Another Balticon has come and gone, and once again, I’m left with a heady mix of thoughts and feelings. I saw caught up with old friends, some of whom I met for the first time, learned a lot, and of course ate and drank my fill. In a lot of ways Balticon feels like a ‘home’ convention, even though it’s a seven hour drive away.

I think that sense of community was especially true this year. A lot of folks who missed last year’s festivities returned this time, although there were still some absences. Felt and yarn did their best, but I missed seeing Nathan Lowell, The Clockwork Doctor, and Cynical Woman, amongst others. Having a nice, big Flash Mob presence was great, though.

This was my fourth Balticon, and I can track my growth across those years as a podcaster and as a professional writer. My first was in 2011. I came down with my friend Mackenzie Lambert. He was good company, and we did some events together, but we were often at opposite ends of the con. Him there for the indie-horror vibe as I was there to learn to be a better podcaster. I tried to network as well, but that year I was way too overwhelmed by the whole experience. Everyone I did meet was incredibly nice and welcoming, but I mostly hung around and breathed the air around the creative pioneers I saw as giants, unable to think of what to say to the faces behind the voices.

The next year, I was ready to be a bit more involved in the community. After having dipped my toe in the first year, I had become more active, and that year I stayed with two other podcasters, Tony Miller and James Keeling. By this year, my podcast game was improving. I even was able to take part in the reading of a great story for The Drabblecast B-Sides. I was coming out of my shell a bit.

Last year was another crazy Balticon. 2013 saw a lot of the old guard podcasters called away with family commitments and other professional engagements. It was also my first year as a guest. I had never been a guest at a convention before, and I probably overtaxed myself. I was running around all weekend, but I still had an excellent time. That year I celebrated my first semi-pro sales as a writer. I was going places, and Balticon was helping me get there.

Which brings me to this year. After four years, I think I’m starting to get a feel for the rhythm of the convention. I scrambled to get ready for this one, but the social and professional anxiety that had shadowed me in the past was gone. Maybe part of it was having attended the Smoky Writers retreat in Tennessee earlier this year. Working alongside a selection of my favorite writers, and sharing our work at the draft stage helped to dispel a lot of my doubts. I felt ready this year.

If my schedule wasn’t quite as full as it was last year, I still had a lot on my plate this year. I moderated some panels on Podcasting Basics and Drabble-Writing, once again hosted the infamous Podcasters Against Humanity, and I even launched the Freelance Hunters series alongside Paul E. Cooley‘s twisted muppet noir, The Street.

If I listed every memory from this year’s Con, or paused to thank every friend I saw there, this post would be a novel. There will be more content from Balticon coming, both here and in the feed for The Way of the Buffalo. But I’d like to say two things now. My thanks to Patrick Scaffido, and everyone else who keeps the Rube Goldberg device of Balticon running. You oil the gears and feed the boilers. I just show up and party. We all wouldn’t have this without you, so thank you for everything.

And to the readers, and listeners: 2014 is just getting started. And I am, to steal a phrase from Stephen Granade, the most excited I have ever been. Stay tuned, because things are going to get awesome around here.