Morgan’s Complete Guide For Attending A Convention

As I contemplate approximately 82 panels that sounded great for me to attend in under 4 days, I realized it’s time for me to share my complete guide for attending conventions.

Should You Attend A Convention?

Before deciding to attend any convention, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the focus of this convention?

    There are as many different types of conventions as there are conventions themselves. Some are more professional oriented, some are pitch events, some are workshop focused, some are all about the party. Note: for the geek-oriented conventions I’m mostly referencing, they’re often known as “Cons”.
  • What are the expenses involved?
    • The cost of admission
    • The distance
      • Gas/Parking money or plane/taxi costs
    • Workshop fees (sometimes these are extra)
    • Hotel room (can you room with friends? Is there a crash board for the con offering space in someone else’s room?
    • Food
    • Spending money
    • Can you staff (involved ahead of time, likely for the full convention) or volunteer (sign up, drop in, obligated for a set number of hours) in order to cut costs?
  • How accessible is it?

    If the convention space has been around, you can typically find out from people who have been there before. If not, you can contact the hotel/convention center/etc. Check to see what the convention says about accessibility. If they make it a priority, it should show.
  • How large is the convention?

    Is it a local college con with a couple hundred guests, or the tens of thousands that flood Atlanta for DragonCon? How well do you do with crowds? Size can influence the last two questions.
  • Who are the guests of honor?

    Sometimes, it’s worth splurging for a writer you’ve always loved, an actor you admire, the launch of some new webcomic/movie/whatever.
  • What sort of program events do they have?
    • Ceremonies – opening, closing, awards, etc
    • Panel topics
    • Concerts
    • Screenings
    • Readings
    • Parties
    • Signing
    • Photo Ops
    • Video Games
    • Contests
    • Cosplay
  • Are your friends attending?

    It’s always good to see a familiar — and friendly face in the crowd.

What To Bring To A Convention

  • Clothes

    If this is a geek event, everyone in day clothes will be wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. Do you want to stand out? Or blend in?

    If this is more business oriented, try for a business casual dress. Maybe a geeky t-shirt, with a dress skirt/slacks and blazer?

    Good walking shoes. Typically, you’re going to do a lot of walking on concrete floors. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to be on your feet a lot more than *I* am on an average day.
  • Costumes

    Do you cosplay? Check before you dress up, some conventions (like World Fantasy Con) aren’t into it. Others encourage it (DragonCon)

    Some allow more explicit costumes than others, be sure you know the rules.

    There are conventions with strict photography rules — for hallway pictures, creepy stalkers, and professional photo shoots. Check before you make plans.
  • Food and Drinks

    If you can, bring breakfasts, snacks, and drinks of your choice. Hotels can be very drying, so you’ll need to hydrate more than normal. Especially if you bring in any alcohol.
  • Business Cards, Queries, Pitches, and Chapters

    If you’re going? Network.

    Hand out your business card to anyone who seems friendly.

    If there are pitch sessions, agents, or imprint editors? Have printed copies of your pitch and your queries printed out. And just in case? Have a copy of your first chapter.
  • Electronics

    Some like having laptops, or live tweeting events. Have your electronics, a bag for them, and all your chargers. Bring a spare battery if you can.
  • Notepad and Pens

    I don’t like to take notes on my computer during panels. Instead, I’m scribbling like mad in a new notebook I got just for this con.

    YES. This is an excuse for a new notebook, or to use that one you’ve been hoarding.

    Bring a couple of your favorite pens to write with. Even if you’re doing the laptop thing or phone-ing it in. ūüėČ You might end up with a hallway autograph session, or need to scribble down someone’s room number.

What To Do At A Con

I touched on this briefly, when you were deciding if you should attend, but not everything is in the program book.

  • Panels

    A panel is typically a discussion between 3-6 guests, with a given theme. Usually, there is a moderator to make sure the conversation flows.

    Typically, these are 50 minutes long, with about 5 minutes given to introductions, 30-35 minutes for discussion amongst the guests, and 10-15 minutes for audience questions. Different conventions have different standards, though.

    When picking which panels to attend, there are several factors to consider. I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said I was contemplating 82 panels over 4 days. Luckily, I’ve cut it back to about 65 panels/events at this point.

    And? They’re spread among the same 35 hours, so literally, I can’t do nearly half of them. I’m going to have to pick.

