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JessLynnBabblin'

  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

142: Visited an Oddities & Curiosities Expo

Updated: Mar 25


Here's my husband and I posed in the Oddities & Curiosites photo stand wherein we are both part monster.
Me & my husband, at the expo

Howdy! This past weekend I checked out the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Houston. They're a traveling event hitting cities all over the Continental USA, and judging by comments I've read on Facebook, I take it they've also been to Australia. And as a concept, a gathering point for like-minded weirdos is fun. Which it was, overall. I went in with some expectations, having seen several TikToks from their event in other cities, before going. Those were mostly met.


I've been to lots of festivals, street fairs, and the like, but I'd compare the event more to a craft fair than something more obviously celebratory. The space was indoors, at a conference center, a wise choice as this is the rainy season, and the weather was surprisingly chilly. My hand was stamped upon entry so I could go in and out. Vendors were arranged in rows, there was a stage to one side, a bar beside them, establishment-based food vendors at the back, photo stands at the wall opposite that of the performers, with curtained off spaces for taxidermy lessons beside them, and a banner at the front. I have an epileptic dog who gets a pill every 8 hours, and the event was about two hours from me. So, that only left four hours for perusing, which I figured would be enough, as the space wasn't that large.


The hosts suggested that guests dress up and many did, in costume, or in accordance with the theme. Vendors, too, wore expressive makeup. I went for a boho-witch look, sans the hat, because I don't like wearing hats and don't own the sort I'd've needed.


I didn't check what performances were scheduled but when the first side show was announced, I joined the audience. The show featured classic acts I'd seen on cartoons, including sword swallowing and laying on a bed of nails. At the end, audience members were invited to tip with small bills into a hat, or to staple large bills to the performers' flesh. I opted for the hat. The performers were funny, the humor adult-ish but worded vaguely enough to go over the younger viewers' heads. I did catch another show later that was similar, but also had a contortionist.


The vendors sold a variety of merchandise, largely consisting of dead things either in jars or taxidermized, tools of that trade, hand-made wares, art prints, and antiques. Generally when event hosts accept vendor applications, they strive to enforce variety, meaning they will take the best sellers of each type of wares, ideally not stacking multiple sellers of the same product. And every vendor had unique merchandise of some sort, however, the vast majority were also selling many jars of dead things. And no matter how much you enjoy a spooky knicknack, by your eight cat head or eyeball in a jar, the novelty is gone. By your twentieth, you are very over jars.


The hosts have strict rules regarding the sourcing of dead critters being sold, namely that they must be ethically sourced. I'm not an expert on the topic, but my understanding is that bulk insect sellers do not have ethical means of collecting good condition specimens, and that there is no board of ethics to regulate them. That said, I also eat factory farmed meat, so. I will add that I didn't see any taxidermized bats for sale. I'm under the impression that dead bat sellers have a bad reputation because, while dead bats may be cool decor for some, there is (also) no ethical means of sourcing them. And it makes sense that we, the buyers, care more about the treatment of fellow mammals over insects.


There were some cheap AliExpress products for sale at event prices slipped in, but most of what I saw wasn't factory-made. There were several painters and illustrators present. Most had placards explaining whether the product was an original, part of a limited series of prints on canvas, or a more general print. One artist did not label what appeared (at first glance) to be original paintings on canvas, as the prints I found them to be upon closer inspection. However, I don't know anything about the artist and it's possible they were telling buyers, verbally, what it was they purchased.


There were some vendors I was watching on TikTok who participated in other cities but not in Houston. I was sorry not to see them but I also discovered many other cool vendors I've never heard of.


The taxidermy classes were expensive so I didn't take part. Even still, I used up all of my allotted time checking out the stalls, which were crowded. I would definitely go to another Oddities & Curiosities event or shop. The ticket price was very reasonable. My only real complaint was the distance from home but that's on me for not living in a city.


Thanks for stopping by! I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!



Newsletter

Howdy! This past week I edited more of Soul Walker, my paranormal-women's fiction novel, knocked out some painting mockups, and I watercolored. I also finished off my resin kit, but after touching the last few resin paper weights before they were dry, I'm afraid to pull these ones from their molds in case they haven't cured. I also received a big batch of wood discs only to find they were covered in mold, so I returned those and now I have another batch from another supplier, that await woodburning.


Fire blob going up at night
Warm, Watercolor on paper, 5x7 in

Blue blob balls at night surrounded by warm light tendrils
Cool, Watercolor, 5x7 in

My publisher, Tea With Coffee Media, has started giving monthly royalties updates. Stem & Stone, my YA dark portal fantasy novel, is doing fine, but Light Step, my adult literary fiction novel with fabulist elements, is floundering. I recognize that most readers aren't familiar with literary fiction, as a genre, and have never heard of fabulism. Those who have heard of magical realism, which is very similar to fabulism, know that there must be strong anti-colonial themes to qualify. And while Light Step touches on those, they're hardly essential to the story. I'm in the process of revamping my marketing, leaning into describing Light Step as dreamlike, instead.


I'm not incredibly comfortable being on-camera but I may have to lean away from meme-templates if I want readers to find my books. Unfortunately. Of my many novel manuscripts, Light Step is easily my favorite. This is the kind of book I want to be writing, that eventually, I'd like to be known for. If the only way for readers to find it is by me oversharing online, so be it. And that's the end game of speaking earnestly over TikTok, I think. To foster parasocial relationships, I have to be willing to share more of myself than the occasional comedic one liner.


On the bright side, both Stem & Stone and Light Step are available for sale in a real brick and mortar book store in town. Hyperbole Bookstore is a cute indie book shop with a local author section. They host events pretty regularly. I've been telling every reader I come across that they exist. I really want them to flourish. It's hard to compete with conglomerates. I will request my books at my library as soon as that becomes an option. There is a rule here that new releases must be six months old first, otherwise I already would have.


Thanks for stopping by! I drop a newsletter every Monday!


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