I will start today by saying I am excited. Yep, pretty excited to introduce a new feature, Trip Into Imagineering. This new feature will be focusing on some of the guests and events happening around the first annual Imaginarium Con 2014. What is an Imaginarium, you ask? Once again, I am so proud of my reader’s inquisitive natures. Imaginarium Con is an epic event which will take place in Louisville, Kentucky September 19-21, 2014. In order to clarify how cool Imaginarium is, I went to the source, Stephen Zimmer. I met Stephen Zimmer earlier this year at another event, MidSouth Con 32. As you may notice by how many times I mention meeting people at a particular Con, they are great places to network and build one of the things I hold dear–community. In September, I will once again seek out like minded individuals at the gathering, Imaginarium Convention 2014. At the end of the interview will be links directing you to the registration and information. Now it is time to learn a little more about the event and meet Stephen Zimmer.
Trip Through My Mind: I would like to welcome, Stephen Zimmer to Trip Through My Mind. This is your first visit to our little venue. I want to start by saying, I cannot wait to attend the Imaginarium Con in September. When I first heard about the con, I marked it on my calendar. Could you give us a little info on what to expect at Imaginarium for both veteran con-goers and newbies?
Stephen Zimmer: All conventions have themes or a focus of some sort and Imaginarium is no different. In a nutshell, Imaginarium is a convention that is centered upon creative writing. I say it like that because I do not refer to books alone, but all forms of creative writing, including screenwriting, writing for games, stage and song, and even poetry. Our programming is extensive, with over 125 panels in twelve categories, featuring over 130 professional panelist guests coming from all across the book industry, and the worlds of gaming, comics, and movies. We also feature a number of dedicated workshops too.
While there is a richness of content, Imaginarium is set in a fun convention environment, with a vendor hall, masquerade, art show, gaming room, film festival and other activities . I see Imaginarium as a prime place for writers, editors, publishers, cover artists, comic artists, filmmakers, screenwriters, game designers, poets, songwriters, and readers to come together for a great weekend of networking, learning and fun. We have worked hard to make it as affordable and accessible as possible, even offering special group rates to enable student groups to participate. We want Imaginarium to work for everyone at many levels.
TTMM: I cannot wait to be one of those 130 panelists. It will be my first time as a panelist and I am beside myself with excitement. I first heard of it through the podcast you are involved in, The Star Chamber Show. When we met in Memphis, your excitement for Imaginarium was contagious. What I have wanted to ask you is, what inspired the creation of the Imaginarium Con?
SZ: I am around a lot of conventions and literary events, many of which I absolutely love such as MidSouth Con, which you mentioned, but I really wanted to see an event that made the creative writer and storyteller the focus of the entire event. I did not see that as limited to only the short story, novel and novella realms, hence the areas of the event catering to gaming, screenwriting, comics and graphic novels, and more.
At the same time, I did not want it to be overly formal. I wanted an environment that is comfortable for newcomers, those just getting into the industry, unpublished authors and readers too. So, I felt that this should be done in a convention-style environment, with a lot of the things that those who go to mixed media or fandom cons tend to enjoy, such as a masquerade, an art show, or a nice vendors hall.
We are trying to make sure we don’t spread too thin in year one, but I do feel we have all the elements in place to have a really nice event.
TTMM: From your website EnterTheImaginarium.com, I get the feeling you are building a community of writers, publishers, artists, instead of fostering competition. We have had this conversation before, but I think we have very similar ideas on the subject. Could you share with everyone why building up the writing community is important to you?
SZ: Our competition is with ourselves, to push ourselves to produce better and better material with every new release. The competition is not with fellow authors and publishers. This might sound counterintuitive at first, but truly the authors that have noticed who tend to progress the fastest are the ones who have a win-win philosophy. Mainly, they are supportive and willing to help other authors and publishers.
Being mutually supportive really does create a stronger environment which is much more suited to attract a greater number of readers and cross-pollinate among the various authors and publishers. A reader who discovers Seventh Star Press will be exposed to and discover authors with Charon Coin Press, or Blackwyrm Publishing, or Apex Book Company. Same dynamic for individual authors. It really does work like that when you have a cohesive, friendly, mutually supportive community.
