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How to make new lasting friendships as an adult

Weetacon 2015 class photo

About eleven years ago last month, Poppy and I met for drinks in Chicago and she said “Hey, have you ever considered having a Diaryland-Con in Green Bay? I like spa weekends, and I kind of want to experience the Bad Bar.”

A legacy was born on March 4, 2005 when we held the first “Green Bay Minicon” (as I was insisting it be called, even though people started calling it Weetacon immediately… it only took five more years before I gave in and started calling it Weetacon too).

After that weekend, we assumed that we had caught lightning in a bottle and the magnificence could never be repeated. I mean, somehow we got 27 people up to Green Bay in early March… that’s just crazy business, right? And yet, the next year we had more people! We added more activities. And the next year we had more people after that! We added even more activities! And then after that we had to set a capacity limit. And every year since 2005, we’ve been meeting in the same hotel on or around the same weekend to hang out, be silly, gossip and ostensibly network with other writers and readers. In theory, anyway.

So, we’ve got a lot of history behind this little weekend… and we work really hard to make sure that it’s a success. This year, we’re going back to our roots — the Weetacon 2016 will be held once again on March 4-6 and many of the same people who were at the first one will be there again this year! This year’s theme is “Slumber Party” which means — Comfy? Yes. Sexy? Possibly. Fun? Definitely!

I often call Weetacon my labor of love — and it truly is. About eight years ago, we added a fundraising component to our ‘writer’s weekend’ — we matched the theme of that year (“Meatacon”) by raising funds for a Green Bay food pantry that serves low-income and no-income local families. I basically raffled off a bunch of freebie stuff I’d been sent by rabid PR companies hoping to have me feature them on my blog. It was successful in my eyes — we raised over $400! Now the raffle has grown each year — everyone donates raffle prizes and then donates a dollar a raffle ticket for those same prizes. Each dollar goes directly to the charity of choice — we have three now so folks can choose where they want their totally tax-deductible donations going (the afore-mentioned food pantry, a no-kill animal shelter and the family housing non-profit where I stayed during Esteban’s prolonged hospital stay two years ago). After eight years, our annual fundraising total is usually around $4000 and in eight years of fundraising, we’ve raised almost $30,000 for these charities.

I think a lot about what my purpose is on this world. I used to think it was to write stories, but now I think I’m just a connector. Like the round thingy in a pack of Fiddlestix. It’s a lame part because you can’t really build anything out of just the round thingies, but without the round thingy, you only have a bunch of sticks. Okay, I’ll work on that metaphor, but I also do kind of look like a cog, so there’s that.

The cool thing about Weetacon is that we love meeting new people — in fact, because we normally sell out so quickly, I wanted to make sure that we still have space for first time Weetaconners every year. So now we reserve at LEAST four spots that only first timers can use — this ensures that we’ll give every newcomer equal opportunity to join in the fun.

Basically, half of the fun of Weetacon is getting to show new people how damned magical it is — and we get to experience it again for the first time in a tiny way. Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth all year round, but for 48 hours a year, the Waterford room at Weetacon central absolutely OWNS that title.

So we love new faces and you don’t have to be invited. Many first timers don’t really know anyone! In fact, I even made a video talking to former first timers about what their first time was like! And if you come to Weetacon this year, you’ll get to hang out with at least four of these people because they’ve registered for Weetacon 2016 already!

You can register for Weetacon 2016 by going here and following these instructions. If it seems too easy, it’s because it is.

Registration is just $129 per person and covers at least one meal and a private karaoke party, plus a weekend of coordinated social activities. Hotel is just $89 a night for four star lodgings and a giant jetted tub and separate shower in every room. Plus free breakfast and free wifi. Why is this such a good deal? Three reasons a) they haven’t increased our hotel rate in 12 years b) Green Bay is about 20 years behind the rest of the country in cost of living and c) Weetacon is designed to be incredibly cost effective and respectful of all travel budgets. If you can get yourself to Green Bay, you shouldn’t have to spend much more than a few meals to entertain yourself.

Normally, Weetacon’s attendee capacity is 50 people but through a series of various life things (babies, job changes, life changes, etc) we’re looking a little more intimate this year. I can’t keep it set at 50 because I have to start finalizing contracts with vendors and need to have a good grasp on how much budget we have, so I will likely be reducing the Weetacon cap down into the 30s by sometime next week.

That means if you thought you had all the time in the world to decide if you wanted to go to Weetacon or not, you may have less time than you thought. On Monday, I’ll probably set the cap around 2 or 3 more than whatever we have registered at that point. And then that’s it.

I keep wondering how long we can sustain the magic of Weetacon, especially given all of the various implications for our usual suspects this year.  When we hit 5 years, I was pretty impressed. Then when we hit 10 years, I thought, “Huh… we can’t keep up at this rate.” Maybe we’re starting to see a natural ebb that I have been predicting for almost a decade.

At some point in the not too distant future, we may be calling it the Last Weetacon. Or, more likely, the Last Weetacon will happen and we won’t even realize it at the time. I will just decide that I can’t do another one for whatever reason and it will just be over. That will be a little bittersweet.

Let’s face it, as we get older it becomes really fucking difficult to make friends — REAL friends — and the fact that you can just show up at Weetacon and instantly be approved as a Tribe Member For Life? That’s some kind of magic. And we still have new faces every year, so the fact that the Tribe is still getting larger? Amazing.

So even if this IS the last Weetacon (and I’m not saying that it is, let us be clear right now), it’s nice to know that Weetacon will be around in the form of these friendships for a very long time.

Register for Weetacon 2016! This is your year! Your Tribe is waiting.

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