Conferences: priceless or a waste of money?

I missed my own frolicking last Friday…how embarrassing.  In my defense, I was out-of-state.  However, I could have posted Thursday before I left, but I figured I’d have time to post from my hotel room on Friday. Boy was I naive.  

If I had posted last Friday, my good news would have been that I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma for Conestoga, a sci-fi/fantasy convention.  This was Conestoga’s 12th year, but their first time for hosting the online community of fantasy authors at Fangs, Fur, & Fey as a mini-con (convention within a convention).  FFF was the main reason I went to Tulsa.  I’ve been following their blog for several months now, and I’m a big fan of the site (not to mention a fan of several of the authors who post there).  Whether you write YA or adult, fantasy or another genre, FFF provides valuable information to aspiring writers.  Published authors come together to chat about the writing business and answer reader questions.  They take the time to support each other and encourage new authors.

Before this weekend, I had never been to a sci-fi/fantasy convention or a writers’ convention.  I had no idea what to expect (although my husband was convinced that several people would be dressed as their favorite Star Trek characters).  Hubby came with me as a little “vacation” to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary.  I say “vacation” sarcastically because I barely relaxed the entire trip, and I didn’t even see hubby all that often (apart from the 22 hours we spent in the car together).  We arrived in Tulsa Friday evening and left Sunday at noon, and the times in between I attempted to take advantage of everything the convention had to offer.  Here’s a look at my schedule:

Friday evening:  meeting and talking to authors.
9:00–“The Elusive Snark” (FFF panel)
10:00–“Writing Your First Book in a Series” (FFF panel)
11:00–“YA and UF: Crossing Generations and Genres” (FFF panel)
1:00–“Collaborating: The Care and Feeding of Your Partner” (Conestoga panel)
2:00–“Building Community Through the Internet” (Conestoga panel)
3:00-5:00–“The Business of Being a Writer” (FFF panel)
5:00–“Revising” (Conestoga panel)
6:00–anniversary dinner with hubby
9:00–more meeting and talking to authors.
9:00–“Author and Reader Connections” (FFF panel)
10:00–“Brushing the Boundaries of Horror” (FFF panel)
11:00–attended book signing, ate lunch, checked out of the hotel, and spent the rest of the day driving home.

As you can see, Conestoga also offered panels/discussions as part of their Writer’s Workshop Track.  There were usually two or three panels going on at the same time, so I’d have to choose which I thought would be the most relevant to me.  The Conestoga panels were okay, but they seemed to be meant specifically for writers who were just beginning to study the business of writing (and yes, I’m a beginner when it comes to writing.  But I have been researching the business for the past year or so, so I’m not completely incompetent).  On the other hand, the FFF panels were all excellent.  I was either taking notes and learning volumes or laughing uncontrollably at the entertaining speakers/authors.  I had such a great time listening to the panels and meeting new people.  Plus, now I have several new topic ideas to consider for this site!

FFF turned the convention into a worthy investment for me.  If not for them, I might have been disappointed in the rest of Conestoga.  Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective.  The convention itself only costs $35, which isn’t bad at all.  But if I add in the costs of the hotel room, food, and gas…I’m looking at a much larger bill.  Not to mention the time investment.  I spent a lot of time preparing for the trip, and then I had to be separated from my son for four days (which was more stressful than I’d expected).  All in all, attending the convention was not a matter to be taken lightly.  But I felt like it was a chance I had to take, and that somehow it would all be worth it.  It’s too soon to tell if this convention will make a difference in whether or not I sell my book.  But even if it doesn’t, I’ll still have the memories of an unforgettable weekend.

So after all that rambling, I finally come to the topic for this Tuesday:  what are your thoughts on writers’ conventions?  Have you ever been to one?  If so, did you learn enough to make it worth your time/money?  If you haven’t been to one, do you think you might consider going someday?  What deciding factors would convince you to go?

I’d love to hear your opinions!  And if you want to see pictures from the convention, visit my blog.  Come back on Friday to share your highlight of the week!


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