In the last couple of years, I’ve attended several academic conferences as well as San Diego Comic-con and SLC FanX. I want to talk for a minute about Comic-cons, particularly because they usually get a bad rap. Not as much as they used to now that pop culture, movies, comics, video games, books, etc. have started to blur lines. Still, I know a lot of people who think that cons are beneath them for whatever reason. But as a writer, I'll go to them any chance I get. Here are five reasons why:
1. Fans. You’ll never find a place with more weird/interesting/zealous personalities. There’s nowhere like a con for finding people who are passionate about their fandom. They are quirky and smart and fun and great fodder for writing characters! And who knows? One day, they might be your audience.
2. Authors. So many great ones attend! Veronica Roth, Margaret Atwood, Brandon Sanderson, G.R.R Martin, Rainbow Rowell, and James Dashner are a few examples of authors currently attending different Comic-cons. You can meet them and attend panel discussions about their work. There are so many authors who attend, that at any given con, there is bound to be someone for everyone!
In addition to famous authors, there are also usually a lot of local and fringe writers who have gotten over the first hump of publishing a book, but may not have the fame or success yet. These authors speak on panels and sign autographs and are often more likely to have time to talk to you one-on-one.
3. Networking. Networking can be one of the biggest obstacles for authors and finding chances to meet other writers, editors, and agents can be rare. At cons, they often have chances for writers and artists to pitch their ideas. While these are great, it’s also a good chance to talk with agents or editors as normal human beings who share similar interests and fandoms. These relationships can extend long after the con is over—both online and in person.
4. Perspective. Con panels and booths are great resources for determining current trends—which books are doing well enough that the authors are guests. But they’re also great for gaining new perspectives in different topics than you might normally be interested in. One thing that I would recommend is finding a panel for someone in your genre that you haven't heard before, and see what they have to say. Or find an author or genre panel that you know nothing about. Listen to random people talk. Try something/someone you would never try and see what you learn. Ask questions. Interact in panels. Always learn something from every situation.
5. Ideas. From costumes and personalities to panels to fan fiction and independent artists, cons are a melting pot of ideas. See a guy selling dragon skulls? A woman wearing a leather corset and pink ringlets? Meet a cute boy you can imagine dragging behind a booth to, er, compare your Doctor Who shirts? Whether you write Adult or Young Adult, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, or whatever, the inspirations for ideas are absolutely endless.
I believe that conferences are a lot of fun and can also be a great tool for learning new skills, meeting new people, and exposing your mind to new ideas.
And besides, though it has nothing to do with being a better writer, you get to meet people that you idolize—people who have worked hard to create characters you love.
Like Captain Mal and Jayne.
Or Judge Dredd/John Kennex.
What about you? Besides writing conferences, are there other types of cons you like to attend?