By David Doub
I've been involved with cons for about 20 years now, be either as an attendee, a guest, vendor or staff. In recent years the desire to use all that past experience has grown and grown to do my own convention. But Texas currently has over a 100 fan/nerd conventions scheduled for 2015. That means on any given weekend there are 2 to 4 conventions and events going on in a 4hr driving radius. This means we have so many choices but also it means that while the number of good conventions has risen that also means the number of bad cons has risen as well.
So I couldn't rightly just start another convention for no better reason than I wanted to do one. I needed to think of a better reason, a more worthwhile goal for starting a new convention. I knew I had a lot of strong opinions about conventions and what some of the common trends were and it was finally time to put my money where my mouth was.
But then I was talking to some local female creator friends and I was reminded yet again that they don't get much attention or mention in this modern era of conventions every weekend. At best you'll see a token "Women in Comics" or a "Women in Horror" type of panel at any given show. I asked myself why they were celebrated more for all their contributions and accomplishments. Even more so, these women were more than willing to share their experiences and skill sets so that the next generation can start their own creative pursuits. There are so many choices nowadays for creative jobs that it's almost overwhelming to figure out which one is the best for you and how to get that job. Also very important is a mutual support system. The creative industry is still one of the most misunderstood out there and it's good to know from more established folks that it is hard work but that hard work does pay off.
That's when I realized this wouldn't be a convention that I was pursuing, this would be a conference. This would be a community event where there would be networking, panels, creators' alley, and workshops. What we wouldn't have would be general gaming, autograph lines, cosplay contests, and the like. While spectacle is great fun, we would be focusing more on the craft and art of creating and less on the pop culture of it all. That's why it was named the Creative Women's Conference. And for the past two years we've tried to bring in a wide range of creative women in different fields. We've had actresses, directors, producers, writers, artists, photographers, craftswomen, fashion designers, reporters, radio personalities, and more I'm probably missing. While our numbers have been humble, we've found that the engagement rate of each attendee is around 80-90%, which means everyone who comes, stays for the whole event and is involved with almost every activity we have scheduled.
Another thing we realized is that since this is a community event trying to give back to said community, we couldn't really charge the vendors or the attendees for coming out, so how do you get a space for free? Well, in most cities the local libraries are a great resource for just such an event. Most libraries actually love to have such programming because it only helps serve current library goers and brings in people who haven't been in a while. I've been lucky to work with the Denton Public Library for years now running free mini anime conventions as part of the larger A-Kon (www.a-kon.com). So instead of trying to deal with the expensive fees of hotels and convention centers, I had a location that I could use for free and was more than friendly to what we were trying to do.
Finally, we needed guests and that is where the greatest donation came from. So many wonderful ladies not only donated their time to come out and speak, but also put forth a lot of further effort to help organize, promote, and set up this event. A lot of our staff are freelance creatives so their time is literally money, but they all gladly came together to help make the Creative Women's Conference a success.
And with our 2nd annual event that just finished this Saturday August 1st, we have been very successful twice in a row. Everyone has had a great time, there is a lot of good networking and plenty of learning. We hope to continue doing this as long as the community responds well to it and there is a strong need for it.
David Doub is the Publisher and Head Writer for Dusk Comics. Dusk Comics is an Independent Comic Book Publisher out of Denton Texas. David took his love of creating comics into a full blown publishing company to help other creators get their works out. Dusk Comics produce unique dark works in different styles from around the world. David's writing style leans to dark complex dramas that explore the messier side of human nature. You can see examples of that in the 3 volumes of Dusk and the noir styling of Mystery Masque. His latest series, The Trials and Tribulations of Ms. Tilney explore the origins of pop fiction by creating a penny dreadful in a comic format. Also David has taken his love for conventions and nerd culture in general and is one of the founders of the Creative Women's Conference, an event that not only celebrates the current generation of female creators but also help encourage and support future generations.