Why are there a hundred people in line to get signatures from that guy? Who is he? Neil Gaiman you say? I haven’t heard anything about him. That was in 2002, when I attended my first World Fantasy Convention (WFC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had no clue about most of the “famous” fantasy and sci-fi writers. I felt like such an idiot. I was just amazed there were a hundred people in line for him, but no one at the table of Mr. Robert Jordan (at that moment). So very odd.
I’m now a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and WFC helped introduce me to dozens of great writers and editors. It also taught me about the business. The panels were professional, and filled with things a rookie like me needed to know. I learned so much that first year and in subsequent years. I went seven years in a row, 2002-2009, and then another handful of times since then whenever the gathering took place in the continental United States.
The reason I started attending WFC was my writing teachers: Kij Johnson and Michael Stackpole, and others had encouraged me to attend—as well as people in my writing group. They knew I was serious about getting published and that was the place to find the contacts to make it all happen.
I didn’t have any friends who were attending, but then I saw two writers who had been on panels at Gen Con, where I was first told to attend WFC. Jean Rabe and Janet Deaver Pack took me in, and asked me to dinner. They gave me great advice and I learned how kind they were. I made new and wonderful friends who have endured for almost twenty years now. That’s the thing about WFC, you’ll probably meet people who will become your writer friends for years.
At WFC I seriously bonded with one of my writer brothers, Bradley Beaulieu. We started sharing a room when we attended each year and became great friends, helping each other with our books and stories. I don’t know where I’d be without Brad, but he has pushed me to become a better writer so many times.
I gained such valuable friendships and contacts over the years at WFC, and I got to meet legendary writers like George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Stephen R. Donaldson, Denis McKiernan and so many more. I listened to them on panels and then had drinks with them in the bar. Eventually, I joined in on panels, did signings and readings there as well. It was surreal and awesome.
My first time attending was intimidating, exciting, and most of all enlightening. I learned how things were done in the writing world. I got to know people, and ended up meeting an editor who eventually bought my fantasy series. Most of my first short story sales came from WFC and led me to getting several stories published with DAW Books. WFC launched my own editing career.
I’m so glad I attended way back in 2001. World Fantasy taught me so much and if I hadn’t gone, I doubt I would have had any sort of career at all.