    When I’m torn between panels, these are my decision factors:
    • What’s the panel topic? Is it relevant to my writing? Does it sound interesting? Have I seen it before? Is it a hilarious show? Maybe it’s a relaxing concert?
    • Who’s on the panel? Have I heard them before? (Even if this is your first time, as you go on with the weekend, you’ll often find you have specific panelists you enjoy more than others.) Maybe a panel is one I’ve seen before, but has a whole new cast of characters! Maybe they’re a friend I want to support and love hearing.
    • Do I need a break? Is this my 5th panel in a row? Do I need a nap or food?
    • Will I need to queue up? At WorldCon two years ago, the panels proved far more popular than anticipated, so to get into any panel, you had to queue up an hour before. So, I did.
  • Events

    There are tons of types of events, outside of panels.
    • Signings – from actors, artists, writers and more
    • Dances – everything from folk dance, to raves, to full on fancy dress balls
    • Workshops – these vary in length from a 50 minute panel, to a full day, to the full extended weekend of workshop. The longer it is, or more prestigious the instructor, the more likely it costs extra, and needs to be signed up for ahead of time.
    • Coffee klatches – a word from the 60s or so, when people hung out drinking coffee in kitchens. These are small gatherings with a guest of honor, to have an organic conversation. I think. They intimidate me, so I’ve never been.
    • Parades – certain groups or free for alls! Sometimes costumes are required
    • Ceremonies – most have opening and closing ceremonies. Some have awards ceremonies as well. World Con hosts the Hugo awards.
    • Concerts – Everything from acapella groups to ballroom-sized metal concerts
    • Pitch events! – Some have opportunities to pitch (or practice your pitch) with an actual agent or publisher.

      Pitching live can be a “I’ll sign you now!” sort of thing. But more often, it’s a thanks or no thanks situation.

      With the occasional: “that sounds nice, please query me” (and note that the agent requested in the query’s intro). And that submission? Might be super promising! Or, that agent may just have trouble saying no to your face.
    • Gaming rooms – Board games, video games, LARPing rooms, you can find a lot of stuff going on. And? This can be a great way to get to know new people, without having to resort to the ‘small talk’ many people (wrongfully) disdain.
    • Martial Arts – Demos or classes are often found at conventions. Longsword or jiu jitsu and everything in between.
    • Crafting – Demos or classes are often found at conventions. From fiber arts, to drawing, painting, and glueing together fake steampunk guns.
  • Art Show – Artists of all kinds can submit to have their art displayed. Often many paintings and prints, plus fabric arts, jewelry, woodcraft, pottery, and more. Here, it goes up for a silent auction, with a small piece of paper by it for people to write their bids. Usually, identifying themselves by badge number.

    Like Ebay, there’s often a ‘buy now’ option at a higher price. Often, the artists will have tables with less expensive prints in the Artists’ Alley or Dealers’ room.

    The Art Show usually wraps up on Sunday, or the last day of the con. Sometimes, there’s a live auction (I’ve been known to Vanna White one or two auctions in my day). The rest of the time, if you’re the winning bid, you have until a set time to pay and collect your piece.
  • Shopping

    Some have large vendor rooms, some have segregated “Dealers’ Rooms” (for people selling store merchandise) and “Artists’ Alley” (for people selling homemade goods). Here, you can buy any sort of art, con-themed clothing and costumery, swag, books, and more.

    Sometimes there are ‘room dealers’ who set their own hours working out of hotel rooms.
  • Con Suite

    A life-saver for the budget con-attendee, this is a room to relax, socialize, and SNACK. Sometimes they have oatmeal, cereal bars, bread, and pb&j. These rooms may have more, they may have less, but they’ll have some low level of sustenance for those that need it. (If you have allergies, they may be less helpful.)
  • Party Rooms

    In traditional/older school science-fiction and fantasy conventions, in North America, there is the tradition of a ‘party board’, where room parties are listed. Many are registered ahead of time, and end up assigned a room on the same hall, to keep the noise clustered.

    These are typically door-propped, mild to moderate decorations, some swag, some snacks, and a couple of hosts. If the event/location permits, there may be alcohol. People often ‘party hop’, sticking their heads in each of the party rooms and snagging refreshments before heading to the next one.

    Most of these parties are hosted by other conventions, to try and drum up interest and early memberships to help finance their own convention. Some of them are ‘bid parties’. Both WorldCon and WorldFantasyCon travel from year to year, like the Olympics. And like the Olympics, cities bid to host, votes are cast, and there’s a winner.

    I’ve helped with the DC 2021 WorldCon bid party twice. Luckily, no one is currently running against DC. (Also, both parties I helped with were in Baltimore, so the locals are fans, anyway.)

    There are often invite-only parties. Or so I’ve heard. These typically do have alcohol (and some even check IDs to avoid any legal issues). Some people even hire bouncers.
  • Socialize

    There are people around you, interested in the stuff you’re there to see. Talk to them. Admire something to them. Play games with them.

