and set up.

It was good having Bec there as she has more of a visually artistic eye than I do, so arranged everything most artfully. Here's me at the table:

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We had a little time before the con opened, so Bec went in search of coffee and supplies and I prepared myself. Here was the view to either side of us:

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Our neighbours to the left had come down from Cairns and were sporting lovely red hats that matched the cover of the book they were selling (it was a vampire horror novel—part of a series, I think). Our neighbour to the right was late in arriving, and we didn't actually get around to introducing ourselves properly until late on the first day. He hailed from Brisbane but had relatives in Melbourne, so decided it was worth the trip. He was selling his graphic novel Copycat. He said he drew it in two months and it nearly killed him, but he wanted to have something ready for Supanova. I bought a copy but haven't read it yet, but it sounded fun and it was apparently inspired by Scott Pilgrim.

The con opened proper and masses of people started flooding into the hall. Some of the cosplayers were just amazing—for example,

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I think Sophie and her Calcifer was my favourite! (Apparently she made that dress herself.)

Bec totally got into the spirit of things and during one of her breaks, went and bought herself some cat ears and a wig:

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I like to think that that brought us more attention than before. (Also, Bec looks good with pink hair.)

The aisles between the tables were quite wide, which was good for passersby (particularly those with prams and wheelchairs), but not so good for us. It meant that we had to work hard to draw attention to our book. So Bec and I spent a lot of our time trying to make eye contact with people and handing out the free postcards. Having the postcards there was just excellent as they gave people something to focus on as they walked past: on the front, it just says “Kinds of Blue: An anthology of short comics about depression”, and on the back, it says,

What does depression look like? What does depression feel like? When you're stuck in the middle of it, is there anything that actually helps? Read Kinds of Blue online for free at http://hivemindedness.com/kindsofblue

That made it catchy and digestible enough as there was a lot around to distract people's attention, plus it gave people something to take home that they could investigate later. We found that a number of people took a postcard, not really registering what our table was about, then they would read it and double back to take a look—flip through our folder or one of our display copies. People even returned later to buy the book, which was just awesome. And a number of people talked to us about depression and having it, or knowing someone who did. Several worked in mental health as counsellors or social workers, and we were able to give stacks of postcards to a number of these people to hand out to others.

However, it was tiring work. For a while we were both handing out the postcards (one of us targeted people walking right and the other targeted people walking left). Eventually we started tag teaming to give each other breaks. I think half hour to hour-long stints was about right; after that, we started to go a little nuts. The lighting in there didn't help; it was bright and glarey and headache-inducing.

We also didn't stay on the table the whole time. On the Saturday morning, I went in search of Bendis. I bought a book for him to sign that I could give to Mike but wasn't sure what to get, so in the end went with something I thought was about right (plus it's relevant since the movie will be out in a week or so!) Fortunately for me, the signing line wasn't very long, so I was able to not be away for too long. And Bendis was friendly and lovely: he signed the book and I gave him Kinds of Blue and told him about Mike, pointed out the letter and the comic that Mike and I had done together, and just from glancing at the art, Bendis told me, “It's good!”, which (I think) just about made Mike's day when I told him about it on Twitter. Also, Bendis seemed genuinely pleased that I'd given him the book, so I hope he gets a chance to read it and enjoys it. (Not that I'm expecting to; I know that people like him are insanely busy. But no one passes up free comics, right?)

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Bec and I also took turns being away for different panels. I went to the Bendis/Pacheco/Billy Tan one (but it wasn't that relevant to me as I don't follow the Marvel universe), and on the Sunday, Bec went to see Wil Wheaton and I went to see Morena Baccarin and Jaimie Alexander. (The nerd in me loves that all these celebrities are on Twitter.) We wanted to give a copy to Wil Wheaton but it wasn't possible. Fortunately for us, Tim McEwen (who is one of Supanova's founders and the artistic director for the cons; I met him at the Australian Society of Authors Comics Masterclass last year) stopped by and promised he'd try to get it to Wil.

Here's a rather nice pic I snapped of Jaimie Alexander (who was super cool):

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Lunch options were pretty basic: on the Saturday, we ended up both getting Dominos $5 quarter pizzas (because the other queue was too long), but on the Sunday, we tried to be a bit more prepared and get sandwiches at Coles. (That didn't work, but Bec learned that the cafe people were getting sandwich supplies at 10:30 am, so I set myself a reminder alarm to go and get them, which meant we enjoyed a relatively healthier lunch on day 2!) We had good table supplies though: we both had water, plus Bec had brought grapes and I had brought Natural Confectionary Company lollies and nuts from the Dandenongs. We shared these with our table neighbours, who were very grateful.

