Conventions

On Fridays I usually try to write part of my story, but I spent this evening at Boskone, so I’m going to write about that.

This morning I woke up at seven, got dressed, and went to the university to meet with students. I met with students all morning, then taught for three hours, then met with more students. Then I took the T, green line to red line to silver line, across the city to Boskone. I was on one panel and talked to many people, and now it’s midnight and I’m tired, so I’ll do my best to make this post coherent.

Why do I go to conventions? I suppose the most practical reason is that when I go to conventions, people get to know who I am. And then they look at my blog, and perhaps they read my books, so going to conventions is simply part of what I do as a writer. Today I was on a panel on H.P. Lovecraft with Charles Stross, John Langan, and Jack Haringa. I thought it went well . John was an excellent moderator, I thought Charles and Jack and I all made interesting points, and there were very interesting points from the audience as well. Charles brought several Cthulthuesque visual aids.

Before the panel I had wandered around the dealer’s room. Omar Rayyan was there, and I know I’ll have to at least buy an Omar Rayyan print at some point during the convention. I talked to Gavin Grant, who was at the Small Beer Press table. Gavin was kind enough to give me a copy of Joan Aiken: The Serial Garden, and I bought a copy of Holly Black’s The Poison Eaters. I saw some other wonderful things that I’ll try to write about tomorrow. I’ll try to post some pictures too. A less practical reason for going to conventions is seeing all the things that people are creating. Beautiful books, beautiful art. The art show this year is particularly good.

I ran into or had short conversations with several people I knew or had at least met before: Sarah Langan and her husband J.T. Petty, Laird Barron, Paul Tremblay. And I have a long talk with Genevieve Valentine, with whom I shared some dinner and a dessert. (We did the girl thing: shared food. If you share food, you don’t have to feel guilty about what you’re eating. Although honestly, the dessert was such a large slice of chocolate cake, and so much of that cake was frosting, dense and chocolaty and flavored with Guiness, that we only ate about half of it. Even with sharing.)

A third reason for going to conventions is meeting friends. We all live in different places, all over the country, and conventions give us the opportunity to see each other again, to catch up.

A fourth reason is the shop. Every profession talks shop. Writers do too: writer shop is about who’s working on what, who has a book coming out, what sorts of projects are floating around. Who’s good to work with, how books were sold, what problems are coming up. I get so much information simply from talking shop with other writers. We all develop a sort of knowledge, a general sense for how things are working, what the industry is doing. And that’s absolutely crucial in an industry like this one, where there’s no central source of information (except perhaps Locus Magazine). You have to talk to people to, basically, know what’s going on. To keep up.

If you don’t do that, don’t keep up with the industry, you’re going to run into problems. You’re going to sign with a publisher who hasn’t been paying writers, or not understand how to promote your own writing, or miss opportunities. And if you want to be a professional writer, to do this at the most serious level, you can’t afford to do that, any more than a businessman can afford not to keep up with the stock market, or a lawyer can afford to ignore the latest cases.

What do conventions give me? Information, connection, pleasure. That’s why I go to conventions.

I’ll be at Boskone on Saturday and Sunday as well. Hopefully on those days I won’t be quite so tired, and will be able to put together more coherent posts. But what I really want to say is, as I rode the T toward the convention hotel, I felt a sense of freedom and joy, that I was going to be spending time with my crowd. That I was going to see friends again, and be with people who cared about books and art. People who made things. Who are my favorite sorts of people.

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