Somehow, that talk moved on to the first convention I signed up to vend at.
Jake looked at me and said: "You'll never believe that way again, will you."
I believed in that convention. That was during the golden age of Elfwood - its absolute pinnacle. Thomas himself was coming over from Sweden to attend. We were going to take Reno by storm. That was going to be the Big Thing for EMG, really launch me into the mainstream of fantasy art. It was my first convention - attending or vending, and I was so terribly excited.
But Thomas canceled. The attendance was in the dozens, not the thousands. Not one single person showed up for my panels. The work I sold in the artshow, I never got paid for. (Though I shelled out the royalties to the artists based on the last numbers I jotted down, naively sure I would get paid eventually.) I lost a lot of money doing that convention.
It wasn't a dead loss - I did get to have my birthday dinner with Larry Elmore! And I met Christine! I even sold well, considering the abysmal attendance.
But that convention... was a loss of innocence for me.
I would never believe that way again.
In 2001, I was on top of the world. I was going to go to a big convention in the lower 48 and Make It Big. The world would know my name, and I would share this starry optimism to every up and coming artist that I could. There were talents out there that deserved this chance - and I would be able to give it to them.
I was so sure that this would be IT.
There were things that came later that filled the same role of hope and disappointment: Ken Whitman's POD service, the assistant who was going to move up and make the business manageable, Dragon*Con, order fulfillment, some of the webmasters I hired... but nothing ever had that same, amazing, glowing-eye optimism. Each hit that I took, each failure I rolled with, each disappointment I tucked under my belt and called experience... each one takes its toll. I would never be capable of believing that way again.
In 2009, I'm still convinced that the world will know my name.
Having a day job to pay my bills is not the shame I feared it would be, and I love being able to go buy a New Car when my old one fails without wondering what I have to give up for it. I love having my own art budget, and being able to commission artwork directly. I adore the idea of having more time for my own art instead of making products and filling orders, not caring if it sells or not, only creating for the joy of it.
The business projects I have in mind have more potential than the giftshop ever did, and match much more closely with my personal
But that raw belief, that beautiful, thrilling excitement for the future - I love to see that in other people. I want to nurture it, and encourage it, and protect people from the horrible crushing disappointment it can lead to. That's a lot of what I've always wanted to do with EMG.
Me personally? I'll never believe that way again.