Vegascon is one of my favorite conventions – it’s four days of craziness, tons of my favorite fangirls and fanboys, a thousand miles of walking, and Jensen Ackles singing at the Saturday Night Special. What’s not to like? (Except maybe the thousand miles of walking part…)
This year was even crazier than before, since I was also working in the vendor room to sell Family Don’t End With Blood and our other books. But in between meeting tons of awesome fellow fans and signing lots of books, I managed to take in a bunch of panels. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments and photos below.
Day One: Thursday
I had to work late on Wednesday teaching, so I couldn’t fly in until Thursday afternoon. I was trying very hard to get there in time for Richard and Rob’s kick off, but the shuttle I booked to save money took its sweet old time winding its way through Vegas before finally stopping at the Rio – which was, predictably, the very last stop. That means I missed Gil and Osric onstage together, which made me very sad, and caught only part of Jeffrey Parise’s inaugural con panel. I have to say, I was taken aback by what a nice guy he is – and how attractive! Let’s just say Asmodeus is neither of those on the show, so that was a pleasant surprise. He’s also very amusing. And he spells his name the same way as my son, so of course that’s a point in his favor too. Also, he looks sort of familiar…
@Kreespa: Have you and Tim Omundson ever been seen in the same place?
When we decided to write Family Don’t End With Blood, one of the main reasons was to break the silence around mental health challenges. If nobody talks about their challenges, we all tend to think we’re the only ones suffering, and thus we keep silent. That means we don’t reach out for help when we need it – and that is a dangerous thing. As a psychologist, I know the tremendous value of hearing other people’s stories, so that our own can be validated. So that WE can be validated, and thus feel worthy of the help we so deserve. Many of the chapters in the book are written by people who have dealt with a significant challenge – and have come out on the other side. Some of those are Supernatural fans, and some of those are Supernatural actors.
Jared Padalecki was the first Supernatural actor who told me that he had something to say and a reason to say it in Family Don’t End With Blood. He wanted to tell his own story of coming up against significant challenges of anxiety and depression, so that others would be emboldened to tell theirs to someone who could help – so that others who were struggling would truly know “you are not alone”. Jared had partnered with two important organizations to help get that message out there, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). Both organizations do amazing and important work in fighting stigma, educating people about mental health, and providing a route for people who are struggling to find the help they need.
Because everyone who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood was passionate about making a difference, we decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to two of the charitable organizations the cast supports – Misha Collins’ Random Acts and one of Jared’s partners, Attitudes in Reverse.
AIR was started by Tricia and Kurt Baker after they lost their son Kenny to suicide. AIR volunteers, along with Trish and Kurt and their therapy dog Miki, speak at schools and universities about suicide prevention and mental health, and have put together a powerful exhibition called “In Their Shoes.” Each pair of shoes in the exhibit is from someone with an important message, written in their own words on their shoes, and helping to increase understanding and empathy for those who are struggling. You can literally “put yourself in their shoes” and understand the need for help and breaking the silence.
I’ve donated a pair of shoes, and so have many of the Supernatural cast. Gil McKinney, Samantha Smith, Mark Pellegrino, Carrie Genzel, Rob Benedict and Louden Swain, Jason Manns, Lauren Tom, Chris Schmelke and many others have written their messages on a pair of their shoes.
Jensen Ackles donated a worn pair of sneakers, with the message “My brother, I’ve got your back….Always.” When Jared was struggling, Jensen was there for him, and his message reflects his unwavering empathy, understanding and support.
Jared Padalecki donated a pair of boots which have travelled all over the country to help raise awareness. His message: When life breaks you down, never give up. Always Keep Fighting.
In the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, Jared opens up about his own anxiety and depression, and how sometimes it has been difficult for him to keep going. He writes with extraordinary candor and vulnerability, taking the reader along with him on a lifetime journey of self discovery starting with his own childhood and continuing through Supernatural and the present. Jared shares his story so that others can feel like it’s okay to share theirs – and to accept help, just like he did.
