#TheLOVELANDERProject brings you the woman, the ringleader, the Koko behind Outlandish Vancouver.

You might not know this but I am an introvert.

I have done a lot of public speaking and large group trainings but those are things where I am in control of my environment and I know minute to minute what is happening. This means, attending events, especially with large crowds and where unexpected things can happen…NOT my happy place. At all. This means going to any of the conventions or events where an Outlander fan like myself could enjoy herself, was slim to none.

That was until I heard more about Outlandish Vancouver from my friend Cathy. I did a little more research and messaged them through their facebook page and received a lovely reply back from the one and only Koko. I not only have those mental health hurdles to overcome, I have a few physical ones too. I’m a case – let’s put it that way. I wanted to check what the procedures were, how I would be able to navigate things etc. Koko alleviated not only any concerns I might have had but she went out of her way to offer me additional services, to ensure my time at Outlandish Vancouver was as carefree and enjoyable as possible.

That is why she was on my list as people to share with you all for an edition of the #TheLOVELANDERProject. This project is about bringing those in the fandom that have made it their mission to bring light, love and laughter into this community. Koko is one of those people and if you don’t know her yet, I hope you stick around and if you do, read on and get to know her and what goes on behind the scenes of Outlandish Vancouver, better!

Dear Koko, it makes me happy you agreed to be a part of this project. I know how busy you are, without wasting any time, tell the people, who is Koko? I grew up with time split between the US and Europe and my family finally settled in California.  I went to Santa Barbara City College and earned a degree in radiologic technology.  I did that for a number of years, became an educator in that field, then I decided I wanted to become a plant physiological biologist, so I went back to school and an earned a bachelor degree from University of Colorado at Boulder.  The outdoors were a great pull for me and my education allowed me to obtain jobs that had me working outside.  Numerous injuries have sidelined that work and I would now call myself an entrepreneur and part-time AirBnB host.  Between those activities I do the work for Outlandish Vancouver.

And I am so grateful for that, not the injuries, that would make me horrible, but the Outlandish Vancouver part, can you share with us how OV came to be? Outlandish Vancouver originally grew out of a small group of fans from Seattle and Canada who went to see Diana in Surrey, British Columbia in 2013; the group was formed the following year to organize more fans for the annual trek to see her during the free book signing sponsored by the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) after the show aired in the summer of 2014.  We organized group meals and activities in Surrey and New Westminster, BC. After meeting and hosting Àdhamh Ó Broin (the Outlander Gaelic consultant) in Seattle, we invited him to meet more fans during the trip to Surrey in 2016. He met fans, taught them the basics of Gaelic, and we had our first “Party in the Suite” during that visit. 

We grew over the years, adding more Outlander cast members as guests and more activities throughout the weekend where Outlander fans could meet and hang out with some of their favorite actors, have professional photos taken, obtain autographs, and still see Diana over the weekend.  We have always made sure to build a block of free time into the weekend so our attendees could go to the SiWC book signing. Outlandish Vancouver has been structured with similarities to a larger convention (panels, photo ops, autos) while keeping intimate activities like the Party in the Suite. 

In 2019, Outlandish Vancouver had to become a business, so I registered as Outlander Adventures as a non-profit in Washington because the model best fit how we operated.  We are all volunteers, no one takes a salary, any extra funding goes toward operational expenses and producing Outlandish Vancouver.

You of course don’t make this beast alone from Washington, you have a team of kickass women helping you out. Tell us about them.

Samantha Kraupner is a wife, mother, photographer, and serial volunteer. She is a lover of travel, books, art, theater, music and lifelong learning.  Sam has been an Outlander fan since she first read one of Diana’s books in 1999.  She is an IT manager for a non-profit organization in Chicago.  She puts all the details on paper and is the spreadsheet queen for Outlandish Vancouver.

