Category Archives: Lissa Woodbury Jensen

Con-parisons

A Gust A Guest Post by Lissa Woodbury Jensen

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“Mmmmm, apples are the best fruit on the planet,” my eleven year-old son announced one morning.

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“No way!” His twin brother gave him an incredulous look. “Bananas are waaaay better. Apples are boring, just like you!”

 

The fight was on and they disappeared, squealing, into the living room. I was left pondering my own preference for the tangy perfection of ruby red grapefruit.

I can’t help but remember their argument as I prepare to leave for Salt Lake City Comic Con in a few weeks. I have been to several different cons and am always amazed at how alike they are, and yet different at the same time. I find it intriguing to learn peoples’ preferences and to witness their declared vehemence toward one con or another. Like fruit, cons are generally born from the same ideation, yet vary in popularity from one attendee to the next.

Having lived in the Salt Lake area during my adolescent years, I enjoy attending SLCCC. I stay with family, renew friendships, and immerse myself into promoting my favorite publishing company, WordFire Press. I remember when I attended my first SLCCC. I had participated in smaller cons, but was ill prepared for the suffocating crush of fans, cosplayers, and celebrities that descended on SLC like an R-5 tornado.

Earlier in the summer, I had participated in both FantasyCon and WesterCon. WesterCon was civilized, organized and, at times, a bit “high-brow.” I sensed an elitism that made me uncomfortable. It was nicely done, though somewhat sterile in my opinion. As I moved from venue to venue, I felt insignificant and out of place. For me, it was an interesting, yet “empty” experience.

FantasyCon, on the other hand, was everything I could dream of for “my” perfect Con. It was passionate and artsy with spacious halls filled with enormous dragons (fake, of course), mythical creatures, fairy kingdoms and fire-wielding warriors. In spite of its magnificence, everyone kept saying how “slow” it was. I chalked it up to the Con being rather new on the scene. I didn’t mind. In fact, I preferred it. The pace was leisurely and enjoyable. I had plenty of time to talk with other vendors, stroll through the eclectic displays, and soak in genius at every turn. The organizers outdid themselves in fantastical ambience.

Imagine the contrast when I arrived at SLCCC a month later and could barely navigate my way from one aisle to another. There were myriads of booths, vendors, panels, and special guests. One had to shout just to be heard in conversation. Long wait times to get a good seat for panels were inevitable. I will never forget the afternoons when I felt like the proverbial salmon trying to swim upstream, yet not moving at all. I stood in the aisle next to the booth I was working and felt crushed on all sides. It stayed that way for hours. I went home each night, dazed and bedraggled.

This past spring, I experienced the delightful WonderCon in Anaheim, California. It was busy, yet held enough space for one to meander through the displays without being pressed into a human pancake. There were booths galore, clever artwork, displays and entertainment. The ambience was fun and clever.

Of course, there are many more Cons, but I think I’ve illustrated my point. It is next to impossible to compare them. As with my twins’ apples and bananas, we all have different tastes and preferences. My boys still quarrel over which fruit is better. Con attendees will argue into the night over “which Con is best.”

There are small cons, medium cons, political cons, overseas cons, gaming cons, and the list goes on. Ask fellow writers and fans which con is their favorite and you will get a long list of different choices. In fact, therein lays the appeal. Fruit salad would be boring if it were all apple slices. One con would be the same as the next and the appeal of attending would be almost non-existent. Even the same con will vary from year to year.

This year’s WorldCon, which I had planned to attend, had a divisive agenda and set some important precedents. I doubt the organizers knew of its political importance when originally scheduling this con. In the end, I was unable to go but watched the proceedings with great interest.

SLCCC will be the first of many cons I attend this year and I eagerly await the opportunity for new adventures. As always, it is fun to compare each con because you never know what’s going to happen. I will always have my favorites, though.

Excuse me while I go have some grapefruit.

Guest Bio:

Lissa Woodbury Jensen lives in Alaska and loves imagining the impossible. Her initial career was in theatre arts. She did some filming in Los Angeles, but her primary love was the stage. In addition to performing, Lissa directed and choreographed many Broadway hits. She began her writing career by authoring short plays, dramatic presentations and original musical productions. She now concentrates solely on fiction. She loves to write about flawed characters that redeem themselves. Her favorite quote is from the movie Chariots of Fire: “God made me fast; and when I run, I feel His Pleasure!”

SF&F Saved My Life

A Guest Post by Lissa Woodbury Jensen

Science Fiction/Fantasy saved my life. My first year in college was a disaster. I arrived at University with huge dreams and the belief that I mattered to the world. One month into classes, reality set in hard and fast. My rose-tinted glasses had been wiped clean and I suddenly had a startling view into what others were seeing, most notably, of me.

