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Ten Reasons to Attend Cons
by L. J. Bothell

You’ve heard about them, you’ve seen them announced; perhaps they’ve even invaded your city. Cons, short for conventions. World Horror Con, Norwescon, NECON, or whatever. But they’re expensive, require travel, and lots of weird people go to them. So why would you want to attend one?

I have ten terrific reasons. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun – oh, you want ten different reasons? Figures; after all, you are an artist. Okay, here they are (and not necessarily in this order):

1. The "N" word: Networking. Nothing beats meeting others who are involved in your craft. Editors meet others who have more experience and tips, and offer advice to those just getting started. Writers get together and compare ideas (poets & artists, too). You’ll make contacts in the field or simply meet others within your range of interests. Certainly you already do this through your craft, but face-to-face meetings cement relationships that the US mail may not.

2. Workshops. Lots of conventions have hour-long, afternoon-long, or daylong workshops, no matter what your field is. You’ll gain helpful critiques or learn to critique others’ work in a relaxed atmosphere. This is an especially good opportunity if workshops aren’t normally your thing (too time-consuming, too expensive, etc.), since they are one-shot and are included with the price of admission.

3. Readings/viewings. Pros and amateurs alike have opportunities to read their works in progress and show their creations in Art Shows. You’ll see how an audience responds to your fiction or poetry, or if your artwork generates interest. You’ll also learn a lot just by attending readings and hearing the style and content, and by visiting the Art Show where canvases, sculptures, models, and all manner of creations inspire your own creativity.

4. Panels. You can visit panels on editing, writing, art techniques, the Internet’s influence on publishing, genres, and roundtables on all sorts of subjects. Usually pros (both professionals and amateurs with experience) conduct the panels, opening subjects to questions and general discussion. You’ll get loads of useful information when you bring a notebook and an open mind. As you become more experienced, you may also participate on panels, sharing tips and ideas with other hungry minds. Also, when you participate in programming, you’ll get into the Green Room / VIP rooms and mingle with others who are accomplished in your field, without fan intervention.

5. Autograph sessions. You’ll get books and such autographed by your favorite attending pros, and/or give autographs yourself if you are an attending pro. Some cons feature mass autograph sessions, where all the pros are situated in a huge room; you can meet them, one after another. Other cons specialize in limited, 1/2 hour sessions with a few pros at a time, so you can stop by for a more personal chat.

6. Dealers’ Room. Otherwise known as the Huckster’s room, the wallet guzzler, etc. Whether you ‘re a pro or amateur, writer or artist, bookseller or fan, the Dealers’ Room has booths for you to visit. You’ll find rare and signed copies of your favorite author’s books, prints of the art in the Art Show, special Con-theme related crafts, costuming items, and more. Bring lots to spend, because prices range from reasonable to "I have it and you get to pay", but mostly because you’ll want just about everything there.

7. Meet the fans. This goes hand-in-hand with networking, but meeting fans, wannabe writer/artists, and people who like SF/F/H can be as refreshing as meeting your peers. A lot of fans go in for costuming, gaming, filking (folk singing) and convention planning areas, but you can get an idea of who’s viewing your work and target your audience a little more accurately.

8. Circulation. Don’t isolate yourself! It’s easy to consider work and your artist space as enough to boost your creativity and productivity, but you can pigeonhole yourself if you don’t get out and see something of the industry and genre-related events. Okay, you don’t have to attend every con in your area or affordable range, but one or two a year really offers you a refreshing new perspective. You need to circulate (and have fun, fun, fun...)

9. Further your artistic career. Again, this goes hand-in-hand with networking and meeting the fans, but is more concentrated. After you’ve circulated awhile, and your work and reputation starts to take on a life of its own, you may find that chatting with a professional (a publisher, magazine editor, etc.) generates solicitation. Novel pitches have been successfully made, agents found, and illustrators discovered. If you’re good and reliable, why not you too?

10. PAR-TAY!!! Yeah! The best reason is the after-hours parties. Chocolate parties. Beer parties. Publishing house and Convention-bid parties. Informal get-togethers in the lounge. People in the industry love the chance to unwind with their peers, and every con has its legendary discussions, faux pax, or other memorable event related with after-hours activities.

Ten great reasons to visit cons. Actually, there are many more (cool costumes, dances, the Hospitality Suite). Cons don’t have to break the bank if you budget well and start close to home. Check one out and see what you get out of it. You’ll have an unforgettable experience and will come away with a wider perspective of your craft, peers, and audience.

© Copyright 2002, L. J. Bothell

L.J. Bothell is a graphic designer/writer with marketing communications emphasis who lives and temps/freelances in Seattle, Washington. Recent/upcoming writing vacations include Vancouver, BC, France, and Italy. Questions? Contact info@bastmedia.com.

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