Monday, May 16, 2016

ON VEGAS: PATTI SMITH, POETRY, AND BLACKJACK MARGARITAS

I’m back from Vegas and I’m sleepy, drinking too much coffee, and watching old horror movies in my pajamas while I catch up on some work, but despite having to acclimate to the time change and come to terms with the amount of laundry I have to do, damn was StokerCon16 a blast. This trip came at such an important and necessary time for me, and as a result, I feel renewed, refreshed, and reenergized after spending time with new and old friends, colleagues, and my SHUWPF family.
 
I got into Vegas Wednesday night and took a cab to The Flamingo Hotel and Casino, where I literally ran to my room for about 30 seconds and then headed out to the strip to meet my girl, Kristin Dearborn (insert official welcome to the RDSP crew here). Her and her lovely aunt and uncle invited me out to dinner with them, and we buffeted at Caesar’s Palace where I think we all got a little too excited and overwhelmed by the food choices (Note: I could eat oysters until I die and I think I tried to). After that, we walked through the Bellagio and checked out the beautiful Chihuly ceiling and the Japanese conservatory—which, wow. Never in a million years would I have thought that a giant pink room could have made me so happy.
We scoped out the fountain show, which I ended up watching a few times during my visit because it was gorgeous, and there always happened to be a transformer behind me, but I digress. After that, Kristin and I called it a night and headed back to our room where we almost assassinated our desk lamp, but alas, stayed out of trouble and decided let it live…which was a mistake.

Thursday was a pretty epic day for me. I woke up, showered, and hit the strip early. I walked from Treasure Island to the Luxor Hotel where I started off with an inhuman-espresso-loaded coffee and ended up with a black jack margarita, because honestly people, if this girl is going to gamble, it’s going to be with her sobriety, not with a handful of cards. But yes, as I was planning my trip to Vegas, I learned that BODIES: THE EXHIBITION was in town, as well as TITANTIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBITION, and there was no way in hell that I was leaving until I experienced them both. I walked through BODIES and took notes and wrote poetry to organs and diseases, and then I made my way onto the Titanic. For those who don’t know me super well, I’ve harbored a serious obsession with the Titanic since I’ve been a little girl (shout out to Vanessa who died with me on the ship in a past life). I had such a strong, emotional reaction to the artifacts that I really can’t recommend it enough to anyone who has interest in this moment of history. I was doing fairly well until I made it to the section of ship with the Grand Staircase, and I ended up standing there for at least a good ten minutes simply just crying. I got to see parts of the ship, belongings of the passengers, and also stand on a deck that mirrored what the night looked like before the ship struck the iceberg. It was a surreal experience and I honestly am so happy that I got to check both of these exhibits off my bucket list, especially because I got to spend some time in Belfast last summer and see where the Titanic was originally docked.
I came back to the hotel after that and worked on my lecture a little bit, but then Arnzen and I headed out to Margaritaville for some blackberry moonshine, that surprisingly didn’t kill me, which I haven’t decided if that’s something to be proud of or not yet (ha). We hung out and caught up for a bit, and then saw Jason and Sunni Brock, Steve Rasnic Tem, and William F. Nolan from across the room, so we crashed their table for a bit and filled the evening with even more laughs. I registered for the conference that night, bumped into a ton of friends in the dealer’s room, and then hung out on the patio until an ungodly hour where I chatted about writing, listened to sasquatch stories, told horrifically embarrassing stories from college that I’ll never live down, and had the pleasure of meeting both Brian Kirk and Andrew Wolter, who are just two of the greatest guys around.
Friday afternoon, I taught my workshop Poetic Justice: Vice and Virtue in Horror Poetry to an absolutely lovely crowd of writers, all of who left with a poem about something/someone that/who haunts them. We all shared work, myself included with a new poem that a guy actually asked me to write about him (silly boy) titled “When I Promised Him Murder,” and the hours flew by and we just had a blast. I kicked back after that with Jennifer Barnes and Mike Arnzen at a trippy Japanese restaurant, and then Jen and I went to see Zumanity where we laughed and blushed for hours and I formed a serious crush on a man with a pink Mohawk who I saw do things with chains and whips that I’m STILL blushing over.
Whew, thank you, Vegas.
Ice cream and madness followed after that as we headed back to the Flamingo. I was out on the patio with everyone until about 4-4:30 that morning, and honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard in my damn life. Joe Borelli (one of my seriously favorite people in the whole world) showed up and I tackled him in the lobby at first sight…same with Vanessa Giunta. I chatted with Chris Marrs and Matt Schwartz about tattoos, drank way too much with my SHU friends, made future plans for NECON, and ended up in a raptor forest with Trevor Firetog. All in all, it was definitely a night not to be missed.
I joined my CHIRAL MAD 3 friends Saturday morning for our book signing, and Marge Simon and I chuckled throughout most of it as we ate jelly beans and talked poetry. I got to chat with Chris Morey and Michael Bailey for a bit, and also sign the nameplates for my novel The Eighth, which will be out this summer from Dark Regions Press. After that, I had lunch with the ever-lovely Maria Alexander where we caught up over margaritas, and then I headed to the editing panel where I sat and chatted with David Morrell (RAMBO), Jason V. Brock, Jodi Rene Lester, and Ellen Datlow.


The award ceremony was lovely, as always, as I shared the night with my RDSP crew. I’m just over-the-moon excited for my dear friends and fellow writers, Tim Waggoner and Lucy Snyder, who won the Horror Writers Association Mentor of the Year Award and the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection. Afterwards, I got to catch up with Aaron Sterns and Linda Addison, and then I spent the majority of my night out on the patio with Robert Payne Cabeen and his lovely wife, Cecile. We chatted about African art and mourning jewelry, fiction and poetry, Patti Smith and The Doors, and it was easily the highlight of my trip and just the best conversation to leave Vegas with.


It was hard saying goodbye to everyone Sunday morning, but the trip was unforgettable, and it helps knowing that next year we get to reunite on THE QUEEN MARY! Before I left, I did a super fun podcast with Joe Borelli, the body and brains behind CREATURE CAST, and then Lucy Snyder and I grabbed a cab and started to make our way back out to the east coast.

Overall…Vegas, baby.

It was pretty much everything that I expected and hoped that it would be, and you know, every time I leave these things, I leave just feeling so blessed that not only do I get to live out my dreams, but that I get to do it with the people that I know and love and always look forward to seeing.
Cheers to you beautiful, dark people.

I’ll see some of you at SHU next month, some of you at NECON this July, and hopefully cross paths with some/most of you before California next year, but if not, I’ll definitely see you then.

With moonshine and spades,
Stephanie M. Wytovich