Towards the end of the day, I went for a little walk to scope out Artists Alley. I had met one of the guys in the Dominos queue, and seen a few of the others wandering around. (It was good having some of the postcards on me so I could give them to people on the fly.) So it was nice to get a closer look at what was on show. I met the guys at Gestalt Comics—in particular, Justin Woolley (who is a writer who does prose and comics) and Gary (whose last name I forget but he's one of the editors at Gestalt). There was someone shooting a doco on Gestalt Comics and he asked if he could film me and Gary, and then when Gary asked if he could see Kinds of Blue and buy a copy, he followed us around to our table and filmed that transaction taking place. Then he filmed me talking about Kinds of Blue for a few minutes, plus some other footage he could use as filler shots later, plus us giving permission to have our likenesses appear in his doco. I'm not sure when the doco will air. He gave me his business card so I could stay in touch and find out.

By the end of Day #1 we'd sold 10 copies and given out a whole heap of postcards. We packed up (left most of the stuff but took the books), caught the tram back into the city and went to have some dinner. I had initially been thinking Lygon St for dinner, but we were too hungry and tired to make it that far, so instead we chose the Oriental Teahouse in Melbourne Central. It was a lot nicer than I expected it to be: we had lovely mugs of tea in these cool glass mugs with inbuilt strainers (and when the tea had steeped enough, you could take the strainer out and place it on the lid so that water wouldn't go everywhere; I ended up buying one), plus dumplings, buns and noodles. (I ordered the Big Dumpling Lover meal, which was quite disconcerting because every time the waitresses came with more dumplings, they would say to us, “Big Dumpling Lover?” and I was tempted to shout back, “Look, you don't have to rub it in!”

Then because we had energy, we walked over to Lygon St to visit Koko Black (as no trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit there!) Their hot chocolate is still my favourite, and fortunately it comes in children's sizes so I can still enjoy it as well as one of their desserts.

Afterwards, we walked back to University College, which wasn't that far away. It was a nice night to be walking, even with our two suitcases on wheels. And it was good hanging out with Bec. I wondered how we'd go, given that we're both introverts and could easily have gotten quite sick of each other's company. But fortunately that didn't happen.

I packed stuff for tomorrow, then we went to bed, but unfortunately I had massive trouble sleeping because it wasn't as cold as the previous night and my doona was too heavy.

Sunday

Fortunately we were able to sleep in a little as we didn't have to be early for bump-in. So we went downstairs for University College's breakfast, then packed up, returned our keys, caught the tram into the showgrounds (and the connections were good so it didn't take so long) and prepared ourselves for Day #2.

Here's Bec in her pink wig, cat ears and sunglasses:

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(Someone should seriously make her into an anime character.)

This was the day that the cosplayers decided to form a conga line and dance around the hall:

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It was most entertaining to watch—like a mini parade going by!

There were just as many people on this day, as well as a lot of returnees, which meant that a lot of people said that they already had one of our postcards and didn't want another. But there were several people who had seen everything else already and bought all the stuff they wanted to buy, so they were just wandering around looking at things in between panels and signings. I felt like on Sunday we got more people stopping to look and flip through the book. Also, our sales were spread out a lot more throughout the day so that by the end, we'd sold another 16 copies, bringing our total to 26!

We also had some very lovely comments from people—people who thought it was a really cool thing that we had done (concept-wise), which made up for the people who said, “A comic on depression?” and then laughing; a couple of guys from the housing commission flats across the road who had snuck into the show (one said that flipping through our book had completely turned his day around and begged us to give him a copy because he had no money); and a girl from one of the other Artists Alley tables who told us that she thought Kinds of Blue was the best book on show there.

In the end, I think we only handed out 1200 postcards, which meant we still had to lug a box and a half of them back. But we only had two books to bring back out of the 30, so that made our luggage significantly lighter!

When the con ended, we packed and reshuffled a few things in our suitcases, then caught the last Metro train to Southern Cross station and the SkyBus to the airport. We ate at the airport (something basic and not too terrible), then hung out near our gate, sitting on the floor and recharging our phones with random power points. Our flight was running a little late, but when we finally did get on board, it was nice to be flying with Virgin as there was a little more space and they had screens on the backs of the seats in front so we could watch stuff and while away the time quickly. Back in Sydney, Bec and I parted ways and I caught a cab home with a very grumpy driver.

Here are a few things that I/we could do better for next time:

Right, I should wrap this post up. Let me conclude by giving massive kudos to Ben, who has been such a lovely and supportive husband in making it possible for me to go to Supanova Melbourne and spend so much time away from home and family. Plus when I returned, I discovered that not only had he gotten the car I use cleaned (inside and out), he had upgraded the operating system on my laptop to Lion. (This is a Big Thing because I haven't been able to upgrade for ages because I haven't been able to back up my hard drive. Thank goodness I managed to solve my back-up problem before I left!) That plus my new battery and power cable make it feel like I have a brand new laptop, even though it's now three years old (purchased in 2009) and therefore probably only has another two or three years left in its life cycle. Yes, my husband is a legend!

People's Choice Award

(P.S. I ought to mention that voting has opened for the People's Choice Awards section of the Sydney Writers Centre Best Australian Blogs competition. In the 11 or so years that this blog has been running, if you have enjoyed it or found it useful in anyway, please take a few minute to vote for me. [I'm the first one on the list because of the slashes in my blog name!] Voting closes on Wednesday 9 May at 5pm.)

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