This weekend, Friday May 31st - Sunday June 2nd, I attended BookCon for the first time. While attending the convention was a first for me, so was the experience of travelling alone - both the physical 4 and a half hour bus ride across state lines, and just being in a new city/hotel room/setting completely alone.
As far as solo traveling goes, a convention is likely one of the best ways to do it. I was surrounded by people who all had a shared interest as me, my hotel was within a mile walk from the place I spent the majority of my time during the day, and there was a schedule of events laid out for me. Did I hang out with those like minded people? Sometimes - though let’s be real we all know how awkward it is to talk to strangers. I will say though my networking and acting skills surprisingly paid off. Did I stick to just the hotel and the convention center? No way! The first night I was there I walked to a studio for BookTube meetup with over 30 people I had never met before and had to walk through Hell’s Kitchen and the Garment District alone, with no idea where I was going. Did I go to most of those events? Hah. No. Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely!
There are times where things aren’t always easy or fun in life. Being stuck on a full bus with a man who takes up his chair space and half of yours, is drilling your eardrums with the snore machine embedded in his skull, and is crushing your arm underneath the heft of his unconscious dead weight is not easy or fun. Destroying a bright white hotel room towel because you dyed your hair red a week ago and it is still bleeding might be easy, but it is definitely not fun when you have to worry about being charged for it. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to walk up to new people in a room full of thousands is not easy - but it could prove to be fun in the long run if you find the right person. Waiting in lines for hours and missing other events because of it is also not easy or fun.
I missed a lot of events that I really wanted to attend at BookCon. Panels overlapped with signings, overlapped with arc drops, overlapped with meet & greets, overlapped with impromptu meetups. I had to pick my battles, and ultimately 2 things always won out: Signings that I had been ticketed with my weekend badge which came with a scheduled time and I knew would not run out, and chances to interact with content creators like myself. If I could manage to fit it in - I would go to BookTube related events in a heartbeat. Though, of course due to long lines and limited seating I did miss some of these panels - one of which seemed to have caused a lot of issues.
On Sunday night there was a BookTube Meet Up, as it was advertised to the attendees, that ended up being the least organized meet and great photo op many people had ever experienced. I arrived about 20 minutes into this whole ordeal after waiting in line to speak with Maureen Johnson. Am I upset that I had to wait in line and miss this event? Absolutely not! I made that choice. Though when I arrived, I was welcomed to 5 angry convention workers who scolded me as I walked in that the panel would end at 5 (I believe, times are irrelevant at this point). This seemed fine - I was just going to say hi to some friends any ways. Though they insisted. This. Event. Ends. At. Five. I couldn’t understand what the urgency or rudeness was about. So I shrugged it off and walked into a sea of people wrapping the room in clusters, a cacophony of sound, and my group of booktubers who were all huddled together at a table in the back of the room watching this all go down or ignoring it entirely. I didn’t feel comfortable in the room. Individuals were yelling into microphones trying to create some semblance of order, people were clustered and teaming, tensions were high. So I left, and when I left I was again berated by staff that the event had to end on time - as if I had any say in this occurring!
Sadly that was my last event of the weekend, and it was a rather sour note to end on. Not to mention checking social media later that evening to find people discussing the issue that happened with photoshoots the day before wasn’t helping the situation [Which by the way if you want my stance - which you shouldn’t because I was not involved in any way nor did I know “the photo” occurred until long after the fact - you can find it on Twitter. I will not be linking it. If you really want to know you can find it, but I suggest reading Jenna Clare’s blog post instead].
I will say that I got to meet some fantastic people. Even though the booktuber meetups were ill planned by way of the con they were by far the most enjoyable parts of my weekend. The self made booktuber meet up was a free for all Friday night. I met some great individuals that went out to the bar with me afterwards and kept running into all weekend. We all follow each other on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram now and THAT is what I went to this con to do - connect with other creators who care about books just as much as I do.
Overall, BookCon was run like most conventions I’ve been to in the past. Way too many people were starting lines really early, several of the booth volunteers and employees didn’t really know what was going on, and most of the time was spent waiting in lines to meet some level of celebrity - willingly and happily (usually). I think that the Con coordinators could address a few concerns better in the future in way of accessibility for those who need it and safety for some of their creators that aren’t valued (always this issue with YouTubers!) but overall I wouldn’t say the experience was unenjoyable.
I haven’t made any determinations yet on if I will be returning to BookCon next year, but I hope that if I do I will also be attending Book Expo America (BEA) as well to compare it to.