Review of ConCarolinas May 31-June2, 2013
The Charlotte Hilton University Place hotel used for the convention is in a good location to reach it from the interstates (I-85 and I-40) and the surrounding area has both fast food restaurants and sit-down restaurants within walking distance. The hotel also has a catering area setup to feed some people on site, but the food is only adequate so unless you are in a rush, I would definitely go elsewhere. The temperature in the meeting spaces was fine, but there were many reports of hotel rooms being too hot, so definitely pack for the heat. June can be pleasant in NC but it can also get quite hot quite quickly so it is best to be prepared. Also, it can be quite rainy this time of year, and because so many people drive to the convention the journey from the parking lot can become a bit of a hike for those not staying at the hotel.
This is a very writing-oriented convention with at least two writer panels going on in most time slots. The Magical Words blog participants are out in force, both as guests and as attendees. Their panels were completely full all weekend. The scheduling for the panels for this convention is good with enough time in between panels to run to the restroom, travel from one side of the hotel to another or to arrive very early in order to camp in a seat (a requirement for some of the more popular panels). The panels can run quite late, and the topics of late night panels are not always strictly adult, which can sometimes be a problem for very young con-goers, but the convention uses all the available hotel spaces and so has to run late panels in order to fit them all in the schedule. The panels were all very well attended until about 9 p.m. when things dropped off. The writing panels we attended were quite good, with participants being prepared and the audience members asking intelligent questions. The panel topics ranged widely from ones for more experienced writers about marketing and social media to ones for new writers about the mechanics of writing. Writers of any level could find something to take home from the panels.
The dealer room was well laid out so there was enough walk space. There was a wide variety of dealers, with wares running the gamut from sweets to toys to books. The dealer room hours were late enough on Friday that even those people who came after work could get in there to look around and they closed early enough on Saturday that the dealers didn’t miss all the night time panels and events. Note that at this convention authors are given table space to sell books and sign them, only a small space though so guests like Tim Zahn still set-up a dealers table. This does mean that authors have a fair chance of selling enough to recoup their costs, but they need someone to man the table when they are in panels.
Overall this is a very well-run convention with a great deal to offer people interested in gaming (which runs most of the weekend on multiple tables) or writing. Note that for 2014 the headline guests are George R.R. Martin and David Weber so the convention may sell out before the weekend and not sell any on-the-day badges. Check on the website www.concarolinas.org for updates about 2014.