Making the Most of Cons (and ArmadilloCon)

Howard Waldrop Reads Project Superman

Howard Waldrop reading issue 1 of Project Superman

I was just at ArmadilloCon over the weekend, and had a fabulous time of it. There’s an account of that, with sundry photos, on my Google+ page.

For me it was a pretty productive con – I connected with a few people that I definitely wanted to meet or see, I got a chance to hang out with some favorite peeps, I got a little writing done, and I did some career/work stuff that I wanted to get done. And I got the photo of Howard Waldrop with my brother and Gene Ha’s Project Superman.

Beforehand I did some stuff – I made a list of what I wanted to get accomplished, wrote to a couple people who I wanted to make sure to spend time with, and I went through the con program to identify some of the panels/features that I really didn’t want to miss. I also blocked in plenty of time for hanging at the bar, which I consider a crucial part of any con. I didn’t plan out every waking minute, to be sure, but I did make sure I knew what I wanted to do. I volunteered for programming and set up an individual reading as well as being part of the Broad Universe Rapidfire Reading.

This is, I think, the sort of thing you need to do if you’re going to cons and justifying the expenditure as work/career related rather than fun. Otherwise you end up sitting in your hotel room thinking that you should be doing something or being somewhere but not quite sure what.

Absolutely, cons are about friendships, that’s one of the more enjoyable aspects. But some you know a lot of folks at and others you have to push yourself a bit. I tend to retreat when around people I don’t know, but I’ve found that if I push myself out of my comfort zone some, I end up having a much better time.

If I’d been more diligent, I would have done the following:

  • Found the con organizers and thanked them. The con was well run and trouble free, and the panels were a nice mix.
  • Organized some sort of Broad Universe coffee or lunch meet-up, as well as something with the Codex peeps.
  • Gone through the dealers room and introduced myself, making sure book dealers had the card for my collection. I know no one had my book for sale, which was a little dampening, but I don’t know the best way to prevent that. Do folks write to dealers ahead of time in order to make sure they know where to get the books?

How do y’all prep for conventions? Or do you even bother about this sort of thing?

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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  • Louise Marley

    Cat, I have, in the past, contacted the dealers ahead of time to make sure they know I’m coming. I’m not sure how much that helps, but at least it reminds them I (and my books) exist. I also occasionally, especially to Armadillocon, go armed with Seattle Chocolates. Again, to make myself memorable.

    Sounds like you did a great job of making the trip worthwhile, though!

  • Jess Hartley

    Hi, Cat! I actually wrote a small product on just this topic: Conventions for the Aspiring Game Professional. If you’re interested, drop me a line at and I’ll send you a copy of the .pdf. It’s available at DriveThruRPG for a couple of bucks, but I don’t mind sending you a promotional copy for free, cuz… well, you rock! :)

    Cons for Pros grew out of a series of blog posts I did a few years ago, offering advice on how to prep for GenCon if you were looking at it from a “trying to get my foot in the door of the industry” rather than “OMG GAMES!” perspective. I fleshed it out, polished it up and added feedback that I gleaned from those who responded to the blog posts, and it turned into Cons for Pros. :)

  • Rachel Olivier

    I haven’t been to many cons. I tend to see what I kind of connections I can make at book fairs (like the LA Times Book Fair and the West Hollywood Book Fair) because they’re free and close. Though I confess I make fewer connections and tend to sit and just take notes for future stories.

    But I did make it to one day at a World SciFi Con in Anaheim a few years ago ($50 for Sunday – and the loan of a car for the day – whooohooo!). And I tend to be a hider as well. I was with a friend, but she had her own agenda, so I did go online and go through what was available and what I wanted to see. Got some great storytelling notes from the Buffy panel. Met people through my friend. I’m just not a good mixer unless I have to.

    I do that with the book fairs, too. I once got to hear some great scifi discussion between Robert Silverberg, Kevin J. Anderson and Joe Hill for free at a book fair. Took lots of notes. Didn’t meet any new people though. This year our writers group has a booth at the WeHo book fair and I know I’ll speak with a lot of people, but the connections will probably be with others in the writers group. So, we’ll see. That reminds me, though, I need to go take a look at the Weho website and see if they have all the panels up yet so I can see what I want to go take in.