I went to Wonder Con this year and it was the messy, funny, crowd-filled, creative mish-mosh that it always is. I also realized that as I get a little older, enjoying a convention, or “con,” requires a bit more preparation. But cons are great places to network with other authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers, not to mention the kid lit audience, so they’re worth it. Since there are several more cons and festivals coming up this year in our area, I thought a little “How to Prep for a Summer Con” guide might be in order. The more you know about what you’re getting into, the less intimidating it will be and the less you’ll feel like a grumpy-gus shaking your fist at those darn kids to get off your con-lawn.
Tip #1: Be Smart About Travel
Traffic will always, always, make the ride to a con longer than you think it will. Leave at least an hour earlier than Google Maps says you should and factor in parking and registration times. If you can, take the train. The train has bathrooms. Your car does not. Arriving on time without a bladder strain is a great way to start a con!
Tip #2: Bring Allllll the Essentials
Summer cons are usually hot and sunny outside. Inside, you’ll find Rocky punching sides of beef. Water fountains are sub-par and food and beverages are overpriced. So be prepared. Bring layers, sunblock, a water bottle, snacks, and don’t forget things like your business cards, pen and paper, and comfortable walking shoes. Speaking of walking…
Tip #3: Watch Your Walk
Cons are full of obstacles, so be vigilant. Don’t step on the tail of the giant dog cosplaying as the White Rabbit. Be prepared to walk and eat. And remember your fellow con-goers often sit on the floor against the wall, so don’t step on them either. Join them, however, if you need a break or want to make a new friend!
Tip #4: Panels Aren’t a Free-for-All
Panels with your fav authors are super fun, but there are some unspoken rules you should keep in mind. For instance, check if a line is forming about an hour before your panel starts in case you need to jump in it to get in. Sometimes you can slip in after a panel starts, but open the door quietly and don’t let it slam closed. And tuck your bag under your chair because someone will almost always try to get in or out of your row during the panel. Your bag, and its collectible contents, could be the casualty.
Tip #5: When in Doubt, Artists’ Alley Is Your Friend
With all the hubbub on the con floor, it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed. I recommend stopping by “Artists’ Alley,” where you’ll not only find great art that makes your soul smile, you’ll also meet friendly artists and art-lovers. It’s like sticking to the kitchen at a party full of strangers. People love to chat over a bowl of guacamole or a lovely artist’s interpretation of Berk from How to Train Your Dragon.
Tip #6: Avoid T-Rexes
This one should be self-explanatory. Happy con-ing, friends!
All photos by Sarah Parker-Lee’s “little-iPhone-4s-that-could.”
Sarah Parker-Lee is Managing Editor of Kite Tales, book reviewer for Dwarf+Giant, & content creator for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs. She’s also available to edit your novels & writerly endeavors. She writes YA alt. history & sci-fi. Her humor blog, Dogs and Zombies: A Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, shambles towards your tasty brains April 24th, 2017. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel