StokerCon, Pittsburgh, 2023 – A Retrospective

It was another great year at StokerCon. In fact, it was even more fun than last year in Denver. I made even more new friends and met many of my online horror writing buddies. It is great to be in a setting where you can discuss the most morbid topics in public and everyone all around is into it. (Well, everyone except for the wedding guests and the Swifties there to attend the two Taylor Swift concerts scheduled for the same weekend.)

I did a couple things different this year as well: I stayed at the hotel hosting the con rather than an offsite AirBNB, and I made sure to carry around my Alleyman Tarot deck to do secular readings for the other attendees. Staying at the con made life so much easier.  If I ever needed a break or to just drop off a load of swag or freshly signed books, or just freshen up, I could hop on the elevator and head upstairs for some quiet.

Doing tarot readings for my fellow horror writers was a ton of fun. Most asked about what writing project to take on next or how to get around a writer’s block. Other asked about their love life or how they were going to die. (It turns out someone will go out in a battle with school administration.)

But, what is the whole thing about? Answer: Celebrating success, of both the genre and of your writer friends. I lost count of how many times I heard about a friend who was going to lunch with some agents or someone else who had a full manuscript requested. And then there is the big one: Christi Nogle won a Stoker for best debut novel (for her novel Beula). We, in the HOWL Society are so dang happy for her. Go Christi! Some other friends were nominated, but didn’t end up winning, but that is still amazing. To be even on the final ballot is an honor.

Okay, now for some tips that will help you when you attend StokerCon:

  1. Try to say yes to things more than you normally would while at the con. The experience is exhausting, but this is the big party in the US for horror writers. This is your chance to create and build bonds. This is starting to sound like a networking pitch, but I will talk more about that in a bit. No, it’s about having a great time and getting to know others who are in the same sort of situations as you. “Want to skip this panel and grab a bit next door,” asks someone you were having a deep conversation with about American Psycho and its cultural importance to the genre during the previous panel. Unless the next panel is something you absolutely want to see, say yes. Plus it will be a nice break away from the crowds. The whole conference will feel like a series of these “yes” moments, and you will start to question yourself about missing all of these programs you paid to attend. But, realistically, you didn’t pay for that, you paid to be in the same location as hundreds of others who have the same interests as you. Get to know them. Have a good time.

  2. Let’s talk about networking. Yes, please do put an effort into networking. I personally need to build my network and find clients for my publishing services business. This is a huge part of why I went to StokerCon. But, this isn’t the primary reason most are there. So, instead of actively pushing your stuff on others, just let your awesome marketable skills naturally come up in conversation. And don’t worry, it will. At some point in any conversation that runs longer than just a “hello, how are you?”, other parties will inevitably ask about your work and what you do. That’s when you give your little elevator pitch and hand over a card. No pressure, just conversation and move on to the morbid stuff.

  3. Don’t got to bed. Well, at least not too early. You still need to sleep at some point. The evenings and afterparties is where the best/most fun things happen. One author had an after party up in their room, which I was reluctant to attend. But a friend offered to go with me, and I am so glad that she did. I got to have that above mentioned conversation about messed up movies with someone I would’ve never approached otherwise. This ties a bit into the whole “say yes” thing as well. But do go to sleep when you must, this con is a few days long.

  4. And last. Feed on the energy. The whole experience is like having a huge creative jolt to the brain. You may even get the itch to run up to your room and sling out some new words. This is perfectly acceptable. Do just that. Or do like me and save all that energy for the keyboard when you get back home. I never feel as creatively juiced up as when I come home from hanging with my writer friends.

Oh, and be sure to buy lots and lots of books and get them signed. You’ll need to leave some extra space in your luggage for all of the new swag.

I hope this has convinced you to attend StokerCon next year in San Diego. I’ve already purchased my ticket, so I will see you there!

Here are some pics from my adventure: