So I know this isn’t quite my normal thing to talk about, but it’s justified and I think a cool idea, especially for authors trying to find their footing and wrangle themselves an audience. So I’m going to give you a debrief on what I got to do and experience while at Anthrocon in Pittsburgh.
As the name might imply, the convention is primarily oriented around “anthropomorphics,” or as the common parlance often calls them, “furries.” Now, it’s not all what you see on CSI or Criminal Minds or whatever the popular media likes to talk it up to be. It’s not all sex in fursuits or “weird people who think they’re animals.” The furry community is for, as the AC website puts it, “If you as an adult still occasionally like to flip to the old cartoons, or have a stuffed animal sitting on the dashboard of your car, or buy cereal because it has a cool tiger on the box, you may well enjoy what our fandom has to offer.” It’s anyone who’s every wondered what it might be like if animals could walk and talk like we do. You’ll see anything from a full fursuit (which looks like a mascot costume, honestly) to people wearing tails and ears, occasionally with arm/hand/feet coverings as well, or just walking around in plain civilian clothes. You don’t need to get dressed up to be furry.
But that aside, I went primarily to meet up with an author I hold in high esteem, M.C.A. Hogarth. (This name is no surprise if you’ve read any of my reviews.) Maggie was going to be at the convention, and since I don’t commonly get a chance to see her in-person (what with us living on opposite ends of the East Coast), I decided to crash on a friend’s couch and come to the con. Maggie, along with a few other writers, were holding a few panels on writing and the business, and I figured even if I had to discount some of the information as being strictly for “furry fiction,” as it were, I’d still be able to get a good idea of writing in general.
What I got was so much more than that. The community is open and welcoming, and honestly when you look at the writing, we’re all in the same boat. There are furry-specific publishers, but I had at least one of them tell me that they were hoping to branch out a bit and see what more they could do. Maggie gave an amazing panel called “Business for the Creative Mind,” where we talked about how to deal with some of the more nitty-gritty aspects of writing, like how to deal with funding and how to build an audience. I picked up a copy of her From Spark to Finish, which is an excellent little guide on how to help get the most out of a Kickstarter campaign. (If I haven’t learned anything else from it yet, it’s that I’m not in a position to run one yet! But I know what the next step should be.)
In addition to that, I got a chance to talk about some of the stories I’ve written lately with both Maggie and author Kyell Gold, and hear some good feedback on that. Kyell and Maggie had a panel they called “A Novel Idea,” where they talked about how they build a novel and what some tips are for making sure you get the most out of your writing time. It was good to hear that many of the things they suggest, I already do.
Rounding out the night, there was an amazing and powerful panel of “Dark and Difficult Topics,” when we got a chance to discuss how to tackle such topics as rape, violence, suicide and death in our writing–and what to do when it gets a little much for the writer. Since I have a tendency to write about these things (and in fact, am writing a whole novel about intended genocide) it was very interesting to hear how each person approached the topics, and how subjective it truly is.
And hey, at the end of the night, I had Kyell and two people with German Shepherd heads walk me back to my car. I think that’s a perfect way to end a night, yeah? My protectors and champions. 😀
Long story short, I think it’s easy for writers to get hung up on the big Writer’s Conventions–and that’s not to say they’re not important! I’d love to get a chance to go to one of the big writer’s cons in NYC or something, but the fact of the matter is: if you’re a genre writer, there are so many other conventions out there you can look into. Many of the anime cons have branched into other fandoms; the comic conventions are often open to sci-fi and fantasy. Look around your state and/or area; see if there’s a con near you. Shoot an email to the staff; see if their registration window for panels is still open, and if they take writing panels. Even if it’s just a room with some notebooks and a prompt caller, that’s still something. I’d be willing to bet that most of the cons would love to see something like that come in. I know I’m going to start looking into something like that in the upcoming con season. I’ve made connections I wouldn’t have had otherwise, I got to know some publishing houses looking for work, and on top of all of that, I had an amazing Independence Day weekend.
Thoughts? Ideas? Know of any cons near you that focus on writing at all? Suggestions for how to get involved with local cons? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.