Curious: That was really fast! What was it like, organizing your first convention?
Brynn: It was incredibly stressful. I mean, it was really rewarding because there is an excitement, I think, during the first year. I had a really good group of local friends that I was really excited about, and then there were a bunch of people that were coming from various other places that I was really excited to meet.
But, it was really stressful. I didn’t know what I was doing really, and so the process of finding the hotel, and putting together the structure, and making sure everything was taken care of–laying all that groundwork was hard. Since then, I can use the last year’s spreadsheets, I can use the previous year’s experience. Having it at the same venue has really helped. There’s always that fear of, maybe nobody is going to show up, or maybe people aren’t going to have a good time, and there’s always new stuff to work through, but that first time, I think it was the most acute, not knowing what was going to happen.
Curious: Did you do everything by yourself the first year?
Brynn: I’ve always been the primary person, but I’ve always had help. I do venue coordination and the overall overseeing, and informational posts, and all that stuff. Then I’ve always had somebody to do the panel organization, and somebody do the vidshow. I think the first year I had help with registration, and then as time’s gone on, and there’s better automation for that kind of thing, I’ve done it myself. In terms of a con committee, it’s always … The contributions that other people have made have been incredibly important and there are things that there’s no way I could have done on my own, but in terms of ownership, of feeling like this is my thing and it’s my responsibility to make it successful as a whole, that’s always just been me.
Curious: Yeah, I really like the format. I love that the attendees suggest the panel ideas and vote for them. Was that something that you set out saying, I want this to be as democratic as possible?
Brynn: I can’t take credit for the panel format–I did, especially in especially the first year, take the idea of how to set up a panel structure and all that from Muskrat Jamboree. I really tried to get a sense of people’s interests, and it helped that I knew a lot of the people who were coming because the first time you do something like this, it’s mainly a lot of people you know, and people they know. The degrees of separation are pretty small, I think, initially, and so it was easy to just be like, “What do you guys want?”
Even down to the food and some of the stuff like that–I polled people on, what kind of juice do you like the best? What kind of soda do you like the best? Which in retrospect was probably not necessary, but I have a really strong hostessing thing. I get really invested in that, and it’s really important to me that people feel comfortable and they have a good time.
We try to do some community building stuff too. We haven’t been able to do as much the last couple years because the fandom has dispersed so much to so many different places, but we used to do a thing a month or two before the con called ‘Bitchin’ Buddies.’ I’d set people up with an anonymous buddy, and they were supposed to go their buddy’s LJ or whatever, and leave them something anonymous once a week for a month–like a comment on a fic, or a gif, or a picture. That was one of the ways I was trying to help people feel connected. And we do the Getting To Know You post the week before the con, to try to get people talking and excited to see each other.
Curious: Has there’s always been a member cap?
Brynn: Yeah, it’s always been 100. I definitely didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew, and so that was the big reason to cap it where it was. Due, I think, to the nature of the geography and stuff like that, honestly, I think we’ve hit our cap once, so it hasn’t ever been a standing room only situation, but I also really wanted to keep it small. I felt like if we got much bigger than 100, it would start being more difficult to connect with people. I think that’s most people’s con experience, you never get to spend enough time with everybody, right?
Brynn: So I wanted there to be enough room that people could come and have a good time, be with their friends and meet new friends, but not so many people that it felt really overwhelming.
Curious: Did it start out as a purely Due South convention?
Brynn: No, we’ve always had rules about panels to try to make sure we’re including space for a variety of interests. We’ve always had the structure of separating out the panels into single fandom, multi fandom, and then tech and workshop, so we’re trying to make sure there’s something for a lot of people.
Curious: Other con-organizers I’ve talked to seem very focused on running the con, and can’t always fully enjoy the con experience. How much can you let loose and enjoy a Bitchin’ Party while being the center of organizational attention?
Brynn: It’s pretty good actually. I feel pretty lucky. For one thing, a lot of people always offer to help once you’re here. I think the harder thing is finding people to help in the lead up, but once you’re here, I’ve always had a lot of good offers to help. I’ve always basically conscripted my roommates into helping and volunteering to be a contact point, and help with setup. Like when we got here on Friday–and this has been very representative of my experience–I was working on something with the badges, and then I looked up and my roommates had already set up the swap table and the con library, without me having to ask or direct or do anything. They’re amazing.
I do feel responsible, and I have to be available to answer questions, and I feel that as a liaison to the hotel, I have to have a little bit of professionalism, or something in that vein. (Though a couple of years ago after the dance party, I went to the front desk wearing a corset, with glitter all over me and a Headstones shirt that said “rocknfuckinroll” on it, and I was like, “Yes, hello, I’m the event organizer, can we have someone lock the room please?” So there’s that.) But while there’s definitely a level of stress, and just knowing that everything that happens is ultimately my responsibility, overall, I feel really lucky. I don’t feel like I’m working the whole time. I feel like I can go to panels and participate, and have fun at the dance party, and enjoy the vidshow, and all that stuff. Yeah, so it’s nice. I feel good.
Part of this is probably due to the way that I am as an organizer. I’m not a micromanager at all. My ideal scenario is to find people that I trust to make things happen, and then be like, “Go for it.” Sometimes we’ll work out details together or bounce ideas off each other, but for the most part, I’ve been very lucky to find people who don’t need a lot of oversight, who can take something and run with it.
The same thing with panel moderators. I don’t feel like I need to be in people’s business about, “Are you ready for your panel?” and so far, we’ve had such great people who volunteer to play those roles. I think by and large, it’s worked out really well. I guess once we’re here, I trust people. The people make the con. The attendees make the con. So I always feel like my job is to provide a structure where people can be comfortable and have a good time, and then once we’re here, I don’t need to manage every tiny detail, as long as everybody’s being safe and respectful.
Curious: I wanted to ask you about the cadence of the con, having it every other year.
Brynn: That was another thing I pretty much stole from Muskrat Jamboree, I was doing it on the off years of when they were doing it, because initially, again, it was very much the same group of people. And realistically, every other year was about as often as I could commit to the effort, so it just seemed like it worked out that way.
Curious: Have you been to a Muskrat Jamboree in the past years?
Brynn: I have. I went in 2009. It was really fun, it was awesome.
Curious: How does it differ from Bitchin Party?
Brynn: Theirs has more people, and there are probably some differences in tone because Brooklinegirl and I have different personalities, but we were built on a similar foundation, if that makes sense. I had a great time, the year that I went.