This is dedicated to the Fan Expo fans

This year’s Fan Expo took place the first weekend of September, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give some seriously earned kudos to all the people who attended. The Expo organizers deserve a shout-out for doing their usual event-hosting magic, but let’s give due credit to all the devoted fans who bring their energy, enthusiasm and excitement! Please accept this as my humble offering of most sincere gratitude. This message is devoted to you. I am your biggest fan!

Dan Holst Soelberg with Emma at Fan Expo

Dan Holst Soelberg with Emma at Fan Expo

Emma bought a book and was kind enough to come back the next day for more. Thank you!

My first ever event/expo as a vendor was Fan Expo Toronto 2012. At the time, I had a couple self-published books to my name and I thought Fan Expo might help me find kindred souls who enjoyed macabre humour as much as me. Maybe I’d make a buck while I was at it to fund my creation factory. Four years later and five consecutive Fan Expos later, I am a believer in the Expo. And I appreciate the amazing people who share my weird, dark humour and have bought my offbeat creations.

The lovely Jaime with six-year-old Grey (left) and three-year-old Shaw (right).

The heart the operations, Jaime, with six-year-old Grey (left) and three-year-old Shaw (right).

Of course, my family gets a big chunk of my gratitude. For the past couple of years, my wife Jaime has joined me on Thursday with my son Grey. Grey had to get used to the crowds and the noise, but he always settles into the Expo groove. Since last year he has been a Minecraft fanatic, attracted to anything and everything Minecraft related. It’s because of him that I have Stampy’s voice on perma-loop in my brain. It’s been a huge education for me. This year was first time we brought Shaw, my daughter. It was amazing to see her immediately take to the Expo like it was home! She is a natural-born party girl, and the Expo is her scene. Cosplay is definitely Shaw’s jam. The look on her face when she first saw Spider-Man in person was priceless. Pointing and shouting “It’s Spider-Man, look! It’s Spider-Man!!!”. The pure joy rushing through her was palpable and contagious.

visitors to Dan Holst Soelberg's table

The Thompsons: Stacey, Maggie and Gord.

Visits from old friends are always a welcome and exciting surprise for me. It was a special treat to see the Thompson family this year. And, if you’ve visited me the last couple of Expos you’ll be familiar with my table partner Alexandria. Alex is an amazing friend and purveyor of exquisite taste. She turned me onto Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. “This One Summer” has a special place in my heart.

Beetle Juice and Spiderman. Side by side, naturally.

Beetle Juice and Spider-Man. Side by side, naturally.

Fan Expo is inspiring for me. Meeting the people who actually like what I do is both an honour and humbling. It gives me the drive to keep going. For everyone who took time out of their busy Fan Expo day to visit me, thank you.

The constant stream of people that move through the Metro Toronto Convention Centre all weekend long.

The constant stream of people moving through the Metro Toronto Convention Centre all weekend long.


Meeting fans

Buttons featuring images from my books. Some people just can't get enough buttons!

My display includes various merchandise. Pictured here: buttons featuring images from my books.

I love exhibiting. It’s energizing and fun. It’s especially exciting to connect with fans since my creative process is such a solitary one. From original idea to finished product, I create each book alone in my studio. And it takes time. I toil over the writing, illustration, type rendering, design and layout of each book to satisfy the vision in my head. Months and months of solitude, and the only thing compelling me to finish the project is the thought, “the finished book is worth all this effort.” So, to meet a fan that connects with my vision, buys a book and is now anxiously awaiting my next book, it’s just the most satisfying feeling.

The Mixed Media Market that happened at the Gladstone this past Saturday was everything I could have imagined. Visitors were engaged with the vendors and the event was superbly organized.

I stood behind my display for six hours. I can’t think of a better way to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Just a note: I didn’t have the forethought to take photos with my fans, and I realize that an article about fans without a photo of one feels incomplete. On the other hand, you can use your imagination and I like that.

I met Sarah. Sarah was visiting Toronto to see her brother nearby and stopped in to kill time. She was intrigued by my display and we talked about my work. Sarah wound up buying all three softcovers. I signed them and dedicated one to her. Every show, I connect with at least one person who fully shares my passion for the work I do and makes sure to let me know. Sarah was the one who made this day worthwhile. I humbly thank you, Sarah.

I met Michael. He bought a book as well. Michael was in Toronto on business at his PR firm’s head office. He lives in Chicago. I’m a Frank Lloyd Wright fan and I know that Wright’s work is all over Chicago. I asked Michael about it. As he gave me his card, he told me to call him when I visit, we’ll meet for dinner and he’ll tell me all about Chicago. I can’t wait! I’m taking my family for a visit this summer and I know who I’m calling.

I met another proud new owner of my book who had a familiar accent. I didn’t catch his name (he was in a rush), but he said he was heading back to Copenhagen. We chatted a bit in Danish and he went off to give my book a new home in another part of the world.

I met Johanne. She bought a book and we chatted while I dedicated it to her. Johanne was curious about why I’d chosen to self-publish. I explained that I just wanted to make books and didn’t want to worry about getting approval from a publisher. For my next book however, I explained that want to get an agent and publish in the UK or USA. Johanne revealed that she has been working in Canadian publishing for years. Based on her experience, Johanne warned that agents can be heel-dragging and money-draining. She said that small Canadian publishers on the other hand, are passionate about the work they do and work tirelessly for their authors. In fact, she said that Canadian publishers are devoted to the point of personal sacrifice. It gave me pause to consider what I want to do with my next book. Maybe an agent is the wrong move? I really don’t know.

As the day drew to a close, I felt a sense of vindication for the long hours in the studio that make my work feel self-indulgent and reclusive. I am a social beast just like everyone else, and at the end of the day, my books only have meaning when people other than me read them. After a fun day like this, I am full of gusto and eager to get back to the studio!

The next Gladstone Hotel event that I’m taking part in happens May 25th. It’s the Small Press & Literary Festival taking place between 10:30am and 4:30pm. For details, click this link. I’ll keep you updated on my facebook page too.

Please come by on the 25th and bring a friend. I love meeting new people.