• Dwan L. Hearn

Imaginarium 2021

Updated: Apr 2

I've wanted to be a writer of some sort for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I remember starting my summers off by buying a new notebook and pens as early as 7th grade (I feel like I did it much younger, but I can only visibly remember the Cox's drug store in my head... it's been a while). I loved being creative and exploring new worlds and characters and translating that one paper. In middle school, I had a writing teacher (Language Arts was split into reading and writing) and she would forever praise my story writing. I wrote one of my favorite pieces in 6th grade about a kid living in Paris (man, I wish I could remember that one). High school was great being been published in the school's literary magazine, twice.


As important as writing has always been for me, I've only really considered the idea that writing could one day be a career or, at the very least, write a book, to be a legit possibility. After the convention this weekend, The goal, more so the path to the goal, has been even more clear.


The 3-day convention is called Imaginarium. Operating in its 8th year, it's a collection of great creatives from the realms of writing, music, and indie film. While I've heard of this convention for a few years now, I have yet to attend. This year I did and I can't imagine missing one ever again.


Major props go to my friend Jayson William Allen (Instagram.com/jayson.w.allen or "JWA TV" on Youtube) for insisting that I go this year, as he was working with the convention as they continue to include more about independent music. He was my guide through the ins and outs of the Con and introduced me to a lot of fun people. Like to hear about them?


Do we have to?


Yes, of course, you do! Continue and I'll tell you about the weekend and hopefully give you some info on how to find these amazing people and you can support their works so that they can continue to make them. Also, for anyone considering coming to Louisville, KY for Imaginarium 2022, I'll give you a Ten Things list at the end!


So, I get there on Friday and catch up with Jayson, buy my ticket, and drop my stuff off at the table. Shortly thereafter, we run into Jayson's friend Hershel Zahnd (h2z3photovideo.com) who has worked with Jayson on so many of his projects, and Antonio Pantoja (director of "One Must Fall" starring my friend Julie Streble. Sidenote: I was at the premiere for this movie and it is a great horror/comedy and if you get the chance to watch it, you really should.)


There was a vendor hall where most of the people had their booths set up. While Jayson and I walked around, he introduced me to people like Holly Phillippe and Steve Zimmer, who were running the whole thing, I came across this booth Lemongrass Spa, a company that sells soaps, lotions, oils, etc.( ourlemongrassspa.com/pamelamiller ). She really gave us a dope deal on makeup (yes, Jayson, in all his rockstar gothness, where makeup) and soaps. I love natural soap and while the "Clean Slate" and "Charcoal Detox" have really fresh yet neutral scents, that "Lemongrass Signature" smells insane! If you like the smell of lemon, this is your product!


Wait, you go to a writing convention and the first thing you buy is soap?!


*sigh* Yes, and it's damn good soap. And you want to know what the biggest factor was? I made a full round around the room. Pamela, at that table, was the first and only one to stand up and say hi to us as we stopped by her table. She put forth that effort, she got my money. That's how I work. I'm one of those people that buy to support the person. The product is a bonus.


After about an hour, I attended my first panel. Before I'm asked...


What do you mean by "panel"?


See, I knew you'd ask me that. A panel is where a group of professionals gather at a table and discuss aspects of a topic. Some of the panels this weekend included "Character Anatomy", "Writing Anthology", "Writing Religions", "Film Distribution", "Music Theory", "Video Editing", and many others. The first one I attended was "Being Your Brand" where, amidst other things, I learned that YOU are a writer, filmmaker, musician, company, should ultimately be true to yourself and make sure your brand reflects you. "Personal Brand is Intentional" meaning that once you start marketing yourself, you need to find that "YOU thing" and intentionally do that thing. One woman there said that, if she had to sum up her brand in one word, it'd be "purple" - and she wears purple everywhere. Indeed, all weekend, she was wearing purple.


The second one of the day, moderated by Jayson, was "Activism in Writing", discussing the power of writing as it is applied to activism. Nothing political in this panel as the three were discussing Life with Bipolar Disorder, SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), and Legal Immigration. Another panel was on Mental Health and how it plays a part, both in how we work with it and the responsibilities of writing to portray it properly in our works. The thing that got me was that these were important topics, especially Today, and there weren't as many people there as I believe should have been there. Maybe, they should have these really impactful topic panels go on during a very particular time so fewer people are otherwise busy and we can give the subjects their proper focus. Just a thought.


One of the things that stood out from the Mental Health panel was a confession by Carma Haley Shoemaker (amazon.com/author/carma) talking about how being laid off from her writing job at the beginning of the Pandemic lead to insecurities about her writing skills. I, myself, have let doubt creep in and out and it was helpful to hear someone else's story and see that they pulled themselves out. Thanks, Carma! Also, James Sabata and Donald R. Guillory of the podcast The Nerconomi (Twitter: @JamesSabata and @DonGuillory ) discussed something I personally liked to hear and that I wasn't a weirdo for noting the social commentary in horror movies. Apparently, I'm a weirdo for some other reason.


... that search continues...


