This weekend I almost went to my second-ever Con. I was all mentally-prepared to go. I assumed that was my plan for the long weekend. What a great chance to exercise my writerly-networking skills, right?
And then Dear Wife asked a couple leading questions: not saying I shouldn’t go but asking what I was going to do when I went… Which got me thinking: what would I do if I went to Dragon*Con this weekend?
Dragon*Con seemed like a no-brainer. It is a major convention in a reasonable proximity to where I actually live. Lots of major editors, authors, agents, and pop-culture F&SF heroes would be there. What’s not to love? Except the sticker shock. (A weekend pass costs how much? I sputtered. And a day pass isn’t exactly cheap, either. I know major theme parks that cost a lot less for a few day’s fun.) But what really got me thinking was my lack of a real plan. Sure some authors and other luminaries would be there. But did I know who those were? How would meeting them, if I knew who they were, benefit my writing career? What was the point of meeting them?
In fact, I had answers to none of these questions. So what if I met an editor or agent at the con? That’s assuming I even knew of any specific editors or agents at the con and where I could find them to meet them. I don’t have a book finished, so I can’t sell them anything. I don’t have any major short story publications, so I can’t point to anything I’ve done. I’ve got nothing by which they will even be able to remember they met me. At this stage in my development as a writer, I realized, it was an exercise in futility.
There was the possibility that I could attend the writer’s panel track and learn something about the craft of writing – except I’m slowly finding that after a decade of absorbing generic writing advice there isn’t much that’s news to me. I’ve mostly heard all these things before. I still appreciate getting those lessons refreshed, periodically, but I can do that for a lot less than the ticket-price at a major convention. On balance, I realized, Dragon*Con was turning into a somewhat over-priced F&SF-flavored theme-park ride. Under my immediate circumstances, it just wasn’t an expense I could presently afford or rationalize.
Instead, I attended a couple panels at the nearby Decatur Book Festival. Those were free, but generally much less genre-specific. I didn’t learn terribly much (though one panel on writing Teenage Protagonists for Adult Fiction made me think about one aspect of my current novel-WIP, “The Book of M” that could make a decent-sized impact on the main character, at least with regard to one specific aspect). But then, those panels weren’t designed as “learn about writing” panels so much as “learn about this author’s work” panels.
The Decatur Book Festival, as it turns out, is really a lot like your standard-issue Artist’s Market (if you’ve never been to an Artist’s Market, you’re missing out: Dear Wife and I enjoy strolling through Artist’s Markets even when we know there’s nothing in the budget to buy any art; I believe most big cities have at least one or more regular annual festivals that feature Artist’s Markets, if you’re interested) – except the DBF is an Artist’s Market devoted to books and writing. So you’ve got booths that are essentially mobile used book stores, you’ve got booths that are local authors setting up shop with their books and doing signings, you’ve got self-published authors, you’ve got self-publishing services, and you’ve got local craftsmen hawking book-related wares like handsome leather-bound journals. It was all very uplifting to see, as a lover of books.
Somewhere in all of this… there’s a more thoughtful and introspective post about the value of attending Cons and learning the craft and networking and so on. But a few things are preventing me from writing that more thoughtful post: (1) that would take some time, wouldn’t it? (2) and it would help if I had a little more experience on these topics to share, I suppose, and (3) the real purpose of this post, right this minute, was to share some pictures from the Dragon*Con parade.
This was the first time I’d attended the Dragon*Con parade (odd when you think about it; I’ve lived close enough for several years and I’m a huge nerd). It was also B.T.’s first such parade.
So yeah, that was a long preamble to wade through to get to some awesome pics of the parade. What’re you gonna do?
Here are the pics:
More (soo much more) at the Flickr Set… which sadly is only about half of the pics I and Dear Wife took during the parade. (And even then our pics missed a few really cool things.)