    The key to networking is — make friends.

    NOTE: If you see an agent at a convention — if they’re in the program, you can approach them — as long as they’re not in a rush somewhere, or look to be in a serious conversation. Just give your one line pitch after an introduction (or more conversation). Do not hand them query letters, or manuscripts, or more.

    If they’re not in the program? They’re probably there for meetings, or off the clock and you should leave them alone.


    If this is your first — or even second time at a particular convention, you may feel a bit left out. It seems like everyone else knows each other, everyone else is having an amazing time, and you’re locked out. But these are fans, and they love talking about their fandoms. It can take 3 or more times at a given con before it starts feeling like home. These are relationships that have been built in short weekends, spread over years. You have to put in the time to get there, but if you’re open to meeting new people, there will be people open to meeting you.

    There’s also a thing informally known as ‘Bar Con’, where the writers and agents hang out at the bar. This is a time to socialize with them and/or buy them drinks. NOT a time to do more than a single line pitch, IF they ask.

Take Care Of Yourself

To be respectful of others, you need to respect yourself and not push your limits. Don’t skip more than 1 shower. Don’t skip more than 1 meal. Don’t skip more than 1/2 of a night’s sleep. You’ll feel better about yourself, look more approachable to others, and you’ll have more patience and energy.

Hotels and convention centers are among the most dehydrating places on earth. I’ve been known to bring humidifiers when attending winter conventions to stave off colds. You’ll need to drink at least 8 ounces of water more than you normally would, just to stave that off. (More, if you plan to drink alcohol.)

If you’ve forgotten or lost your toiletries, you can ask the hotel staff or acquire some at the hotel’s store. If that fails, ask the con suite staff. They should be able to discreetly track you down some deodorant or toothpaste.

HOW TO BEHAVE

  • When you arrive at the convention

    Typically, if you’re staying at the hotel, you’ll want to check in first. Many don’t allow check-in before 4pm (to give them time to clean all the rooms after the 11am-1pm check-out time). If you’re early, you often can leave your bags with the concierge (although a tip will be expected)

    Next, you’ll want to find the convention’s own registration. This might be an hours-long line, or a 2 minute stop. You’ll need to have your ID on you, and if you haven’t pre-paid, money. They’ll give you a badge and sometimes a program guide and a map.

    If you aren’t pressed for time, I encourage you to scope out where the panels you plan to attend are, where the event rooms are, and where the restroom is.
  • At a panel
    • Try to arrive 5 minutes early. Be settled before the panelists begin.
    • Make sure your phone/alarms are turned off (or at least on silent)
    • Don’t take up more than one seat if there’s a decent-sized audience.
    • Feel free to take notes! Paper or laptop.
    • If you get a chance to ask a question, don’t be “That Guy”
      • Have a concise question
      • Remember that the audience is here to listen to the panelists, not you
      • Don’t use this as a chance to make an analogy to your own novel or gaming world
      • Don’t use this as an opportunity to show how clever you are and/or how you should have been on the panel
      • I know you wouldn’t do that, but there always seems to be one person who thinks they’re not just making everyone roll their eyes, (including the panelists they might be trying to impress).
    • If the panel didn’t address what you thought it would, this is a great time to ask their opinion on what you were hoping to hear them talk about in the first place. Or maybe you wanted them to go more in depth on something they touched on. These are all good questions!
    • If you must leave early (or it’s not what you expected, or you’re bored), look at your watch/phone with a startled expression, gather your things quietly, mouth “Sorry” in slow motion to the panelists at the front of the room, then slip out with as little ruckus as possible. I promise you, most people would rather watch the panelists than you.
  • In General
    • Be open to new experiences.
    • Chat with people, if it doesn’t happen organically? Hit the gaming room. Volunteer to help the con.
    • Attend something con related, don’t just hang with your friends or hide in your room
    • If you spot someone in costume, or someone famous in the halls, and you want to approach, evaluate the situation.
      • Do they look rushed or exhausted or closed off? They may need some downtime, or be late. Leave them alone.
      • Are they in a deep conversation with someone else? Leave them alone.
      • If they look relaxed, be respectful and courteous. Start with an introduction and maybe a compliment. Don’t be fake or fawning. “Hi, I thought your work in X was so very well something.” or “Hi, amazing work on the costume-part.”
        • Do NOT compliment a body part. Compliment something they can change in less than a week. Hair, costume, accessories, etc.
      • If they don’t seem irritated and you’d like a photograph or autograph, ask. “Do you mind autographing this/if I get a picture?
      • Just because they’re already getting their photograph taken, doesn’t mean you can whip out your camera.
        • They might know the other person/people – and asked them to take their picture so they have a record later.
        • They might be trying to get somewhere else – like a panel, or the bathroom!

