Last weekend I attended Leviosa Con in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not only was this my first convention dedicated to one particular fandom, Harry Potter, it was also the first time that I attended a convention as a presenter and not just an attendee. Friend of the blog, Constance Gibbs, let me know that this was my “Year of Yes” a la Shondra Rhimes and with that in mind I took a chance to present two different programs on my favorite topic, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.
This was not only my first time at a Harry Potter convention, it was the first year of LeviosaCon in general, though the organizers had a lot of convention organizing experience and it showed.
On Friday, I spent most of my time as an attendee and prefect, though I tried to be much more of a Ron Weasley-style prefect than Percy Weasley. The first panel I attended was entitled Ravenclaw Your Writing which featured a panel of authors talking about their approach to researching science and historical fiction. Moderated by Leviosa organizer and author Alexa Donne and featuring authors Alexandra Bracken, Beth Revis, Robyn Schneider and Mary Elizabeth Summer. Beth Revis gave a few hilarious insights into the Russian space program and Mary Elizabeth Summer who writes YA fiction for the criminally inclined, gave me a few ideas.
The panel was entertaining and informative, everything a good panel should be! I loved the panel and it really helped put the research process in perspective. It can be overwhelming but it can also be enjoyable! Afterwards, I got to meet Tayci Stallings and we did some mutual fangirling over each other.
I left the Ravenclaw Your Writing Panel and followed that up with another writing panel; Planning Your Book as a Series featuring Stephanie Diaz, Tobie Easton, CL Garber, Mark Oshiro and Michelle Shusterman. This panel talked about how to plan and pitch a series, a lot of really good advice was given out by these writers who have previously written series or are currently working on a book series.
I, then, attended for Transitioning from Fan Writing to Pro Writing featuring Alexa Donne, JC Davis, Cass Morris, and Mark Oshiro. All of these panelist were involved in writing fanfic to varying degrees and then spoke about what the transition was like both in the writing process but also in the process of pitching querying your story to agents.
My final panel dealt with the Psychology of The Marauders led by Dr. Janina Scarlet (who looked nothing like the Hogwarts Guidance Counselor) and featured many of the actors of Snape and The Marauders. I then finished the day with a screening of Snape and The Marauders and it really blew me away with the amazing production and special effects!
I started Saturday by hosting my panel on Harry Potter and Stunted Adolescence, it was a nice roundtable discussion based on my previous blog post. People were highly engaged and asked a lot of really great questions, I was worried about how people would react to my thoughts around Dumbledore but was surprised to see how many people thought I didn’t go far enough. It was an invigorating feeling and I’m already thinking about submitting for my next round of talks (Bayana, like always, wants to make a plan).
After I finished my talk I sat in on the Harry Potter Alliance workshop on Wizard Activism and was so inspired by all of the brilliant ideas that fellow convention goers had to do more work around using their fandom for positive social change. From letter-writing campaigns to Congress to collecting resources for new mothers , The Harry Potter Alliance is such a great organization and the people on the ground at Leviosa were really inspiring. Make sure to check them out!
Quite different from my experience on Friday where I spent the majority of my time in the YA writing track I attended a ton of sessions that were about Harry Potter specifically from Magic, Technology, and Power: The Wizarding World’s Problem with Justice to Snape and Sirius in Canon but by far my favorite panel was Has The Sorting Hat Been Wrong featuring Potter con veterans and all around great people - Olivia Dolphin, Proma Khosla, Hannah Panek and Baize White. There was a lot of great interactive discussion from the crowd talking about our own sorting and the sorting of some specific characters. Peter Pettigrew’s sorting brought up a ton of interesting theories that had me leave the panel floating on air. The biggest takeaway was that the joy I get from in-depth discussions about Harry Potter is unlike any other thing I can experience and I want to do it all the time!
Though the last day of the con with programming ending around 3:00 PM, Sunday held some of the best conversations of the entire weekend, starting with a roundtable discussion about Opportunities Missed: Race, Class, and Gender in Harry Potter led by Jillian Staniec but full of impressive thoughts from emotional health and wellbeing to the prevalence of stay at home witches in the series. However, the best moment for me was the collective disappointment from Magic in North America and the feeling of expecting more from JK Rowling’s handling of identity.
This was uplifting because directly after that I moderated a panel featuring #HogwartsBSU alum Tayci Stalling, Mark Oshiro, Lily Meade and Proma Khosla entitled Finding Your Place in the Wizarding World: Race and Identity in Harry Potter. We delved into the importance of the depictions of race and identity in not only Harry Potter but in all of media. It was great to hear Tayci tell the audience that she was not going to consume stories that she didn’t feel represented in, sad to hear Mark talk about his affinity to Speedy Gonzalez as a youth and shocking to know that Proma thought the outfits worn by the Patil twins to the Yule Ball were ugly! I got to release some Seraphina Picquery feels and everyone agreed that just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it’s less real or less important. I ended the conference with a debate about What is Canon? lead by some contributors to Muggle Net and got some great recommendations for YA books that center around fandom in the “After Rainbow Rowell” panel featuring journalists Aja Romano and Elizabeth Minkel.
Harry Potter conferences are the best, why had I never gone before? The content was great, the people were great and the cosplay was fantastic!
I could talk about Harry Potter until I’m blue in the face - unless you want to glorify Snape, then I have to leave or shout you into silence.
“Year of Yes” is an amazing concept, I was so nervous and skeptical about how it would go but it exceeded my expectations and I think it will be something I continue to do for quite awhile!
Conventions are a great way to network, meet people with similar interest and make real connections and friendships. Mark Oshiro is THE best, a genuinely nice and supportive guy who I’m so glad to consider my friend!
I love conventions and I will just resign myself to poverty and using all my vacation days to attend them. Leaky Con 2016 here I come!