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With convention season in high swing, we at Apex Publications have had our share of crowded elevators, serious late night arguments about genre canon, under-construction hotel restaurants, and too-many-panels-no-time-to-eat fun. So we asked authors, editors, and photographers what five things they pack in their con survival bag, besides their phone.

Here’s what Liz Argall, Elizabeth Bear, Kyle Cassidy, Wes Chu, Eugene Myers, Scott Lynch, Lynne M. Thomas, LaShawn M. Wanak, Chuck Wendig, and A.C. Wise had to say.

Top 5 Necessities for Con Survival

Liz Argall, Author, “Mermaid’s Hook,” (Apex Magazine 2013) and other stories, comic artist

  • Wallet and/or friends that will save your bacon when you lose your wallet because you put your wallet in the wallet section of your portable office. Your wallet should also contain your room key. This way it can get nicely demagnetized and no longer let you into your room.

  • iPad and stylus. I’m a terrible squirmer and/or sleeper when I attend panels. If I sketch the panelists I’m alert and attentive. I prefer  my iPad to a sketchbook because it has limitless paper with lots of brushes, textures and colors. My iPad also has a better camera than my phone, a wordpress app, my comics and you never know when a nifty app will come up in conversation (have you seen my exoplanets?)

  • Water bottle – sometimes I’m good at taking one with me, sometimes I’m bad. The days I have my water bottle are always better days. I notice that if I stay adequately hydrated I’m much less likely to come down with con crud. If I’m finding it hard to stomach water I add EmergenC (preferably lime flavored).

  • Emergency snack. Kindbars and minties are my go to snacks – I can always stomach them and they don’t leave a terrible mess.

  • Business cards/shwag – a disposable something with my essential contact details. Business cards should have one side that isn’t too glossy so they can be written on.



Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Elizabeth Bear, Author of the Eternal Sky series, including Steles of the Sky (Tor, 2014), Shattered Pillars (Tor, 2013).

  • Bottle opener

  • A sweater AND a tank top

  • Antacid

  • reference texts



Kyle Cassidy
, Photographer

  • If I’m at a con it’s very often because I’m photographing stuff so I like to have a super compact studio photography kit with me, which at the moment consists of a Panasonic GX1 micro four thirds camera, a 20mm f1.7 lens, an off camera flash (usually a Nikon 800dx but anything will work), two Pocket Wizards (radio remote flash triggers) a light stand and a photographic umbrella. This all packs down into a very small bag and it’s very versatile.

  • An extra bag to bring stuff home in because no matter how much I promise myself I will not come home with more books, I will come home with more books.

  • Running gear – shoes & climate appropriate running clothes because con food is always conspiring to make me gain weight AND I know I’m going to drink like a fraternity brother at Mardi Gras. Plus, you know, running at 5am with Elizabeth Bear is probably cooler than anything else you will do that weekend. On top of that, running shorts double as a bathing suit when you discover last minute that there’s a Hot Tub and its filled with Nebula Award winners having amazing conversations.

  • A bottle of scotch because, you know, the bar closes inconveniently.

  • Some healthy vegetarian food. I learned to bring a bag of apples and some granola bars after attending what I shall always think of as “meat-con” sometime around 2010 where I subsisted for two days mostly on powdered donuts from the con suite.


Wes Chu
, Author of The Lives of Tao (Angry Robot, 2013) and The Death of Tao (Angry Robot, late

  • A Jack Bauer satchel to carry all my swag so I don’t look like I just shopped at Toys R Us when I’m on the train.

  • A hip flask so I don’t have to suffer through highway robbery every time I want a drink.

  • Travel sized can of Axe Body Spray for when a gaggle of us geeks congregate in one place.

  • Spare pair of underwear for whenever I see Joe Haldeman and squee.

  • My name tag so I can get into con parties!

Scott Lynch
, Author of The Gentlemen Bastards Series, including The Republic of Thieves (Gollanz 2013)

  • My laptop

  • Protein bars that don’t taste like candle wax

  • Protein bars that taste worse than candle wax, but what are you gonna do?

  • Two kinds of aspirin

  • Enough spare pens to placate the dark forces that keep stealing the damn things from my bag




E.C. Myers, Author of Fair Coin (Pyr 2012) and Quantum Coin (Pyr 2012)

  • My phone charger, since my phone doesn’t last all day anymore, what with all my Tweeting and the requisite spotty service at cons.

  • My netbook, in the hopes that carrying it around like a dead weight will encourage me to sit in a corner somewhere and at least pretend to write for a while.

  • A small notebook, because I still like jotting down notes on actual paper when inspiration strikes or I come across a story idea I can’t help stealing.

