Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Olde City, New Blood Spotlight: Janice Hardy

This is the third in a four-part series featuring authors who will be attending Olde City, New Blood. Check out the bottom of this post for more info on the con! Today, we're featuring Janice Hardy with her "Eight Tips for a Great Conference Experience."

Janice's Bio

Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE. DARKFALL. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

You can visit her online, chat with her about writing on her blog, The Other Side of the Story, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

Eight Tips for a Great Conference Experience

I have always loved conferences and conventions. In high school, a good friend wanted to be a monster makeup artist, so he suckered me into playing the female role every time a sci fi/fantasy convention came to town (we won a lot of costume contests I might add). I didn't mind a bit, because they were awesome and fun, and my mother even helped us make the costumes.

As I got older and got more serious about my writing, it was only natural that I started attending fan conventions, and then later, writers' conferences. I've been on both sides of the fence now--as an attendee and as a presenter--and I've learned a few tricks to make any con a great experience.

The Practical Tips

1. Dress for it

Wear clothes that fit the venue you're attending. If you look over or under dressed, you might feel out of place. I have a typical "author's uniform" style I wear to my events. But at a fan convention last year, my typical outfit would have stood out and made me look strange. It was a jeans and T-shirts kinda crowd, so I got to dress down and wear my geek girl stuff (Go Gir). At a more professional con I spoke at, business attire was the norm, and though it's not fair, those who dressed down did look less serious about their writing pursuits. (fan conventions of course don't have to worry about this. It's all about fun)

Also remember to dress comfortably, and layers are always a safe bet. Rooms are frequently either freezing or stifling for some reason. Odds are you'll be doing a lot of walking, so bring shoes that'll hold up to all those steps. And band-aids in case of blisters.

2. Drink lots of water

I don't know if it's the A/C or the busy schedules, but dehydration is pretty common at cons. It leads to headaches and makes you feel tired, so you can't enjoy yourself as much. Most rooms will have cups and water in the back or outside in the common areas, so take advantage of them. Be wary of too many sugary drinks since you'll be sitting a lot, and the jitters can get you.

3. Bring snacks

Events are often scheduled with just enough time to get from one to the next, and when you get hungry, there's no time to eat. This is doubly so if there are events scheduled over lunch. Granola bars or bags of nuts are great things to stash in your backpack or conference bag to keep your energy up and your tummy from growling during a session. (not that that's ever happen to me -whistles innocently-)

4. Plan ahead

Some cons are closely packed, others are spread out over multiple floors or even buildings. Check your programs and schedules and figure out what you want to attend and where it is. You might discover two events are at opposites ends and it'll be a race to get from one to the other. It's also nice to know ahead of time where you'll be so you don't feel like you're rushing the whole time.

The Fun, Social Tips

5. Talk to everybody

One of my favorite things about a con is talking to people, but for some folks, chatting up a random stranger is terrifying. Take comfort in the thought that everyone there has something in common with you--or you wouldn't be at the con. Stuck on what to say? "Is this your first con?" is a good conversation starter. So is "what do you write?" if you're at a writer's conference.

6. Approach the presenters

I can't speak for everyone of course, but it makes my day when folks come up and talk to me at a con I'm speaking at. I'm very approachable! Socializing is half the fun at these things, and everyone is going to wind up at the bar, lounge, or whatever gathering spot exists. (At RWA this past year, it was the poolside bar) If I'm hanging out and you come over and say hi, I'll most likely invite you to join me. So will a lot of folks.

However, if you see "don't bother me" body language on someone, or it looks like a serious and private conversation, then wait for a better time to say hello. I can remember an agent I was on the same hotel floor with years ago, and every time I passed her in the hall she looked like she was terrified someone was about to pounce on her. This was not a woman who wanted to be approached. Respect boundaries, but don't be afraid to be outgoing when you see folks in social areas. (It goes without saying not to approach them in the bathroom, right?)

7. Wear something distinctive

I got an urge last year to dye a big streak of my hair bright purple. Since then, I've had more people approach me at cons than you'd believe (and everywhere else, actually). There's something about an obvious conversation starter that makes it easy for people to talk to you. It gives them something to say. If you wear a unique piece of jewelry or clothing, or do something funky with your hair, you increase the odds of meeting people.

8. Try sessions outside your normal interests

There will be plenty of things you'll want to see and do, but go wild and pick one or two sessions that fall outside your bailiwick. You never know what you might discover or who you might meet. I've wandered accidentally into sessions and learned things I never would have otherwise. If you're not sure you'll enjoy it, sit in the back row so it's easy to quietly slip out.

Conferences and conventions can be a lot of fun, especially if you embrace the social aspect. I even met some of my best friends at a con. Where else can you find a large group of people who like what you like?

What conference tips do you have? Come share!

About The Shifter

The Shifter is the first book in The Healing Wars series.

A dangerous secret. A deadly skill.

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers, Nya's skill is flawed: she can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden. If discovered, she could be used as a human weapon.

But one day Nya pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. She refuses—until Tali and other League Healers start disappearing mysteriously. Now Nya must decide: How far will she go to get Tali back alive?

Don't miss your chance to meet Janice and spend some time with her and other awesome authors and readers at the Olde City, New Blood urban fantasy / paranormal romance mini-convention this February 8-10th in St. Augustine, FL. We'll have panels, readings, meet & greets and lots of time for everyone to mingle with their favorite authors. Check out http://OldeCityNewBlood.wordpress.com for all the details. Can't wait to see you there!


  1. Thanks so much for having me here today, Sarah!

  2. I just came back from a weekend SCBWI retreat. I like that you have "dress for it" as your first tip. We were up in NM's Jemez mountains where it rained, the wind blew, and we got the first snow of the season. Conditions were rustic-ish (sleeping bags, not the best heating), and I kept thinking how miserable I would have been if I hadn't remembered warm clothing.

    Enjoy your conference~

  3. Great post, Janice! Dress for it is a great tip -- it's always, always COLD at conferences. Unless it's too hot. Layers. Kind of like camping :D

    And definitely snacks are a great idea. I've been to conferences where I managed to forget to eat!



  4. Caroline, wow, smart thinking, and a great example. Sounds like a great spot for a retreat though, even with the rough weather.

    Martina, the eating is the hardest part sometimes. And they always seem to schedule one day where you're on your own for lunch. Even tougher!

  5. These are some great conference tips that I can definitely use. This is a bookmark post. Thank you :-)

  6. Angela, most welcome. A little planning can really make a con more enjoyable.

  7. Great post and great tips. So Janice, you have a streak of Purple hair? You have piqued my interest.
    For a couple months (and at a SCBWI con) I had a bold thick stripe of platinum blonde hair (I'm a brunette). People just assumed I was a hip writer who knew what I was talking about, not a suburban housewife who had five kids at home. :)

  8. Amelia, I do indeed. Two actually, since it falls on both sides of my face. There's photos on my website from RWA where it shows up fairly well. Love the blonde stripe. People do view you differently when you get funky with your hair :)Gives us art cred, lol.