Jessica Brawner grew up in the wilds of South Texas and plotted ways to spend her life traveling the world. She has been remarkably successful at that endeavor, attending school and travelling all over Europe at the age of eighteen, moving back to the United States to achieve two bachelor's degrees, and then moving to Central Asia for a time with the Peace Corps. Fifteen years ago she discovered the wonders of Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions and the crazy, loveable, friends-are-the-family-you-choose mentality found there. She spent many years working as a booth babe and volunteering at conventions all over the country.

In addition to her convention activities, Ms. Brawner has developed and taught self-defense classes, worked as an event planner, an entertainment agent, a computer teacher, and a personal assistant. More recently she has channeled her adventures and her time into writing, and running several different small businesses. Her newest ventures are Story of the Month Club – Excellent Stories To Your Inbox ( and Life Stats (

Readers are encouraged to contact Ms. Brawner with comments, and questions at

Charisma +1: The Guide to Convention Etiquette for Writers, Geeks, and the Socially Awkward by Jessica Brawner

In D&D there are certain attributes you start with, just as in life there are certain things you're born with: Strength, Will, Charisma, Wisdom, Intelligence and Constitution. As a writer, you need to know how to interact in public with fans, readers, and other pros. Whether you're a veteran convention attendee, a con-virgin, a volunteer, vendor or a guest, everyone can use a bump in their life stats.

Do you know what the 6-2-1 rule is? What do Barbarians and cell phones have to do with hygiene? Do you know when it's okay to take a photograph? How do you flirt with that cute girl or guy across the room? Who are Booth Babes really?

In Charisma +1 you will find:

  • Suggestions on how to network, flirt, and interact with attendees
  • Tips for dealing with crowds, people in costume, and that weirdo that keeps following you around
  • Rules for keeping yourself sane, happy and safe
  • Advice on shopping, attending panels, dealing with volunteers, vendors, staff and other attendees


A writer can spend a lot of time alone, making up stories and talking to imaginary friends. But to become successful, you have to get out in public, actually meet readers, fellow writers, and industry professionals. Jessica Brawner (who sets up many of *my* appearances at major conventions), wrote a special introduction and tailored this guide for writers on how to make a great impression in public. – Kevin J. Anderson




You're an author, congratulations! As someone just beginning an authorial career, as an established author, or as someone somewhere in between, writing a book is a huge accomplishment, but writing the book is only halfway to success. Now that the book is written it has to get out the adoring public.

At some point most successful authors end up selling their work in person. Many authors attend conventions to showcase their efforts to a variety of different audiences and build fan base. As an author, you will (oh the horror!) have to deal with people, which can be difficult for individuals (like writers) who are frequently and naturally introverted.

Charisma +1 was originally aimed at both fans and professionals in the science fiction/fantasy convention arena (hence the references throughout the book to Dungeons and Dragons), however the advice you will find within translates across genres. It's really a book about getting along happily in stressful, crowded situations, with tips and suggestions for how to talk to people in a variety of settings.

As an author, understanding your primary market, and understanding how to talk and relate with them increases the odds of being successful in your endeavors. It will help with selling more books, interacting with organizers, being invited to appear on more panels, and networking with other professionals. Particularly, understanding how to deal with the socially awkward, will make your life and their life easier.

This book is intended to help everyone, the socially awkward, shy and uncertain people within our midst as well as the more socially aware who may be intimidating without realizing it. Writers who want to please their fans need to understand them; understand how to talk to them in person; and understand what some of the good rules of behavior encompass. This basic primer should get you off on the right foot, and help keep you happy, healthy and sane at the same time. Best of luck in your all your endeavors!


In D&D there are certain attributes you start with, just as in life there are certain things you're born with: Strength, Will, Dexterity, Charisma, Wisdom, Intelligence and Constitution. Whether you do well or not in your class depends on how many skill points you drop into something, and how well you roll. In life, you gain skill points by practicing and trying new things. When you increase your level, you get to increase your stats.

