NECon 32

I always have a good time at the Northeastern Writers Conference, or NECon for short, and this year was no exception. Well, there was one thing that made it exceptional. This year, I was Toastmaster.

I opened the festivities Friday night with a short speech that was both funny and touching, relating in part the story of the infamous Bikini Top Incident of 2002, which believe me is nowhere near as sexy as it sounds, and ultimately dedicating NECon 32 to the memory of Les Daniels, a NECon regular who passed away last November. On Saturday, it was my great honor to interview the Author Guests of Honor Heather Graham and Jeff Strand. Heather is as gracious, charming, and kind as anyone you’ll ever meet. I adore her. As for Jeff, the less said about him, the better. (Nah, he’s great. I had a wonderful time with him this weekend, especially when we went duck pin bowling together Friday morning.) It was not my duty as Toastmaster to interview the Artist Guest of Honor, Matthew Dow Smith, but I greatly enjoyed meeting him as well. We spent the majority of the Artists Reception geeking out over shared memories of watching the original Doctor Who on public TV when we were kids.

Saturday night we roasted Darrell Schweitzer, the longtime editor of Weird Tales and the scourge of convention dealers’ rooms everywhere. Our usual roast MC, Christopher Golden, couldn’t join us this year, so I took over as host. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but afterward people told me it was one of the best roasts they’ve ever seen at NECon. Of course, part of that is because Darrell is such a rich target. I wish I could share some of the amazing jokes from that night with you, but I’ve been warned not to let them slip beyond the boundaries of NECon itself.

In other news, a complete stranger came up to me at the convention and asked if I was the Nicholas Kaufmann who wrote Chasing the Dragon. It totally made my weekend. Any time someone who isn’t a friend or family member mentions they read my book, I consider it a win! (Someone also had a copy of Bell, Book & Beyond for me sign—the anthology that contains my very first published story. Talk about a blast from the past!)

Alas, I think I was fighting off a cold all weekend and started to lose my voice the night of the roast. By Sunday I was sounding like a frog. Today I’m in recovery mode, and hope my voice will be back to normal soon.

Being Toastmaster was a huge honor, and I’m glad so many people felt I did a good job. F. Paul Wilson suggested I should be Toastmaster for Life, but next year it’s Rio Youers‘ turn, and I wouldn’t want to miss that!

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