I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression most of my adult life… it did win a few battles along the way (though I am proud to say, I am winning the WAR!). One of those battles was in season 3, during the filming of “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” It was a day like any other: I woke up, worked out, memorized my lines, and headed to the set. But something I couldn’t identify (or, maybe, that I was choosing to ignore) was eating at me. Beating me down. Convincing me that it was going to win, and that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. I made it through my daily hair and makeup and was taken to set for a rehearsal and blocking of our day’s first scene. I got in the car and rode to set, and then I was sent back to my trailer to finish changing into wardrobe and to wait while the crew set up the lighting. I walked into my trailer, sat down on the couch, and I couldn’t get up. I could no longer, on my own, muster the will to carry on. I heard the knocks on my door and I knew my crew was ready for me on set, but I couldn’t make it out of my trailer. After a bit of time, Jensen came into my trailer to see what was going on, and he knew I was not okay. He had the assistant director call for a doctor, and he sat with me to talk. The doctor showed up a bit later and sat with me in my trailer to ask me a few questions. After some time, the doctor told me that his professional opinion was that I was clinically depressed, and I should take some time off from filming.
That’s when it hit me.
I couldn’t stop filming.
I couldn’t put my crew out of work for a day, a week, a month.
I also couldn’t face, or admit, what was going on in my head.
I met the doctor in the middle. I went home, and we pushed that day’s scenes to another time. After a long sleep and a long jog and a long bath, I was ready to show back up for work the next day. Supernatural has continued for many years after that. And then, seven years later, we went back to film at the very same house we were using the day I sat in my trailer and couldn’t make it to set. That day was the day I also launched the first Always Keep Fighting campaign. In over 200 episodes, over 1,600 filming days, and hundreds of locations, what are the odds?
It’s Monday morning and I’m still sitting here pondering the last episode of Supernatural. Make no mistake, my enthusiasm for the Show is as healthy as ever – otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last three days thinking about it! This season has been uneven for me, with some wonderful episodes and some wonderful moments even in episodes I didn’t love, but when I get two in a row that don’t show me as much of the Winchesters’ perspectives as I need to see, I get impatient for more of what drew me into this show in the first place. This week’s episode was written by one of my favorite writers. Meredith Glynn wrote the incredible ‘Regarding Dean’, one of my favorite episodes of the entire series – so I went into this episode with high hopes after being disappointed by the last one three weeks ago. There were definitely things I liked about this episode, and it was indeed well written, but it didn’t leave me jumping up and down and screaming about my love of my Show, which is where I really like to be at the end of a new episode.
Someone on Tumblr wrote a provocative little post after this week’s episode about how Supernatural was never meant to be an ensemble show. The premise that drew me in was the story of these two brothers – two characters who have fascinated me for going on thirteen years. I enjoy Sam and Dean’s relationships with the other important people in their lives, which enriches my understanding of them, but Sam and Dean are my route in, and if I don’t have that route in, I feel too much on the outside instead of immersed like I want to be. The episodes that relegate Sam and Dean to more of a supporting role don’t have the emotional resonance for me that I’ve come to count on with this show. They may be good episodes in the sense of a self contained 42 minutes of drama, but they don’t give me that unique thrill that watching Supernatural does. I’m the last person to suggest that anyone should keep up the sort of pace that Jared and Jensen have for the past twelve years because I care about them as human beings, but some have suggested that a shorter season would be a win/win alternative and I think I’d be down with that.
Let me be clear – I really liked a lot of this episode. Just not fangirl-thrilled-jump-up-and-down-OMG-I-love-this-Show kind of like, but like nevertheless. I think the scenes I enjoyed the most were the ones in the AU. I realize that seems to contradict what I said before about Sam and Dean being my route in since they weren’t even in the AU, but it’s not just having them onscreen, it’s having an emotional and psychological focus on them, and that didn’t happen in the ‘real world’ portion of the past few episodes either. The AU story was well done, it just didn’t leave me squeeful.
I liked the opening scene with Jack dreaming of being back “home” with Sam and Dean, even if I recognized it as a manipulated image from the start. The glimpse of what Jack longs for — his fantasy of Dean saying “You, me and the kid, home safe where he belongs” was heartbreaking. It’s so much the theme of Supernatural, that longing for family, the ability to create those bonds both with blood and without, and I was reminded how young Jack is with that glimpse, and how much he does long for that sort of family love and acceptance. For whatever it’s worth, Jack has bonded with Sam and Dean. They are his attachment figures, the first people who protected him and nurtured him. That early bond is powerful, resistant to a lot of outside attacks (as Michael (Christian Keyes) and Zachariah (Chad Rook) are finding out). Jack’s deepest desire is to do right by Sam and Dean, to save them as they have saved him – I wanted to cry when his cruelly manipulated dream took such a dark turn and he was unable to save them.