Charisma plays a large part in life, though in D&D it is sometimes seen as a useless skill. While I can't promise this book will help prevent every faux pas there is, or overcome all social anxieties, it will point out some of the unspoken social rules and provide guidelines for interacting with other convention attendees. There are also tips on how to keep yourself safe; appropriate rules of behavior for a variety of situations; information on how to start conversations; a primer on flirting and how to network; and suggestions on keeping yourself healthy and relatively sane during the course of the convention.

At the time of this writing I have been attending and working at Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic conventions for about fifteen years (and gaming for longer than that). It's not how I make my living, but it is something I have always greatly enjoyed. The interactions between fans, guests and the general public are fascinating, as is the interplay between the different fandoms.

Working at conventions is in and of itself a unique experience that, for me, has frequently involved ten to fifteen hour days spent talking with convention goers, setting up booths, keeping track of panel and performance schedules, and selling merchandise. It has also involved learning what items are most useful to have on hand and which behaviors are best suited to the convention (and which are not). This environment helped me change from socially awkward and introverted, to vivacious and able to carry on conversation with total strangers. I hope my experiences can point you in the right direction to a more fulfilling convention weekend.

The past several years have seen an increase in the convention-going population. In response, the blogosphere has been shining a spotlight on some of the inappropriate behaviors that can occur. (Sadly they rarely cover the appropriate ones.) In an ideal world, everyone would already know how to behave in every social situation. Of course then life would be boring and we wouldn't have conventions that present us with unique social challenges.

I wanted to provide bits of advice on how to navigate through and survive some of the peculiar situations and denizens that you, the hearty adventurer, may encounter. This is a guidebook or cheat-sheet for some of the more common situations that science fiction and fantasy conventions present to attendees, professionals, volunteers and staff.

This is by no means a comprehensive book on social behavior, just a primer on how to make everyone's convention smoother, easier, safer, more fulfilling, and most of all: fun! You may encounter a few terms that you are unfamiliar with throughout the book. If you do, please consult the glossary!

People from across the spectrum of the convention were consulted on which topics to include. If after reading this book you have additional topics to suggest, questions, or comments please feel free to contact me at

Enjoy this series of tips, suggestions, situations, and rules to help you level up!

Convention Survival List

Okay, pack your bags, you're setting out for a weekend of fun, frivolity, sales and networking (depending on which category of con-goer you fit into). Here are a few things that you might want to bring, just in case. We will assume (dangerous I know) that you will pack the things you know you need.…like clothing and prescription medications. Here are a few things that you might not think about immediately.

  1. Pepto-Bismol: chewable tablets that travel easily, or their equivalent in liquid form. (Healing potion +1, stomach ailments)
  2. Ibuprofen (General Healing +1)
  3. Cold medication (Healing potion +1, con crud)
  4. Benadryl (+1 to sleep and allergy reduction)
  5. Band-Aids (+1 heal checks)
  6. Hand sanitizer (+1 health-based Constitution rolls)
  7. Actual cold, hard cash—small bills please, the vendors will thank you. (+1 negotiation skills)
  8. Small sewing kit (+1 skill check sewing/costuming)
  9. Power bars or other high-energy, non-perishable, portable snacks (Standard Adventurer kit).
  10. Refillable water bottle (Standard Adventurer kit).
  11. Street clothes—for those times you have to walk through an airport/subway station/gas station and don't want to be stared at. (+1 disguise)
  12. Comfortable shoes—conventions involve lots of walking and standing. (+1 Constitution)
  13. Self-Adhesive Moleskin Pads—if you didn't take the advice on comfortable shoes. (+1 heal checks
  14. Fuzzy slippers—for when you finally collapse in your hotel room and think your feet are actually trying to kill you. (+1 heal checks)
  15. Nail clippers (+1 hygiene)
  16. Extra chargers for your electronics. (+1 street smarts)

A copy of this book (+1 social knowledge checks)