Apologies if this post is a bit UK-centric, but ~95% of my ‘blog traffic is UK-based so I can’t imagine there are going to be a flood of angry comments following this going up.
So here’s what I’ve been thinking. If you’re a writer (or a blogger, or a genre fan in general) then 2014 is a great year for conventions. If you’ve never been to one before, or only a couple and it hasn’t quite stuck, or if you’ve been thinking about it, then this is the year.
Bear with me on this. I know cons aren’t for everyone. They cost money (writing not being a profession that is naturally associated with great wealth), time, and can require some inconvenient travel arrangements. You absolutely do not have to go to cons to be successful, and con attendance is absolutely, positively not a promise of success.
But they are damn good fun.
So why is 2014 so good? Firstly, there are a lot of conventions on, and they are all over the place. If you live in the UK, there’s a good chance that at some point this year one of the larger cons will be within reasonable travelling distance. There’s Eastercon in Glasgow in the middle of April; Fantasycon in York in September; Londoners are spoiled for choice with Worldcon and Nine Worlds blocking out half of August. Throw Bristolcon, Thought Bubble, and Edge Lit into the mix, and that’s a *packed* year. If you write crime? Harrogate is the date for your diary. That’s off the top of my head and I don’t doubt for a second I’ve missed some.
Secondly, 2014 is a good time to go to conventions because there is so much cross-over between the genre community at conventions and online. It’s one massive conversation, constantly ongoing, always developing, and it’s exciting and fun to be a part of it. There’s a whole community out there, right now, and they are (for the most part) a ridiculously friendly and welcoming bunch.
The very first convention I went to, I talked to four people in total. I went for an extended walk and sat by myself at one point because I was convinced that they were talking to me out of pity and that they were just too polite to ditch me. It wasn’t until I went onto Twitter and started looking up people who had also been at the con (*cough* stalker *cough*) that I realised that feeling – that fear – was not unique to me. There were a lot of people just as eager as me, and at the same time just as anxious.
So, when it came to the second convention, I gave myself the order to show up. Say hi, introduce myself, have a conversation. Enjoy spending time with a group of people who not only read the books I do, but read more, know more. It was the best decision.
I don’t know how much value conventions have had for me as a writer. I can’t quantify it as a sum of money or in terms of how I feel they have advanced my (fledgling) career. I deliberately try to avoid thinking of them in those terms because it would feel a little bit mercenary to do so. It’s only happened to me once, but I have had someone cast their gaze around the room the instant they discovered I wasn’t either a publisher or published – it’s not very nice at all.
I will say, though, that without the friends I’ve made, these past five years or so would have been a lot less fun. Were it not for some of them, it’s possible I would have thrown in the towel long before now.
So, what cons are you going to? And which ones have I missed?