One of my reasons for (re)launching this blog at last was my experience of readers, authors and bloggers at Authors After Dark held in Philadelphia Aug 2011.

A friend mentioned AAD to me last December and I immediately agreed to go along, even though I knew nothing about it: Philadelphia is one of the cities I think of as home and there were several authors on the list of attendees that I knew I’d love to meet. There were a few elements of the convention that could have improved the overall experience, but ultimately I am glad I went.

 

The improvements:


  1. Keeping the convention website live until after the event ended
    . Last winter the information moved to a yahoo group, which I did not join (who wants to create yet another online ID in order to follow a one-off event?) Fortunately my friend followed along with the group and kept me updated. In the meantime, the website for AAD2012 went live. Why not keep both websites up? In addition, having a website that listed the bloggers attending along with the authors (I understand this was available via yahoo group, but that’s not as helpful as a website) would have been useful to all attending.
  2. One official twitter hashtag. #AADPhilly and #AAD2011 were both used for the event, which kept information and interactions somewhat scattered. Advertise one hashtag and I’m sure we’d all follow.
  3. Updates posted at the hospitality room and under the designated Twitter hashtag. There was a lot of confusion as events and panels changed times and places. This confusion could have been mitigated with designated spots to find more information. The welcome event was delayed, the farewell event seemed nonexistent, and by the last day even the authors were having trouble finding the room scheduled for their panels.

 

There are plenty of other posts discussing positives and negatives of the convention, but for me communication would be the easiest problem to fix, and would make a very positive difference for all attendees.

I haven’t attended conferences/conventions for fun before, just work related ones. This one exceeded my expectations. Authors, bloggers and readers mixed freely and there were many surreal moments for me (Nicole Peeler and Carolyn Crane, two of my favourite authors, showing up in the registration line behind me set the tone of the weekend). The blend of professional and informal was also very enjoyable: Panels were rather free-form, and encouraged interaction between readers and panelists; elevator, hallway and dinner conversations were a mix of amusing and inspirational. I am especially thankful to the authors for treating readers like part of the family. Though there were authors I knew I wanted to see while there because I was already a fan of their books (Peeler, Crane) or followed on twitter (Jennifer Estep, Dakota Cassidy), I also discovered authors I couldn’t wait to read thanks to their comments on panels (Anton Strout, Nancy Holzner, Mia Watts, Jennifer Armintrout) and excellent swag/promo items (Kristen Painter). Others are now on my To Be Read list because they were so engaging during conversations of convenience (Delilah Devlin, AC Mason, Megan Grooms) and willing to take pictures with the wonky androgyny bunny I use as an avatar on twitter (Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green).

AAD was a very enjoyable reader/writer immersion experience. As a result of the con my brain was racing with ideas about what to read and how to write, that was certainly worth the ticket price. If AAD gets its communication sorted out, and if it’s scheduled for another city I’d like to visit I may attend again, though I will probably sit the next one out to see what happens.
AAD/Recap Posts:
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