Some of this you will see and hear in the video what I’m about to share in this post.
I woke up this morning with a notification on my phone that I’d been tagged in a picture on Instagram and Facebook. I discovered that a GoFundMe campaign had been created to raise money for UTOPiAcon.
To back up, I had received an email maybe a week ago from one of the people who created the fundraising campaign. She found out that UTOPiA 2015 almost did not happen, and that my mother had taken out a hefty personal loan to see that it did take place. In the email I was told that she and a few others wanted to do something to help, and that something was coming — the GoFundMe campaign clearly being that “something.”
My initial reactions were a roller coaster of emotions. I was grateful, and then immediately wary of how people would react. Not only do I not like to publicly air any struggles or dirty laundry that takes place behind the scenes, but I already ask people to spend their money on exhibitor space, and travel, and accommodations. I already see people give of their time and their energy. How can we ask for more? And, this isn’t the first “fan-created” fund raiser that has popped up this year. Several other women have created exclusive T-shirts for the five year anniversary, and the money from those is to support the con, as well.
When I express my concerns about how such efforts will be received, I am told that they aren’t doing it for me. They tell me they believe in the bigger dream of what UTOPiA has meant to them and will mean for their future. That definitely humbles me. It’s in that moment that I realize I was making it about me, and I see now that UTOPiA hasn’t been mine for a very long time. It’s been yours. That’s a big wake-up call for me. That is when I have to decide how I will move forward. Will I let you lead or will I let fear lead?
I don’t have the answers. I know that this convention is expensive. I know that we get smarter every year about how to financially make it viable, and still keep our standards high and deliver on our promises to you. I know that I, and several friends and family have given tens of thousands of dollars to keep UTOPiA’s heart pumping.
I know that all of these selfless, generous efforts by people whose hearts are in the right place could completely backfire and reflect poorly on me and UTOPiA. Already, I felt compelled to film a video through tears and write this post as a way to hopefully explain our stance on all of this. What more will I have to do to explain that this was not initiated by me or my team, and that it was done by people who believe in the bigger vision of what UTOPiA stands for? Is that a risk I’m willing to take?
Ultimately, I guess I’m saying that yes, I’m willing to take the risk for several reasons:
1. Because the women who created both of the fundraising efforts did it from a place of goodness, purpose and caring. Their intent was not to bring harm to the UTOPiA reputation. I realize now that they are family. That they are doing what any tribe or community would do for its own.
2. Because those people in my life who have given their own personal money deserve to be paid back, and to see UTOPiA succeed.
3. Because if we do raise a boatload of cash, all of the things that we have been wanting to create and do for you can happen so much faster.
4. Because I think it’s important to be vulnerable, to potentially fail, to take risks, to surrender to the community.
Whatever happens, I will be forever grateful for people like Heather Hildenbrand, Amy Evans, Victoria Faye, and Chelsea Starling who make me want to be and do great things, who challenge my beliefs, who hold me and UTOPiA to a high standard, and expect the best from us. And I am forever grateful for all of the writers, bloggers, readers, designers, publishers, agents, producers, directors, authors, editors, pr specialists, marketing experts — everyone — who makes up this community, who intends on pushing this industry forward positively.
Whatever happens know this — I will take none of this, and none of you for granted. I will work my tail off every day to make UTOPiAcon your home.
Maybe the words came out wrong, or ill-timed, or just plain got stuck in my throat, but I want to say Thank you. The future is ALL of ours to create.