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  • Writer's pictureJ.S. Dewes

SFWA Nebula Conference 2019

Finally, my thoughts on the 2019 Nebula conference! 😅🚀✨

First off, I just want to shout out the amazing people at SFWA and their volunteers for putting on a great conference. For someone who’s attended many poorly-run events over the years, it was refreshing to walk into one that was so well-organized. Not to mention so friendly, diverse, and accepting! 

(Random side note I learned…apparently they pronounce SFWA as an acronym, so “sif-wa” ?!? 🤷‍♀️ )

ℹ️ All the Infos!

The seminars were incredibly informative and interesting. I’m used to more of a “hit or miss” mentality when it comes to these kinds of seminars, but this one was literally 100% hit. I had so much new information to yammer about at the end of the day, I think my BFF (who graciously offered to chauffeur me) wanted to kill me 😂

This was very good timing for me, as far as: I’m at the point where I’m really hungry for industry knowledge, but not so early in my career that I don’t understand the basics, or have context for what the speakers are talking about. If you’re ~brand new~ to writing or publishing (and because of time and money need to be more strategic about what events you attend), then I ~might~ suggest holding off until you’ve got your toes a little wetter, and you might be able to get more out of it the following year.

That said, I intentionally attended primarily career or professional development-oriented panels, so my perspective may be skewed. There were plenty of writing/craft panels that I wasn’t able to attend that would probably be great to digest during any stage of the process! And there’s definitely no “wrong time” to attend!

💬 Mentor Sessions!

This is a scheduled session where they pair you with a SFWA/Convention/Industry veteran and you sit down for an hour to talk to them about their prior experience at the Nebulas, their recommendations for navigating the conference or the industry in general, or anything you want!

My mentor was incredibly nice and had a lot of great information to share. We talked a lot about what his experience with his debut coming out was like, what the next couple years might look like for me as my debut approaches, and what kinds of marketing efforts I should be looking into to prepare.

You sign up to participate in this when you buy your badge—I would definitely recommend for any newcomers, either new to the industry, new to attending conferences/conventions, or even just new to the SFWA Nebulas.

🤝 Business Cards!

I bought business cards years ago (a byproduct of my default “fake it till you make it” mentality), so I had plenty to hand around. But I heard a lot of, “Oh no, I didn’t even think to bring business cards!”, so I figured I’d mention it here!

In this digital age you wouldn’t think it’d be a thing, but it’s definitely easier (and less intrusive) to throw a business card quickly at someone than to write down information or fumble around with your phones. (*Please note that I do not recommend ~actually~ throwing a business card at someone.)

So if you’re planning to attend an industry event and you can spare the cash, I’d definitely recommend getting a few business cards to bring along! (Places like Vista Print have very reasonable prices and quick turn-arounds—and almost always an online code to make it even cheaper!) If you have things like a release date, cover, etc—put all that on there too! I made generic ones so I’d have them for things like this, but you better believe once that cover comes, I’ll be remaking them 😁

🍻 After-hours!

As with most conferences, a lot happens after-hours! I’m not someone who’s really a fan of participating in those kinds of free-form things (and by the end of each day I was socially-exhausted enough for a lifetime, haha), so I didn’t try to attend any of the after-hours socializing that goes on. However, I think knowing that it’s such a big part of the experience will help me prepare better for it next year, and I can go in knowing that’ll be part of what I should be trying to do, and reserve enough social-energy to accommodate. (Or more likely, I will try really hard to make myself and then chicken out. But hey, baby steps 🙂 )

📲 Phone a Friend!

I had the opportunity to meet my “editor sibling” Karen (pictured) for lunch. She’s an awesome sci-fi writer who’s been attending conferences like this for years!

She was gracious enough to let me tag along with her, and introduced me to everyone she knows! (Which honestly it seemed like she knew basically everyone! 😅 )

I didn’t have a chance to scour social media much in the weeks leading up to the conference, but if you’re able to, I’d definitely recommend getting online and seeing who’s attending, and making plans to meet up with anyone you “know” via social media.

There’s something to be said for going it solo (so you don’t have that “one friend I know” security blanket to hide behind), but at the same time, when you’re new it’s really nice to have a friendly face or two around!

🕑 Office Hours!

This one I did not participate in, because I thought it was something else entirely 😅

I’d assumed it was a situation where people were just given an open space totally freely and socialize amongst themselves, and that you’d have to go in and insert yourself into conversations, which is 100% something I do not do.

But it’s ~actually~ a sign-up situation where you put your name down to attend a fifteen-minute slot with authors, editors, industry people to have a one-on-one chat about a specific, pre-determined topic. I definitely would have taken part if I’d known that, but there’s always next year!


Speaking of, I also learned it’s held in the same place two years in a row. So I’ll definitely be doing my best to attend next year, since it’s so close to my friend’s house that I can stay for free, and as a bonus I get to spend extra time with him! Fingers-crossed the Madison airport has that same weirdly cheap non-stop to LAX next year! 🤞

There’s probably so much I’m missing, it was definitely information overload. 😅 But again, I would definitely recommend experiencing it yourself if you can. I can’t really say enough about how impressed I was with this conference from a debut-writer perspective, and I would highly recommend it to other writers out there who are new to the industry.

>>> If you have any questions or are considering attending next year, definitely let me know in the comments or DM! <<<

🇺🇸 It’s Memorial Day here in the US, where we honor those who’ve given their lives for our country. I just want to take this chance to say thank you to all the men and women in our armed forces, who selflessly serve our country every day. Thank you so much for your service! 🇺🇸


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