This kind of positive-driven environment also has the effect of encouraging everyone to put out quality work. None of us want to be a turnoff that sends a reader running. All of us want to be a beacon and bring more and more readers into a love and embrace of indie books, whether by small presses or self-published authors. We really are in this together. The sooner everyone figures that out the better, in my view, especially with the mounting challenges we continue to face in the industry itself.
TTMM: I remember back a couple of months ago when you were so excited you almost could not wait to make the announcement for the Guest of Honor. We were chatting the day you received the confirmation and you were almost bursting with the news. Could you share a little insight about Rose Pressey, the guest of honor at this year’s Imaginarium?
SZ: Rose is extremely talented and she also happens to be a very gracious and kind-hearted individual. We thought it would be wonderful to have a big success story from the home state for Imaginarium be our guest of honor in year one and I could not be happier with having Rose as our first author given this designation.
She does embody what is possible as an indie author in this day and age. She is a wonderful success story herself and having her at Imaginarium will be an inspiration for the attendees. I am confident that everyone will walk away with the same high esteem that I hold for her, once they have had the pleasure of interacting with her.
TTMM: I am looking forward to sitting in on some of her panels and events. I saw this on the site and I have to ask. What is an Imaginator and what will they be doing at the con?
SZ: An Imaginator is a very special designation. Our policy is to name one Guest of Honor for the event, but the Imaginators are a spotlighted, select type of guest and we aim for having representation of different creative writing areas. They will receive special Q and A sessions and will be placed in some very carefully targeted programming areas. They will also receive special recognition at our awards banquet on the 21st.
This year, we have three, Jeffrey Reddick, Maurice Broaddus and Dan Jolley. Jeffrey Reddick is a fantastic screenwriter who was the creator of the Final Destination franchise. Maurice Broaddus is a truly exceptional author whose Knights of Breton Court series from Angry Robot is well loved by a great many urban fantasy readers. Dan Jolley represents the game-design and comic worlds, in addition to being an author too! Dan provided game-design and dialogue support for Transformers video games and has multiple projects with the renowned Dark Horse Comics.
I feel this trio embodies what our Imaginators are about; individuals who have made a real mark in their fields and who also happen to be wonderful people to work and interact with. To me, the latter aspect is very important too and I think our attendees are going to absolutely love these three great fellows.
TTMM: The programming is very eclectic with everything from blogging, editing, graphic novels, romance, mystery, speculative fiction and even poetry. How hard was it to get experts from all of those different areas to participate in the con?
SZ: It isn’t easy to assemble a group of over 130 professional guests, but over the past few years I’ve built a network and gotten to know quite a few great individuals and for Imaginarium I wanted to bring as many of them together as I could. I think it is important to have this mix, as there are fantasy novels with romance elements, moments for poetry in a mystery novel, and blogging effects all types of writers, for example, so even the things that might seem eclectic on the surface can also be useful to the savvy attendee!
I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for the concept too. The event is not a clone of something else, it has its own kind of focus and it fits a niche, I believe. I think a lot of our guests recognize this and want to see something like this take hold.
TTMM: There are several publishers sponsoring Imaginarium: First Page Last Page, Hekate Press, Hydra Publications, Fates Press. Do you feel the con is a good way to bring writers and publishers together?
SZ: Absolutely. This is going to be a friendly environment for both published and self-published authors, and writers exploring both options. I should also mention that Blackwyrm Publishing just came aboard as a sponsor too. But this group of sponsors and the involvement of Seventh Star Press in the organization of Imaginarium reflects the win-win environment I spoke of earlier. It sets a tone of us coming together in mutual support and camaraderie.
There are also a number of other publishers who will be vendors. I feel that the combination of rich content and a relaxed atmosphere is going to make this a bonanza for writers and publishers to interact and hopefully it will lead to all kinds of new projects, from anthologies, to publishing contracts, to many other things.
TTMM: Are there vendor tables still available? If someone wanted to find out more about being a vendor, where can they go to get information?
