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    I followed my dear friend Ash Robbins (www.wckedwords.com) to Fen Con this year. I only attended from late Saturday morning through that evening because of prior commitments. Honestly, the big draw for me was the opportunity to experience dressing up in a thrown together steampunkish costume for the big party and get a feel for what is steampunk. I've never written anything remotely steampunk although I've enjoyed what I've since learned are steampunk classics. Being a fan-based conference, I thought it would just be a kick to check it out, observe, and leave, but OH MY GOD AGNES, now I wish I had planned to stay for the entire program.
    From a monetary angle, I wouldn't know where to start in beginning to explain what the pay-off would be for the amount of money invested. I paid $40 for access to the entire weekend's events. $40 people. Fen Con (www.fencon.org) is a totally fan-based event yet there were writer specific panels. The authors who came to Fen Con, and some were NYT best-selling ones (Gail Carriger – www.gailcarriger.com), did readings (Rachel Caine - www.rachelcaine.com, Rosemary Clement-Moore - www.rosemaryclementmoore.com), sat on panels (Phillippa Ballentine – www.pjballantine.com, Tee Morris - www.teemorris.com), general hanging out (O.M. Grey - www.omgrey.wordpress.com, author Teresa Patterson, and fan Beth Case - www.bethcase.com) walked amongst the fans (all of those listed) - all the normal stuff you'd expect, AND they were approachable - they hung around and talked to people. I can't begin to tell you how valuable that time was. I honestly feel I gleaned as much information at this fan-based event as I have ever gathered from a writer's group event. I must say the absolute highlight was being asked by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine to sit in on their podcast (www.theshareddesk.com) which was recorded live that Saturday night.
    Please don't think I'm bashing writer's groups events. I'm not. A fan-based conference is probably not going to bring in big name agents and editors and that's part of why the cost is significantly less. There is crucial information to be learned and networking to be done with these agents and editors, but from a monetary, personal, and even profession angle, I met more approachable authors who were more than happy to impart their wisdom. I met more genuinely enthusiastic fans who knew exactly what they did and didn't like about books and genres, than I have ever met at any other conference. It was an enlightening day. Never underestimate the power of the fan based con, especially Fen Con.