All Souls Con 2019 offered many wonderful moments and insights, but this one lives on: We Are All Souls.
If you follow the numerous social media channels dedicated to the All Souls world you have no doubt read some comments on Deborah Harkness’ session at the recent All Souls Convention that was held in Cardiff, Wales. Because I’m still overcome with feelings I wanted to share as much of it as possible with the hope that her kind words will touch your heart as much as they did mine.
Saturday at 11:10 a.m. was billed as “One Hour with Deborah Harkness.” Deb could have talked to us for 60 minutes and I think we would have counted ourselves lucky to have had the privilege. But that’s not Deb. She greeted the assembled, we had a few moments oohing and ahhing over those fabulous shoes, and then she turned her attention to the crowd.
She recalled her thesis advisor who would start her weekly meetings by asking, “So what did you learn this week?” Deb modified the question and asked, “What has been your aha moment at this con?” Two microphones were passed around the room as people shared their experiences.
We heard that “anyone can be your family.” Amen to that sister. My two witchy friends and fellow podcasters couldn’t join me at this year’s con and I felt like I had left behind a family member. We might have become friends over a shared loved of Outlander but we became family when we “jumped into the All Souls world like the time traveling witches we wish we were.”
One participant said that, before the con, she thought the world of All Souls was in the books but she now realized that the All Souls world was “here;” it’s “this.” This generated lots of head nodding and dabbing at the corners of eyes. Deb agreed heartily and reminded us of the hashtag that she frequently uses on social media #WeAreAllSouls. More on “this” later.
As the “aha moments” came to an end, Deb talked a little bit about the All Souls journey. She sold A Discovery of Witches to her publisher nearly ten years ago in September 2009. In those ten years the fandom has grown in ways that she could have never imagined. It grew exponentially this past year with the release of the first season of A Discovery of Witches and it will continue to grow as a generation of new readers (who were babies when the book was first released) find their way to the books.
Despite the growth, Deb reminded us that this “world” has always been about family. We’ve lost members and we’ve gained them but we have always and forever will be one family. Each addition to the family has brought changes. The production team at Bad Wolf and the cast and crew of the show have all changed the fandom but these changes have made us stronger.
Deb acknowledged the numerous conversations about what people like and don’t like in the show. She encouraged us to keep having those conversations because “where there is friction there is growth.” In doing so, she asked us to always, always remember that “we are all souls,” which I interpreted as a call for civility and kindness. On a related note, I will say that, in general, this is the kindest and most respectful fandom that I have ever encountered.
The conversation then moved to upcoming projects but I want to save those juicy little tidbits for a conversation with my podcast witches. I will leave you with one word on this front though: Gallowglass. You’re welcome.
The hour ended with Deborah talking about how she likes to keep her characters “moving around the globe” because that’s what we all should be doing. It’s her belief (and I couldn’t agree more) that we would have fewer problems in the world if we traveled more and learned about the lives of other people.
I wrote much of this as I monitored news about the two mass shootings back home. I wept as I thought about leaving behind so much love and goodwill destined for a place that seemed to lack both. As I scrolled through the messages in my Twitter feed, there was one that made my heart stand still for just a moment.
The woman who had been responsible for three days worth of joy was now summing up the fear that filled so many of us and, once again, encouraging us to shine a light on the darkness. Deb’s hashtag reminded us to take “this” (the feeling in that room in Cardiff) and sow it like seeds in the days to come. Because, We Are All Souls.
I cannot end this without some final thoughts on Deborah Harkness outside those 60 minutes on Saturday. It’s just as well that I’m typing these words because I don’t think that I could speak them without crying.
Deb possesses generosity of spirit, kindness, and humanity in levels that I have rarely encountered in another person. She departed the stage and assured everyone that she would be outside during the lunch break to meet anyone who wanted to chat with her. I watched for several minutes as I awaited my own meeting with her. She met every single person as if they were an old friend. She greeted people by their first names. She hugged. She cried. She had extended conversations with some.
My daughter and I had our moment with her, which was nothing short of magical in its own right, and then we left for lunch. When we returned an hour later, Deb was still talking and posing for photos.
Deborah Harkness brought her special brand of love and light to Cardiff, Wales for a few days in August 2019. And she kept shining that light long after the last con attendee departed the city. My aha moment? Finding out that We Are All Souls and knowing beyond a doubt that we are exactly what the world needs right now. Thanks for that Deb. We ARE All Souls and we love you.