Tag Archives: conventions

The Wonder of Cons

Guest Post by Eva Eldridge

I attended my first convention, TusCon 39, a mere three years ago. It was a small convention held in Tucson and I had no idea what it was about. Some friends encouraged me to come because they knew I was writing science fiction. They said there were writers at the convention and they weren’t kidding.

Not only were there writers, there were scientists from NASA, costumers, music, gamers, and movies. I listened to professional writers talk about their experiences and offer advice on the writing life. I could learn how to use a 3-D printer, put together my zombie attire, or watch movies all day. Scientist expounded theories about how life might have begun on Earth and if that might be happening in other places. It wasn’t science fiction, it was science.

TusCon 39 led to the 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio and the Phoenix Comicon in 2014. I’ve been to three Cons in 2015 and haven’t even mentioned the Tucson Festival of Books. Why do I keep going and what can a writer get out of Cons? Information and connections. I am a panel junkie.

I love to listen to people talk about a variety of things. Some of the fascination has to do with seeing my favorite authors like Connie Willis, Gini Koch, J. A. Jance, Dave Berry, David Weber and a whole list of others. I want to know what they have to say on the future of publishing or how it takes dedication and hard work to write a novel. I listened to a panel that discussed forensic investigation and they debunked some of what we see on television. For a writer, that is good information—information I can use to make my story more believable.

Another thing that Cons can do for you is expose you to writers or artists that you’ve never heard of. I’ve discovered several writers by listening to panel discussions on one topic or the other. I went to a panel on dragons because Naomi Novik was on it. Through that panel discussion I learned about James A. Owen. James made an impression and I now own several of his books and art pieces. Another panel about food in space introduced me to more authors I’d never heard of. Turns out some of the writers have blogs discussing their baking experiences. Now, not only do I read about their fabulous sounding appetizers, I want to read their fiction.

Some of the Cons, like this year’s WorldCon have pitch sessions. This is an opportunity for you to get your work in front of an agent or editor. The sessions are quick, but if you are prepared you might impress someone and you’ll be off writing the next book in your series. Honestly, I find the networking one of best parts of the convention scene. I almost prefer to call friendship building because sometimes you meet a person, then you go to lunch, or share a panel session, or urge them to buy another book.

Networking is important. Meeting people, sharing ideas, preferences, discussing the latest whatever, lets people get to know you and what you do. Pass out your business card. Tell people what you’re working on. Ask them about their projects. Perhaps you’re looking for a cover artist. Walk through the art section and see who and what’s out there. Viewing the various works will help you define your preference for the type of cover art you need. Art can be inspiration for new material.

Not all Cons are created equal. Some, like the Comic Cons have famous actors and are filled with people in costume. I love the Comic Cons because I love the costuming or cosplay. Look at the details in some of the outfits—details that can enhance a description in a story. Cruise around the vendor area and see the wonders in clothing, gadgets, jewelry, and of course, books. Comic Cons are about the comics, the art, the stories, but there is so much more.

Other Cons are more about the writers. They don’t offer as much in the dealer area, but have a full and interesting panel schedule with big name authors that are willing to sign their books and talk to you. A couple of the Cons are all about the merchandizing and that is important to a writer as well. In the end we need to sell our books. The Cons give writers exposure and an opportunity to talk to future readers.

You can find a Con somewhere in your area. They’re out there and if you write and haven’t attended one, it is time you did. Start out small like I did or jump in with both feet and find the biggest one in your area. Both can be rewarding and you never know, one day one of my books will be displayed at a vendor table and I’ll be there to sign it for you.

Guest Bio:

In 2010 Eva Eldridge decided thirty four years at the same company was enough and embarked on a new adventure as a writer and to explore what else life has to offer. After a trip to Argentina and a month long adventure on Amtrak she returned to Tucson to begin another phase as a communications engineer and to continue writing. Through the writing program at Pima Community College she has learned that words can be magic. Every day reveals new and interesting aspects of the writing and publishing field. Eva has been published in SandScript and is a contributing writer with BigBlendMagazines.com.


Gen Con: A Major Intersection of Interests

Guest Post by Josh Vogt


I have long loved conventions for a variety of reasons, everything from meeting authors and artists I admire to gaining new career connections to developing my writing craft to pure entertainment. A lifelong reader and gamer, I simply can never get enough of fantasy and science fictions worlds, whatever format they’re presented in. I love the weird and wacky and wonderful—and conventions basically mainline all of that straight into my veins and brain. I come away from conventions, even the smallest, shortest ones, both exhausted and absolutely jazzed to jump back into the writing and storytelling because I went to get out there and bring my own form of weird and wonderful to the world.