After The Con

Some people hit their limit and are ready to leave. Many of us linger and want to catch last minute hugs and waves.

When you get home, odds are you’re going to want a nap. Probably some water, and maybe even some vegetables. Who knows?

Watch out for an energy drop, that’s not just the need for a nap, commonly known as “con drop”.

You’ve just been in ‘on’ mode for 2+ days. For many, this is a unique opportunity to be surrounded by other fans, where your interests are common, not unique. There’s a particular energy for each convention. When you leave that, you can feel isolated. Or irritable. Or just plain exhausted.

Cons are rather manic and leaving them can leave you depressed.

The trick to handling con drop is to know what you need.

For me? It’s often water, naps, and downtime. Then writing up my con-report and posting online, trying to connect with everyone else who was there.

For others? They may need to cave for three days. Or? They might want to schedule dinner plans the next few nights so they don’t go from 100% socialization to nothing.


Taking care of yourself doesn’t end just because you’re home. But with any luck? You’ll enjoy yourself and be ready for the con to return.

Let me know if I missed anything! And check back next week for more writing tips and writerly musings.

My Technique For Dealing With Multiple Muses

If you’re a writer, you’ve usually had more than one idea. Different characters, premises, worlds, or what-have-you all fighting for your attention. Typically, the ideas pour in when you’re deep in the middle of writing another story, and dry up when you finish it.

It can be hard to figure out where you should focus.

For me? These tips are how I handle competing novel novel ideas. (all puns are good puns.)

1. Focus on writing one story at a time

There are tons of people who fight with multiple muses, and lose. They end up leaving the scattered remains of half-finished stories and novels behind them, in their pursuit of working only on the freshest and most compelling idea.

If this works for you, have at.

For most of us, though, I highly suggest picking one–the one with the clearest story concept.

Now, if you’ve lost the story thread or have given it your honest best-effort and feel like it’s not coming together, I’m not saying you can’t switch stories. You’re not committed to finish every story you start.

But. moving on, simply because your writing starts taking effort is, for most of us, going to mean that you never finish a story. The choice is up to you.

Personally, I like to switch it up after a draft, and explore a different story and world. Then again, we all know, I’m still hopelessly devoted to my first completed manuscript.

2. Write Down Your Story Ideas

I know, it’s a stereotypical writer image — scrambling for a napkin or bedside journal to write down some stray random thought or dream… BUT DO IT!

Dreams and stray thoughts are where most story ideas come from. That, and playing a game of ‘what if’, followed by rationalized consequences.

For me, I have a draft email, that I can access on my computer or phone at anytime (because I’m a bit attached to my phone. One might say I’m addicted) and I write down my thought or concept.

I find often, so long as I record the concept and imagery, such that I feel confident that looking back on these notes will remind me of the idea, that I can return to my current work in progress, knowing this idea is waiting for me.

And usually? My ideas are small snippets that need more exploration and growth before they can become a full-fledged story. That’s why I read them over every so often and see if I can add details to them.

Where do I read them over? That brings me to my next tip.

3 – Organize Your Idea Notes

The biggest problem with tip #2 is finding all those little ideas when you’re ready to start your next story. If they’re all on different scraps of paper, random pages in twenty journals, scattered throughout the places you go in your daily life, it’ll be hard to look them over and decide your next move.

So, consolidation is KEY.

For me? I have all of my story ideas in one email draft, so I can see them in one place. Plus, by being electronic, I can re-order the collected ideas, so that similarly-themed ones are grouped together. I don’t know about you, but oftentimes, I have ideas that overlap with ones I’ve had in the past. Probably because certain themes and concepts just appeal to me strongly and I like exploring them.

4 – Re-read and Build On Your Notes

I’ve already alluded to this, and I know it feels a lot like tip 3? But, when you organize your ideas, often times they grow and change.

When you revisit your idea notes, this is when you can see if any of them have been percolating in the back of your head, sprouting from a story seed. (Any more metaphors I can toss in there?)

Sometimes? I delete ideas. Either I’ve already used it, lost the thread, or realize the reason I haven’t done something with this idea is that the concept seemed novel, but doesn’t really work for me.

I’ve been known to write a page or so as a story sampler, trying to find a voice and setting for the concept. Just be sure to keep it someone searchable and label it!


Managing muses can be hard. It can be a struggle to focus on one, when there are so many ideas fighting for your attention. This is writing, not math, there is no definitive right answer. Only you can decide which story to focus on today.


How do you manage your story ideas?

Any tips of the trade that I missed? I love hearing from y’all.

