Roundtable: Conventions Part IV, Finding Your Tribe
Last time we talked about the fact that cons aren’t always welcoming. (You can also see Part I and Part II.) However, some folks walk into their very first cons and simply find that they’re at home. Today we hear from Ellen Klages, Theodora Goss, Tim Pratt, Liz Hand, Paul Graham Raven, and Karen Joy Fowler.
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First con I ever went to was Potlatch 2, a small regional SF (San Francisco, in this usage) and Seattle/Portland con.
I was working with Pat Murphy at the Exploratorium at the time, and she invited me to a party on Friday night. Weird science-fiction people. I was skeptical, but went anyway. Someone gave me a name badge, and all evening people would come up, greet me as if they knew me, see the badge, and say, “You’re not Patty Peters.” I wasn’t. Am not, never have been. Didn’t even know who she was, but apparently many people thought there was a strong resemblance.
A couple hours into the party, I finally met Patty Peters. She’d been told her doppelganger was around. (We did not see the resemblance…) We laughed, and then we switched badges.
For the rest of the evening, people who came up and said, “You’re not Patty Peters” would look at my badge and say, “Oh. Wait. What!?”
It was a hoot. There was free beer and people sang Tom Lehrer songs, impromptu and acapella.
I’d found my tribe.
I love going to conventions. My first one may have been a Boskone, way back before I’d published anything. A friend introduced me to James Patrick Kelly as a writer, and he asked me if I’d published anything, and I had to admit I hadn’t. But the next summer, he was one of my instructors at Clarion. The first convention in which I actually participated was a Readercon. I’d published a couple of short stories, and wrote to ask if I could be a participant. I was put on programming, and ended up moderating a panel with Samuel Delaney, who was the most gracious panelist. Now I go to conventions regularly: Boskone, ICFA, Wiscon, Readercon, World Fantasy.
I find that a lot of work gets done at conventions. I walk around the dealers’ room talking to the small presses, and we come up with anthology ideas. Editors I run into ask me for short stories. It’s sort of casual and random, but whenever I come home from a convention, I find that I have new ideas and projects. And editors, agents, publishers have seen me and know that I’m around and available. So going to conventions makes my writing life easier and more productive. I don’t know if this would be true for someone just writing novels for the large publishing houses, but since I’m involved in so many smaller projects, going to conventions allows me to talk to the people I’m working with. They’re also good places to do interviews.
So, while I enjoy conventions and socializing with other writers, and I certainly learn a lot (usually from listening to specific people, like Sharyn November, Ellen Datlow, John Clute), they’re also places where I find that I’m accomplishing things without really thinking about it.
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