Monday, May 8, 2023

Geek Out Napa Valley

I had a good time at Geek Out Napa Valley on Saturday, a small first-time comics convention--I'm calling it a "micro-con"--put on by librarians and aimed mostly at kids. They fit a lot of pros and vendors into one regular-size meeting room, with other activities like a robotics demo and a bake sale on a patio outside. I also took part in a panel on "Cultivating Creativity" with writer Matthew Gilbert (Stranger Things novelizations and Nickelodeon), who I didn't know before but consider a friend now. Also had a chance to connect with cartooning pals and my friend Jim Sharkey, who stopped by. I also want to mention cartoonist Nomi Kane, who I didn't get a photo of but we had a nice conversation anyway.

The con did something brilliant I've never seen before: they put me and guest Matthew Gilbert on either side of Karen Bock Provenza from the local independent bookseller Napa Bookmine, which ordered our books, so that if someone wanted to get a signed book all they had to do was buy it and walk three feet to the left or right. I knew she was going to be there but did not expect her to stock all four of my books, so I was thrilled! We sold a nice number of them, too.

The side patio, with robotics and a station where attendees could turn art into a pinback button.

A little bake sale to support the robotics team.

The con coincided with Free Comic Book Day, and the library gave out hundreds.

I didn't know what to expect at an inaugural micro-con, and honestly feared the worst. But it was just the opposite. Staff were enthusiastic and engaged. Attendance was steady and flowed nicely. Folks bought books. People even came to see our panel! Honestly, I've flown across the country for enormous literary festivals only to talk to fewer people and sign fewer books than I did in a side room of the Napa Public Library an hour from home.

I love these tiny cons because everyone is there for the right reason: they love comics. Or they're at least curious enough about comics to poke their head into a free event. Invariably, I see an excited kid trailed by a parent or grandparent who doesn't quite get what's going on but suddenly realizes their kid's not a weirdo, that comics are a real thing that a lot of people like and actual adults make. 

Adults and kids being passionate about reading and art. What's not to love?

Andrew Farago from the Cartoon Art Museum, his wife, cartoonist Shaenon Garrity, and their son Robin, who is an old convention pro.

Cartoonist and Schulz Studio staffer Donna Almendrala, who managed to acquire a 1-year-old son since the last time I really got to talk to her.

Cartoonist and teacher Gio Benedetti.

Matthew Gilbert and his wife Jess, both really nice, smart, interesting people that I hope to spend time with again. My panel with Matthew was one of the best I've done.

No micro-con would be complete without a micro-costume contest.

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