Strength Isn’t Just For The Strong

At WorldFantasyCon, I attended a panel by this same name. Going into the panel, I expected a discussion of different types of strengths being compared to the default of physical strength. Instead, the panel veered into magical strength and stayed there.

Defining Strength

Of course, we addressed the titular topic, but the conversation just kept swaying magical.

Strength can be just an overwhelming level of power. But, to use one’s strength to accomplish one’s goals of any type is a form of competence. Be it physical, mental, mystical, or magical, without competence you end up with more of a firestorm than a laser.

Things Magic Can Represent

Magic can just be the extraordinary, but often in fantasy, it’s a way of discussing real-world issues without bringing all the baggage that its real-world counterpart has accumulated.

  1. The hubris of the human spirit
  2. It’s often an allegory for privilege or power
    1. In worlds where magic is bad – the main character is often non-magical
    2. In worlds where magic is good – the main character is often magical

Ways Magic Can Influence A Society

When certain people have power that others don’t have access to, that’s going to disrupt the social order. Just like any other sort of wealth or power.

  1. Innate magic leads to a more stringent class hierarchy
  2. Gained or earned magic tends to be in worlds with greater social mobility
  3. Availability of magic determines if it’s rare or commonplace — expensive or cheap.
  4. If magic is inherent in a place or object, that gives power to those who possess that place/object (ley lines/hubs, Dune’s dust…)

Tropes For Different Strengths

There are a lot of tropes when it comes to giving characters strengths and powers. Some are more overdone than others.

  1. Magic users are seen as more intelligent
  2. Magic types as innately light or dark
  3. Magic as a tool
  4. Magic based societies not developing more mechanical technology alongside it
  5. Using an outsider or non-magical person to introduce us to the magical world
  6. Using magic to solve everything
  7. Giving poor characters fewer skills, rather than different ones
    1. Try having a farmboy where his farming skills come in handy
  8. ‘Leveling’ the main character up everytime there’s a new boss

Types of Strengths For Villains

Heroes aren’t the only ones with strengths. Any respectable foe needs to have some strengths of their own.

  1. Some villains share the main character’s strengths… but let their moral convictions prevent them from doing the right thing or rationalize their way into the wrong thing.
  2. Some villains have good — or at least understandable motives — but their methods and the lengths they go, using their strengths to achieve their objective cross the line into monstrous.
  3. Some villains are the protagonist of their own story. The strength of their moral convictions — like Magneto in the X-Men. He might be on the wrong side, but I can’t say he’s wrong.

What sort of strengths do you have? Your core competencies?
What about your main characters and your villains?
Do they balance each other?


The panelists were Fonda Lee, Carol Cummings, Marissa Lingen, and Rhiannon Held.

New Year’s Resolutions: Dusting off my shelved manuscripts

As January firmly establishes itself, this might seem a bit late for a resolutions post, but I always planned to take January off from writing and relax some, so you haven’t missed anything.

For me, this is going to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.

Blogging/Vlogging

I’ve got such a lovely streak going here, I’d hate to break it. So, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday on writing tips or writerly musings.

When I have them lined up, I’ll be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.

Plus, I’m contemplating maybe a picture post on the weekends. I’m debating if Saturday or Sunday is better. Suggestions?

Reading

They say one can’t be a writer without reading. And, finding out what’s new and good in your genre is research, right? Although, that doesn’t mean I won’t do plenty of ‘for fun’ reading.

My goal is to read 26 books this year, one every other week on average. (Although, I tend to read in binges.) I’m looking at taking breaks from writing to focus on downtime and reading in January, MarchMay, and July. And I hope that planning intentional breaks will help fight the feeling of being on a never-ending treadmill, where I fail if I let myself take a break.

So far? I’ve read a couple romances and all 4 books in Charlie Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series. I think I’m off to a good start.

Revising

I’m sitting on a backlog of 4 manuscripts in various states — mostly collecting dust. It’s time to fix that.

I got some great feedback from a critique partner back in November for Manuscript #1 (a secondary world young adult fantasy), but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow. I have been brainstorming and messaging with the critiquer on ways to fix it. But I took December and January off, partially sulking, partially trying to figure out how to solve the issues mentioned. I’m going to let the ideas percolate a bit more and plan to hold off until February before implementing my fixes.

Then, in April, I’m going to pull out MS #2 — the sequel to MS #1.

In June, I’m going to pull out either MS #3 (my gender-bent Robin Hood) or MS #4 (my middle-grade contemporary fantasy, where the more you connect with what you read, the more your world shifts to be like it… physically!)

Querying

Once MS #1 has been revised, again, I’m marching into the query trenches once more.

