A few weeks ago, I attended my first GEOCON. Let me start this review with a list of caveats: I love the mountains, I’m a historian at heart, and I like to support local communities. All of that contributed to my great enjoyment of my first GEOCON. The writing conference is hosted by the Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation in a restored 1874 schoolhouse in the beautiful, historic mountain town of Georgetown. But personal interests aside, GEOCON was a solid convention. I heartily recommend it to any writers looking for conferences, particularly those who have never attended a writing convention before. At only $50 a day, it’s worth the cost!
Small But Educational
This was GEOCON’s third year, and it’s come a long way from its first year as a one-day symposium. This June it boasted two and a half days full of keynote speakers, workshops, and panels. And I have a feeling it’s only going to get better with age. But as Paul Boat, one of the organizers, said, “We’re always going to be small.” And this small size makes it a perfect setting for first-time conference attendees and those who want to improve their craft in an intimate, relaxed setting.
Though I could only attend the first two days, I was impressed with the variety of offerings. Each day had its own keynote presentation by a published author: Erika T. Wurth, David Hicks, and Erika Rouse. Throughout the day, the rooms each had different workshops going. While the choice of classes was limited compared to a larger conference, I personally appreciated not having to choose between four or five different options and worry I was missing out.
The conference this year was geared specifically towards self-publishing, but everything I heard was equally useful for those who hope to traditionally publish. And for those who aren’t yet thinking about publication, many of the panels were focused on the craft of writing.
A Variety of Panels
The topics covered by the presenters (most, if not all, of whom were natives or residents of Colorado) were many and varied. I attended classes on how to write an action scene, how to set up a successful author table, and how to “unleash your inner investigative journalist.” Other panel topics included marketing, developing audiobooks, understanding industry standards, and conducting research.
By far my favorite panel was Traci Jones‘ “Teenage Angst: Writing YA.” Her presentation was detailed and easy to follow. She laid out the ground rules of Young Adult literature and educated the audience on common YA tropes. Because making your character a teenager is not the only requirement for writing a good YA book!
Jones interspersed her explanation of what makes the genre unique with targeted writing exercises to show that anyone can write YA. Though I had no intentions of writing YA when I went into her class, I left with a full set of brainstorming notes. The story ideas I came up with during her workshop may very well turn into my next NaNo project. And I am definitely going to look into reading her books! I came away from that panel, and the conference as a whole, inspired to write and encourage other writers.
A Literary and Historical Journey
Another highlight of the conference was the unique opportunity to take a tour of Louis Dupuy’s Hotel de Paris. This is where my historian heart really comes into play! Before arriving in Georgetown, I had no idea that it had been home to the late-19th century’s equivalent of a celebrity chef. And not only was Louis Dupuy known for his good food and high health standards, he was also a journalist and collector of books.
For the price of a normal museum admission, GEOCON attendees were treated to a private tour of the Hotel de Paris that focused specifically on Louis Dupuy’s writing experience. The hotel still houses his collection of hundreds of what are now rare and antique books. The museum director pulled out several of these to show us, including a biography of Ulysses S. Grant signed by the president (who had stayed at Dupuy’s hotel years earlier).
I loved seeing all the old books, even if we couldn’t touch them. And I learned a lot about a minor historical celebrity I’d never heard of before. The tour was informational and entertaining, and it was particularly fun to get to know other conference attendees as we went along. It was a great way to kick off the event and be a part of the group.
Friendly and Inviting
Perhaps GEOCON’s most outstanding feature was the truly friendly atmosphere. Like so many in the writing community, I’m an introvert at heart. I generally take a while to warm up to new situations. But it did not take me very long at all to feel at home at GEOCON. Paul, Anne Marie and the other staff members were welcoming and easy to talk to. And I found their friendly attitude mirrored in the attendees. You don’t have to worry about being lost or alone in the crowd in Georgetown.
If you’ve dreamed of attending a conference but don’t know where to start, try GEOCON. If you’re a conference master and would like to network and practice your craft with a little less exhaustion, try GEOCON. If you want an excuse to take a mini vacation in the mountains, try GEOCON! But I guarantee you’ll get much more than a vacation out of it.