Balticon 2013

David and I attended our first Balticon this past weekend. We were there for two out of the three days, and had a blast. I’ve attended a writing conference (Pikes Peak) and a writers’ workshop before, but this was my first convention. It was a very different experience!

The People

What I loved about this con was that it drew in readers, movie/TV fans, costumers, artists, and film-makers, as well as writers. We met a guy in a steampunk Tigger costume, a retired mailman into historical re-enactment, and a woman who’d sewn an Inara costume for a Firefly-themed wedding. I LOVED meeting people with these kinds of passions and skills.

(And, I also got to meet Linda Adams, although briefly. Hi, Linda. *waves* Update: Check out Linda’s thoughts about the con in Tidbits from Balticon)

(Also, this was the first family-friendly writing-type thing I’ve attended. We’re thinking about bringing our own three next year.)

The Panels

Most of the panels I attended had to do with self-publishing (social media, podcasting, marketing, business) which fell in the New Media track (and so many of those were in a room tucked all by itself in an end corridor, hmm *wink*). There wasn’t much there that I didn’t already know–and when the panelists touched on anything new, it was in a cursory way, making me go, “Hmm, I’d better go research this when I get home.”

(I believe that cons are all-important for meeting people and getting that valuable face-time with them. Information you can get in spades online, usually in more depth and detail than can be crammed into a 50-minute panel.)

Things that I learned/need to look into:

* Google + for writers. There was an entire panel on this, but most of the panelists admitted they didn’t utilize this as well as they could. If you’re a writer using Google + extensively, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also–I’d like to do a Google hangout sometime. Anyone interested?

* Podcasting fiction is a LOT of work. I think I’m better off hiring narrators down the road.

* At some point, I need to look into setting up a LLC.

* Why you need a business plan: So that you can gauge whether an opportunity is worth pursuing or not. Will this opportunity take you closer to your goals, or off in a different direction altogether? (Thanks to Gail Z. Martin for this insight).

* Advice on shopping around rejected stories you wrote for a themed anthology: Other writers are inundating the market with their rejected Machine of Death stories, so wait a year for the deluge to die down and then submit.

* Note to self: Science presentations are awesome. Attend more of them next time.

Special Events

The highlight of my weekend was the Steampunk Ball (and yes, David and I attended that in costume. We had hats and everything!). Susan de Guardiola, the instructor, was awesome. We did line dances and circle dances, and quadrilles, and much fun was had by all.

It’s amazing how being in costume can help you meet people. They will naturally stop by to comment on the costume or–in a few cases–ask to take your picture. Also, doing something with other people (like everyone failing to learn a dance) is a great ice-breaker. The next day, when you run into them again, you have something to chat about. (Though you might need to remind them who you are. They may not recognize you without the hat/goggles/hooped skirt.)


Have you attended science fiction & fantasy conventions? Which was your favorite?



  1. Sounds like you had a fabulous weekend. Cons are such a great way of meeting people and getting energised. As you say, you don’t necessarily “learn” anything significant, although I tend to come away with little helpful insights. I’m attending three conventions this year! I’ve already done Conflux (Canberra) and we have a local one in two weeks (Continuum). And then in October I’m heading to Brighton UK for the World Fantasy Convention — woot!

    • Oooh, WFC! That sounds awesome.

      Balticon is it for me this year. We are determined to get back to it next year since the GOH is going to be one of our favorite authors. And WFC 2014 is in Washington DC so we’re hoping to get to it, too.

  2. I’ve attended many science fiction cons, including ones in California, Washington, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, and probably a few states I’ve forgotten (I’ve been going to them since 1976, with a 10 year break).
    Balticon was disappointing this year. It was pretty disorganized, especially since they duplicated at least one workshop and had way too many writers on some of the panels. Still, not the worst con I’ve been to. That has to go to Intervention in 2012. It does not work when you schedule a panel called Writing a Fantasy Novel and schedule only comic book artists to discuss it. Marscon this year wasn’t very good, either; I think it’s more of a partying con than a workshop con. Capclave will probably be worth going to and definitely Ravencon for next year. That’s going to have a focus on women writers.

    • Linda, you’re an old hat at this!

      Capclave looks really good, but I don’t think I can afford another con this year. Not unless I suddenly sell a thousand books or something. *grin*

      Since this was my first Balticon, I didn’t have any expectations save to have fun. I didn’t attend a ton of panels/workshops, mostly because they’d have 2-3 hours where I wasn’t interested in anything, then 3 panels I wanted to attend, all in the same time slot. That was a bit disappointing–esp. when I picked one panel and then spent most of it wishing I’d gone elsewhere!

      I appreciated that Balticon was more than just books and writing. My husband’s into costuming so I heard all about the various costuming tricks he picked up, including the ones from a quick-change artist!

      • If you can, go to others. Being seen is an indirect form of marketing, especially if you do something to make you stand out (wear horns, a Hawaiian shirt or whatever). You also get a chance to talk to some of the small press publishers. There’s a couple I’m going to check out for anthologies. Some of them are hungry for stories by women.
        BTW, your husband would like ConTemporal. It’s a Steampunk con heavy on the costuming. Last year they had tons of costuming workshops.

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