With CookieCon 2014 just days away, enthusiasm in the cookie community is at an all-time high. But amidst this enthusiasm, I've heard some whispers of anxiety too . . . and lots of questions from first-time conference-goers. Questions like: What should I bring? How should I approach my cookie idols? Should I make a cookie for the Sugar Show? How much extra suitcase space should I leave for cookie loot? . . . all important, and sometimes stress-inducing, stuff!
To give newcomers a better idea of what to expect - and to allay any pre-conference jitters - I recently asked eight CookieCon 2012 veterans to share their best conference advice. Read on for their suggested dos and don'ts, their most memorable CookieCon 2012 moments, and what they're most looking forward to about this coming week!
Laurie Swift Anglen
Most Memorable Moment: The instant feeling of camaraderie I had with everyone I met. Finally! People who "get it" - and I was surrounded by them!
As my daughter put it, "Mom, you've found your people."
Do bring a notebook/pen for note taking. The classes you take aren't hands-on (with the exception of Saturday), so you will want to take notes from each presentation. Step out of your comfort zone, seek out people, mingle, introduce yourself. You'll be so glad you did. Participate in as many aspects of CookieCon as you can - Sugar Show, cutter swap, cookie swap, classes, etc. And bring a camera! Trust me; these are memories you won't want to forget.
Don't freak out! So many people are talking about how nervous and afraid they are! Don't worry that you won't fit in, that you won't be liked, that you won't find someone to sit beside. I am not exaggerating when I say that, within an hour of being there, you will have met at least a few people with whom you could easily spend an afternoon - or more - chatting.
Most Looking Forward To: Learning from an entirely new panel of presenters. You can never stop learning, and everyone has a different perspective, so I love hearing from others. That and, of course, reconnecting with friends from the first CookieCon and making new ones. I really do feel I've made friendships that will last a lifetime even though I've actually only spent four to five days with them so far. We have kept up online and talk nearly daily. I will forever be grateful to CookieCon for that.
Most Memorable Moment: [It was] made up of all those separate little moments, when after months of talking to people online, I had the chance to hear their voices and put faces to names. I also LOVED walking down to Starbucks early every morning with whatever other girls showed up in the lobby.
Do invest time in making friendships. For those coming to CookieCon for the first time, I know you're excited to learn from the incredible line-up of workshop presenters and to drool over the vendor tables and fill up your suitcase to the airline's weight limit. Enjoy all of that, but keep in mind that any day of the week you can go online and, with the click of a button, view these instructors' cookie tutorials and shop at the vendors' online stores. But only for this weekend do you have the chance to be with so many amazing women and men from around the world who "get you" and your passion for this sweet craft we share. Take every opportunity to get to know as many people as you can.
Don't be intimidated to fully join in. And when you arrive in Salt Lake City, don't think you belong less because you don't have a popular cookie blog, a hundred thousand followers on Facebook, or photos of your cookies plastered all over Pinterest. If you love and enjoy the art of cookie decorating, then you belong at CookieCon as much anyone who will be there. We're all there to learn from each other, so never be intimidated to enter into a cookie conversation.
Most Looking Forward To: Being with everyone else there. I'm just as over-the-moon excited about meeting up with old friends as I am with meeting new ones. I'm especially excited to meet all the cookie folks coming from outside the United States. This is going to be a phenomenal, unforgettable weekend, and I can hardly wait to see you there!
One of Anita's favorite photos. Stephanie Seeney (left) of Ice My Biscuit had given a group an impromptu piping demonstration, and Maryann from The Cookie Artisan (right) had been so delighted by Stephanie's technique that she decorated a cookie for her. It was one of those totally spontaneous moments where one of us taught the rest of us.
Most Memorable Moment: I had several wonderful moments, but the photo (below) speaks for itself. Seriously, who wins a unicycle at a cookie convention? ME! It was the funniest, best giveaway from Kip and Connie (BRP Box Shop), and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year!
Do make sure you have plenty of room in your suitcase for all the “treasures” you’ll be bringing home. Bring business cards. (I want one from everyone!) Also, a camera and notebook for each session. You WILL forget what you heard unless you take notes. Make a list of questions that you hope to have answered while there and check them off. The trip home is a great time to re-write or decipher your notes.
Don’t. You’re going to be star-struck seeing all your cookie idols in one place. I’m not sure how they feel, but I recommend not asking to take a photo with them unless it’s a specific meet-and-greet or if they give you the go-ahead. (Take plenty of photos of them in action though!) I feel I asked to take too many photos of the instructors at the last CookieCon and regret taking their time. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I appreciate Kim's consideration of the instructors, but as one of them last time, I have to say that meeting people - and taking photos with them - were some of my most memorable moments! But everyone is different, so always ask. ]
Most Looking Forward To: Not only am I excited to meet up with friends I’ve already made, I am just as excited to meet all the cookiers from around the world [who I don't know] and put names with faces! I am also looking forward to seeing all the new products and demonstrations on how to use those things I’ve never used. Thank you, Karen and Mike, for making this cookier’s dream a reality; it’s going to be here before you know it, and I can’t wait!
One of Kim's favorite photos. Kim with her giveaway prize from BRP Box Shop. (P.S. That's Kip Simpson of BRP to the right; it's his fave photo too.)
Most Memorable Moment: My most memorable moments were winning first place for my Sugar Show entry, the TV cookies, followed closely by meeting my roommate Laurie (Cookie Bliss) and the things we did outside of CookieCon like shopping and going out to eat. And the laughter . . . there was lots of it. And when I get tired, I laugh a lot (which also includes tears for some reason).
