Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing Convention Tips

If you’re planning on attending any convention that in some aspect is geared toward writers, I have a few tips to share. These are based on my observations and practices in attending three World Fantasy Conventions.

Before you leave for a convention, make sure you have some business cards with you. I suggest that they at least contain your name (as you would like it to appear in print), Writer as a title (even if you’ve never had anything published) and your email address. Oh, and if you’re currently using something like Chewbacca@hotmail, get a new email address that has your name in it, such as FirstNameLastName@someplace. You may even consider purchasing a domain of your name (it’s relatively cheap to do so).

One other packing note – pack clothes that at least put you in business casual attire. Coats and ties might be a bit too formal, though not necessarily frowned upon, but T-shirts are too informal. Remember that you’re representing yourself as a professional writer (or aspiring to be a professional writer). Business is part of writing, so dress like you’re ready for business.

If you’re attending a convention with few or no contacts, volunteer. This may not be possible at large venues, but WFC accepts volunteers to man the various stations, such as check-in, con suite, programming, etc. Volunteering is a great way to meet other people, both those who are volunteering with you and those whom you’re helping. Plus, you won’t be as nervous as other first-timers if you’re busy doing tasks and have a sense of belonging. I helped with the con suite at my first WFC, and that went a long way in helping me to get my bearings.

If the convention has author readings, attend some. First, this will give you experience in observing how different authors read aloud. Second, you will usually have the chance to meet that author after the reading because the crowds tend to be much smaller for readings than for other events.

Another must is to attend parties. At WFC, there are always parties open to all attendees. They will usually be crowded, but it will give you a chance to interact with people. After you attend several, you will begin to learn which ones are preferable to you based on your interests as well as what you write. Don’t try to maintain a nightly schedule like you would at home; you’re at the convention, so stay up late and sleep in if you need to; parties are where deals are made, writers are promoted and contact information is exchanged.

My final piece of advice is to recharge when you need to. For me, I can quickly become overwhelmed by the crowds and putting myself out there as much as I can, far beyond my comfort level. When it gets to be too much, I retreat to my room to enjoy some quiet time or even take a nap (very helpful if you’ve been up late attending parties). For short conventions, this may not be necessary, but for ones that span multiple days, find time for yourself when you can.