There are lots of reasons to attend conventions. To meet your favorite authors, to network with fellow writers and editors, to browse in the Dealer’s Room (yeah!), to check out the Art Show, to attend entertaining panels.
But the thing I find most delightful these days is author readings. There’s something about hearing beloved characters brought to life right in front of you by the author herself that’s truly magical. In just the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend readings by Peter S. Beagle, Gene Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Patty Templeton, C.S.E. Cooney, Martha Wells, Fredric Durbin, and Steven Erikson, among many others.
It’s also a great way to discover new writers. I make it a priority to attend as many readings as I can by writers I’m not familiar with. And let me tell you, that’s really paid off — I’ve discovered some of my favorite new writers because I had an empty 30 minute slot between the Firefly panel and the midnight showing of Destroy All Monsters. Over the decades, that’s included people like Charles Saunders, N. K. Jemisin, Mark Sumner, Bradley Beaulieu, Alex Bledsoe, and — believe it or not — George R.R. Martin.
Take my advice: if you find yourself in a place where professional storytellers are willing to stand before you and entertain you, take advantage of it. You won’t be sorry. You can attend that anime panel next year.
A few weeks ago, I was at Capricon 34 in Wheeling, Illinois, with a few other Black Gate staffers, including Patty Templeton and Steven Silver. We didn’t have a booth — we haven’t bothered with one since the print version of the magazine died in 2011 — and I’m still getting used to being able to wander without being tied to the Dealer’s Room. I didn’t get to attend everything I wanted to — I missed Wesley Chu’s Saturday morning reading because I was mailing back issue orders at the post office — but I did catch some terrific panels. And, not too surprisingly, the most surprising and entertaining events at the convention were three readings, from Hugo-Award Winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, Strange Horizons editor Mary Anne Mohanraj, and self-published writer Blake Hausladen.