Wednesday, July 18, 2007

At last! The 2007 Winkie Convention report!

All right, gang, you've been wanting to read it for a while, and I've been wanting to write this. So let's jump into the report for this year's Winkie Convention, shall we? It was an extra-special celebration, as it was the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ozma of Oz, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Wizard of Oz Club, and the 100th birthday of the fourth Royal Historian, Jack Snow.

Even before we left for the convention, we knew this would be an unusual one, as for the first time we got pre-convention e-mail updates, including who the guests and big-name attendees would be. (Much to my surprise, I was included in that list, as co-author of Queen Ann in Oz.) When we arrived, more evidence of how unusual this one would be came with the registration materials: Instead of a folder of goodies, we got a lunchbox! Believe it or not, everyone got one of Eric Shanower's Oz-decorated lunchboxes full of goodies. My wife was passing them out at one point, and ended up giving lunchboxes to Eric Shanower and David Maxine! In the box were the program, name badge, and such, but also some treats, a CD of long-time Oz fan Judy Bieber reading Ozma of Oz, a couple of badges, some stickers, and an Ozma of Oz stamp! (Now I have three of those lunchboxes, and I could actually use one for lunch if I wanted. I'd have four, but Laura doesn't want to give me hers, for some reason...)

After the opening reception/meet-and-greet (where I met two of the Tik-Tok Talk list members in person for the first time), it was off to dinner. Yes! At last, we were back in the Seascape dining room, where we used to be when the convention was much bigger. And we filled the place! Yes, it was already the biggest Winkie Convention in some years, and we hadn't even begun the real fun. We headed back to our meeting hall for the first session, where "Mr. Winkie" himself, Peter Hanff, greeted us and gave us the rundown of what was going on. Then Firehand, AKA Stan Sieler, pinch hitting for the Wizard of Oz, astounded us with some feats of magic. Then the gang from Illusive Arts Comics — Mark Masterson, Ray Boersig, and Anna Boersig — gave us a behind-the-scenes look at their Dorothy comic book, including a sneak peek at the coming issue 7. Eric Shanower then gave a presentation of some of his adventures in Oz, including some of his veryearliest artwork and stories, and how he came to write and draw five Oz graphic novels, plus illustrate The Third Book of Oz, The Runaway in Oz, The Wicked Witch of Oz, and The Rundelstone of Oz, among others. Finally, Michael Gessel presented a centennial tribute to Jack Snow, filling in some of the gaps of the mysterious past of this least well-known of the Royal Historians. He also made Snow's part in the founding of the International Wizard of Oz Club clear.

Saturday morning started with the costume contest, and it was a big one this year. Laura and I went in with the rest of the Oogaboos as characters from Ozma of Oz, but our plans to be the lunch box tree and dinner pail tree fell through. So instead we went as the (abbreviated) Army of Oz, with Laura as a general and me as the private. It was fun, but I knew we didn't have a chance. Oh, well. Unlike a few others, we go just for the fun of dressing up and acting out for a little bit. The real stars this year, it turns out, were the kids. There were some very clever costumes from some very enthusiastic kids, many of them second-generation Winkie attendees. Then came the quizzes. As the self-appointed Winkie Quizard, I got to run the show, even though I hadn't written the quiz. It turns out I should have adapted it for kids, or written a separate children's quiz, as the kids had a tough time. Still, we did have two clear winners, as Maddie Knutson won the children's division (with a whopping two points), and Atticus Gannaway the adult's division (with a perfect score of forty). There was also a panel/discussion on collecting, such as some of the "secret" search paremeters some use on eBay to find unusual items that might otherwise be missed. Throughout the weekend, several experts also looked at items people had brought for appraisal in the Oz version of The Antiques Raod Show.

After lunch came a quick business meeting, to set next year's convention (July 11-13, again at Asilomar, no surprise there) and answer a few questions about why Winkies was the only convention this year. Then, the big one: The auction. The Club assembled all kinds of items for auction, and frankly, I wish I had some money this year. There were some bargain! Oh, well, I still had my hands full with the children's auction, where we give the kids play money and let them loose to bid on some donated items. There was lots of spirited bidding, and every kid there got a bunch of goodies.

After dinner, we tried to start with a video greeting from charter Oz Club member Martin Gardner, but there were technical hitches, and we missed it. So instead, we started with personal reminiscences by Club founder Justin Schiller about the start and early days of the Club. Lynn McGraw, the last remaining Royal Historian, appearing at her first Oz convention in twenty-four years (and looking a lot like her mother), gave a talk on her life and how Oz and her mother's writing career have fit into it. Two-time Baum Bugle editor David L. Greene gave a historical retrospective on the Club journal's early days and how it's progressed. He pointed out the 1960 copyright date on the Christmas 1959 issue, and that it finally came out at Easter. So the Bugle's lack-of-timely publishing is nothing new! He also mentioned the complaints when the Bugle went to typesetting, added a table of contents, and could finally afford to be stapled! Finally, Michael O. Riley presented "Ozma of Oz and the Foundation of the Oz Series," where he gives his thoughts as to how the third Oz book was the true beginning of Oz as a series, and tied in with the three other books that followed it. After that, Laura and I made an appearance at the after-hours party (we were too tired to even think of it the night before), but went to bed very tired.

For once, there were also some events scheduled for Sunday. It started off with a taped presentation by Gregory Maguire about Wicked and its transition from book to musical. Then, the awards! For costumes, the children's award went to Joy albright as Dorothy's house (complete with ruby slipper-clad feet sticking out), with Ruth Bieber-Stanley's Glass Cat and Catherine Maund's Dorothy as the runners-up. For the adults, Susan Hall's Nome King was the big winner, with Karyl Carlson as Billina and Patrick Maund as the Rat Pack version of the Cowardly Lion right behind. For the research table, Karyl Carlson won the fiction award for "How Langwidere Came to Be," Robin Hess won the non-fiction award for an essay whose name I didn't catch, and Theo Carson won the art award for her Ozma of Oz-themed needlepoint hanging. I then got to give the main quiz awards (and Maddie and Atticus are going to help out with next year's quizzes), and a "Name that Ornament" quiz was won by Roberta Ling, Lee Speth, and Ryan Bunch. Then the Winkie Award was given to Stan Sieler for all of the behind-the-scenes help he gives to the convention every year, and the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award to Nancy Tystad Koupal for her scholarship into L. Frank Baum's days in South Dakota.

Whew! What a show! We still had dinner, then Laura and I headed home (with a stop in San Francisco for dinner with a bunch of fellow Oz fans). I always have a good time at the convention — I'd better, as I've now been to the last twney-seven of them! — but this year was especailly enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can build on the momentum for next year.

And yes, we did get pictures. We'll see if we can get some up in the next few weeks.

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