I never thought I’d be lucky enough to attend a convention–let alone that my first would be a horror convention. After all, they’re far away, they cost admission, you pay travel expenses to get to them, hotel fees, food.
It never seemed feasible for me. But when some online writing partners offered the opportunity to share a hotel room, that significantly cut down cost. There was still the plane ticket which was insane, I won’t lie, but you can also attend something closer to home. Plus, you can usually plan expenses out well in advance. So rally a few friends, brothers and sisters of the cause, and find the ideal convention for you! Here are just a few of the reasons why you should attend a convention (WITH PICTURES! some of them a little dark in lighting, appropriately):
Depending on what your motive is for attending a conference, there will be different benefits. In this case, my roomies and I are all fans and writers of horror. So our version of networking was taking advantage of the multiple opportunities to meet and talk to authors, booksellers, small press editors, and movers and shakers in the field (in this case, Lisa Morton, president of the HWA; the prolific horror, sci-fi, and fantasy author, William F. Nolan; Linda Addison, the 2014 Stoker Award recipient for Superior Achievement in Poetry Collection; Melissa Ann Singer, senior editor for Tor Books; Dacre Stoker, manager of the Bram Stoker Estate; Usman T. Malik and Rena Mason, the tied winners for the 2015 Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction, etc.). We walked around smiling at and greeting best-selling authors and lesser known ones and chatted up literary agents at the bar, buying them mojitos and martinis.
I got tons of information on lit mags and journals to submit to and small and large presses.
Also, there were so many panels that I wanted to attend in so little time. But the ones I did attend were excellent, including…
**YA Rocks–Teen Voice Panel: Reaching the Teen Audience
Moderator: Jeff Strand (Gave Up the Ghost)
In this awesome panel we learned capturing 1st time experiences with the same magic young adults experience requires overriding adult apathy to experiences; don’t write down to kids; we learned just how much YA/MG fic publicity is in the hands of school librarians and booksellers; YA fic should be fast-paced and cinematic in presentation.
**Stabbing Through the Glass Ceiling: Advice for Women Writers Starting Out
Moderator: Linda Addison (poet and 4 time Bram Stoker winner)
Panelists: Megan Harker (“Sleight of Hand” published in Dark Carnival Anthology), Kami Garcia (Unbreakable and co-author of Beautiful Creatures series), Melissa Ann Singer (senior editor for Tor Books), Lucy Snyder (Soft Apocalypses and Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide), Lisa Morton (President of the HWA)
It was fun and inspiring just to hear these women speak about their experiences in the horror and writing industries. So much knowledge, experience, ferocious ambition, and achievement on this panel.
**Midmorning Madness: Making Insane Characters Believable
Moderator: Stephanie Wytovich (Hysteria: A Collection of Madness) [center]
Panelists: Brian Matthews (Forever Man), Dale Bailey (The Fallen), Sydney Leigh (poems in Shock totem and Shroud), Nicole Cushing (The Mirrors and Mr. Suicide), T. Fox Dunham (Ragtime Cycles), and Lois Gresh (Innsmouth Nightmares)
This was probably my favorite of all the great panels I attended. It was rife with the panelists’ real-life experiences with madness, personally and professionally, and despite how early it was, I got almost three pages of notes! We discussed the definition of insanity in a clinical versus personal sense, how ‘evil’ should be handled when writing about sociopaths/psychopaths, and that writing about insane characters that are believable is not about who these characters are now, but what they went through or had to do to get to this point.
There were so, so many more panels. And they were all fantastic. You cannot get much more informed and submerged in the business as at a convention.
Not only did I get ideas just listening to people talk and taking notes at the panels, but the professionals in the field were a fount of inspiration themselves.
And don’t even get me started on the Bram Stoker Awards Ceremony we attended.
It was humbling seeing all these people in the biz receiving their well-earned lifetime achievement awards and awards for best in their genres. It put things into perspective: you forget that you’re one small fish in a big pool when you’re surrounded by all your people, your ‘tribe’ as Jack Ketchum wrote in my copy of Off Season. It feels good. But looking around at the sheer number of people in this field already established or trying to establish themselves also reminds you of the fact–that you have to earn your place among these greats and that means get your butt to work yesterday.
All in all, conventions are a great place to enjoy the community and learn everything you can. Also pretty important is…
Have you ever attended a convention? What kind was it and what was the best experience you took away from it? Or if you plan on attending any in the future, please share them in the comments.