That’s why Gen Con has quickly become what I think of as a cornerstone convention for the year. It’s touted as the “Best Four Days in Gaming,” and that’s no boast. I’ve only been a couple times now, but my hope is to continue going for as long as I’m capable of it. It is simply fulfilling on all fronts, giving me a well-rounded con experience as a reader, a writer, a gamer, and an unashamed geek in general.

You could likely spend the whole convention simply wandering the whole vendor floor without quite seeing everything there is to see—and likely come away with a few credit cards maxed, if you aren’t careful. I joke with some people who buy my books at cons that I take “cash, card, blood, first-born children, and souls,” but by the end of Gen Con, I’m the one considering shelling out a slice of damnation to bring home some particular artwork or another set of shiny dice. Then, of course, there’s the many games for sale, with countless demos being run from morning to night.

Oh, and did I mention the round-the-clock gaming schedule? Doesn’t matter whether you prefer dice, cards, board games, tabletop RPGs, minifigs, LARPing, video games (including VR rigs), or plain ol’ rock-paper-scissors…you’ll find it going on around every corner 24/7. You could sit and game from beginning to end without seeing any other part of the con, barely even leaving your table except for the occasional bite of food and bathroom break.

And then we get to the Writer’s Symposium. Admittedly, as an author, this is the primary reason I have come to love Gen Con. When you have dozens of authors getting together to run workshops, panels, and social shindigs into the wee hours, how can you not have an exhilarating experience? The amount of experience being shared is staggering, and everyone is there to both work hard and have an amazing time. Again, you could spend the whole weekend just attending Symposium events and not even get to the gaming! Each year, the Symposium has been streamlining its programming, has an amazing volunteer crew, and does its best to connect readers and aspiring writers with industry pros of all sorts.

It’s a magnificent mash-up of literary and gaming cultures, recognizing that we’re all in it to have fun, tell stories, create unique experiences, and cheer one another on through another year of learning and growth. Of course, we can still backstab each other during daring games of skullduggery or fight to the bitter end to get the high score during a dungeon run.

Is it crowded? Of course. Is it exhausting? You betcha. Logistically challenging at times, with travel and hotels and whatnot? Start prepping at least half a year in advance, if not earlier.

But in the end, while Gen Con can leave one feeling wrung out, it also leaves you raring for next year at the same time. It can connect you with people from all walks of life who share similar passions and pursuits, and remind you that whatever form of fun you prefer, you’ll always find a community of like-minded folks.

Hope to see you there sometime.

Website: GenCon    2016 Dates: 8/4-8/7

Guest Bio:

Writer. Freelancer. Unashamed geek. Josh splits his time between dreaming up new worlds and forms of magic and providing marketing/sales copy for clients. It’s sometimes difficult to know which requires more imagination.


The Late One – World Fantasy Convention

For most, convention season is winding down. While you can find cons at any time of year really, the bulk of the major cons take place during the summer months.  But one major con is different, choosing to fight the power and place itself in late October or early November. And since I won’t be making it to any conventions this calendar year, that makes the 2014 World Fantasy Convention (which I did attend) the perfect one to write about.

I call WFC a major con, but that’s really misleading. While it’s a very venerable con with (it will be putting on its 40th convention this year in Saratoga Springs, NY) and it has a major genre award attached, WFC numbers in the hundreds rather than the thousands of attendees (to say nothing of tens or hundreds of thousands).

As opposed to broader media cons, it’s also almost entirely focused on books, and is almost entirely focused on business rather than fandom. WFC is a work con. It’s a place to go and network, to meet people serious about the business of writing and publishing. As such, if you’re someone like me, who doesn’t have a lot of time for con attendance, it offers a strong “bang for your buck” factor if your main goal is networking.

But I don’t want to make it sound boring, because it’s anything but. Sure, the focus may be on business, but this is still a place to meet up with friends in the industry and a gathering of some of the world’s biggest genre geeks. While it’s true that cosplayers are generally nowhere to be seen, there is still plenty to enjoy. Both times I’ve been (2014 and 2012 near Toronto) I had a great time. And frankly, as a pretty strong introvert, WFC’s smaller size is appealing to me (and I suspect I’m not the only introvert to whom that would be true).

As a Virginia native, when I learned that WFC 2014 would be in “Washington, D.C.” (and I say that in quotes because it was really in Crystal City, Virginia, just over the Potomac River from D.C.), I knew it would be criminal not to attend. Having a major con show up within driving distance really gives you no excuse to do otherwise.