SZ: We still have a few tables left and we do have a nice range of hours for the vendor hall. Our price is nice too at just $75 bucks for the weekend and that includes the table and a badge for the vendor. The link for that is Imaginarium Vendor Restration.
TTMM: I agree with you and can see several projects coming out of the great networking opportunities you have created at Imaginarium. I know the company I am associated with, Charon Coin Press, is really looking forward to not only being a vendor but also sharing ideas with the different groups of people. Putting something this large together requires a large team. I know you are one of the busiest people I know but, not even you can do this all on your own. Are you looking for volunteers for Imaginarium and what would volunteering entail?
Yes, we do need volunteers. We exchange a badge to the event in exchange for 8 hours of volunteering during the Friday to Sunday period, which will be broken up into two four hour blocks. Volunteers will help us watch over the panel rooms and signal moderators on time, others will help people get information and get their badges at the registration counter, and others will watch over events like the awards banquet and masquerade. Nothing will be overly strenuous, pretty straightforward stuff. Definitely visit our site and fill out the volunteer form if interested. Imaginarium Volunteers.
TTMM: I know I am a little over-excited for this event but, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s Imaginarium?
SZ: Seeing this group come together, of attendees and guests. There is a method to the madness of picking the kind of panelists we have and I really think this group is going to gel wonderfully and really get along. Going to be a lot of positive energy in the air and I think people will see what we want to do with this event.
TTMM: What do you hope attendees will take away from Imaginarium this year?
SZ: I hope that they both have fun and find great value in their experience, whether that comes in the form of new contacts, projects, skills learned, or resources accessed. I believe strongly that all of that is there to be had for everyone. I want every person attending to come away on Sunday more empowered than they were when they arrived on Friday (or possibly Thursday night!).
TTMM: I was planning on attending with my family. My youngest daughter, who is an aspiring book reviewer, will be accompanying me. Will there be events for the younger attendees?
SZ: Imaginarium is designed to be family friendly. Most all of the programming is accessible to younger attendees and those few that involve more adult themes such as in the romance/erotica area will have an age restriction. Our Harassment Policy on our site also clearly spells out the kind of environment that will be in place and enforced, if need be. From gaming to the film festival, there definitely will be things that younger attendees will find enjoyable.
TTMM: One of Charon Coin Press’ editors, Margaret Colton, will be attending her first Con. We will be popping her “con cherry” with Imaginarium Con 2014. What could you share with her or someone attending their first con? What tips could you give them to get the most out of their experience and want to come back for more?
SZ: Our full schedule will be available for download online before the event and I advise reading through it and marking down things that are of interest, so you have a few things in mind to attend once you arrive. The atmosphere itself will be a relaxed and non-hostile once, which I think will clear up a lot of worries that some first time con goers might have. Stroll around the vendor hall and meet a few of the attendees early. Go to a few programming sessions and get a sense of some of the panelists. Often that provides a good way to break the ice, when you tell a panelist that you enjoyed their panel and introduce yourself. Also, attend some of the more social activity Friday evening after programming ends. Those are some good ways to ease into things.
I’m sure a few attendees will host room parties later at night and there is no need to be too scared of those! Those are great ways to stop in and introduce yourself to a few fellow attendees without any pressure at all. Just remember that a lot of people at Imaginarium will be newcomers.
TTMM: Thank you, Stephen, for being a guest on the initial issue of Trip Into Imagineering. It is only fitting with the launch to bring you in to give readers an overview of the event. In the weeks leading up to the Imaginarium, we will be working to highlight some of the guests and their craft. For more information on Imaginarium Con and details of all the things mentioned above, follow the links and information below.
Until next time…
September 19-21, 2014
Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel
Imaginarium 2014 is a three-day creative writing convention and book fair suitable for attendees of all ages! With over 140 panels spread across twelve programming tracks, after-hours events, and a full vendor hall, it’s the place where ideas transcend imagination, where authors and readers can come together, and where new writers can learn tricks of the trade from more than 130 of today’s best independent publishing professionals. In addition to the literary programming, Imaginarium also features world-class workshops, an art show, film festival, gaming room, and more.