It begins with an invitation. This usually arrives via email to the Schlock box. I’ll look over the invite to make sure it is legitimate and issued by someone who has authority. I’m likely to google the event in question to determine what sort of an event it is likely to be. Then I’ll check our calendar to see if there is a conflict. If the invitation is less than 9 months before the event, then it is very likely that a conflict will exist. If all checks out, I pass along the invite and my gathered information to Howard.
The decision meeting comes next. This is not an elaborate process. It usually occurs as five minutes in the middle of a wandering conversation. “So you saw that invite from ShinyNewCon?” “Yes. Looks good. Put it on the calendar.” And then we go back to talking about who’ll go to the grocery store.
I email to accept the invitation. In my email I make sure to clarify any of the appearance parameters, because being clear early is very important. We must know that Howard’s travel and hotel will be paid for. This is the point where I begin to adore competent guest liaisons. A good one will give me email and phone contact information along with a list of deadlines for program / badge / tshirt art. Then everything is quiet for a long time.
About two months before the show things pick up. I get in touch with the liaison to make sure everything is in good order. I find out if there are an un-met art requirements. I try to get contact info for the art show if we’re being given panels. I also want contact info for someone in the dealer’s room who is willing to sell Howard’s books on commission. When Howard is being a guest of honor, we don’t want him trapped running a table in the dealer’s room. He should be out and mingling with attendees. I also ask about air travel reservations. All of these questions are useful because Science Fiction conventions are run by volunteers who also have day jobs. They have a million things to keep track of and not much time. My emails serve as good checkpoints for everyone to avoid last minute expense and stress.
Three weeks before the event I begin mailing things. I lay out the art into panels and create detailed instructions. I try to make everything as clear as possible because I know that the volunteers working in the art show are overworked and exhausted. Anything I can do to make the work easier, I try to do. Assembling the panels requires me to dig through piles of art, matte pictures, write up bid sheets and control sheets, etc. I box all the art and instructions then ship them to the Art show address. If I’ve got a dealer’s address and a three week lead time, I’ll send all the books for sale via media mail. It is worlds cheaper.
Two weeks out and one week out, I’ll mail merchandise or art by faster, more expensive, means if this is when I get the addresses. We also make sure that Howard blogs the event. Hopefully we have a panel schedule so that Howard can talk about the details of the event. This is also the period of time when Howard begins to be stressed about the work he wants to get done before leaving. There is always buffer to build or book art to ship.
Two days out, I help Howard pack. Sometimes this happens the day before, but knowing that the packing is done helps with the stress.
Then I put him on a plane and hope that the guest liaison will take good care of him. They usually do. Also he’s gotten much better at judging his own limitations and taking breaks when necessary.
When Howard returns, he has stories to tell. There are always business contacts and possibilities to follow up. The suitcases must be unpacked. And I have to liaise with the art show, the dealer, and the convention to make sure that anything remaining is shipped back to us. There is always post-show accounting. Usually this stage occurs across the top of the preparations for the next convention.
From now until November there is always a next convention.