Thursday, August 3, 2017

Prose & Cons with @NathanBurgoine

Later today, Romancing the Capital starts. I'll be there with nearly fifty other authors to amuse, chat, and have fun with a few hundred readers. Conventions can be marvellous things.

Have you ever wondered "is this something I'd enjoy?"

Like most things, it depends. But I'm willing to bet the answer can be "yes."

What kind of convention is it?

I've gone to a quite a few different cons (conventions). Some are cons for writers, cons for fans, cons for readers, cons with a specific theme, and cons for all of the above.

Writing or Literary cons are an amazingly unique experience. Like many writers, I'm capable of being an extrovert, but am far more comfortable in my introverted life. Writing is pretty darn solitary. When I gather with my fellow writers, though, there's this amazing feeling of replenishment that happens. If my creativity is a battery, a writing con is a great way to plug that sucker in and recharge it. If you're not a writer, these conventions are often just as awesome to attend as a reader, too, as you get to hear the "behind the scenes" discussions of the authors who talk about their craft, their history, or just the topics shaping the writing world today.

More to that point, I meet people at all stages in their writing careers at literary cons. Frankly, it's a great opportunity for me to pass on the help I was given. I can both offer a hand up to people who are just starting (sometimes something just as simple as making an introduction) and also receive advice and access to people who know way, way more than I do. If you're someone who wants to try breaking into the writing world, a writing conference is a great place to start. Panels on craft are invaluable. I owe the start of my writing career to people I met at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, which I attend every year I can. Being in a queer space with queer writers is incredible, and not an experience I can recreate on my own. Ditto Naked Heart in Toronto, which is another queer literary festival just hitting its third year and fast becoming a favourite.

So, are you a writer (or want to give it a whirl)? Check out your local writer-type cons.

Cons for fans? They're a blast, too, as I get to put on my nerdiest T-shirts (there are many) and wander around looking at board games and card games and RPGs and generally come home with a bajillion new games that it'll take us months to play through. I'm not a cosplay person (my skills with a needle and thread begin and end with putting buttons back on shirts) but holy crap is it amazing to see the creativity on display at things like Ottawa Comic Con. A group of my friends got together and made costumes from "Vault 613" (in the style of Fallout) and the best part had to be one of the little kids of said friends wandering about in their Vault 613½ jumpsuit. So cute.

It's fun. It's also often overwhelming, as these types of cons also tend to have really major guests who can charge giant line ups for photographs. This is something I've never done, as I dislike (a) lines, and (b) figuring out what to say to famous people. It's one thing to rely on my bookstore skills and offer them a coffee or some water while I set up their book-signing table. It's another to be face-to-face with Neville-freaking-Longbottom and trying to say something other than "I'll fight you!" Nope, I'll keep my ability to blurt out the wrong thing to myself, thanks.

So, love all things geeky, nerdy, or some-other-niche? There's probably a con for that.

Some cons are a mix of all of these things. Can*Con springs to mind, here. Held in Ottawa, it's partly for fans (science fiction specifically, though in a broader sense inclusive of horror, fantasy, paranormal and all the other versions of speculative fiction out there), partly for the literary and writer types (many panels are about writing topics and craft topics, including things any writer would love to learn from experts who come in to discuss things like blood splatter analysis and biological outbreak models—the science component of Can*Con is incredible) and is just as much for readers as it is those writers and fans (the guest of honour this year is Steven Eriksen!)

Between readings, panels, workshops, and discussions there are also a few games and lighthearted moments to be had. Heck, last year there was even a D&D-style name-badge game you could play between sessions. I was a wizard.

Now, last but not at all least... Cons for readers.

Aha! So, this is where I circle back to talking about Romancing the Capital. Starting tomorrow, the insane fun begins. Attendees get to meet and mingle with the authors they love, play hilarious games, attend readings and panels, and the single biggest theme of the next three days, if my experience with the previous two RtC Cons is anything to measure by?


Seriously, RtC is hysterical. The panels, the games, the giveaways. Sex-toy piƱata? Check. Designing an alien? Check. Dirty Pictionary? So much check. The folks that come to the session I'm hosting will be playing "Blurbs Against Humanity," (think "Cards Against Humanity" only with romance novel blurbs). The whole event is an opportunity to have fun with authors and readers, and by the end of it, none of us have any voices left, and our "to-be-read" piles have grown to Everest proportions.

So, if you love to read, and you're eyeing a reader conference and wondering? Wonder no more. I promise you'll have fun.

So, check out a con. Read up to see how crowded it is and whether or not you'd like to be a part of that crowd. Bring water. Take breaks. Remind yourself the whole point is to have fun (and maybe learn things). Be polite, but push your envelope and speak to people you've never met.

And if you're going to be at Romancing the Capital this week? Find me and say hi. I'll be pretty much the only boy around, and I'm six-foot-three, so I'm easy to spot.

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