Reflecting on This Summer’s Cons

This summer I attended two cons in back to back months. I’m relatively new to con-going in general, and so far all of my con experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s taken me a couple of tries to realize that the panels probably aren’t going to blow me away; what matters is the conversations they start afterwards.

4th Street Fantasy and Cascade Writers Workshop are both fairly small and attract people very invested in writing, but other than that they don’t have a whole lot in common.

One of the selling points of Cascade is its critique track, which I absolutely loved. I grew up in the educational environment of small discussion-based (read: arguing with whomever is up for it) classes, so Milford-style critique groups work out great for me. Everyone has an allotted time to speak, which means I have a chance to say All The Things (because I have Opinions on stories) and that you can shut me up with a timer. So I guess really I never get to say All The Things I want to, but it forces me to hit the most important ones and hope I’ve left explanatory enough notes for the author’s perusal. I lucked into a really chill group of talented writers and readers who had all submitted stories in pretty different subgenres of SFF, so this was a ton of fun.

At least at this year’s Cascade, there was more emphasis on the business side of being a writer, where at 4th Street Fantasy, it was pretty much all about the craft. And everyone was incredibly excited about the chance to geek out over craft. The great advantage of one-track programming is that our minds are all getting triggered by the same panels, so when you meet up afterwards everyone is building off of some common groundwork.

I was pretty quiet at this one, for me. Sometimes when I think too many thoughts at once I end up saying nothing at all, and sometimes I’m more interested in reveling in the feel of a thing to chance spoiling it with my speech. Not even natural disaster stopped the party or even set it back, really, and staff bent over backwards to keep it moving. Unfortunately, for this one I arrived early and had to leave early, and I got oddly emotional about it. I felt more like an observer during the con (as much as one can, at a con so small), so I was surprised at how hard leaving hit me. I’ll definitely be back, and doing more of that whole talking thing.

I’ll also be back at Cascade. It feels weird to register for something a whole year in advance; it’s been a while since I had some kind of geographic stability on which to base these kinds of decisions. (Not that I couldn’t still move, but I’m probably not moving out of the country again anytime soon).

Frankly, I could wax eloquent on both for far more paragraphs than this, and maybe I will again, but the bottom line is that if you’re serious about writing and about science fiction and fantasy, both of these are great conferences. I’m so glad I decided to go to both. I had a chance to hang out with some wonderful people at each, make new friends and visit with people I knew, and I hope I’ll be able to meet them again at future cons.

That’s the most important part, for me: the people. And the people at both of these cons are wonderful.

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