Karin Pitterle’s love of all things Outlander began with the books a dozen years ago. Her 40+ years as a now retired flight attendant has taken her all over the world to attend many fan conventions. She loves gardening, ballet, entertaining friends, reading, her special guy and cat – not necessarily in that order! Karin is the volunteer coordinator for Outlandish Vancouver.

Seattle native “Crafty” Christine’s love of beachcombing and Outlander has frequently taken her to the UK where she’s made many like-minded friends in Scotland and England. She lives in a small Washington town with her husband and Siamese cat. A friend harassed her for 20 years to read the Outlander books, which then led to the show.  Crafty handles logistics for Outlandish Vancouver.

Chase Pommerville is the head of security for Outlandish Vancouver, and is my son. He loves to travel, has cycled around  Europe, is an ultra-marathoner and avid hiker. He works in property management, hospitality, and security in Santa Barbara, California, where he lives with his dog Andy, and cat Murphy.

Outlandish Vancouver had a very lasting impression on me, so much so I wrote 2 blogs about it. Here and here. I know that every event has memorable moments. Can you and your team share some of yours?

Crafty said it was the time that John Bell busted out of the photo op room and ran down the hall giving her a piggyback ride.

Fun times for Crafty and John Bell at Outlandish Vancouver!

Karin was really interested in seeing the real actors from OV 2019 (Ed, John, Kikki, Carmen, Braeden, and Trevor) become friends and develop camaraderie despite some never working together and they had fun, in addition to learning how much different they are than their characters. She also liked how excited the cast were to meet Diana on the Fraser River Cruise.

You can’t fake that kinda looooove! (Braeden Clarke, Kikki Fleming, John Bell, Carmen Moore, Trevor Carroll and Ed Speleers)

Samantha thought it was amazing that some cast contacted the team to attend – and they did! She was also absolutely thrilled that Diana was able to come on the Fraser River Cruise last year.

The Outlandish Vancouver SuperTeam with the cast guests (minus John Bell) and Diana in the middle.

Pulling off a convention and getting to know the actors better.  This is something I would not think would be happening when the show was announced.  I’ve also developed a friendship with Steven Cree, and I really enjoy supporting his endeavors. Steven Cree side note – He is one of the gifts that keeps on giving to the Outlander fandom. If you don’t follow him on twitter or InstaGram…just do it. You will not be disappointed. Well, you might if you are a complete dick to him because he will clap back so hard your best friend will feel it and the rest of his followers will likely point and laugh.

The beautiful relationship between Koko and Steven ❤

There was one time in particular that made you giddy in terms of a fangirl moment though…The one thing that made me a shaky fan girl was the fact that I got to introduce Diana Gabaldon to David Berry. Via back and forth messages, we had finally set up a time and place, I picked her up from her hotel, brought her to my suite for a private setting, met up with David and brought him in as well.

The big day! David Berry, Diana Gabaldon and Koko, the magic maker!

I know he has had many happy moments in his life, but to see him walk with enjoyment to where she was standing, saying “Diana!” as he did made me feel like a proud mama. I quickly made my exit and met up with them later at the appointed time. I was shaking like a Populus tremuloides in a fall storm.

I know that what you do takes time, energy and more patience than I would ever hope to have in my lifetime. What would you like the average fan to know about what really goes on behind the scenes of running a con? It is a lot of work!  It takes months of planning, starting with the bigger picture (i.e., a theme) and over time we nail down the specifics that will happen at each activity during the weekend.  It also takes capital.  The team all wear different hats yet sometimes we do the same thing and help each other.  Patience is important throughout the entire process from beginning to end. We learn from year to year, by experience and surveys that are sent to the attendees. It takes a village, meaning that a team is important and this event wouldn’t happen without a team (Samantha, Karin, and Crafty).  I think what most fans don’t realize is that cast don’t just “show up” in cities, they are invited and when they accept, an event happens.  If fans want an event to happen in their town, they need the capital and the team to make it happen.  The entire weekend can be like herding cats…Cast A needs to be over there at a certain time, Cast B has to be someplace else at the same time, and where did Cast C disappear to?  The saddest part is saying goodbye to them and all the fans.

