by Lillian Csernica on August 29, 2013
Most of us writers who are in the process of building our careers, gaining ground with more published works and more “brand recognition” as it’s called today, don’t make the kind of income that allows for a travel budget. This is unfortunate, because conventions are some of the best places to make contact with authors we admire and to experience the thrill of having total strangers come up to us and tell us how much they enjoy our work. Conventions are very important because nobody understands a writer like another writer. The camaraderie, the invigorating discussions, and the sheer fun to be had at conventions are all important parts of sustaining our identities as writers alongside being parents, workers at our day jobs, children and siblings and friends.
How do we weigh the expense of these opportunities against how much the exposure there will boost our careers?
Labor Day Weekend is a big weekend for conventions. LoneStarCon, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, is happening in San Antonio, Texas. DragonCon is in Atlanta, Georgia. There are probably several people who have good reasons to attend both cons, reasons both professional and personal. There will be plenty of Big Names at both, along with many other people well worth meeting.
Science has yet to provide us with a method of being in two places at once, so writers looking to raise their public profiles, do some professional networking, and enjoy the other benefits of attending cons are often forced to make a choice. I won’t be at WorldCon because I live in California and right now I can’t afford the travel, lodging, food, and membership expenses. I now have a mortgage to pay and a budget to abide by. Even when I do attend cons, I split hotel expenses with one or even two roommates, I bring a supply of breakfast and/or lunch items, and I hang out in the Hospitality Suite. If the con is large enough to have a SFWA Suite, I’ll be there.
In October there’s a convention down in San Diego, the city of my birth. I’ll get to combine the fun of a road trip with all the joys of a convention. This is possible because my best friend and fellow writer is willing to do the driving. We’ll share a hotel room, get our fame fix from our panel assignments and readings, and we’ll socialize and network with our colleagues. We will accomplish important professional activities, as well as making it possible for each other to have a weekend away from home.
In early November there’s a convention I can commute to if I really need to do that. It’s more fun to stay at the con hotel, and that’s probably what I’ll do. Once again, my best friend is willing to drive. In return, I’ll make her my Guest of Guest so she has full access to the convention activities. We make it possible for each other to take advantage of this opportunity.
See the pattern emerging here? Team work. Supporting each other. Trading service for service or some equivalent in food or money. Times are hard. The marketplace is undergoing a revolution. We need to pull together because ultimately each writer’s success is every writer’s success. It means there are editors out there buying our work for the people out there who are reading it.