James Chambers, Co-Chair, StokerCon 2018
StokerCon 2018 is only a few months away!
The Con Committee is working feverishly behind the scenes to prepare and plan what we hope will be a fun and memorable experience for all attendees. Our Guests of Honor include Ramsey Campbell, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Craig Engler, Elizabeth Massie, Victor LaValle, and Sam Weller. We’ve already announced this year’s Horror University workshop schedule, an excellent line-up of writing classes, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing updates on programming, readings, the Bram Stoker Awards® banquet, and other special events. The Final Frame Film Competition is currently open to entries as well. If you haven’t yet dropped by the StokerCon 2018 Web site, you can find out more there and register for the convention and book a hotel room while you’re at it. You can also like the StokerCon 2018 Facebook page for news, updates, and tips for things to do in Providence. I hope everyone reading this will consider attending if you haven’t signed up already, and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
It’s my first time co-chairing a convention. After years of attending World Horror Con, StokerCon, and many other conventions, I’ve decided to dive into the deep end. Some years back, I began volunteering at several of the cons I regularly attend. Working registration. Helping to set up panel rooms and art shows. Moving tables. Stuffing swag bags. Whatever needed doing. I’d realized then that these events don’t happen without the effort and support of countless volunteers. I’d been enjoying the results of their work for a long time and wanted to lend my hands to the cause. That’s what led me to Providence.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with how StokerCon 2018 is coming together. The constant enthusiasm and tireless efforts of our Con Committee—Lisa Morton, Kevin Wetmore Jr., Brad Hodson, Michael Bailey, Jonathan Lees, Becky Spratford, Nicholas Diak, Michele Brittany, Meghan Arcuri-Moran, and others lending their skills and talents—are shaping the event into something terrific. We have a long list of volunteers who’ve already signed up to pitch in, and even longer lists of attendees interested in being on panels and giving readings. Back in August, I visited the historic Biltmore Hotel during Necronomicon, and I’m confident it’s going to be a great setting for the convention.
If you haven’t yet attended StokerCon, I encourage you to go. It’s unlike most other genre conventions. If you’ve never spent a weekend in a hotel with several hundred other creative folks who spend most of their time thinking about horrible things to do to people they make up in their heads, you’re missing out. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about, and I promise we have a few surprises up our sleeves to make Providence a truly special event.
Although this will be only the HWA’s third StokerCon, the convention has already generated a special energy of its own. It’s a place to enjoy being serious about writing and publishing and all the issues and challenges we face as horror authors. It’s a place for camaraderie, for sharing ideas, for connecting with editors, publishers, and other writers, and maybe even stepping outside your comfort zone to learn about some unfamiliar aspect of the horror genre. Mostly, though, it’s a place to set aside quotidian distractions and focus on writing for four days with several hundred other writers.
In that sense, StokerCon is unique. There are other genre writing conventions, of course, but few keep the craft and business of writing in the spotlight quite like StokerCon. Writing infuses every aspect of the convention, providing attendees—from beginners to seasoned pros—with ample opportunities to learn more about story-craft, better understand the business of publishing, explore new concepts, share their knowledge and experience, and connect with new authors and readers. Run by writers, StokerCon puts writers and readers first and strives to help writers advance in their skills and career.
At the heart of that lies Horror University. These two-hour, intensive workshops provide instruction from some of the horror genre’s most accomplished working authors. They cover many aspects of writing and the writing life and provide unique shared experiences with a handful of other attendees. The Con’s special energy is born here. People emerge from these hands-on, interactive workshops enthusiastic and excited about writing. Maybe they’ve cracked a tough story problem that had been holding up their latest work in progress. Or perhaps they’ve finally grasped some elusive element of storytelling. Or picked up tips on how to make time in a busy life to keep a regular writing schedule. Or even taken a dip in the unfamiliar waters of writing horror poetry. Whatever class they take, they leave energized by what they learned, sharing that energy, and eager to put it to work or talk about their experience. You can find this year’s Horror University roster here: http://stokercon2018.org/the-convention/horror-university/.
Even if you come to StokerCon and stick to attending panels and readings, the focus rarely wavers from writing. Many of the genre’s top authors attend and participate in these, offering tremendous insight into the world of horror fiction and publishing. Even those panels on horror in other media look intently at the writing that makes for genre classics and landmark works. The Final Frame Film Competition directly celebrates short-form horror screenwriting while the Bram Stoker Awards acknowledge some of the best works published in the past year. Our Pitch Sessions offer authors a chance to show their work to agents, editors, and publishers, and maybe walk away with a publishing deal. The convention even turns introspective with the serious examinations of the genre and researched presentations of the Ann Radcliffe academic conference which runs within StokerCon. Named for the pioneer of the Gothic novel, the conference provides a wonderful venue for the study and discussion of all those things that go bump in the night and make our genre tick. And our Librarians’ Day on March 1 offers special programming for librarians interested in making horror fiction available to their patrons.
Among all these panels and events, there’s plenty of time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and do a little networking. Chat with editors and publishers. Share your love of certain obscure authors. Get some books signed. Connect with readers. The horror community is relatively small and tight-knit. Spend enough time in it, and you’ll get to know almost everyone who’s part of it. And it’s true what people say—horror authors are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Our genre has a proud tradition of writers helping writers, of collegial respect, and mentoring new writers, of welcoming them into the fold—and in few places is that more apparent than at StokerCon.
Any convention veterans reading this may find this all obvious and familiar. New writers may find it encouraging. Or perhaps overwhelming. Or maybe they also find it obvious and wonder why I spent this whole column talking about such stuff. The reason is, there’s so much going on at StokerCon, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important and how to make the most of your time there. That’s a pitfall into which both new and seasoned authors stumble. You may get wrapped up in conversation and miss a reading or a panel you’d hoped to attend. Or you might spend so much time running from panel to panel you don’t get to see and talk with everyone you’d like to.
That’s okay. Remember StokerCon is all about writing horror. We’re all there to indulge in four days of thinking and talking about our favorite thing to do and networking with like-minded readers and fellow professionals. I remind myself of that every time I attend. Then I set a handful of goals for the weekend. People to meet, editors to follow up with, a workshop or two, the panels I most want to attend, and the rest of the time go where the con leads me.
The Con Committee is keeping that reality foremost in mind as we plan. We know you won’t be able to attend all of the programming so we want every Horror University workshop, every panel, every event, reading, and presentation to leave you enlightened or excited about writing horror fiction in all its gloriously bloody forms. Whatever your particular StokerCon experience, we want our attendees to leave the Con ready to jump back into to the thick of horror writing with renewed inspiration to keep the heart of our genre beating strong. And make sure to hold onto your StokerCon 2018 Souvenir Book. Editor Michael Bailey is working up something extraordinary and intends to make the book like a capsule of the entire convention, a perfect way to revisit the con and fill in the blanks.
See you in Providence!