Tessa has posted a great list of tips for con-going and I don’t know that I can really add to it, so I’ll talk a little about my experience at Conestoga in particular. In part because Tessa’s list is dead-on, and in part because this is the only convention I’ve ever been to.
Based on Conestoga, my impression of cons in general is that it’s good to go in with some idea of what the event entails. It’s a very social environment, and at times, I found it pretty overwhelming and had to remind myself that I was free to go back to being a recluse when I got home, but for now I was in a situation where the order of the day included talking to strangers. The payout was the absolute joy of spending a weekend with like-minded people who’ve seen the same movies and read the same books, and are predisposed to have conversations about writing and ideas and craft.
I’ve been watching the author community for a long time and one of the best parts of this particular con was that they held their own min-con, and I had the opportunity to finally meet a number of the FFF authors in person. Not only was there a whole track of programming dedicated to the craft of writing speculative fiction, there were also events designed particularly to let fans socialize with the attending authors.
It turns out that author receptions and evenings in the bar are great opportunities to approach authors in a less official setting and ask questions about specific books or concepts that might be too narrowly focused to ask during a panel or a workshop. Also, it turns out that authors are a vast treasure trove of knowledge and information about research and writing and the publishing process (who knew?), and a lot of them are very gracious in talking about their experiences.
Basically, I came away from Conestoga with a collection of educational anecdotes about the business of writing, and a whole stack of new books, as well as a deep appreciation for authors in general and their generosity and willingness to converse with their fans. Yes, when all is said and done, it turns out that I have very little to say beyond the fact that I had a wonderful time!