I was a big girl. The fact that I had weighed over 200 pounds in high school hadn’t stopped me. I was cocooned within protective friendships and loyal family. I was even the lead in our musical that year, Hello Dolly. I distinctly remember “dieting” (starving, eating only broiled hamburger) and losing ten pounds. I will never forget the morning of opening night, when I stepped onto the scale and it read one hundred and ninety pounds! My heart soared in ironic delight as I performed Dolly with the combined gusto of Ethel Merman and brash exaggeration of Carol Channing.

No one made fun of me. Everyone stood and cheered. I chalked it up to talent, ignoring the fact that perhaps they were cheering because I had walked a long road of recovery from teen-age drug and alcohol abuse.

The problem in college was that no one knew my background or history, nor did they care. The encouraging smiles were absent and the continual words of support ceased. I was a five foot, nine inches tall “lardo.” Oh, and I also had acne. Top that off with (then undiagnosed) ADHD and I became the proverbial bull in the china shop. I overcompensated, trying to be “the funny one.” I just got looks of pityo I withdrew into a different kind of cocoon. Night after night, I sat alone in my dorm room while others cavorted socially and worried about who their next date would be. Instead of cutting back on calories, food became my BFF. I tried out for plays but was never the right “type.”

Late one lonely evening, I ate a family sized bag of Nachos. After shoving the last chip into my mouth, I started licking the orange residue off my hands. As my tongue rolled off my pinkie finger, I glanced in the mirror. I was ashamed. Sad eyes looked back at me. Tiny orange crumbs caked the inside corners of my mouth and I hated myself. So much so that I decided I would rather be dead. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. I planned how I would do it and actually looked forward to the day of my mortal release.

A few days before my planned exit, I was walking through the dorm lobby and found a book that had fallen to the floor. It was a thick tome that piqued my curiosity. The title read “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J. R. R. Tolkien. Having nothing else to do, I took it to my room and began to read. I was captivated. I read on through the night and well into the next day. My death obsession was put on hold as I became Frodo struggling towards his epic destiny. I disappeared into my head and battled orcs, demons and evil wizards. Gandalf was my beloved mentor and I wept with abandon at his demise.

The day of my planned exit from this life came, yet I had begun reading “The Two Towers” and wanted to find out more about Gollum. I decided I could wait a while longer while I marched towards Mount Doom with Frodo and Sam. Setting sleep aside, I joined my comrades as we raced to our journey’s epic conclusion for “Return of the King.” My self-esteem soared and food was forgotten when, finally, the ring was destroyed and we crowned the true king of the land. I lay there, exhausted, and grieving for the loss of my newfound friends as the last few words of the book were seared into my brain. I surfaced back into the present and was reminded that the time for my deadly plan had come.

I balked. Had Frodo given up when in the dredges of Mordor? Had hefty Samwise Gamgee let the difficulty of his assignment stop him? When Frodo won the acclaim and adulation, did Sam think less of himself because he didn’t get the same recognition? I felt changed inside. I hadn’t just read the book; I had been part of the Fellowship.

And I couldn’t quit now. I contemplated my paradox. Perhaps I could prolong the day of my death a bit longer.

I went to the school’s library and left, clutching the librarian’s recommendation, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. If I thought I could never love another being like Frodo, I was wrong. Andrew Wiggins’ trouble fitting in at Battle School in space endeared me to him like no other. As he grew in experience, gaining the trust of his peers and overcoming those who would bring him down, I felt a new resolve blossom within my soul. My problems were still evident, but I knew now that I could find a sense of identity, companionship, and unlimited adventure in worlds beyond the one I currently inhabited.

This realization gave me hope and I devoured all the science fiction and fantasy I could lay my hands on. I no longer obsessed about which day I would end my mortal pain and threw away all the tools I had kept for such an event. I continued with the Ender universe and many others, eventually learning to construct my own worlds and the stories within them.

Science fiction and fantasy opened worlds without end, where anything was possible for an inexperienced and uncertain young woman teetering on the edge. Strong and creative characters taught me to persevere and believe in myself, despite all odds. I lost weight, gained focus and never looked back. Years later, I continue to write, imagine the impossible, and look for new worlds to explore.

About the Author:Author
Lissa Woodbury Jensen lives in Alaska and loves imagining the impossible. Her initial career was in theatre arts. She did some filming in Los Angeles, but her primary love was the stage. In addition to performing, Lissa directed and choreographed many Broadway hits. She began her writing career by authoring short plays, dramatic presentations and original musical productions. She now concentrates solely on fiction. She loves to write about flawed characters that redeem themselves. Her favorite quote is from the movie Chariots of Fire: “God made me fast; and when I run, I feel His Pleasure!”