I’m just about to drag out my suitcase and toss some things in there to head to Las Vegas for the Supernatural convention that starts on Thursday – and I’m ridiculously excited! Vegas is one of my favorite cons. It’s an extra day of fun, it’s got so many of the friends I don’t get to see nearly enough all year long, and Jensen sings at the Saturday Night Special. The first time he did that, in 2015, was one of those experiences you never forget. Nobody expected him to come onstage and turn into this total effing rockstar, so afterwards we were all a bit stunned. Nobody could stop grinning; no one could stop hugging each other. We clung to each other like we’d just witnessed a piece of history, overflowing with wordless pure unadulterated joy. It was one of my favorite con moments ever.
So I always look forward to Vegas!
I was determined to post my Orlando con report before I leave for Vegas, so here it is, with almost an entire day to spare. Sure, that con was over a month ago, but hey, at least I met my admittedly generous deadline.
So, OrlandoCon 2018…
Orlando is a great place to have a convention in the middle of January, especially for those of us who live in the Northeast US and are sick of being frozen half to death. So I was thrilled to fly down a bit early and spend some time with my friends Liz and Kristen and Kim. The con hotel was across the footbridge from Disney Springs, so we trekked over there to explore and shop and have a delicious dinner in a café full of animated dinosaurs. Definitely in Disney!
The last con of 2017 was once again in San Francisco. It was an emotional con for me, because exactly one year ago, as I was attending this same convention, I got the news that my dad had unexpectedly passed away. I remember being in shock, only telling a few of my closest friends there – but word got around. My friends from Creation made sure I was okay, even walking me to my seat. My fellow fans checked on me all weekend long. And word got out to the cast too, who were incredibly kind. I remember Matt Cohen jumping off the stage in the middle of the Saturday Night Special, enfolding me in a hug and telling me how sorry he was for my loss; Jared and Jensen hugging me for a long time, asking me what I needed. Everyone was just so very kind – fandom and the SPNFamily at its best.
This year, the anniversary brought all that back. I was touched that many people remembered it had been a year, and didn’t hesitate to bring it up. Cons can be therapeutic for a lot of reasons, and this one definitely was. There’s nothing quite like being enfolded in your SPNFamily when you’re feeling emotional, for whatever reason.
It was also Mark Sheppard’s last convention with Creation. He’s been to just about all of them since he started on the show, so it’s just been a given that I’ll see him whenever I’m there. I’ve come to expect that Jared, Jensen, Misha and Mark will of course be there, every single time. Mark will be snarky and will answer one in five questions but will melt every time there’s a baby in the audience, and will suddenly get very real and give a heartfelt testimony about why he loves fandom before he leaves the stage. I don’t like change – I love Mark’s panels. I was tremendously honored that he wrote an essay for Family Don’t End With Blood, with many of those same heartfelt words about his love of fandom. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the green room with him and other cast a few times, and was able to get to know him and his lovely wife Sarah a bit. It’s weird to think he won’t be there again.
Because this fandom can always be counted on to be awesome, Mark’s last con didn’t go unrecognized – just like Alex Calvert’s first con didn’t either. There were signs for all of us to hold up with the line Mark had wanted to say in his last episode, that inexplicably got cut. ‘Even when I lose, I win’ on red signs were held high all over the ballroom when Mark took the stage, and he was clearly moved. He pulled out his phone and started filming, and from where I was sitting, I could tell how much it meant to him. As the panel progressed, Mark was more serious than usual, and there were several times that I could see his eyes were glistening. Or maybe that was mine; it got hard to tell. I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was, but when Mark left the stage I had already grabbed for the tissues several times. Thank you, Mark, for the amazing job you did bringing Crowley to life, for being a fan yourself and for loving fandom the way you do, and for being a part of Family Don’t End With Blood.
Those were the very emotional parts of this con – there were also parts that were purely fun. (Isn’t that always the case with cons? Half strong emotional reaction and half laughing until I’m needing a tissue for an entirely different reason).