Starting in March, I intend to send out 3 queries a week for 4 months, unless I get an R&R. If it goes no where, I’ll contemplate edits in August.

Beta Readers

I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on MS #2 (May) and MS #3 or #4(July).  Readers for MS #2 will, by necessity, be people who have beta read or critiqued MS #1, but for the others, I’m open to a small pool of new readers.

I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.

If my Alpha reader’s schedule permits, I’ll send my manuscripts to her for quick feedback, but otherwise, these may just go straight to my beta readers.

In August and September, I’ve blocked time to incorporate the feedback — at least for MS #2. And perhaps, some updates for MS #1 (either as query feedback suggests, or to better set up MS #2’s plotting).

Conventions

I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and WorldCon (August) in Dublin (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon… but after they’d already started sending out panel invites, so I may have been too late there. We’ll see. (Keep your fingers crossed!)

Writing

Hmmm, there’s very little actual writing on this project plan, but sometimes, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Besides, I’ve been assured that editing and revising and brainstorming ARE part of the writing process.

Plus? I don’t have a big idea pushing on me right now.

That said, I intend to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo.

If I don’t have an idea by then, I’ll do a rebel NaNo and revise whichever manuscript hasn’t been touched.


And that’s my plan for the year. If you got a little lost, here’s the plan in chart form.

I’ll be focusing on reading every other month until the last quarter, revising most of my backlog, querying, a couple conventions, and a bit of writing.


What does your plan look like for 2019?

Did you build in flexibility?

World Fantasy Con, Writers Workshops, and NaNoWriMo. Oh, my!

Your friendly, neighborhood writer-blogger-vlogger-voice actress has been BUSY!

Two weekends ago, I attended a writers’ workshop put on by my local writer’s group, Write By The Rails. Unfortunately, I had to miss the end of it.

Why? You might ask.

To hit my regional NaNoWriMo kickoff party!

Then, this past week, my day job was busy enough that I managed to take Friday off without having to burn any¬†leave… to attend my first World Fantasy Con — including my panel debut!

And, of course, that doesn’t include finishing up OctPoWriMo, Halloween, keeping up with my blog and vlog, and a little thing called NaNoWriMo!

It’s been a little frantic here at Morgan’s lair.

As always, I’ll be sharing my panel notes, (although, some were more recommended reading lists) but first, I’m going to be sharing my experiences with you.

The writing workshop

It was a cool, rainy fall¬†morning when I parked on the street in front of the full church parking lot, and prayed I’d read the parking regulations correctly. I asked a gentleman, walking across the parking lot if I was in the right place, and he confirmed.

I followed the sidewalk to the side door and found myself in the foyer of the church where the workshop was taking place. Once I’d hung my jacket and gotten my nametag from the table in the hall, I corrected my nameplate and found a seat at the large circular table toward the middle of the room. After a quick introduction to my fellow tablemates, I pulled out my notepad and settled in.

As always, the Write By The Rails crowd was enthusiastic, supportive, and welcoming.

The first panel was on marketing and took a local view. Most of the tips were more useful for non-fiction and novels set in the local area, but there was information about getting coverage for book launches and more.

We took a short break to look at all the books for sale by local authors. Manassas has a decent selection of local novels. Even most of the self-published books are high quality and make me proud to be associated with them.

Next up was a panel on memoirs. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be open to writing a memoir, but it was fascinating to hear the thought process that goes into it, how it differs from a biography, and the process for finding the theme that pulls the memoir together.

Finally, the topic nearest and dearest to my heart. Fiction novelists. The panelists were skilled, knowledgeable, and wrote in my genre.

Altogether, there were four panels: marketing, memoirs, novel writing, and poetry, I missed the last one. As always, I took copious notes on all — except that last one. Despite my OctPoWriMo inspired interest in poetry, I’d already committed to attending my regional NaNoWriMo kickoff party.

The NaNoWriMo kickoff party

NaNoWriMoI’d seriously joined NaNoWriMo in 2013, but didn’t attend my first in-person event until after I’d started this blog. This was my 3rd kickoff party.

I like going and meeting my local writing community. The circles overlap, but by no means encompasses those who are in the other local groups, and that weekend, I was determined to find my inner extrovert. (outer extrovert?)

I drove through the rain and made it to the library’s basement parking deck 10 minutes before kickoff time. I headed up the stairs, finding a conference room right where I remembered it from last year. The first room you get to at the top of the stairs. I held my breath, hoping it was in the same place.

Peeking in, I spotted the chairs in a circle, and the tables set up for food and drink offerings. With a sigh of relief, I headed in and signed up, adding my genre and motivation to the group display board as requested. Got my raffle ticket (and skipped putting my name on it, cause it was numbered) and goodie bag, and went about introducing myself to those near my chair (carefully selected to be right next to the snack table.)

