The con’s commitment to inclusiveness (race, gender, age, interest) is admirable. I found the age diversity to be the most encouraging. It was fun to be around everyone from brand new fans with lots of enthusiasm to 50-plus folks who could bring wisdom, life experience, and passion to the sessions and performances. At Arisia, you can also count on folks, including panel audiences, to stick up for underrepresented groups or perspectives, which made for enlightening conversation.
I’m not a cosplayer, performer, or dealer, and was mostly on my own, so I spent a lot of my time at panels or workshops. Most were in the Writing track, and I was impressed with the quality of the programming. Panelists had diverse experiences and came well prepared. I learned more at Arisia than I have in day-long writing workshops, and for half the price. It’s also refreshing to talk about writing without having to downplay or disguise my work because it's not literary fiction.
Write Gripping, Fast-Paced Stories: There’s more criteria to this genre than I would have thought, and helped me distinguish “thriller” from “suspense.” Also, I got useful advice about eliminating “filter words” from my limited-third-person POV stories.
What Lies Beneath: Adding Subtext to Your Story: Biggest lesson for me: subtext is there whether I’m cognizant of it or not, so I should make an effort to look for it and use it to advantage. Always great to watch a panel moderated by Alexander Danner; this guy brings his A-game every time.
Visual Storytelling for Prose: and Comic Book and Graphic Novel Scripting: These sessions led by Alisa Kwitney were great fun, and really informative! I learned to set up my settings “like a filmmaker with an unlimited budget,” and (to the degree I can) I plan to act out the scenes I’m writing to better describe movement through a space.
Writing and Tarot: It was intriguing to see an experienced tarot reader demonstrate complex card spreads for character development, and it never hurts to be reminded to trust your intuition. I also love to take peeks at other folks’ tarot decks.
Writing a Worthy Adversary: I read a fair amount about this topic, so the content was familiar, but it's intriguing to see who people identify as examples Hans Gruber came up a lot as a worthy villain, both for his charisma and because he suffers setbacks just like John McClane).
“Hi, I’m Jane Doe and I Write Fanfiction”: While I didn’t learn anything surprising at this session, it was reassuring to hear how to build readership from other writers, and to be reminded that a) it’s worth writing fic for one's readers and oneself, and b) I should stop panicking about aging out of it. At a con like Arisia, though, I was surprised that this panel had a closeted feel about it (“Jane Doe” in the title, held at 10:00 at night), and I think they missed out on a more robust audience by promoting it that way.
Also checked out:
Triforce of Decades: Zelda at 30:I’ve got a lot of unfinished Legend of Zelda fic, so I’m always reassured by people’s continued love for the games, including the ones that came out *gulp* two decades ago. One panelist was a software developer and shared some great background about how game designers create levels and her fears about the shift to an open world format for Breath of the Wild. There was also some great “olds” versus “youngs” chatter, including from people who knew the horrors of dropping a cartridge and losing a saved game.
Introduction to Puppetry: A goofy, warmhearted panel, with lots of insights about how puppeteers learn their craft and create their shows. Things went off the rails pretty quick after they took out puppets for the audience (and themselves) to play with, though.