  • Pens! Writers are expected to carry pens, and sometimes people even ask me to sign things for them.

  • Business cards; however, carrying them around ensures I won’t give any away, while leaving them behind in my room means at least three people will ask for one.

Except for the phone and maybe the pens, because pointy, this stuff isn’t any good for actual survival, but it’s what I usually have on me at a con.



Lynne M. Thomas, Editor of Apex Magazine, Chicks Dig Timelords, and co-editor of the Glitter and Mayhem anthology

  • Ginger tea

  • Crystal light packets for water (vitamin C a bonus)

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Pens for signing (body parts limited)

  • Bag of holding



LaShawn M. Wanak, Author of “All This Pure Light Leaking In” (Dark Faith: Invocations, Apex Books)

  • Business cards for passing out.

  • My Totoro badgeholder. I need to have my name displayed with style.

  • Knitting. Got to keep my hands busy during panels.

  • Folded fan. So many uses: fanning myself in a hot room, hiding a knowing smile, snapping it open/shut for fun, smacking someone’s head with it because they ARE BEING WRONG ON THE INTERNETS…

  • A book. Those autograph lines can stretch for miles, and you can never go astray if you have a good book to keep you company…



Chuck Wendig, Author of Blue Blazes (Angry Robot, 2013) and Under the Empyrian Sky (Skyscape, 2013), and many more

  • Bottle of water because, y’know, hydration.

  • Some kind of snack product because, y’know, blood sugar and I don’t want to have to kill and eat somebody. (I prefer to buy odd artisanal chocolate bars — a recent acquisition was “Icelandic chocolate”)

  • High-test deodorant. Not for me but for those people in close quarters who seem not-so-fresh (just hose ‘em down PSSHHH)

  • Bear mace, for creepy types

  • A reliable pen, to sign books or take notes or write profanity on bathroom walls



Photo by Steve Shultz

A.C. Wise, Author of “Final Girl Theory,” and other stories; co-editor of Unlikely Story

  • Snacks, at least one of which must contain chocolate or be straight up chocolate.

  • Red wine in case the hotel room doesn’t have a fridge and I’m too lazy to get ice, and/or vodka, because it goes with everything. Oh, and all bottles should be screw top, so I don’t have to scramble for a corkscrew.

  • I haven’t done in this in the past, but since I’m a learning monkey, I’m going to start packing bottles of iced coffee, given hotel/con coffee can be unreliable and of questionable quality.

  • Space for to fill with books. (Yes, I realize one can’t pack a lack of something. Shh. Just go with it.)

  • Of course, in an ideal world, I would bring a Tardis. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about extra space in my bag for books – there would be a whole library in which to store them, not to mention an entire wardrobe, eliminating the need for a bag all together. A Tardis would also allow me to go to all the panels I want, even the ones scheduled in the same time slot, and still have all the time to hang out with friends. Also, there’s a swimming pool. And a Tardis would be a fabulous setting for a room party with no limit to the number of guests one could fit inside. I imagine it’s well-stocked with snacks, too, and a full bar.

Fran Wilde writes speculative fiction, poetry, and things in between. She is an assistant editor for Apex Magazine and hosts a food and genre fiction interview series called Cooking the Books. She can also tie a bunch of sailing knots, set gemstones, and program digital minions.


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  1. My five Necessities:

    1. Camera! (duh, anyone who knows me figured this would be on the list)
    2. Water. Water is life, especially in a dry air conditioned hotel
    3. Portable sugar: Werthers candies are great for this. Chocolate, too.
    4. Notebook and pens
    5. Messenger bag or some other portable hole.

    • Oh, great list, Paul!

      • 6. Gum. :)

  2. “I know I’m going to drink like a fraternity brother at Mardi Gras.”

    Never a truer statement ever made about attending a writers convention!

  3. Can I have 10 items, since my Bag of Holding frequently doubles as the Overlord’s Bag of Holding?

    1. Hand Sanitizer
    2. At least two forms of caffeine (my favorites are Penguin Mints and Crystal Light Energy tubes)
    3. My Marvin The Martian plushie with the zip-up pocket holding a packet of Arctic Berry flavored breath strips
    4. Antiperspirant/deodorant (summer cons especially tend to chew through deodorant applications).
    5. Phone.
    6. Pens, including at least one that doesn’t make noise when I fidget with it on panels.
    7. Folding fan (LaShawn has it right…absolutely essential and multi-purpose)
    8. Business Cards
    9. Post-it Notes, to stick on the back of my badge so I can keep track of room party locations and messages I need to give to people.
    10. On corset-wearing days, the Backup Outfit for when I decide to try that “breathing” thing people seem so fond of.


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