Where to start! Well I am confident that every author, blogger, and person in attendance will post their own versions so I’m hoping readers and everyone who missed out will get an overall feel of the convention from several different sources.
Here is my experience. I flew in Thursday morning and checked in with registration (and my awesome roomie Gryvon!) easily and dumped my things in the hotel. A side note on the hotel – NOT recommended. But rooming with easy going and cheerful people, Gryvon and Ann Anderson, made it much more pleasurable. Plus the conference will be at a different hotel next year.
I checked the restaurant in the hotel but it didn’t really have any options for me so I walked down the street to Panera. It did me good to stretch my legs anyway but I remember thinking “oh god I should just go home, I don’t know anyone here!” SMP was nice enough to invite me, Grayvon and Ann were great roommates, and I met another reviewer Lisa but everyone had people to hang out with and were busy. Thankfully I had panels!
I’ll post on another post about the panels I was on – five in all! – but the overall structure of the convention and cerebral aspect of the entire weekend is what saved me. Well that, and the fact that I actually met my soulmate, Caethes Faron, and she introduced me to other authors and readers. I was surprised at how open and friendly almost everyone was.
For me the conference differed and exceeded GRL in two extremely important ways. First Rainbow Con was in essence – a convention. It wasn’t really a fan based weekend but that certainly played into it. There was more than enough time to hang out and chat with your favorite authors but there was also significant structure to the weekend where if you didn’t know too many people or actually wanted to talk books you could do so with ease.
Breaking down those two rather large differences I’ll start with the panels. There were so many panels and almost every single one of them sounded interesting. There was an author track and a reader track but certainly you could mix and mingle as you wished. I found several of the author driven panels to be fascinating and I participated in several of the reader panels myself while attending many others. The panel topics were interesting – even if the titles were occasionally vague and obtuse – and the resulting discussion between audience members and panelists kept things very lively for every panel I attended or participated in.
Additionally there was something scheduled everyday from 10am to 10pm with breaks for lunch and dinner. If you were a lone author or reader going to a convention where you may not know many people, this organization helped give attendees something to do but there was also no requirement to go to everything. In fact I missed several of the late night events – though they looked amazingly fun! And occasionally I’d miss panels I wanted to go to because I was caught up talking with people. Something I honestly –never- thought would happen there.
There were so many interesting and thought provoking panels that often they were scheduled at the same time and I had to choose between two talks I wanted to see. I’ve heard that next year they’re thinking of recording the audio from the panels to make it available in such situations. I really hope that’s true because even know I’d love to know how certain panels went.
This structure was sorely lacking at GRL, which was more like one big social party. Nothing wrong with that but if I hadn’t gone with my favorite women and shared a house with them I don’t think I’d have talked to really anyone the entire time. I certainly got to speak to some of the authors at GRL but again I always had the impression that they were there to interact with each other and not necessarily fans and readers. I’d have about a 15 minute conversation and that was the end of it, whereas at Rainbow Con I could talk to authors for literally hours and never felt as though they had better things to do. (Even if they did, they covered it really well!)
At rainbow con I certainly got the feeling everyone was happy to talk to anyone. I ended up talking to Kindle Alexander at great length about a wide variety of things, and though I’ve never read the duo’s books and clearly am not important enough to pimp to, they were beyond lovely in person. Likewise David Berger offered some excellent and thought provoking conversation, as did Storm Grant. Really I could continue to name numerous authors that I had interesting discussions with that ranged from reviews to books to just life experiences. I felt much more welcome at Rainbow Con than GRL. [Perhaps because no one knew me? Heh]
I realize that conventions are a subjective experience, just like anything else in life. I personally appreciate an intellectual and content driven convention more than just a socializing gathering. Readings are ok but I dislike them generally and they never really interest me in a new author. Instead I want to hear the author’s thoughts on writing, their subject matter, and what excites them in the field. That more than anything will get me to buy their book. So I appreciated that the focus was again on content and subjects relevant to the diversity of the genre as a whole and not simply “meet the author who doesn’t really have time to talk.” Our community is relatively small and somewhat incestuous so it’s nice to have time to speak with authors about the topics that affect the field and reflect current trends.
I’ll talk more about my specific panels – which I really quite enjoyed being a part of – in another post since this one is so long. I’d urge people to consider Rainbow Con next year as I think it’s a phenomenal way to interact with other people passionate about this genre and curious about the industry in general. The wide range of intellectual conversation should suit readers, reviewers, authors, and publishers. And of course there is social interaction, plus jello shots!