I have the blues. The post-CON blues, in fact. I’ve recently returned from the inaugural ELLCon in Bristol, UK. Once again, after immersing myself in nothing but talking about writing with other authors and fantastic readers, as soon as I got home my energy dipped and I spent the remainder of the weekend slouched on my sofa feeling a little lost. The same thing happened after the GCLS Con in Las Vegas back in July, and I know many attendees feel that same sense of withdrawal after it’s all over. And that’s in spite of most of us being introverts and therefore struggling with the whole concept of being that sociable, with that many people, for that long, in the lead up to the event.
Vegas and Bristol were two quite different events, but I gained so much from each of them. The GCLS Con is well established now, and this year drew around 350 attendees from all over the US and the rest of the world. It ran for nearly five days, starting with a welcome on the Wednesday and finishing with a brunch on the Sunday. In between that were panels galore, keynote speeches, a vendor room, a social/meeting/gathering point, and lots of good food. I did find I needed to retreat to the quiet of my hotel room at the end of each day, feeling something akin to sensory overload after being surrounded by so many amazing people and listening to so many interesting discussions around writing, publishing, diversity, and LGBTQIA+ issues in general.
ELLCon was devised as a European equivalent to the GCLS Con, and took place over one and a half days. The concept was similar – author/publisher panels, a vendor room, good food (and great cookies!) included. Around 100 attendees made it a more intimate experience, but that didn’t detract from the quality of the authors taking part in the panels, nor the topics discussed. I think I actually preferred that it was a shorter event; I found it easier to give more energy to it knowing I only had to do that for a couple of days. The event was a huge success and we all have high hopes that it will be run again next year.
If you’ve never been to such an event, and there’s a part of you that would like to go even if you find the thought a little daunting, you don’t have to ‘go large’ and start with something as huge as GCLS. As well as ELLCon (which I hope does become an annual fixture), Bold Strokes Books runs an event in June in the UK each year, where some of their UK-based authors gather and give talks and readings. DIVA Magazine in the UK will run their literary festival again in March 2019; last year they had such stellar names as Val McDermid attending. Provincetown in the US runs an annual, week-long women’s festival that is supposed to be awesome, and incorporates book-related events along with music, excursions, and all-round fun, and I’m sure there are other, smaller events on a regular basis in the US that would be worth exploring (keep an eye out on social media for details of those). So far there’s nothing I’m aware of in the southern hemisphere, but who knows what could happen in the future?
At any of these events you will meet like-minded people who all share one wonderful thing in common: a love of f/f fiction. And an awful lot of those people will be sharing the same nervousness and anxiety as you might; believe me, there is some comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one feeling those things. There is never any pressure to take part in anything – you can go to panels or not, you can browse the vendor room or not, you can join in the social events surrounding the Cons or not. It’s entirely up to you how much you do of anything and no one will think badly of you if all you want to/can do is sit in a quiet corner and simply soak up the atmosphere.
So, check out all the links I’ve provided, check your calendars, and see if you can make it to one event next year. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!