Sunday, September 3, 2023

Gen Con Writers Symposium 2023 - Overview

 Gen Con Writers Symposium 2023 - S.E. Lindberg Chronicles

  • Gen Con Writers Symposium 2023 - Overview from the Chair [you are here]

 Gen Con Writers' Symposium 2023 - Overview

Chairing the 2023 Writers' Symposium was an honor and privilege. The organizing committee set out to double our attendance while growing the community and growing representation & scope. We more than doubled ticket sales (vs 2022) and grew our unique-ticket-purchasers by 50%.  Being our second year post-covid, we created a strong foundation for success in 2024 and beyond.

Gen Con is a massive gaming event, the largest gaming convention in North America. This year they have over 70,000 attendees (nearly a record, and wonderful growth from last year's 50,000). One in every thirty (3.5%) attendees purchased tickets for the Writers' Symposium. We offered 70 Free Seminars, 60 Workshops, 20+ Signings, 65+ Presenters; these were organized into different categories (tracks, categorized sessions) to promote longer stays.  We also featured the track Game Narrative (storytelling in video and tabletop games) led by Toiya Kristen Finley to better integrate with the larger event.

We had ~2,500 unique ticket sales, another ~500 walk-ins, and the average attendee purchased 2.5 tickets (up from ~1.5 last yr., indicating our move to "tracks" worked).

Special Guests

With extra funding from Gen Con and a Legendary Sponsorship from the Scalzi Family Foundation (thank you!), we hosted 4x Special Guests (John Jennings, Latoya Peterson, Diana Pho, and Sheree Renée Thomas) and sponsored travel for several other authors.  Further emphasizing our focus on diversity, Maurice Broaddus continued his outreach program to bring in a dozen young, aspiring writers.

We strengthened our "writers helping writers" culture. For our complimentary book giveaway bags, each author was asked to contact their publisher for books, and many delivered a box (totaling several dozen); Catalyst stood out by providing >1000 books for the Swag Bag (for many authors not present). Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch donated projectors and screens, enabling us to more efficiently use our rooms for workshops.

Working with Gen Con, we got approval to sell an eBook Bundle on a USB-drive for attending presenters, with some of the proceeds going to 2024 travel for underrepresented authors (and some going back to the authors). This worked well, and you can expect an evolution of this in 2024!

We gamified our Hallway: We lured in two artists Grace P Fong and Jillian Porter to contribute two images each. Each piece of art was put on a poster with a QR code to enable submission of (a) micro fiction (300 words or less) inspired by the art or (b) a “caption” to explain it. Winners of the contest got their posters signed by the artists!

Our Image Prompt Contest Posters:

We even tidied up little things, like tweaking our name to have the apostrophe in the correct position (go “Writers’”!) and upgraded our website:

Next Steps

Thanks to all the volunteers, attendees, presenters, and sponsors!

See you in 2024!

Organizing Committee Members

  • Seth Lindberg (Chair)
  • Maurice Broaddus (Outreach Coordinator)
  •  Emily Bell (Programming and Communications Support)
  • Greg Wilson (Programming)
  • Toiya Kristen Finley (Game Narrative Track)
  • Chris Bell (Book Sales)
  • Matt Jarchow, Operations (Volunteer Coordinator)
  • Marie Bilodeau (Sponsors, Communications), could not attend in person
  • We also relied on 11 full and half-time volunteers, who were spectacular.

A behind-the-scenes peek at volunteering!