Do a Sugar Show entry. It doesn’t matter how far you are in your decorating skill, challenge yourself and let others enjoy your work. Remember, you will get little sleep, and you will take lots of pictures. Bring a business card. I know cookie names, but not first names. So [cards] help put the two together. Also, know that it’ll be impossible to meet up with everyone. One regret: I didn’t get to meet up with Melissa of The Baked Equation. We tried, but couldn’t make it work.
Don’t pack too heavy on the way there. You will run out of room because of all the stuff you bring back. Better yet, pack a second bag in your suitcase so you have it to fill up.
Most Looking Forward To: So this year, things are different for me. I’m going to be there as an attendee, but also as a vendor. I can’t wait to see my “old” cookie friends, and the new ones I have made. I’m looking forward to the changes that Mike and Karen have made to the line-up and to sit in on some of my favorite cookie decorators. What a great way to have all your cookie friends from around the globe in one place to make fun memories. See you soon!
Most Memorable Moment: It was spending time with some of my closest cookie friends, women who have supported one another for years before many became known by their "cookie names." CookieCon came about after two years of us getting together, so it was wonderful to have this time with dear friends again.
Do try to take a moment to catch your breath and look around. Could you have imagined this years ago? Enjoy the time meeting people and learning all that you will in the classes. Take lots of photos. You will look back on those and smile. As there are so many people going, you might want to make a list of cookiers who you really want to meet. Now is your chance to spend time with them and, this way, you won’t miss someone. Breathe. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy the moments and, most of all, have fun! It’s a cookie convention after all!
Don’t be nervous. I know. Easier said than done, but you are going to be surrounded by others who all share the exact same passion that you do. They speak your language. They are there to have fun and support one another. Also, I see many in angst over the Sugar Show and hesitant to bring a cookie. This is not a harsh competition. The cookie decorator’s names are not even on the cookies. Take a breath. Relax. If you don’t have time to make one, just bring one that you have made before. Have fun with it. That is what this is all about!
Most Looking Forward To: Seeing old friends and putting the voices, smiles, and laughs to the new ones. I am also excited, as my new cutter shop, Whisked Away Cutters, will be a sponsor. Plus, no matter how long you have been cookie-ing, there’s always something new to learn!
One of Tracy's favorite photos - CookieCon girls!
Most Memorable Moment: [There were] so many great moments from CookieCon, but my favorite was the apron show. Seeing everyone's personalities in apron form was great fun and a great ice breaker to get to know people I hadn't had the chance to talk to yet.
Do leave space in your suitcase above all. There is going to be lots of stuff to buy and win, and just handed to you; it would be a shame to leave anything behind. Secondly, relax and be yourself. You don't have to be guarded at CookieCon. No one is going to give you dirty looks for talking about cookies for hours on end. We all understand. You are among friends. Remember to bring your duplicate cutters. I found some really fun ones at the swap last time.
Don't be afraid to talk to people. I have regrets about being too nervous to step up and say hello to certain people last time. Everyone is there to have a great time, and everyone, no matter how big, is equally excited to be there and meet you and have a great time. Please remember to bring your camera to get all the pics you want with everyone. You may not get another chance later. Also, do not feel like you have to sit at the same table every time. It is okay to move around.
Most Looking Forward To: I have to say, seeing everyone again. Hanging out
with everyone and doing nothing but cookies is just the best feeling ever. I learned so much last time. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for us.
One of Monica's favorite photos - a frosting face-off with Maryann!
Most Memorable Moment: Last time, BRP Box Shop was honored to give away a grand prize and a half-as-grand prize in a raffle on the last day. The grand prize was rolled out: a new bike. Connie pumped up everyone for the half-as-grand prize and out came the unicycle. Big cheers! Super fun.
Do connect with people as an artist talking to artists. CookieCon is a nexus for people who create. After finding out where someone is from, how much they weigh, and what their annual salary is (your ice breaker questions may differ from mine ), discover what drives them to create. Be stirred. The wonderful intensity of learning can get us moving so fast inside our brain that we aren’t relaxed or still enough to feel awe. Please allow yourself not only to learn, but to be inspired.
Don’t hesitate. Time flies when you’re having fun, and CookieCon will be over in a flash of a smart phone taking that last picture before you drive to the airport. Ask that question, meet that person, try that technique – right now!
Don’t worry about the atmosphere or vibe you’re going into. Karen and Mike are as cool in real life as they are on the internet. The environment they’ve fostered for CookieCon is relaxed, welcoming, and a great place to stock up on feelings.
Most Looking Forward To: Listening. A few years back some generous cookie artists took the time to tell us how to build better boxes for their cookies. So we did. The more we learn about the community we serve, the more blessed we feel to serve it.
Both Shannon and Heather's fave photo. Cookie friends (left to right) Laurie Swift Anglen, Heather Becker Srock, Shannon Heupel, and Penny Lane Davidson.
Heather Becker Srock
Most Memorable Moment: I left CookieCon 2012 with so many great memories, but one that stands out is when Elizabeth/Arty McGoo finished her presentation and she played this video. The room fell silent as we watched in awe. The smiles on every face and the subsequent applause really captured the energy of CookieCon.
Do bring a notebook. CookieCon is filled with information (and inspiration) that you’ll want to reference when you get home - whether it be a tip about decorating, products you want to purchase, or the contact information of a new friend.
Don’t be shy. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and maybe even a little star-struck. Step out of your comfort zone and say hello. I’m actually somewhat shy in person, and I’m so grateful to the people who took the time to approach me last time. This year, I’m taking the initiative to be that person.
Most Looking Forward To: Spending time with my good friends made in my cookie journey, as well as sharing the experience with friends who are attending for the first time.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Great advice, eh? Now, go pack your bag - and that extra one . . . and that notebook . . . and that camera . . . I can't wait to see you at CookieCon!]