Con Season tips, tricks and “OHMAGERD! DON’T!”s

John G. Hartness
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So I’ll try not to live up to the number of caps in the title, because it’s early, I’m not quite caffeinated yet, and I’m sitting at my desk at the new day job writing this post. 

Yep, I set an awesome example for my employees. :)

As Con Season is kicking into high gear, and said season seems, like NASCAR, last longer and longer each year, I wanted to take a moment to both offer up a few shameless plugs and talk about a few con issues that have become pretty prevalent over the last year, although I’m sure they’ve been issues for much longer. 

First, the plugs – Misty, Stuart Jaffe and I will all be at MystiCon this weekend. If you’re anywhere near Roanoke, Virginia, come by and say hello! Especially at 11AM on Saturday morning, when Misty and I are sharing a reading time slot. She’s promised chocolate. I promise shenanigans. 

I’ll continue my 2013 Long Haired Redneck World Tour of Awesomeness the following weekend by making my first appearance at Connooga. I’ve done a bunch of conventions in a couple of different industries in Chattanooga, but have never done this one, so I’m excited. 

I love cons. I love the meeting new writer friends, sometimes meeting writer heroes, watching friends of mine squee when they get to meet writer heroes (not naming any names Misty, I promise!), and meeting fans. I enjoy being on panels, talking about craft, talking about geek media, and relaxing with old friends and new. 

And I love fandom. The vast majority of fans are amazing people, the kind of people I’d welcome into my home and let play with my cats. But there are a few bad apples who really do crap in the pool for the rest of us. And it’s because of those folks that I feel the need to point out a few convention rules to live by for fans who want to maybe become friends with your favorite authors without seeming like a creeper. 

1) If you’re a guy, don’t make lewd comments about cosplay, or really anything. This falls under the “Wheaton’s Rule” category of life. If you don’t know about Wil Wheaton’s Rule, check out his blog. He goes into Wheaton’s Rule pretty extensively, and it’s pretty simple – don’t be a d!@%. But really, no matter how sexy a costume is, it’s not an invitation to grope or talk to or about a female fan like she’s a stripper. She’s a fan, just like you, and if she wants to rock a chain mail bikini, she’s got just as much right as you do. And believe me, if I had the abs for it, I’d totally run around Dragon*Con dressed like a Spartan. 

I don’t have the abs for it, and I will not be running around dressed like a Spartan. I promise. 

Don’t visualize. 

2) If you want to talk to a writer, right before or after a panel is a great time – usually. Most cons run their panels well enough that we have a few minutes to chat before or after a panel, and that’s a great time to come up and get something signed, tell us how awesome we are, tell me how great I look in my chain mail bikini, whatever. But if the panel has run long, or if we’re running to get to another panel, please understand when we say, as gently as possible, “I can’t right now, but I’m doing this panel later and would love to talk then.” We’re telling the truth. We love talking to fans, especially if it’s about us, but sometimes we get scheduled with panels right on top of each other and have next to no time between them for little things like bathroom breaks. So if we’re shifting from foot to foot and looking frantically at the door, there’s probably a reason. This is a bigger problem at the bigger cons, where things are farther apart and we tend to be busier, or at any con at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, where it takes forever to walk across the entire hotel complex. I’ll be at the Choo-Choo in two weeks. See you at a room party!

3) Room parties are great places to hang out with your favorite writer, but some of us are shy. Actually, a lot of writers are very shy and don’t really do well in crowds. I’m not those people, so feel free to drag me to every party known to man, but please take into account that a lot of writers lead very solitary lives and don’t often find themselves crowded into hotel rooms with two dozen people. So if somebody’s looking for an exit, help them find some fresh air. It will endear you to a creator more than almost anything except for coffee and doughnuts. 