We all have our ‘Outlander’ story of how we got hooked and ended up participating in this fandom…how did you fall down this rabbit hole of Outlander, Koko? Twenty years ago I took a trip to Scotland to go castle-hopping, not knowing anything about Outlander. While visiting family in Turkey in May 2000, I went to an English bookstore and bought the fattest book on the shelf to read. That book was Dragonfly in Amber.  I found the second book in Germany and realized that I was missing something in the books (due to the frequent references to Wentworth), so I looked around on the internet and was surprised to learn that Dragonfly and Voyager were the second and third books, respectively. I was on a mission to find the missing titles and I was hooked. Back in 2013 I was thrilled to learn that my favorite book series was to become a STARZ television adaptation.  My excitement pushed me to start the entire series over again, so I did.  During the reread of Outlander, I happened to be going to a music festival and hit a large animal on the highway.  There was a severe storm, so I had to spend the night in my truck on the side of the interstate, reading Outlander with a headlamp.  I happened to comment to Diana about this on her facebook page and she answered!  I was rescued the next day but it took two days to get to the festival once I found someone else to drive me there. I’m not laughing – I might be laughing.

This fandom just gets bigger and bigger. What do you find are the greatest joys and the biggest challenges in being in the gooey center of it all? The biggest joy is bringing an event weekend to the Pacific Northwest, to fans who otherwise are not able to travel.  Surrey is just over the border from Washington, so it is a great place to see how happy the fans are after taking a photo with cast or getting their autograph. 

The biggest challenge now is the pandemic. We were poised to announce OV2020 and then contemporary events started to cancel as well as summer events.  We decided that as the state of world affairs didn’t support gatherings and travel, it would be best to consider health and safety before the desire to put on a convention.  While I am disappointed, it was the right decision for us to do.  The pandemic is touching all realms of life and we want everyone to stay healthy.  The good news for us is that we will roll over our plans to 2021 and the cast have agreed to attend next year (October 21-24, 2021)

That truly is a testament to you and your team. The cast spoke of it during the panels and the suite parties I attended. They absolutely LOVE the smaller atmosphere and how at ease everything is.

Tell me, do you have any advice for these poor saps out here trying to survive Droughtlander…AGAIN? Rewatch and reread all of Outlander, and include ALL the side stories in order! There is so much when all the other stories are added in and it makes reading a richer experience.

On May 2nd we postponed OV2020 and simultaneously announced to our fans that we would be doing virtual events, namely turning our signature activity, the Party in the Suite, into a virtual party!  We know that many are missing the ability to see friends and our favorite Outlander cast while in quarantine, so this was the best option to get people together on screen with cast since most live events were canceled. At that time we were already in the contracting phase and were set to announce the first in a series of Virtual Parties in the Suite. Nothing compares with gathering in person and the internet has become our social outlet these days, so why not combine that aspect with cast?  We were excited that cast liked the idea as well. 

It seemed to have started a trend -You have done a brilliant job with the small intimate gathering with the Outlander cast on zoom calls with those who purchase a spot, how can a reader take part in these? I know you still have some coming up. Our Virtual Parties in the Suite – must be a member of the Outlandish Vancouver group: www.facebook.com/groups/outlandishvancouver to get notifications. 

It’s always fun to look into the future – so I am going to ask you to. What do you see happening in the Outlander world as far as the future of the show and the books go?Personally, I would like to see the television adaptation go through the entire series of the main books.  There are times when I believe the episodes go off the rails while others are just so spot on.  I really don’t care if someone wasn’t killed off when they were in the books, or if someone had on the wrong clothing.  I look more at the performances and was the scene believable – as believable as a time travel story can be! I would really really really love to see a Lord John spin off (crossing my fingers!)!  My understanding is that if fans want that too, they should send messages to Starz.

