Con Report: Cleveland ConCoction 2016

I was excited to be part of the Dog Star Books invasion of Cleveland ConCoction this year, and I’m happy to report that this was one of the best conventions I’ve ever attended. I hadn’t been to a full media (versus strictly literary) convention in a few years and this was a fun way to jump back in the fray. It was also fun to see the great cosplay and mixture of people attending the rest of the convention.

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I promise I am not actually a tiny adorable puppy.

As I told as many of the staff as I could, it was hard for me to believe that ConCoction was only in it’s third year. Everything was very well run and I had zero problems as a guest and panelist. I highly recommend ConCoction to everyone in the Ohio area, and even from farther away.

K.W. Taylor picked me up at my dad’s house in Dayton first thing on Friday morning, and the convergence of Ohio Dog Star Books authors had officially begun. Our road trip went smooth, with lots of laughs and catching up to do, and we arrived at the hotel in plenty of time to check in and grab a quick lunch from the hotel snack bar. At 1 PM, I sent K-Dub off to back up my friend (and soon-to-be debut author herself!) Shannon Eichorn on the “Science Pet Peeves in Fiction” panel, and had a great time being the lone “adult” writer on the “Writing for YA vs. Adults” panel. (Also featuring Ohio DSB author Lucy A. Snyder!) We discussed what differentiates an adult book from one geared toward YA readers and the evolution of the YA genre, then talked about our own favorite YA books and series.

I stayed in the room for the next panel (I spent a lot of time in that room this weekend), “Overcoming Writer’s Block,” this time in the audience. Another great discussion ensued, with commentary on exactly what writer’s block means–because it’s not always that you’re out of ideas!

After we finished unloading the car and bringing our books to Author’s Alley, K.W. and I had an early dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was reasonably priced for hotel food, and the salad was so good that I had it for lunch on Saturday too! Then we met up with the final Ohio DSB author, Matt Betts, and started setting up for our party later that night.

I had to leave them to do all the real work to head to my last panel of the evening: “Publishing Expectations.” I got to harp on my favorite ideal about working in any aspect of publishing. No matter whether you are on the writing or editing side, Don’t Be An Asshole.

Then it was time to party! The final Dog Star Books author, Albert Wendland, joined us to complete the invasion. I was worried that we were competing with the much, much larger “BarFleet” party going on next door, but instead we became the place where people could relax and talk in a quieter atmosphere. Our 2-hour party went to midnight and I call it a success!

First thing Saturday morning (okay, 10 AM), I was back to work on the “Growing Up Sci-Fi” panel. We had a great representation of the different generations, and it was fascinating to talk about what it was like to have to wait for each Star Wars movie in the theaters versus getting to binge watch all three in one weekend. Another prominent theme was how access to the nerd community of the Internet gave me so many more options than my older peers.

After a quick break for an early lunch, I was back discussing “Why Villains Matter.” Though I could tell that my favorite English professor Al Wendland really wanted to talk mostly about literary sources, the discussion also included villains and antagonists (not always the same) in television and film. We also branched out into redemption stories, and even the appeal of the descent of heroes.

I sneaked onto the “What is Urban Fantasy?” panel afterward, and it was great fun to talk about my favorite genre. We managed to avoid the long tangent that urban fantasy versus magical realism can become until the very end, but we did talk a lot about tropes in the genre and how authors are starting to break the mold now that the publishing industry’s marketing trends are not the only guiding force.

I spent some time in Author’s Alley that afternoon, and I want to take a moment to thank the volunteer staff who did such a great job. When the convention offered to also be booksellers for the attending authors, I expected a table set up in the dealer’s room. Instead, ConCoction set up it’s own little bookshop in a separate room, and all of the volunteers made an effort to learn about everyone’s books and guide convention-goers to what they might be interested in reading. I was both surprised and pleased by the effort, and I know this setup is responsible for many of my sales this weekend.

The day was getting long at this point, but I was still running full-tilt! Next, I attended a group reading that included some of my fellow DSB authors. Matt Betts read from his new poetry collection Underwater Fistfight, and K.W. Taylor presented the first chapter of her upcoming steampunk time-travel novel, The Curiosity Killers.

I helped them promote their books in Author’s Alley afterward, and even sold a few of my own! Then Matt and I participated on a panel where we helped authors learn how to pitch their novels and even critiqued a few brave volunteers! We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the hotel bar (our own mini “Bar Con”!)

We were dragging a bit the next morning, so it was nice to just chill out in Author’s Alley and meet fellow readers and authors. My reading was at noon, and a few lucky attendees got to experience a scene from the upcoming Steel Magic! I was also really excited to hear an excerpt from Shannon Eichorn’s Project Black Book series.

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Photo credit: K.W. Taylor

After we closed down Author’s Alley, it was time to head home. K.W. Taylor barely had a voice to begin the weekend, and by this point it was completely gone. After an entire weekend being “on,” it was nice to spend a few quiet hours in the car.

Overall, I had a fantastic and successful weekend. See you again next year, Cleveland!

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The final book haul:

 

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One thought on “Con Report: Cleveland ConCoction 2016

  1. Pingback: March Wrap-Up & April Goals | J.L. Gribble

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