As with many cons of this sort, while the panels provide a lot of quality programming, the real action happens in and around the hotel bar. You’ll find convention goers there at all times of day, their only concession to the rising sun switching to coffee instead of harder stuff. It’s always surreal to roam around the bar area, noticing various writers and publishing giants just sitting around, talking business or just shooting the breeze. I even got to discuss the 2014 NCAA College Football season with literary agent extraordinaire (and Michigan Wolverines fan) Joshua Bilmes after he noticed my Virginia Tech shirt.

As I alluded to above, WFC is also the keeper of the World Fantasy Awards, in the past won by such luminaries as George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Susanna Clarke, Madeline L’Engle, Gene Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin. The award winners are selected by a committee from a pool of nominees supplied by conference goers. There is a banquet to announce the winners at the end of the convention, which any attendee (provided they paid the extra fee) may attend. I attended in 2012 but didn’t feel the need to do so again in 2014, preferring instead to get home a little earlier.

I came back from last year’s convention with a bunch of new friends, a submission request from an editor, some great loot (a print of the A Memory of Light cover art signed by Brandon Sanderson and MIchael Whelan and a early-release signed copy of the Jeff VanderMeer Area X Omnibus), massive sleep deprivation and a whole lot of fun memories. If I had to do it over again, my only change would be to determine that our hotel wouldn’t allow more than two beds due to fire code restrictions. It made for a difficult sleep situation for our third roommate. At some point, I am fated by karma to sleep on the floor of a hotel room in Martin’s name.

So if, like me, you have to carefully pick your conventions and maximize your limited opportunities to attend, give World Fantasy Convention a try.


About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, will be available later this year. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens and the upcoming Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

Volunteering at an Author’s Booth

Going to your first convention can be nerve-wracking, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect. When I went to my first convention in Arizona, I wondered if I was supposed to cosplay in order to get in. I’ll save your pride by telling you no, you don’t need to dress up. But DO dress up if that sounds like fun to you, because you will not be made fun of. The community at conventions is unlike any other, and you’ll soon realize it. It’s a gathering of like-minded people, all of whom are excited to be there, except for that baby that had to come along and cries most of the time.

After you’ve been to a convention or two, you might be curious about what happens behind the scenes. You may wonder how much work it takes for the convention directors and all the participants. You may think, “Wow I can’t wait to do this some day when I have books to sell.”

**~** Magic Interlude **~**

Now’s the part when I read your mind:    

  • Are you an individual who is interested in writing? (Oh my gosh, I knew it.)
  • Have you been to a convention before or have you not been to a convention before? (You can call Miss Cleo after this, guys.)
  • Are you currently reading this month’s posts in order to learn more about conventions? (I know what you’re thinking… Oh, she’s good. Just you wait.)
  • Are you a human being?



View post on imgur.com

If you have answered yes to all of those questions (I already knew you would because I am a psychic), then I have an interesting way for you to gain some rare knowledge at conventions and to prepare you for participating in conventions as a writer yourself. Simply ask a professional writer if you can help them while they’re at the con.

But why? Because you’ll learn more than you could ever dream of just by watching that person do their thing. You’ll learn:

  • How to sit on and contribute to a panel
  • How to handle sales and commerce at a booth in an expo hall
  • How to treat fans (this may teach you how to or how not to treat fans, depending on what you see)
  • What it’s like interacting with the convention staff and volunteers
  • See the the behind-the-scenes of the convention to appreciate all the time and effort involved
  • How to manage time constraints as an author with a packed convention schedule
  • How to meet other authors with dignity and respect
  • Relearn how to eat while having a packed convention schedule (and also make time for peeing)

What are some ways you can volunteer to help an author you admire or are friends with?

  • Volunteer at their booth. This will include greeting fans, telling anyone who asks about the books for sale, selling those books, and letting people know where the author will be and when.
  • Manage an author. This mostly includes managing the author’s convention schedule, keeping one eye on the time to make sure the author gets to where they need to be. This also includes politely interrupting an author’s conversation with a fan to let them know when time is tight. You can do this by also volunteering at a convention and being paired with an author.
  • Manage a book signing time slot. Again, you’ll go through the convention protocols to land this gig. Your job here is to make sure the signing line goes relatively quickly and smoothly. You will run any interference that may occur.
  • Offer to bring the author meals and/or snacks. Many times, an author won’t have an opportunity to eat until the end of the day. It’s an incredibly thoughtful gesture to bring an author something to eat or drink during the convention. This will also build trust with an author you’d like to possibly volunteer for in the future.
  • Introduce yourself and let an author know you’d like to help. Even the act of offering can mean a great deal.

I understand that taking the first step can be scary. But isn’t the first step to anything great and worth-while a bit scary? If you’re serious about becoming a writer and having all the responsibilities therein, volunteering to help a writer at a convention will give you knowledge and experience that you can carry with you for a lifetime.