I've attended World Fantasy Conventions in the past and found them entertaining, thought-provoking, and energizing. (My 2008/Calgary bag - with a dragon's head wearing the signature Sherlock Holmes hat - is my go-to carrying bag.) I stopped attending for two unrelated reasons. First, I started to learn that one of the most important aspects of the convention was the social, hobnobbing, networking ... and though I sent myself to parties, what I ended up doing was lurking awkwardly and trying not to look like I was eavesdropping rudely while attempting to eavesdrop invitingly. Second, finances and life changes: I had saved up for the WFC in the UK and some sightseeing to follow, but that money ended up going to culinary school.
(For the curious, I wanted to visit Wales, as well as Shrewsbury, the English town where Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels were set.)
I perked up when I saw the WFC was returning to Columbus, which is an hour and a half drive from where I live up the windiest stretch of road in the Midwest. (Chicago has nothing on I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus.) What decided me to plunk my money down on membership and commit was my sale of Scylla and Charybdis. I wanted to attend in context of my new milestone.
(I had initially intended to apply for the BroadUniverse Rapidfire Reading, but my culinary life almost literally exploded - actually, there were a couple interesting equipment malfunctions, but that's another story - during this period of time, and I had no time to think straight, much less prep a reading. In the end, probably for the best: I would have been immensely stressed about it, and probably not had as much focus to enjoy the conference.)
(Yes, I do have a parentheses problem. Curiously, I don't write with them in stories, only non-fiction and roleplaying scenes.)
Between that time and attending the conference, a sour note: controversy over the original programming draft, which was narrow in focus and nigh oblivious to recent history/writers, among other issues. I was only peripherally aware of the discussions and revisions. What I did notice when I received the program was the number of panels devoted to a single individual or to horror topics. Nothing wrong with the latter, but not an area of interest. I was a little worried when I found myself planning to skip certain time blocks - something that had happened only once or twice at prior WFCs.
As it turned out, those empty blocks of time turned out to be a boon. I was able to enjoy the art gallery and dealers' room - including a good conversation at the Nightshade Books table about their anthologies - and also simply take some time to stop and breathe. I'm sure at a conference of writers I was hardly unique in being an introvert, but the energy of people can be overwhelming.
That chaotic tumble of my life before the WFC meant that I couldn't do much in the way of preparing or planning, and that also worked in my favor. I was much more relaxed and ready to go with the flow than I usually am. Did I hear, encounter, absorb or set up something I might not have? Only time will tell.
One thing I hadn't intended: I think I made myself stand out visually, which hopefully didn't work against me. Why? I was that girl with the purple hair. I was not the only person with dyed hair - oh, writers, I love you! - but I was definitely in a small minority, and wearing that what I'd loosely describe as bohemian-hippy-harp-performer clothes. (I was also in sandals the whole time, but that was more an expression of the fact that after wearing my work shoes so much, I have no interest in normal shoes until it gets toes-freeze-off cold.)
And what about the conference itself? Next post ...