Miss Cole's Handy Guide To Surviving Conventions
This is my second time, but unlike last year, I'm going for the whole weekend. I thought I'd share everything I learned at last year's YALC, and things I've picked up attending other conventions - big and small.
I haven't put these in order because they're pretty much all as important as each other. I've just used ALL THE CAPS when I get a little over excited or overly passionate about something.
So, here is my handy guide to surviving conventions in extremely rambling form!
Wear Sensible Shoes. If you're cosplaying someone who lives in heels, well, you have both my respect and my sympathy. But if you're not, clad your feet in the most comfortable, least-likely-to-give-you-blisters shoes you own. Your feet and legs will thank you for it. Oh, and personally, I wouldn't recommend flip-flops even if it is baking hot. Lotsa people, lotsa stomping feet. OW.
You'll Be Queuing A LOT! Last year, due to my failure to buy an advance ticket, I queued for about two hours (in the company of the lovely Emma Adams) just to get into YALC. Be prepared to be patient. Or be more organised than me and turn up earlier. WAY earlier. Like maybe camp out the night before if you don't have advance tickets.
Plan Your Days! Speaking of total lack of organisation, I went into YALC blind last year and as such had to plan my entire day in about five minutes. Suffice to say I missed some cool things. The programme is live, so make a quick note of what you want to do. Yes. That's me talking about planning O_O
CARRY DRINKS AND SNACKS. Yup, that's an ALL THE CAPS one. Seriously. Water. Lotsa water. And food. It's London in July in a huge hall FULL of thousands of people. Chances of adequate AC are slim. THIS. IS. LONDON! You will dehydrate, and you'll also have to stand in loooooong queues for lunch. Water, soda, sports drinks, fruit, crisps... Whatever you need, bring some with you. Fainting isn't fun.
Carry Cash. One of the worst mistakes I made last year was not carrying enough cash. Not all of the stands will take credit/debit cards, so be sure you have a lot of cash. The queue for the ATM in Earls Court last year stretched from one end of the building to the other. In the end, Emma and I wound up traipsing around nearby streets for banks. It was quicker than waiting in that queue!
Personal Hygiene Is Important. It's a touchy subject, but one that shouldn't be ignored. Sweating is unavoidable, but there are things we can all do to minimise the body odour, and all of us should do all of them. Also, carry hand sanitiser. You'll want some. If you want a recommendation, try Soap and Glory's Hand Maid. It smells sooooo nice!!!
Respect Everyone! It's hot, stressful, and potentially overwhelming, but that's no excuse to be unkind. You want to have a great time, and so does everyone else. If you're getting frustrated, don't take it out on a fellow con-goer or a volunteer.
|Don't be that person. Just don't.|
It's Okay If You Feel Completely Overwhelmed. Conventions are huge, busy, and really loud. They're also a lot of fun, but if you're feeling bowled over by it all, take some time out. Leave the building and get some fresh air. Chill out in YALC's Quiet Zone. And if you're attending with other people, don't be afraid to tell them you need a break.
Carry Essential Medication On You. Alright, yeah, now I sound like a mother, but I have asthma so I know better than to go without my inhaler. But I'm talking all the way down to carrying some paracetamol in case the noise and heat gives you a banging headache. Take care of yourselves in there!
Respect Signing Limits. Last year it felt like some people emptied their entire bookcases for authors to sign. There are other people in the line, and they're as keen to meet the authors as you are.
That being said, don't get rude to someone who you perceive as taking too long. The staff know how to handle these things.
IF YOU'RE MEETING UP WITH NEW PEOPLE, MAKE SURE THEY ARE COOL PEOPLE! If you're meeting up with online friends you've never met in real life before, make sure you're safe, okay? (This is the childcare professional in me coming out.) Also, have a meetup space, arrange meetup times and locations, and NEVER go someplace you don't feel safe. And if someone's making you feel unsafe, TELL A MEMBER OF STAFF. They'll be all over the place and they have the right to kick uncool people out.
Take a Backpack. Oh come on, you lot! We're readers and we will buy books. ALL THE BOOKS!!!! Last year they gave out tote bags, but I like to keep my hands free, so backpacks are great. Just don't put your whole life in it. You'll need space for water and food and BOOKS, and your back won't appreciate carrying stuff you don't need. Leave excess luggage in your hotel room or, if necessary, at a left luggage department.
HAVE A TON OF FUN! Wanna know what the best part of YALC is? Meeting fellow writers and readers and making new friends and chatting to people who've already made it and can give you advice on your own journey to publication. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to meet other writers and readers who just get it, you know? It's a wonderful feeling! Go on, jump in and have a great time!