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NerdCon: Stories 2016

img_1492I had the good fortune to attend NerdCon: Stories 2016 October 14th and 15th in Minneapolis, just a handful of miles from my house. This year, they opened programming up to attendee-led sessions. I presented on Friday morning on Mental Health in Young Adult Literature. More on that later.


The convention was an absolute blast and, if there is a convention next year (you can read this piece about why NerdCon really needs to happen again), you should really go if you can. I left feeling absolutely inspired (and exhausted—for an introvert, it was a lot of extroverting). My face hurt from laughing so much. I’m going to give you a rundown of who I saw/what they were presenting on so you can see just how wide a range of great people were there. For more on what the agenda included, hop on over to their website.


I attended the following sessions:

Friday morning variety show

Hosted by Dessa Darling and Darin Ross
– A welcome video from Hank
– Poetry by Rachel Kann
– A reading by Saladin Ahmed
– A reading scored live by Daniel José Older and Kevin MacLeod
– Juvenilia read by Cindy Pon, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paul DeGeorge
– A talk by Julián Gómez
– Leslie Datsis and Patricia Wheeler in conversation
– A talk by Kate Rudd


Self-promotion: Getting the Word Out with John Scalzi, MariNaomi, Saladin Ahmed, Joe DeGeorge, and Zak Sally

Lightning Panels with Storm DiCostanzo, Paolo Bacigalupi, Wesley Chu, Joe DeGeorge, and Mary Robinette Kowal

Afternoon variety show

Hosted by Jenn Bane and Sandeep Parikh
– A talk by M.T. Anderson
– A performance by Dessa
– A reading by Cindy Pon
– A talk by John Scalzi
– Stagecraft: Tips, Tricks, & Cheats by Rives
– A talk by Saladin Ahmed
– Paul Sabourin and John Scalzi in conversation
– A talk by Katrina Ostrander
– A live comic reading by MariNaomi


A librarian and library enthusiast meet-up

Superfight (From the program description: Superfight is a card game that’s all about arguing your way through ridiculous fights. Players are given cards with choices of characters and attributes to use to create their fighter, then must convince everyone else why they would win in a fight against another player’s fighter. But not all of the attributes are good, and not all of the characters are strong, so imagination, persuasion, and storytelling skills will be your real weapons in most fights. Watch these masters of storytelling battle it out to see who can spin the better fighting yarn!) With Darin Ross, Karen Hallion, Sean Kelley, John Scalzi, and Mary Robinette Kowal


Saturday Morning Variety Show

Hosted by Liz Hara and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph


– A talk by Patricia Wheeler

– A performance by Rives

– A talk by Storm DiCostanzo

– A talk by Mikki Kendall

– Patrick Rothfuss and Wesley Chu in conversation

– A talk by John Darnielle

– A reading by Ben Acker

– Who Killed Hank Green? – a puppet murder mystery written by Mary Robinette Kowal, featuring Eli Mandel, Kate Rudd, Keef Cross, Liz Hara, Mikki Kendall, Saladin Ahmed, and M.T. Anderson


The Moral Responsibility of the Storyteller (From the program: We’re back with this panel for a second year! Books are banned and movies are rated with the understanding that information, ideas, and narratives are occasionally dangerous. What responsibility, if any, do storytellers have to their audiences? Is it hubris to assume a narrative can influence people at all? Join us for discussion, friendly disagreement, and potential descent into an ethical quagmire from which we may not emerge unscathed.) With Leslie Datsis, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Sydney Freeland, MT Anderson, and Max Temkin


Storytelling in Tabletop Games (From the program: Role-playing and other tabletop games are a fantastic catalyst for collaborative storytelling. Creating narrative frameworks and game rules that allow players to have enough control over both story and interaction can be a tricky business. How do game designers do this, and what makes a game truly great?)  With Jonathan Ying, John Darnielle, Karen Hallion, Katrina Ostrander, Darin Ross, and Michael R. Underwood.


A Whole New World (From the program: Worlds that are not ours — how do we make them real and believable? Authors’ imaginations and skills with the written word have created some of the most incredible, scary, shocking, and fascinating worlds in literature and other mediums. Learn about the art of worldbuilding from these creators of universes.) With Paolo Bacigalupi, Ben Acker, Nalo Hopkinson, Daniel José Older, Katrina Ostrander, and MT Anderson.


Afternoon Variety Show

Hosted by Paul & Storm


– A rapid-fire Q&A with Chris Rathjen, Eileen Cook, Joe DeGeorge, Jonathan Ying, Karen Hallion, Kevin MacLeod, Nalo Hopkinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi

– Daniel José Older and Nalo Hopkinson in conversation

– Ms. Pacman vs the Patriarchy – a talk by Paul DeGeorge

– A reading by Michael R. Underwood

– A lip sync battle with Blue Delliquanti, John Scalzi, Paul Sabourin, Matt Young, Mikki Kendall, and Darin Ross

– A talk by John Green (Please, please, please go read John’s talk about mental illness and creativity)


Breaking Into Publishing (From the program: You’ve got a story to tell, a poem to share, an essay to change the world. But how do you get it OUT THERE? How do you break into publishing? These panelists–traditionally published and indy authors, paper and digital–will talk briefly about how they broke into publishing and will answer questions from audience members about how publishing works today.) Michele Bacon, Steve Brezenoff, Kate Gorman, H.M. Bouwman, Katie Kennedy, May Lee-Yang, Chris Santiago, and Sal Pane.


img_1459My presentation on Mental Health in YA Lit was well attended. My room was set up to hold 100. There were at least 150 people there by the time I started talking. Every inch of space was taken up. It was an amazing turnout. I talked about how our project originated, where to find the archives, who has contributed, and why we chose to focus 2016 on this important topic. I talked about my own experiences as an undiagnosed/untreated/unmedicated teenager. I went over the shocking statistics that drive home the point of just how important open dialogues and awareness about mental health are.




img_1467I spent a little time talking about my path to treatment, my teenage self, my experiences raising a child with anxiety, and how far YA literature has come in its depictions of mental health issues. I read from a few recent YA books and then spent the remainder of the hour reading excerpts from posts from our #MHYALit project. Afterwards, I had so many people come up to me to share their stories or reinforce how important this topic is—librarians, writers, mental health professionals, teenagers, and parents all waited to talk with me. It was amazing.



img_1466While I tried to make my way through my line, all of a sudden a reporter from KARE 11 was sticking a mic on me and saying, “I filmed your presentation–really cool. Talk about it, but don’t look at me! Go ahead!” Um… so, as someone with fairly debilitating anxiety who just got done doing a thing that made me fairly anxious, I wasn’t *exactly* ready to be coherent enough to be filmed. But film she did. I watched the bit last night through my fingers and, while I don’t like watching/listening to myself, I am so happy they chose to share my presentation with a wider audience. You can go here to see that bit from the news.  It helped having the smiling faces of TLTer Heather, author friend Michele Bacon, and my husband, Matthew, all in the front row. I was glad to be included in the convention and glad when my part of it was over with! For more on NerdCon, check out the hashtag #nerdconstories on Twitter and their own Twitter account. It was a blast to see so many friends and sit in on so many wonderful discussions. Hope to see everyone again in 2017!


Here are some details from my presentation. An awful lot of it was just me talking.
























  1. Stephanie Noell says

    I Storified the @thegayya’s live tweeting of the How to Write Straight Characters panel from NerdCon: Stories 2016 if anyone’s interested: https://storify.com/Librarianstebbs/writingstr8char

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