Regarding the books…I’ll read anything Diana writes!  I’ve heard her describe the process she goes through to structure a sentence, bringing a scene to my imagination, and it is magical.  I’d like to know more about Kenneth, who was in The Exile (I believe Jamie killed him); how did he become a traveler?  How did he know Geillis/Gillian?  I’d also like to know more about William Ransom as an adult and how his relationship with his biological father develops.

Do you have anything else up your sleeve for us? I have a new blog which will be launching soon and it is also called Outlander Adventures, with commentary from cast! I am looking forward to reading that, girlfriend!

A funny thing happened as I was reaching out to different accounts to participate in the LOVELANDER project. I am pretty clueless when it comes to ‘who runs what account’ on twitter unless they are obvious about it or say so on the regular. I messaged the Outmander account and got a response back from Koko in our already DM conversation.

How did your sexy behind become the person behind the Outmander account? The story of the OutMander: it happened about 200 years ago…well, really, it happened a little over 200 hours ago.  During some twitter activity on January 4, 2014, an Outlander fan (Mark M.) was tweeting about just having finished Outlander and wanted to know if there any other fans “out there with penises.”  I suggested he try tweeting with Donas the Horse (that is a completely different story as told by Donas).  I welcomed him as a newbie OutMander and so it began.  He then asked if I just made that up, but as I was not sure who or what he was speaking to/about, so my response was “made what up”?  At that point, I went to the computer and started the OutMander.

That is how it started, but why?  His question sparked what I felt was a need to recruit more men to the readership. Frankly, the majority of readers on the sites are women, including me.  It is my firm belief that Outlander (and all the books written by Herself, Diana Gabaldon) are for both sexes.  There are many social media groups out there that really are lacking in the male voice.  The books are for both and the television series will also be for both.  My hope was to gather more male fans and to start social media group or groups that were tailored for males to discuss different aspect of the books without being hounded by estrogen.  Men interpret and absorb literature differently and by pitching the books with a slightly different spin, i.e., fighting, hunting, warfare, guns and swords, etc., then more husbands, boyfriends, uncles would read Outlander and the rest of the series and love it just as much.  I decided to become a facilitator of a safe zone for males to chat about the books Diana has written.  I would like to see more men at the signing and fan events.  One does not have to possess an XY chromosome pair to do that. 

Let’s face it, guys digest material differently.  The OutMander is a way to bring more male fans on board and to see just what they think of the books while increasing the fan base.  Social media is flooded with what women think; let’s find out what the men think.  Become an OutMander, a male fan of the Outlander series and all things Jamie and Claire.

There you have it. If you have any men in your life that love Outlander, if you ARE a man that loves Outlander, get OutMANder’d and start talking about the show, the books and tell let us of the other gender how you are gobbling this up!

I am so happy that Koko chose to share so much with us. I hope that you all follow Outlandish Vancouver on twitter and their facebook pages. Follow Koko too…cuz…ummm…KOKO!

The OV crew and friends have a stellar time with Sam and Caitriona.
Koko, right in the thick of it all.

Catch me at the end of August for next edition of The LOVELANDER Project with an Outlander cast member. Hmmm, I wonder who it might be?

Sher XO

The LOVELANDER Project – Edition 1 Vida/Blancklanderz  Edition 2 Erin/Three if By Space  CastEdition 3 Vincent/Supporting Artist Edition 4 Tracy/Outcandour CastEdition 5 Nell Hudson/Laoghaire CastEdition 6 A Quickie w Kikki Fleming/ Lesley

ABOotlander LOve – Previous Interviews –  Julia LeBlanc/VideoQueen  Summer & Ginger from Outlander Podcast  CastDr.Joe Abernathy/Wil Johnson  CastAdrienne-Marie/Suzette Beth Wesson/@PixieTwit  Connie Verzak@ConnieBV  Karmen @OutLandAnatomy  Jane @RRankinFans  CastSera-Lys McArthur /Johiehon CastCarmen Moore /Wahkatiiosta CastKikkiFleming/ Lesley