LeakyCon, if you haven’t heard of it, is easily the biggest and most ambitious Harry Potter fan convention out there. From its humble beginnings in Boston in 2009, the conference has grown, held at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in 2011, and going international next year with not one but two events in Portland, Oregon and London, England. This year’s convention was held in Chicago, and included a once-in-a-lifetime performance of Team Starkid’s long-thought-impossible A Very Potter 3D: A Very Potter Senior Year, as well as appearances from Harry Potter actors such as Evanna Lynch.
With its literary origins, it seems fitting that LeakyCon has also become the host of a unique, author-led event unlike any other: LeakyCon Lit Days. Organized by Maureen Johnson and featuring YA authors such as Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, and John Green, the Lit Day track offers fun presentations and panels such as “Help, my Boyfriend is a Vampire,” “Bad Books and Why We Love Them,” and “Come To This Panel If You Think You Hate Romance” that give readers a chance to get up close and personal with their favourite authors. Signings and a VIP reception with the authors round out the experience.
“The Lit Days were possibly my favourite part of LeakyCon,” says Katherine Stuthman, who travelled to this year’s conference from Norfolk, Nebraska. “I spent days listening to authors talk about the things they do and care about… I aspire to one day be a YA author and Lit Days helped me realize that.”
One of the most popular panels at the 2012 Lit Days was “I Was a Teenaged Author,” in which now-successful authors dust off some of their earliest work to read to the crowd, to hilarious effect. The event, intended to give hope to aspiring young authors frustrated with their own writing, returned this year and was a favourite among attendees. “It was the most ridiculous reading,” says attendee Lia Sadako, from Vancouver, Canada. “Nobody was sure whether or not clapping was even acceptable.” Adina Katz, from Seattle, adds, “It was absolutely hilarious because all of the pieces were poorly written. The authors would comment as they read about how bad it was.”
Not many other fan conventions incorporate author-led literary events like this one. “I think it worked with the style of LeakyCon because LeakyCon is a melting pot of fandoms,” says Adina, who notes that gatherings at the conference included events for Whovians and Nerdfighters, among others. “I’m not sure if Lit Days, which felt somewhat separate from the other parts of the con, would be good at other cons because I’m not sure if other cons are like Leaky in that sense.” Lia thinks it’s worth a try. “To have that track as part as most conventions would only be an improvement, especially considering the bookworms that do attend them.”
While attendees mentioned that the Lit Day schedule, which ran parallel to other events taking place at the con, could have been more integrated to the LeakyCon experience at large, the chance to meet and greet the likes of Robin Wasserman and Laini Taylor more than made up for any shortcomings. “Lit Day is the reason I went to LeakyCon at all,” says Katherine. “And it is the biggest reason that I am going to Portland and London next year.”
Anything that gets people excited about reading is just fine by me – as LeakyCon continues to grow, let’s hope that the interactive, fun atmosphere of Lit Days inspires plenty of other fan conventions to add their own literary content to their rosters.