4) Our author tables are our offices. When we’re sitting there, we’re at work. Some of us, like me and James Tuck, hawk our books like carnival barkers. Some folks, like the rest of the free world, prefer a more reserved approach. But we’re sitting at those tables to make a little cash to hopefully cover the cost of the table and maybe our gas to get to the convention. We love having folks to talk to, and I never want anyone to feel like I don’t want people to come up to my table, but if someone else comes up, make sure you move to the side and let them shop. Several of you regulars have helped run tables for some of us at cons, and you know how crazy it can get. And how crazy some of us can get by Sunday morning! But the signing table is still an awesome place to get together with people and make plans to chat later, make dinner plans, things like that. Just make sure that new fans get a chance to meet your favorite author and learn the secret fan handshake. :)

Gah, this has gotten long. Here’s the TL:DR version – we love our fans, but we’re at a con to work. Help us do our work, don’t be a !@#*& to the female fans, and keep fandom the amazing place that we all love. And come see me and Misty Saturday at 11AM in Roanoke. There will be chocolate. And shenanigans. 

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14 comments to Con Season tips, tricks and “OHMAGERD! DON’T!”s

  • Ken

    I won’t say that I won’t be anywhere near MystiCon…I’ll still be in the same time zone. I’ll have to vicariously experience the shenanignas this weekend (I’ve got the chocolate angle covered, thanks).

    I AM planning on making it to ConCarolinas this year so I’ll have to wait a bit longer on the actual shenanigans. There’s no way to vicariously experience chocolate, so I might have to cover that angle again ;)

  • Hope the cons go great for you, John. Sorry I won’t see you at Conooga — that’s right in my back yard, but I had no idea it was happening. I get a bit tunnel-visioned when in the middle of a book, and I am hip deep in one right now. Ah, well.

  • This was a freaking awesome post John. It covered all the most important parts wonderfully!

    I will add — if you see a writer lugging something heavy and you are strong, offer to help. If they look frantic and swamped, offer to help. If they look lost, offer to help. Um, yes. I’ve made some really great friends who started out helpful at cons. Like the minion who found my pocketbook when I left it in the ladies room. (waves to minion)

    Lastly — Bring your tooth brush and deodorant to cons. Take showers at cons. Brush your teeth at cons. Seriously. Some people get so excited that they don’t plan for or do either. We are all there to make new friends. It’s important.

  • sagablessed

    Well, it was long before any panels that I got to meet Faith, David, and Lucienne. Then cocktails afterwords. I await the time I can attend another Con. ’cause, meeting them gave me perspective on a writer’s life. As well as insipiration to keep writing. *bounces in seat* Waiting to see when I can go to another.

  • Sorry John, I visualized. :) These are really great tips; I hope to go to a con one day. Any idea how I can find cons in Texas.

  • sagablessed

    Misty mentioned chocolates. Must be a writer’s thingee.

  • MaCrae

    Curse my rural geographical location!!! It seems every Con on earth is bound and determined to be as far away from me as possible. Sadly one of the items on my bucket list (lol I’m only 18) is to go to a Con, ComicCon or otherwise. But you need monies and fuel for my method of transportation.

    Must…keep…bikini image….out of….brain. Bleh… :)

  • Chocolate, yes. I’m also bringing a crew of tiny plastic pirates so that those who are inclined to do so may enact Miniature Pirate Theater while I’m reading. :D

  • I’m hoping to make it to a con this year–although it’s probably about time for me to quit hoping and start planning

  • And John, you could always put a parody troupe together for cons, all normal joes (read out of shape ;) ) and call yourselves The Reserve 300. I’ll be the out of shape one with a bad back always complaining about how the leather underpants chafe. Heh! Just adding fuel to the fire. ;)

  • Excellent post, John! I hope all of you have a great time at Mysticon and sell lots of books.

  • Thanks Daniel. I’ll give those a look. The Cons seem like so much fun to be a part of.

    Yes McCrae, Comic Con has been on my list since I discovered it a few years back. I really want to make this years but I may have to settle for next years. I’ll play ut by ear.