Once we got going, everyone was asked to introduce themselves, share their NaNoWriMo forum name, years writing, and talk about this year’s project. When they got to me, my regional liaisons introduced me as our resident blogger. So I knew what I had to do.

“Hi, my name is Morgan Hazelwood. You can find me on the forums as morganHazelwood. And since I’m our resident blogger, you can find my blog over on morganHazelwood.com.”

“Folks. That’s! How you do branding,” our liaison laughed.

So, when we got to the raffle (a table full of items, in which our raffle only indicated the order of picking something off the table), I got a lot of grief for being basically the only person who DIDN’T put their name on their table.

I re-met people from previous years, chatted with first-timers, and never-finisheders. And I hope to see most of them, if not in person, then on the new-to-our-region discord chat rooms.

Plus, I ate way too many snacks, I couldn’t even finish my amazingly decadent peanut butter cupcake.

OctPoWriMo

Exploring poetry in all its forms.

               OctPoWriMo              31 Poems in 31 days

Until OctPoWriMo, my main experience with poetry was class assignments and teenage flirtations with boys and paganism.

I think my biggest surprise was how quickly I could turn a theme into a poem that I didn’t hate. I don’t think I spent more than 15 minutes on anything except my sonnet (not counting typos while inking them.)

Overall, I think I would do poetry again. Either for a themed contest or anthology or as a writing exercise to get the words flowing. Perhaps, to keep up with writing when stuck in the editing doldrums and feel like being creative.

(If you missed them, here’s week 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

Blog/Vlog

Clearly, I was still vlogging and blogging the last two weeks, with those poetry roundups, some author spotlights, and of course, my weekly blog and vlog posts.

Last week’s blog and vlog were done after spending 6-8pm handing out candy while debugging code for my day job.¬† Then, I finished drafting and editing my post, set up my camera, and went to work. After my second take, I found out that the audio wasn’t what I like, but I tried both my plug-in camera and my built-in laptop one. With midnight coming quickly and a long day at work ahead of me, I went ahead and posted what I could. Then did a round of packing for World Fantasy Con and snuck in 110 words right after midnight.

I’ve been working on making my non-panel write-up blog posts more personalized, while still having useful tips that can help other writers. (Let me know how I’m doing.)

Since people’s interest peak’s the week after an event like a writers’ workshop or a convention, I’m torn between blogging my NaNoWriMo stuff and my panel write-ups. So. Expect a mix.

My NaNoWriMo progress thus far

NaNoWriMo kicked off on a 12 hour work day, with a 2-hour drive for me to check into a convention. With work keeping me as late as it did, though, the drive was cut to about an hour twenty, but I spent a bit too long in the ConSuite saying hi and settling in.

I ended the first day with 660 words, a thousand shy of the target. On day 2, I found the NaNoWriMo room at WorldFantasy, settled in, and squeaked out exactly 1,667 words. It was a great space and something I hope to find in more conventions — during NaNoWriMo or not. The only thing I would have added is extension cords and maybe an additional power strip or two. At a different event, allowing artists with their sketchbooks or quiet reading in the space might also work.

Day 3, my writing break was cut short 250 words shy of the target because I had to go to a panel — my debut as an actual panelist. After all the panels I’ve written up, this is the first one I’ve participated in. Day 4, between getting home, a nap, and visiting with my brother(sushi + binge-watching season 1 of The Good Place), I finally managed to get my daily target of words in just before midnight but was lagging almost a day for the month.

Fortunately, I’d taken Monday off work, and narrowed the gap in a long and distracted writing afternoon. My word target is amazing, it can expand to take however long I have to reach. Tuesday, I finally caught up and am now keeping on track!

nanoWeek1_2018

World Fantasy Con!

The Baltimore Renaissance Hotel

Since Balticon is my ‘home convention’ and where I met many of those who convinced me to attend World Fantasy, I’m very familiar with the space. It’s a bit expensive to stay there, and parking is ridiculous…

But the first convention I worked was at the Gaylord National in National Harbor, Md. After that hotel, there are very few places that would give me sticker shock. And the Renaissance’s layout has nothing on the Gaylord, where only 2 elevators even reach the convention center.

Coming in the night before was worth it to me to miss the expected traffic and allowed me to settle in before the crowds got there. Although, “crowd” is a relative term. Balticon is noticeably larger, even when it’s not the 50th anniversary.

Working The Con

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Morgan, wearing a Charles Babbage (and Ada Lovelace on the back) locket, eating squash soup, root veggies, and rice.

