This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Context 26, a speculative fiction convention, in Columbus, OH. Last year was my first encounter with this convention and I really enjoyed it, so I made a plan early on in 2013 to make sure I could go again. This plan included the somewhat difficult task of not spending the money I made on writing, but instead saving it to cover the cost of my hotel room (easily the biggest chunk of change right there).
This year was definitely a better experience all around than last year. For a few reasons, but most of them personal. Last year, I pretty much followed a few very awesome people around. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to get tired of me hounding their footsteps. But this year, I went my own way a lot more. This allowed me to meet more people, attend more events, and just generally experience more things.
I stocked my weekend full of workshops back in June. While this limited my free time and my ability to attend panels, readings, etc, I learned so much from each workshop that I really think it was worth it. I especially enjoyed Linnea Sinclair and Stacey Kade‘s two workshops — “Plotting by the Seat of your Pants” and “Goal, Motivation, Conflict”. I learned some neat tools to amp up suspense in Tim Waggoner‘s “The Art of Suspense”. And I enjoyed taking a closer look at things like the importance of a great first line in Geoffrey Girard‘s “Short Story Masters”.
This year, I didn’t manage to attend any panels. This disappointed me a little because I was really eager to hear more from John Joseph Adams, editor of Nightmare and Lightspeed. I did manage to attend his reading on Saturday, which was definitely an awesome experience. Only three people attended, so it was a very close group, all settled around a table listening to Mr. Adams read a fascinating weird western.
Friday night, Context 26 hosted it’s second flash fiction contest and I made sure to participate in that. I learned last year that putting yourself and your stories out there in such a manner can be really beneficial, and not just in the case of winning the contest. This year, there was a host of really unique and well-written stories which made the evening fly by. I especially enjoyed Michael Haynes‘ “Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping“, which placed second if I’m not mistaken.
Saturday afternoon and evening, I managed to attend several get-togethers and parties, starting with a meeting of a few Sidekicks! authors and the editor, Sarah Hans. We gathered in the con-suite (kind of a come-and-go place for the con attendees to hang out, grab something to eat, and so on) and spent some time just talking about current projects, TV shows, books and the like. It was a really nice, laid-back affair and we managed to snag a picture of the group of us.
All in all, the weekend was a real blast. I made several new friends, learned so much, picked up a ton of books — a lot of them free! — and enjoyed the experience, the interactions. One thing I learned about conventions is that going to a convention alone can be both good and bad. It means you have more freedom to flow from one group to the next, to experience more without being locked in to someone else’s schedule. Downside is if you’re a shy introvert like myself, it can sometimes mean time spent alone, wanting to join in activities and conversations but not quite making it. Luckily, there were only a few such moments for me last weekend!
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read. Feel free to comment and tell me about your own convention experiences, what conventions are especially awesome to attend, etc.
~Alexis A. Hunter