BristolCon 2015

BristolCon is over for another year, and it was an amazing experience again. Last year was my first ever convention and I knew nobody; this year was only my second convention, and I couldn’t turn around without seeing a familiar face. What a difference an almost-year makes.

Once again, BristolCon did not disappoint. The atmosphere was friendly and inspiring, with a good natured camaraderie that helps to bring first timers and veterans together with a comfortable ease. And that’s one of the best things about this convention; you’re never too far from everyone else, while also having space to breathe and move.

One of the things I love about it is the mingling with writers of various levels of experience. You learn so much by talking to other writers, and it really feeds the inspiration and motivation. Personally, I also find it great affirmation that the long dark path I’m pushing myself along is the right one. Trying to finish and publish work is a long process that requires a lot of patience, and there’s always doubt. Meeting like minded people, hearing success stories, understanding that others have gone through the same and achieved so much makes the struggle feel worthwhile.

I was privileged to be invited to sit on a panel, and everyone was fantastic despite my nerves and lack of experience. It was a great introduction to being on a panel, and I’d encourage anyone interested or considering it to give it a try. BristolCon is a wonderfully relaxed and supportive place and perfect to try things outside your comfort zone.

Which has reminded me that the Reading Aloud workshop and Open Mic night before the Con were also a fantastic success. Great tips from Roz Clarke about warming up, breathing techniques, presenting yourself and your work to the crowd. Cheryl Morgan then shared some of her radio experience with the group, offering advice on correct microphone usage.

The Open Mic itself was brilliant. Held in one of the programme rooms for the convention, rather than a pub or the hotel bar made a big difference. I felt more relaxed and comfortable in a room of like minded people without the usual pub chatter or worries about an unintended audience, and there was a lovely supportive atmosphere there that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I hope it will remain in the same room next year and attract more people to come along and join in the readings.

Back to the Con day itself though; geeking out and enthusiastically discussing SF&F with anyone is, of course, unavoidable. I love walking past groups of people and hearing snippets of excited conversation discussing their favourite fantasy characters, debating the direction of the next comic series, or arguing about the best SciFi film they’d seen in the last year.

Staff at the convention kept everything running smoothly between panels, room changes and the shift between events. Somehow, the hotel staff managed to keep up with the supply of water, tea and coffee throughout the day. I suspect staff of the Con and the hotel all utilised a hidden form of magic to make all this happen, as at the same time, they made it appear effortless and enjoyable. But what’s an SF&F Con without a little magic and mystery, right?

The panels and workshops were well organised, distinct, diverse and incredibly fun. I learned some great tips from Jasper Fforde about pushing your writing to the next level, and Jonathan L Howard’s tips on plotting a series was a nice contrast to my usual working style and brought up some interesting points to keep in mind for future projects.

A special mention has to go out to the last panel I watched too. I don’t think I’ve laughed at anything recently as much as I did during the ‘Here Be Dragons’ panel, which was unexpected and an absolute joy. A brilliant mix of surreal and educational that finished the official Con experience of perfectly.

I’d like to thank everyone involved with BristolCon for hosting the event, the committee, minions, and staff of the Double Tree Hotel. And of course, all the lovely people for turning up and making it the thriving and enjoyable experience that I’ve quickly learned to love and become addicted to.

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