The World Horror Convention is in Utah this year. I have no desire to go to Utah. I do need and I do mean NEED to be around other creative people. I am surrounded by Philistines in my little burg and I NEED a fix of creative people whose conversations extend beyond the latest sports stats or the top ten movies, songs, or TV shows. I NEED to be around people who don't think that every writer believes, lives, acts, has done, or will do everything or the same way the characters he writes believe, live, or act. I NEED a fix of open-minded people. I NEED a fix of people who actually read something other than self-help books and romance novels. I NEED to see people who actually do live in progressive metropolitan cities filled with art and culture to remind me that I'm not crazy.
Yes, I understand that the conventions often fall short of what is advertised. You often do not make the type of contacts that are going to lead to major New York publishing deals. The major New York publishers are almost never there. The workshops often fail to address some of the current hot topics in favor of repeating the same topics you've seen at every convention for the last six or eight years. You often leave the conventions with all the same questions about the industry and the craft of writing that you had when you signed up. The accessibility to fans that you thought you'd get at your reading or book signing often does not happen and you instead wind up reading to six of your closest friends because you've been booked in the same time slot as some literary legend and everyone else is at his or her reading or the fans just did not show and its just the same old conventioneers. Yeah, I know all the bad stuff. Here's the good stuff:
1.)If you have the balls to approach them, some of those answers that you had burning in your mind when you plopped down your $99.95 plus airfare, hotel, and expenses can actually be answered by some of the more established authors crowding the bar.
2.)Some really good small press editors attend these conventions and some of them actually may buy your book.
3.)Sometimes the workshops are really informative and enlightening and you actually do get some new information and answers to some of those burning questions about the craft and the industry.
4.) There is the opportunity to meet and build friendships with better more established authors who might be able to offer you tips on your own writing, serve as a mentor and perhaps even a proofreader, and maybe introduce you to one or two of those big-time New York editors who were not in attendance.
5.) Occasionally you do wind up with a really great reading slot and you wind up with a packed room reading to a couple of dozen people who have never heard of you before who then go out into the dealer's room and buy every book of yours in the room.
6.) Occasionally you'll be one of those fans sitting in a reading by someone you've never heard of and get so blown away by his or her story that you go scurrying off to the dealer's room to find every book by him or her that you can get your hands on.
7.) Occasionally you'll wander through the dealer's room and find a rare and wonderful book buried in a bin somewhere that will make the entire trip worthwhile.
8.) Occassionally you'll make a friend that becomes so dear to you that it makes the entire trip worthwhile.
9.) It gets you out of the maddening monotony of your own little routine for a few days.
10.) It's good to know that there are actually other people out there suffering the same frustrations you are and acheiving the same successes you hope to acheive.
11.) It's always good to hear from fans, especially when you live somewhere where people equate horror authors with devil worshippers. It's nice to hear compliments from people who enjoy what you do. It's good to put a face to that ambiguous mental image we all write for known as "The Reader" and to know that he or she is sane and normal and not some slavering psycho using your stories as inspiration for acts of inhumanity as non-horror fans always imagine horror fans to be. In the end, it's just good to know that there are actually people out there reading your stuff.
All that is to say this. I'm still going to WHC with all its flaws and failures. I'm going even though it's in Utah and not New York or LA. I'm going even though I probably won't leave there with a mass-market book deal with one of the big New York publishing houses. I'm going because I need to go in order to maintain my sanity and I need to be around others who need it too.