JordanCon 2013 Recap: Why You Should Come Next Year (Part 1)

So, this past weekend, I attended JordanCon 5. It is my third time attending JordanCon, which to this day is still the only convention I have gone to. Here I will explain why I did so for the third year in a row, and why I have no regrets about getting up at 4:00am Friday, dragging myself (and a friend of mine) from New York City to Roswell, Georgia, and no regrets about completely crashing upon my return home. (I still haven’t completely caught up on sleep.) I would have liked to start writing this sooner, but between catching up on schoolwork and being exhausted, there was little time.

So I guess I’ll start with the recap, simply because it’s easier. (I tried to livetweet my activities throughout the ‘con, but between my religiously mandated Saturday silence and the fact that many of those tweets were likely missed, I feel a recap makes sense.) My friend Meir and I took a 6:00am flight to Atlanta, the only direct flight I could find that would get us there on time. Fortunately, everything went smoothly, and we were even able to check in at the host hotel early, giving us a little time to relax before things officially began. (Only downside is that once again I was unable to secure a fridge for my room, which makes life a bit harder if you;’re bringing your own food for the weekend, as I do, for religious reasons.)

As anyone who has met me or follows me online or has ever read one of my posts here, I am a writer, with a goal to become a published author. As you’ll see, that helped determine exactly what sessions I went to.

At 1:00pm Friday, the ‘con began. This year’s toastmaster, Leigh Butler of the Wheel of Time reread fame, got things moving by introducing the convention, the guests, and the various tracks. Of course, there were some skits, and the opening ceremony was as fun to watch as ever. That done, we (all 300-400 or so of us that were probably there at the time) were all unleashed to go wherever.

For those who haven’t ever been to JordanCon, there is a built in half an hour break between each round of sessions, which allows us time to do things such as linger and talk to the panelists, whether they be fellow fans of the Wheel of Time, publishing industry professionals, or best-selling authors–yes, you can just talk to them. But more on that later. The free time also allows you eat (as there’s no designated lunch break), walk through the dealer’s hall (where you will want to buy all the things), or to simply talk with the other attendees; catching up with people you’ve met in past years if you were there, or to just meet new people. (A hint: If they were at the same panel you were at, you probably share at least one interest.) I am by no means good at starting conversations with people, but fortunately others will do that for you often enough, and if go on your own (as I initially did), you will end up talking to people. (A lot of this is probably similar to how it works at other conventions, but I wouldn’t know firsthand.)

To pick up where I left off, our first stop was the large gaming room, which had something going on in it for as long as there were people up, which equals almost the entire time. My friend and I are both big fans of Magic: The Gathering, so we quickly noted who else was playing, and while we didn’t get into any big games then we played for a little while, making light conversation with the people around us.

The next stop was an official panel, or rather an event–the first Brandon Sanderson signing. I’ve met him several times before, to the point that he recognizes me now (happy fan is happy), but this was the first time I had a picture taken with him. (I believe I posted that on Twitter.) Of course, as is my tradition, I gave Brandon a couple packs of Magic cards as a token of appreciation for both his writing and his writing advice, in particular the Writing Excuses podcast. I also get to sign one of the cards so he knows where he got it from (signed a land this time, which he said will got into his Cube–a Magic specific term that this is neither the time nor place to discuss.)

With 3 of my 5 books signed (yes I bring too many) I caught the last bit of a panel on marketing held by several of the author guests and spent a few minutes talking with an editor I met last year (yes you can talk to them too-to a point at least–but again I’ll discuss that in will end up being part 2 of this post) before attending a panel or writing religion in your created worlds, run by Brandon Sanderson and this year’s author guest of honor Seanan McGuire, along with others. I would definitely call it a highlight, as it is an topic I haven’t found simple at all, and with such a diverse range of opinions and ways of approaching it there was something for everyone. (I also believe it was recorded, and should be showing up online at some point.)

That marked the end of panels for the day, but it was far from the end of the day. There was a dinner break until 8:30pm, which was made all the more complex by the fact that Meir and I are both observant Jews, meaning that 1) We have to eat in our room, where our food was being kept as cool as possible in a thermos-type bag and ice buckets, 2) We have to prepare for Shabbat, or Sabbath, where there is a long list of things we cannot due, such as use electronic things, and 3) We had prayers to say. To say it is an interesting exercise to throw together a meal of portable foods, and eat while most lights were off and the sun was setting is an understatement. But I’m a veteran at this by now, so we managed, and were only a little late for the only scheduled event of the evening, catching an elevator down (as we can’t press the bottoms on Shabbat).

The event Friday night was a new one, and one that particularly appealed to me as a writer. It was a writer’s round table and peer review session, where we had the opportunity to get feedback on up to five pages worth of something we were working on. And while it was called a peer review session, many of the author guests were present, as well as several of the publishing industry guests were as well. I got useful feedback on my writing from author Stuart Jaffe and Eddie Schneider, an agent at JABberwocky Literary, and Meir, who is interested in working in the publishing industry, in an agenting or editorial setting, got a chance to have a good conversation about the publishing industry with Mr. Schneider as well as Paul Stevens, an editor at Tor Books. (And of course I got the chance to participate as well, to learn some more about an industry I hope to enter one day soon (which is something a lot of writers forget to do). Considering this was a new thing at JordanCon, I think it went very well, and I hope it makes a return next year.

Once the review session wound down we went over to the game room again, but soon realized that having gotten up at 4 in the morning can lead to tiredness, so decided to head up early–at a mere 12:30. Of course, getting up to the room was also interesting, as we couldn’t use the electronic key or the elevator, so one of the hotel staff let us onto the emergency stairs and let us in. Our room was on the seventh floor. Oh, the interesting things we have to do sometimes (though what the hotel didn’t realize, I guess, was that we actually could use the elevator, just not the buttons). But all in all, a it was a great first day. Back at the ‘con for the third time, getting to reconnect with some of the people I’d met in previous years, just great fun.

And now it seems this is going very long, as it seems most stuff I write does. I think I’ll split my JordanCon recap into a couple parts, since I can’t seem to do things so succinctly.

So until next time, keep writing, and watch this space for the rest of the recap.

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