This past weekend I attended what I consider my very first convention. If you wanted to me REALLY technical, Con Nooga wasn’t my first: I attended Wizard World Chicago back in 2003, but that was a comic con before comic cons got taken over by television and film. Then in 2006, I attended less than 12 hours of Context in Columbus, Ohio: I wanted to meet Gary Braunbeck and take his workshop, and I also got to meet Catherynne M. Valente and get an autographed copy of Labyrinth.
But in terms of attending a full con and going to panels? Con Nooga was my first. And it was a good, safe con to have as my first: not overwhelming, but more than enough to teach me what I need to do and/or pack for my next convention. I’m already eyeing DragonCon in Atlanta this year. Cherie Priest! Carrie Vaughn! YAY!
So what did I learn? How was Con Nooga? Did I get to meet the magical Seanan McGuire? Talk to the legendary Timothy Zahn? Read on to find out!
First, let’s talk about what I learned:
1) It’s important to pack your toothbrush charger. Sure, I can still use it the old-fashioned way, but my mouth did not feel as clean as it should be.
2) More important: it’s important to PACK THE BOOKS YOU WANT AUTHORS TO SIGN. Yeah, guess who forgot to bring copies of her Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant and Timothy Zahn books? This gal!
3) Bring snacks. Mostly healthy snacks. Why?
4) Because there’s so much great programming you may not get a chance to break for lunch.
5) Register early and reserve your hotel room at the hotel that houses the majority of the events. This way, when you buy too many books, you can just take them to your hotel room rather than carrying them around in an increasingly heavy backpack. Also, the majority of participants will also be staying in said hotel, which means more opportunity for socializing/networking. This also MIGHT alleviate the daily cost of parking.
6) Despite all the great programming, don’t load schedule with back-to-back-to-back-to-back panels. You’ll want a break to eat, let your brain absorb stuff, and to wander the vendor exhibits. And to eat. Yes, I know I said that twice. It was intentional.
7) When you stick your hotel keycard in your badge holder, don’t let the room number face outward. Because people might follow you home. Mind you, that didn’t happen, but I was warned by experts. Thank you, experts!
I’m sure I’ll remember other THINGS, but that’s what’s coming to mind first thing.
Now, who’d I meet? What’d I get?
1) Seanan McGuire: OMG she is the most magical person ever. I’ve always admired the way she carries herself online, and I’ve used her as an example of how to carry oneself as an author in terms of online presence. She’s even more delightful in person and her advice was wonderfully useful. I even got to hear her read the first chapter of the upcoming Pocket Apocalypse out loud. YAY!!! I didn’t buy anything, but I was able to get the two Velveteen books signed because my friend Wendy, who was my partner-in-crime this weekend, bought them for me. Awww….
2) Timothy Zahn: so I’ve been reading the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels ever since I was 15, and Zahn’s work was, naturally, a healthy part of my diet. I ended up chatting with him after a panel, bemoaning a bit how I completely forgot to bring ANYTHING, and he said, “I can fix that for you. I have book plates!” What a wonderful man. He was very kind, very amicable, willing to chat about Star Wars and where it’s going with Disney. It was weird how excited I was to talk to him, but I realized later I shouldn’t be surprised: Star Wars is a huge part of who I am as a fangirl, and to meet the man who essentially defined the Expanded Universe that I know and love was a real honor.
3) David B. Coe, aka D.B. Jackson: I ended up attending several panels that Coe was a part of, and I was very taken with his measured responses and his insight. When I realized D.B. Jackson was his pen name, I was excited to finally be able to buy Thieftaker and get it signed. This is historical fantasy, set in the Revolutionary War, before Sleepy Hollow ever came out. I’ve been jonesing to read this for a few years, so yay. The signed hardcover is waiting in my TBR pile!
4) Jana Oliver: another author I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I’d sampled The Demon Trapper’s Daughter when I first received my Kindle and really liked it, but never picked it up. I corrected that at Con Nooga, bought the book, got it signed, and also picked up Socially Engaged: An Author’s Guide to Social Media, which she co-wrote with Tyra Burton. I know a lot about social media, mind you, but there are things I don’t know, and I figured, why not?
5) Sara M. Harvey: I read Harvey’s debut once upon a time ago, and while it didn’t click for me, there were aspects I liked and I knew that one day I’d be willing to read something else. After sitting through a few of her panels and learning she’d published a book set in Nashville about banshees? Oh, hell yes please! I picked up Music City promptly and chatted her up. A very smart lady, very gracious. Plus, she’s a TN author, and I can’t help but get excited about that.
6) I also picked up Many Genres, One Craft edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller, which was being sold by my friend and SHU colleague Venessa Giunta. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while but haven’t, but there are SO many essays, and many written by people I know and/or have studied under. Venessa described the book as such: “Our entire masters program in 300 pages.” That’s a LOT of info!
There were other trinkets I picked up and gifts I received. I’m now in possession of a cat-eared hat, courtesy of Wendy, as well as the first volume of Hero Cats of Stellar City. I did not know this was a thing. IT IS A THING. I can’t wait to read it. 🙂
As for the panels, I stuck to the writing-track stuff and kind of went with my gut for most of them. In a few cases, I felt the panels were speaking directly to me in terms of what I’m trying to do with my new work schedule and my writing work days, and others I took just as a means of a sanity check and making sure I’m not off base with my own skill set. I’m not. It’s just time to get cracking.
Overall, it was a very successful first con. I met lots of people, many of whom I hope to meet again. I’m so thankful to everyone who made it so wonderful for me, and who knows? Maybe I’ll go back next year. And maybe, one day, I’ll be one of the ones on the panel imparting all of my wonderful wisdom. 😉
In the meantime, this week gets me back on track. Four ten-hour workdays per week, with Friday off as my official Writing Work Day. Time to buckle down, and time to really get rolling with this crazy plan of mine!