Friday ended with a music showcase that included my very dear friend Dustin Swaggert (reverbnation.com/dustinswaggert) and the Crosswalks (thecrosswalks.com) and Jayson closing the show. I didn't get to stay for the whole thing, but as always, I'm forever entertained by Dustin, and seriously, great guy to chill with.


Saturday started with a phone call telling me that I should bring a change of clothes. I get there Saturday morning and the day and panels continue. One of the items I found was the JumpCard, a physical card with a USB contact that hooks right into your car's built-in USB port and plays your audiobook. You can buy an audiobook AND physically share a copy?!! What!?!? This is seriously the future and if it's not, it's the people's fault, not Jump Master Press (JumpMasterpress.com)


The absolute best part of the weekend was -


Hold on. Are you just cutting out the rest of the weekend like that!? What are you doing?!!?


Listen, there was a LOT that happened Saturday evening/Night and let's just say the best road to my destination is the high one.


What I am NOT going to skip is talking about the friends I made. David Wate (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK8Uu4lu0-MuFaFbfIK-zXg) and Sean Burton Saunders (villeTVnation.com) rounded out Jayson's core group. These guys, along with Hershel, work with Jayson and they collectively do great work. It was cool to talk to these guys and get a sense of their brotherhood both professionally, as they were a part of any panel they were in the room for, and personally, as their banter without drama along with their support was comforting.


R.G. Westerman (rgwesterman.com), the author of "Rising Ash" (as of this writing, available free on Kindle, maybe it's Kindle Unlimited. Either way - do the things), was set up next to Jayson's table all weekend and she was a blast to hang out with and talk to. Super sweet, super humble, and just - I could literally hang out with her all the time. She's a great person to hang around.


Through her I met Nathan Day and Thomas Moore (authors of "The Devil's a Lie" - https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Lie-Nathan-Day/dp/1937979687) I got to sit and talk to Nathan about some of the things he's working on and I like the work and he was receptive and we really clicked. Thomas is a really cool dude - a walking party - cool guy to be around.


It was a brief interaction on Friday by the cars in the parking lot and lead to a much longer conversation Saturday and Sunday. Geoffrey Mandragora (https://www.facebook.com/GeoffreyMandragora ) and M.L. McIntosh (https://mlmcintoshfiction.com ) are two people who are so incredibly easy to just sit and talk to. I sat with them on Saturday and Sunday and it was the greatest time. I suggested to them to do a podcast because they have SO MUCH chemistry while sitting at a table that it's a crime we don't get to see it everywhere!


Cathy and Matt Jackson (https://www.amazon.com/Cathy-Jackson/e/B00KGGOFZO%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share and Facebook: @MadCeltDesigns) were near the table. I loved talking to them and Matt and I shared works. I truly appreciate the feedback and opinions and they give me some suggestions on ways to help my tense problem. Thank you.


"Wand of a kind" - Glass pens and ink. Super dope. ( https://www.facebook.com/Wandofakindstore)


Promo MVP: Jen Selinsky (jenselinsky.wordpress.com). Her promotional material was everywhere in the Swag Bag and the best item was the door tag that says, "Do Not Disturb - I'm reading a Jen Selinsky book" - You win! That was dope and I loved talking to you and I'm glad that I got both your children's book and your cookbook.


The Weekend was so great! If I missed something or left something else out, I'm so sorry. This blog has been a labor of love for hours, but so worth it. As I (finally) close this, I want to leave you with what I think are the Ten Things You Should Do To Attend Imaginarium 2022!


  1. Get A Room! - Trust me, you're going to want to be here after regular Con hours!

  2. Plan for Food! - In said room, have food. Yes, food is served from the Con, by the hotel, and nearby - I guess what I really mean is "Don't forget to eat." I did.

  3. Business Cards! - Have your promo stuff available; the more practical (like pens) or clever, the better! At the very least, have business cards made with your name and socials (media, not security) on them. As you meet people, it's the easiest way for people to learn about you.

  4. Take notes! - I had a small pocket-sized notebook with me the entire time. With all the panels and people you'll meet, you will want to take notes.

  5. Don't Be Shy! - The "regulars" at Imaginarium are just regular people. Say Hi! Introduce yourself. Make friends and ask questions. It's why we are all there. We all want to learn so ask questions and share your insight.

  6. Listen! - Not only should you listen to the advice of your panels, but listen to the stories that people tell you. It's a trusted space.

  7. Buy the Things! - Listen, traveling is expensive. The vendors are there to listen, to learn, and have a good ol' time, but they're also there to make money and sell shit. Maybe you can barter; a book for a shirt. Maybe music for some art. Whatever method works, do it, buy the vendor's goods!

  8. Go through your "Swag Bag" as soon as you can! - I waited until after Day 3 to go through it and found coupons that I could have used throughout the weekend. I know better for next time.

  9. Talk about it! - Imaginarium is still a newer convention; eight years in. Bring a friend with you. Talk about it to people. Share pictures and updates on social media. Getting the word out is the best way to ensure that spaces like this continue to exist. I need it. You need it. Support it with guests.

  10. Have fun and be positive! - Remember, everyone there is there to have fun and work in a positive and comfortable environment. Don't be the reason the Collective stops having fun. Check your ego at the door and your childish drama at home. Save the kiddie drama for the children's books!



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