I never thought horror writers could be so funny. But they are. And creative. Very creative. I recently returned from a weekend in Bristol, Rhode Island from The Northeastern Writer’s Conference, affectionately known as Camp Necon.
When I think of summer camp, I think of the movie Meatballs. This is better. The same, but better. Some of the best horror writers in the country attend every year.
I’m a newbie. A Necon Virgin.
Since I first attended Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp I wasn’t able to attend because Necon takes place in July, the height of my busy season at the restaurant. This year I’ve decided to feed my passion for writing and let the restaurant run without me.
I’m tired of cleaning toilets. I’m tired of peeling shrimp. I’m tired of talking jambalaya. The restaurant business is way too glamorous for me. Not that I’ll quit that world, but I need another one.
F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, and Doug Winter came in for dinner Thursday night before Necon. Mary Wilson wagged her finger.
“You take care of her. I don’t want her coming back changed.”
The three authors told stories with such fondness I was envious of the camaraderie. I wanted to be a part of the childish shenanigans and have years of story to tell.
Paul told his wife that I’d most likely be looking after them.
“What goes on at this thing, anyway?” she asked. I too wanted to know.
“Well, there’s bowling.”
“There’s a talent show.”
“There’s a Roast.”
Will I be hazed? I wondered. Is there some sinister initiation process to this grand fraternal order?
Surely, Meghan Arcuri-Moran, my Necon roommate would have told me? She was there last year.
She’s a horror writer, maybe not.
It took me nine hours to make a five hour drive.
I spent the entire length of Connecticut stop-go stop-go. I calculated an average 20 mph. My left thigh still burns from the clutch.
I sent a text message to F. Paul (no I wasn’t driving):
“Holy traffic, Batman.”
To which he replied, “Where are you?”
I hadn’t hit New Haven yet.
“We’re in Bristol already.” And that was that. They were mixing drinks and I was all alone in the parking lot they call I-95.
I probably would have turned around if it weren’t bumper to bumper in the southbound lane.
I walked through the lobby dragging my cooler. My roommate was at the counter asking if there was another ice machine in the building, the one on the first floor was empty.
Nope, only one in the entire conference center with so many writers, so many cocktails.
I missed dinner but Megan looked at my cooler and said, “You have ice in there.”
“I bought two extra bags.”
“Perfect,” she said and helped me carry it up the stairs to our room (no elevator).
Gardner Goldsmith was there. I haven’t seen Gard since Bootcamp 2010. I shared my drink with him. I was happy to see him especially since he was the brunt of many of Rio’s jokes.
I love Gard. What a sport.
We drank in a courtyard and when 3 am rolled around it was time for bed. For me and Meghan anyway.
I learned so much from the panels. Authors giving advice on how it is in the publishing world, editors giving their side of the story.
Even though I didn’t know many people when I arrived, I know them now. Tony Tremblay took me by the hand and introduced me around. I felt welcome, even though I haven’t had a story published.
The people at Necon don’t care about stuff like that. They want you to have fun. They want you to get it. They want to share the loving support they carry with them for their colleagues.
I appreciate all the great stories and advice from everyone. Heather Graham and Dallas both took time to talk to me and I could tell they loved the craft. The big old boot in the butt I need to finish my novel.
To be part of something so special is what Necon is all about. When I get together with my cousins, it’s the same way. We pick up where we left off. The same stories rehashed year after year and we never tire of them. They only get better.
I can’t wait for next year. I can’t wait to see who will be the next Roastee and hear the heckling from the crowd.
“Too kind! This is a Roast!”
I look at a picture with me, Gardner Goldsmith and Meghan Arcuri. Meghan and I are peeved with Michael Bailey and RB Payne who said they were coming this year. I think of all my fellow grunts from Borderlands and I wonder:
Are we going to be like them? Are we going to share the beginnings of our writing careers together and one-day host the Game show?” Will we guide and support each other throughout our budding careers the way these guys all did?
I hope so.
The night goes on. Megan tells me I must have a saugie, which I hadn’t heard of until Necon. She said they’re like a hot dog or some sort of sausage. The way everyone lined up I thought of the movie Soylent Green. These are all horror writers. Who’d they kill? Who are we about to eat?
Megan handed me what looked like a hot dog. When I bit into it, the skin was crispy and it really was tasty even if it was old whatshisname.
“When in Necon . . .” they all said.
Whenever I take someone to a restaurant I love or recommend I want to know if they liked it, worried they might not appreciate something I love.
I got the same feeling from the Necon campers. They love their family reunion. All the joking aside, they all love one another. It was great hearing the stories. Watching everyone interact. Each assuming a role chosen years ago.
As Doug, Paul and Tom get ready to depart (Meghan calls them the three amigos), Tom asked me:
“Did you have fun?”
“I learned how to shave a guy’s head.”
“What did you think?” said Paul.
“I need to finish my novel.”
“That is correct. Will you be back?”
“I can’t wait til next year.”
Next year I can’t wait to see a newbie sitting in the cafeteria so I can sit down with my tacos and welcome her with my own stories. I want her to feel as comfortable as I did. I want to be the one who asks, “Are you ready for a good time?”
Have I changed? Yes, but not because I had to sit in a baby pool full of ice or walk around with a dead fish around my neck singing dirty limericks.
Am I coming back next year?