First Writing Convention: Getting Your Feet Wet

So…November got away from me and it’s taken me awhile to put together my thoughts on Capclave, the first speculative fiction convention I have ever attended.

Capclave is small, but local to the WDC area, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to break into the con scene. Worldcon and Word Fantasy Con are the big boys on the bloc for writers of speculative fiction, but there was a lot to recommend breaking in with something small.

1. If I’m flying to another city and shelling out for three or four nights of hotel, if I don’t have a good time, I’m kind of screwed. Local and small meant costs stayed low which minimized the investment. I commuted each night – sure, that meant I missed a very small portion of the events, but I thought it was a good trade off.

1a. This also meant my wife could come with me. For moral support. Having someone there with me was a good move, at least the first time. She’s much less shy than I was, and helped me get over my “new and scary” initial reaction. (I believe it was “You’ve had your freak out. Now pull up your big boy pants and get over there.” or something to that effect…)

2. Accessible program. Unlike Worldcon’s 8,000 track monstrosity, Capclave’s program was very doable. I only had two or three choices each hour, including readings and kaffeeklatches. (Note: Speaking German was not required. A kaffeeklatch at a con is a limited-attendance small group with the Guests of Honor.) Nerd that I am, I wanted to select my program choices in advance and felt like I could with that kind of schedule. Highlights were “Using Medieval Myths in Fantasy”, “So You Want to Put Together an Anthology?” and the Guest of Honor Chat.

3. I was able to meet some new people. The con was small enough that you basically sat with the same people over and over again. One of my more convention-worldly friends suggested that you make it a habit to meet new people at each con. Networking is a huge part of the convention scene. Thanks to the wonderful Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Jean Marie Ward for the great Capclave history lesson and an explanation of some of the con undercurrents.

4. I got to meet and spend some time with the Guests of Honor, Catherynne Valente and Carrie Vaughn. Since the con was so small, I got to attend a kaffeeklatch for each. Both were awesome and gracious. It reminded me that these writers that I admire are normal real people too.

4a. My wife LOOOOOOVES Catherynne Valente, so I was able to score some major points there. She got her copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making signed, as well as The 2-volume set of The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice.

5. And I was able to better figure out what I might need to attend a longer/larger convention in another city. I need to better plan the food budget or bring food along. Be open to leaving a session if it’s not that interesting. Be ready to change plans in mid-stream. (Not easy for me.) Be open to meeting new people. Have a con buddy for shared snark and easy escape, if required.

All told, it was a wonderful experience and I will definitely attend again. I think my next venture will be Boskone in February. Watch out, friends in the NorthEast. I’m coming.



2 thoughts on “First Writing Convention: Getting Your Feet Wet

  1. Bill says:

    As a writer you may be interested in attending the Nebula Awards Weekend in May. There are several craft of writing workshops and panels. It is put on by SFWA, but will be held in Crystal City VA in 2012. Registration doesn’t open until Januaruy, but keep an eye out for it.

    • psursi says:


      Thanks. I was looking at the Nebula weekend in the new year. Unfortunately, it’s the one weekend I already have an out of town commitment. 😦
      That’s the kind of writing workshop that I’m definitely interested in, and would be looking to go otherwise. I missed out on the workshops at Capclave this year, but will definitely sign up for them next year.

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