Miss Migraine: Bleeding for Star Wars (literally) and unavoidable convention migraine triggers

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 28, 2012.

After four days of nonstop Star Wars awesomeness at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, I’m not even remotely ready to resume “normal” life or start classes (which happens tonight — I’ve even got a little bit of homework I need to do…). This was my fifth Star Wars Celebration convention, and like all the others before this one, the warm, open fan community inspired me creatively and personally.

The Star Wars fan community isn’t just about watching movies, reading books, and collecting action figures. We build life-size snow speeders, make movie- and comic- accurate costumes, build amazing LEGO sculptures of our favorite characters, create giant dioramas, write radio plays, make up new story lines, and so, so much more. We are active, engaged, and talented, and we have fun.

Celebration VI Jawa tattooine

Tattooine is hot and bright!

Although my head pain never went away completely, and I did have to take a painkiller the first day of the convention, I believe being engaged, active, and inspired is an incredible migraine analgesic. My brain was releasing so many endorphins that the pain, while present, seemed almost irrelevant. Either that, or being at Star Wars conventions gives me Force powers and I was able to temporarily heal myself.

Although the celebrity panel with actor Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine / the Emperor) was easily my favorite panel, waiting for anything at the main stage was somewhat of a trial. During the panel pre-shows, they played incredibly loud music and shone incredibly bright lights into the audience. I didn’t bring earplugs, because I’ve never needed them at a convention before, and normally the lighting is so poor as to eliminate any possibility of decent photography. I basically had to put my jacket over my face and plug my ears with my fingers to avoid an instantaneous migraine, but seeing the actual panels made it worth the effort. Still, I will probably send an email to the convention organizers mentioning the problem this caused me. I imagine it’s something they never thought about.

Star Wars bantha tattoo

I got this bantha tattoo on Sunday at the convention. Art by Jason Leigh. It hurt like a bitch, but at least it distracted me from my head!

This was Ian McDiarmid’s first convention appearance, and he shared a wealth of behind the scenes stories about filming Return of the Jedi (it took four to five hours to put his makeup on, and he got the part because the original actor couldn’t wear the yellow contacts). He was witty and smart (in response to an attendee’s wish that he be knighted, he responded, “You don’t need the knighthood when you have an Imperial crown.”).

At one panel, I also had to switch seats with my husband, because the person I sat next to had on enough cologne on to stun a gundark. And it was that heavy musky perfumey stuff that I can’t stand the smell of to begin with, not to mention the fact that any strong smells will give me a headache after about one minute.

Airplanes also give me migraines. It’s something about the cabin pressure, or the recycled air. I’m not sure. I can feel the pressure in my sinuses start to build up, which makes my face hurt, and before I know it, one of my temples starts throbbing. The flight home was fine, thankfully, but the flights to Orlando were incredibly painful. My husband got a migraine on the plane, too. But, unfortunately, there’s really nothing we could do about it except take drugs, use our aromatherapy products, cover our eyes and wait it out. Thankfully once we landed we both felt much better.

This was the first convention or Star Wars event where I’ve injured myself, and I must say I’m proud of my “battle wounds.” I fell and scraped up both my knees during the Bounty Hunt, a scavenger hunt where participants solve clues and search for “targets.” I wasn’t the only person who fell, but at least I had the excuse of running in a dress — no easy task.

Now I’m going to see if those Force powers will extend to homework and/or the errands I need to run today…

#PhotoFriday: Star Wars The Power of Costume

I went to a writing conference, and all I found was this stupid Star Wars costume exhibit!

In all seriousness, did you think I could go somewhere with a Star Wars thing and not go see it? Two weeks ago when I got off the plane in Tampa for AWP, my first stop was my hotel to stash my stuff, and my second stop was the Power of Costume exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art in nearby St. Petersburg.

A selfie with the Darth Vader costume.

I found myself in an unsafe part of town…

I took a Lyft there and back, and both my drivers were a bit skeptical I was paying for a 30-minute ride there and back for something as dorky as a sci-fi movie exhibit, but oh well, what are you going to do? Pay the nice drivers and go anyway, obviously.

Star Wars and museums go way back, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of these costumes previously at The Magic of Myth exhibit at the Brooklyn Fine Arts Museum (my dad drove me 3 hours there and back for that one!) and at the Lucasfilm Archives exhibit at various Celebrations. But this exhibit had costumes from The Force Awakens (which okay, yes, I’ve seen some of those at Celebration also, but still).

The exhibit is beautifully designed and presented, and comes with an audio tour. I might go see it again when it comes to Detroit next year!

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the exhibit:

It’s hard to choose, but if I had to pick a favorite costume… no, I can’t. Each costume featured in the exhibit does its part to create the Star Wars universe and make it feel real and lived in. I like all of them in their own way. Do you have a favorite costume, Star Wars or otherwise?

Adventures in writing conferences: AWP 2018

Last week I went to Tampa for the 2018 AWP Conference. For those of you who aren’t familiar with AWP, it’s the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and each year they hold a huge conference in a different city (next year is Portland!).

It’s an exhausting three days full of craft talks, discussion panels, many offsite readings and parties, and a huge book fair (almost as big as the exhibit hall at a Star Wars Celebration, if you take out the giant AT-AT and X-Wing models). Writers, publishers, and editors from all over the US and Canada convene to talk books and writing and collectively drink all the alcohol in whatever city we’re visiting.

A stack of books.

My book and literary journal haul from AWP.

In years past, especially when I was an MFA student and felt that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO FIND A PUBLISHER FOR MY BOOK RIGHT THE FUCK NOW, I spent a lot of time wandering the book fair talking up publishers and trying to sell them on my manuscript. Let me just say that is not the best approach to enjoying AWP, not to mention ineffective. But it’s what all the writing advice articles say, so that’s what I did.

Here’s the thing, though: I write weird books, and even selling a normal book is hard. I believe in my work and I believe it will find the perfect home as long as I keep putting in the leg work. So this year I decided to take everything a lot less seriously.

And unsurprisingly, the conference was a lot more enjoyable without all that self-imposed pressure. I stayed with a friend from Chatham, and we may have drank an entire box of wine. Maybe. And we may have also dyed our hair purple (which has sadly mostly washed out already).

Because I stepped up as a coordinator for the VIDA Count, I worked directly with more of our team, and had the pleasure of meeting many of them in person for the first time. I also had a blast catching up with some of my professors and former classmates from Chatham at a private reception with an incredibly serious bartender who was probably wondering if all writers are over-excited alcoholics (we’re not).

I also spent more time in the book fair just talking to people. I discovered a few new journals that I’m excited to submit to, caught up with my friends at various presses and mags, and hopefully made some new friends! My favorite part was meeting the editorial staff at journals who’ve published my work. Plus I came away with a huge haul of journals and a few books that I’m incredibly excited about reading. Look for reviews of those in upcoming posts!

The downside to all this excitement at all is that I’ve had a migraine for the past five days (Pittsburgh weather isn’t helping). I’m starting to feel better today (and perhaps some coffee before work will help), but I haven’t even tried to work on my novel this week. Oh well! It’ll be there next week, and I’m excited to get back to it when my temples aren’t throbbing.

Relaxing and having fun is notoriously hard for me (just ask my partner, who complained to me last night that I always want to do productive things after dinner when he wants to relax and you know, spend time with me). I consider it quite an accomplishment that I had so much fun I triggered a week-long migraine cycle.

And hey—I even learned a few things, too.