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.
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.