Let me preface this post by saying that it has nothing to do with Wales. Sorry.
Last week, about half of the people on my Facebook friends list attended one of two major conventions: the Romance Writers of America National Convention in San Antonio and Comic-Con International in San Diego. Two years ago, I attended both of them in the space of one absolutely insane month.
Anyone who has ever referred to themselves as a geek knows about Comic-Con, the yearly gathering of about 150,000 fans that has somehow gone from a comics trade show to a bloated, Hollywoodized extravaganza that has to be seen to be believed. In 2012, I was sent to the convention on assignment for the online blog for whom I was working. They didn’t really need to twist my arm to get me there; my friends in San Diego were already going, so I didn’t need to worry about accommodations, and I would get the added bonus of a free ticket and a cool badge that said “Press.” (In case you are wondering, it is not easy to get a press badge for Comic-Con; it involves submitted articles, letters on company stationery, a notarized affidavit that you have watched all of at least three Joss Whedon shows, a 200 question pop culture quiz and blood/urine samples.)
It was fun. For about six hours. Then I had to get in line for the Twilight panel at four a.m., and while I like Twilight (yeah, I said it and I stand by it) and I made some nice friends from Sydney, those eight hours I spent on cement that, with the rising sun, went from freezing to burning hot were a terrifying preview of my entire weekend. See, Press doesn’t get preferred seating at Comic-Con; if you have been assigned to cover a panel, you get in line with everyone else. To make a long story short, the convention is four full days long and I spent 48 hours of that time in line. I even had to ask my little brother to save my spot in the line while I ran to the hotel to do an interview. When he started bitching me out on text about how long I was taking (the celebrities were running late) and how I was keeping him from doing things, I nearly took his head off. It was my first Comic-Con, too, and I was spending it all in line to see panels for things I couldn’t have cared less about. And my day didn’t end when the main programming stopped; I had a nine a.m. deadline for everything I’d seen the day before, so I couldn’t go to any after-parties or clubs. Even going to dinner was a luxury. As for sleep…I took one very memorable nap in the hotel on Sunday night and woke up to my friends having a heated debate about sexism and Batman and something else. It was loud. I went back to sleep.
This is not to say I don’t have some great memories of my first, and to-date only, Comic-Con experience. I will never forget swiping toilet paper from the public bathroom with Sara while spending the night in the line so we could get into the Doctor Who panel, or how Nathan Fillion came by the line at three a.m. to say hi to everyone. Those are priceless moments. But for me, Comic-Con is just too big, too hot, too crowded, too commercialized, and if you’re there to work first and play second, just not as much fun as it’s advertised to be. *
I couldn’t help but compare that convention experience to the one I had a week later, when I attended the 2012 Romance Writers of America gathering in Anaheim. I only knew a handful of people from the L.A. and O.C. chapters, but I instantly felt more comfortable than I had at any point during Comic-Con. Not only were there less people, they were kinder and more considerate. Everyone was friendly; I got the sense that they were all there to not just better themselves as writers, but to help everyone else better themselves. It couldn’t have been further from Comic-Con where it seems like no one cares about anything but taking whatever they can before anyone else gets it.
That might be a gross generalization, especially for people who look forward to Comic-Con every year and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it, but I get to make those kind of generalizations on my blog. Again, sorry.
The plain and simple fact is that I achieved things at RWA. I pitched a book to an editor and got a request for a full manuscript. I listened to lectures about characterization, plotting, editing, publishing. I made new friends and strengthened old friendships. I overcame fears. I took home 69 new books. I met Nora Roberts, for pete’s sake!!
It was one of the greatest experiences of my writing career so far. I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to stay in that bubble of happy, supportive, like-minded women (and men…yes, men write romance, too) forever. So, if this blog post has any point (and by now I’m sure you’ve given up hope that it does) it’s this: I am saving up money to make a trip to San Diego in 2016, but it won’t be for the 47th Comic-Con International.
See you in two years, fellow RWA-ers!!!
*All of this is not to say that I think Comic-Con isn’t a worthwhile thing to do. Far from it, I see Comic-Con as a geek version of Mecca; you need to make a pilgrimage at least once in your life. But unless you have the credentials and no other way to afford the fees, I wouldn’t recommend going as a member of the press, at least not your first time. Also, and I speak for all of your fellow convention-goers, remember the golden geek convention rules: one meal and one shower for every 24 hours.