Let’s get the downers out of the way first. Sales at Inconjunction could have been better. Crowds at Inconjunction could have been much better. I don’t blame the convention staffers for this. It simply reflects what we already know–that rumors of the recovering economy are highly exaggerated.
Few genre fans are able to spend a lot of money on a weekend devoted to fantasy and science fiction. And of those that do, after other expenses have to pick and choose who gets their money that weekend and whose bookmark or website they grab up to check out later. And that’s okay. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to measure a convention’s success.
Genre fiction is about community. Conversation. Exchanging ideas with others of a similar mindset. What I have found most disconcerting entering into all this as a “vendor” is how my relationship with many convention-goers has shifted from “hey I’m a fan, you’re a fan. Let’s talk.” to “Hi, you want to buy something, I want to sell you a book I wrote. Let’s talk.” It’s not a comfortable change for me, but there it is.
Fortunately, I am also a panelist, and this weekend found great satisfaction during my panel interactions. Here again, the relationship is different from what I am used to. I am on this side of the table because I know something that I can share. Those who attend want to know something, and supposedly, I am an “expert” who can help pass along something that they will find of use. The conversation is much closer to the old standard, though it shifts a bit to “Hi, you want to write science fiction. I have successfully written science fiction. Let’s talk.” And I find I’m getting fairly comfortable with that.
My first panel of the weekend was Mentorship in Writing, shared with my TCQ Seventh Star peeps Eric Garrison and John F. Allen, plus the editor-in-chief of Loconeal Publishing, James O. Barnes. We discussed the ways in which writers can find other writers who are best equipped to take them to that next step up. We also explored the pros and cons of critique groups, internet resources, and how publishers often pool their author’s resources to help each other. John Allen said some nice things about me, which I appreciated.
Panel two was The Basics of Book Reviewing. Like panel one, this was also well-attended, included E. Susan Baugh and had the distinction of being local author Crystal Leflar‘s first ever panel. She did a great job, and after all my assurances beforehand about how not to worry, I was the one that ended up blanking in front of the audience.
Panel three was Friday night at 11 pm, a discussion on Horror, and the only poorly attended panel, most likely on account of it being Friday night at 11 pm. That said, the few who braved it joined in the discussion with much enthusiasm, and the conversation was helmed by the knowledgeable writer of much scariness, Nicole Cushing. Plus Crystal, and local genre author Matthew Barron. But horror fans are enthusiastic fans, and what the audience lacked in numbers they more than made up for in challenging questions. We let the panel run several minutes over. After all, there were no midnight panels waiting to start.
The next morning, I was asked to join an “orphaned” panel, called such because many of the scheduled panelists had not shown up. The topic was writer’s block, and joining Nicole Cushing (the lone original panelist who could show up) were John Allen, Eric Garrison and Crystal Leflar.
Panel five was on publishing in all its shades, from self-publishing to having a big publisher contract, the pros and cons of each variation. Our panel of James O. Barnes, Matthew Barron, Nicole Cushing and Sara Jo Easton was up to exploring each option with some detail.
Each panel proved rewarding and challenging, and I met many new and interesting people on both sides of the table.
Other convention highlights included a chance to sit down one on one with Nicole Cushing over late night cups of coffee and talk shop on a variety of writerly subjects. I suspect I got more good advice out of it than she did, and I appreciate her taking the time to listen and coach me.
I had a great dinner with Kathy Watness and James O. Barnes. I was able to share a favorite local Chinese restaurant with them (I grew up in the area) and enjoy some wonderful conversation.
In spite of some noise challenges during the Candlelight author reading Saturday night, my story from Vampires Don’t Sparkle, “Robot Vampire” seemed very well received by the audience. I enjoyed hearing entries from the other readers, Matthew Barron and James S. Dorr. (I knew Eric Garrison’s stories, and he read ’em well.)
I got a birthday hug from Tammy Jo Eckart and purchased Ingenue from local movie director Kate Chaplin. We were booth neighbors two conventions back and it’s great that since then, she has since produced her first feature length film.
I shared a table with and spent a lot of time with Seventh Star Press author and TCQ peeps Eric Garrison and John Allen. Eric gifted me with the Five Year Mission CDs for my birthday, so I am getting initiated into that awesomeness.
Success is how you define it, and while I might not be able to prove to my accountant that Inconjunction was a profitable weekend (and I have no doubt that will change in future years), Inconjunction delivered in the ways it always does–a time and place for local fans and professionals to come together and celebrate with each other what they love most about genre fiction, making it well worth the time and effort.