In the past, I’ve worked in guest relations for an anime convention. Liaisoning with the invited panelists and speakers, making sure their transportation and sleeping arrangements are made, their table (should they want one) is set up, that they’re fed and hydrated, and that they make it to those panels. That job is 24-7, from the day before the convention, sometimes until the day after it ends.

This time? I’d signed up to staff the ConSuite.

For those who don’t know. The ConSuite is a thing that exists at most fan-run conventions. Typically, it’s a hotel suite with snacks to tide one over and a place to hang out and chat with your friends past midnight that isn’t trying to sell you stuff.

At World Fantasy? They kicked it up a notch with slow cooker oatmeal in the mornings, full sandwich spreads, hot dinners, and leftovers from all the receptions. Not to mention, the expected snacks and candies.

Plus? As a new staff member, whose schedule didn’t permit me to help load or unload the supplies, they’d scheduled me 7pm-11:30pm on Friday and Saturday only. That left my days free for panels, and my evening free for parties and BarCon (i.e. The hotel bar, where writers/agents/etc hang out and network). I did end up missing the mass book signing and the art gallery receptions, which were far more of an event than I’m used to from less formal conventions, but I wouldn’t have traded my shift for any other.

Networking and New Friends

I’d been introduced to one of the ConChairs (organizers and coordinators) of World Fantasy back in May, when I ended up helping him co-host the DC 2021 bid party for WorldCon (they want to host it, currently, no one is campaigning against them). (As opposed to World Fantasy Con). He invited me in as ConSuite staff, made sure to introduce me to new people everytime I ran into him, and helped me raid the ConSuite after-hours for a post-daylight-saving-time-rollback-snack.

I ended up staying up past 2 am both Friday and Saturday nights, talking with people and having some quality conversations.

In the ConSuite, I met a ton of people–some new people, some vaguely remembered from cons past, and some fondly remembered. I chatted with them, shared my business card and Anansi’s business card, and found several more writers, bloggers, and artists I need to follow.

I’m now a member of Broad Universe. An inclusive network to support women writers of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. As part of their more real-world support methods, they get tables at conventions that members can use for free (well, working a shift or 3) and they organize group readings.

I even networked on the elevator ride out of the con, Sunday afternoon. The gentleman emailed me links to the novel and non-fiction that he’s written on Monday. I’m working on my own follow-ups — emailing notes to thank people for their conversations and recommendations — especially those I’d love to chat with again.

World Fantasy Convention, Washington, D.C., November 1 - 4, 2018

My Debut Panel

At 5pm on Saturday, I made my debut as a panelist. I’d suggested several writing topics — beta reading, editing, querying, even social media. Instead, they realized I’d listed ‘voice actor’ on my list of qualifications. I’m a voice actor for Anansi Storytime, a folktale audio drama podcast, and, of course, I have my no-edits lazy vlog.

Thus, I found myself on Talking The Talk: Audiobooks from Fantasy Works. The panel was moderated by the award-winning Guy Gavriel Kay. My fellow panelists were Simon Vance, of literally over a thousand audiobooks, and Jessica Albert, from the small press EWC Press in Canada, where she manages the casting and creation of their audiobooks.

Guy Kay took his job as a moderator seriously and reached out to us a week before the convention, showing he’d clearly researched us all. He eagerly offered to pivot to include my experiences and discuss the differences in podcasting versus audiobooks, plus the difference between managing a voice project and being the voice for it.

The night before, I organized my notes as if I were about to vlog, and made sure to get all the equipment and process details from Anansi’s producer, in case that came up. I kept my notebook on my lap throughout the panel but never opened it. No one else was looking at notes, except Guy Kay, confirming the questions he was asking.

In person, he was no less gentlemanly and thorough, taking time to cater each question to address our particular specialties. I managed to provide a few answers I’m proud of.

At one point, though, I’d answered a question, I *knew* I’d answered the question, but the exact wording of it had escaped me, such that, when the time came, I couldn’t summarize my thoughts. I had to turn to Guy Kay and say, “I’m sorry, I got lost. What was the question again?”

As soon as I got back to my room, after the panel, I realized exactly what I *should* have said. And will say if I have this issue in the future. “Does that answer your question?”

A friend I’d met a few Balticons ago was there and took my picture for me before the panel. Then, he shared his favorable impressions in a quick post-mortem afterward. (Thank you!)

morganFirstPanel

(And I found a round-up on twitter.)

Overall, I feel my performance was pretty solid, and that I could have really shone on the topics I blog about. I think I’ll sign-up to panel again.


And that’s it. That’s what I’ve been up to for the past two ridiculous weeks.

What have you been up to?