How I keep my energy up in the Artist Alley (or Dealers Den)

For more Artist Alley preparation advice, check out my Artist Alley Beginners Guides Part 1 and Part 2

Conventions can be very draining (and maybe it’s just me, but they are more draining when you are bored than when you are busy) which is why it is important for you to keep your wits about you for the long haul and  — for me — that means getting rest at night and taking care of myself while at my table.


Ghost town

The room is dead and you’re bored at your table. It’s an energy killer. Whether there’s a major event somewhere else at the con or it is super early in the day, you will notice some sudden slow periods while manning your table.

Take this time to go to the bathroom, get coffee, refill your water, collect and remove your garbage, or walk around the dealers den – you may not get another opportunity where the room is this calm!

Do some stretches. Your muscles will be on the edge of atrophy from the sedentary weekend. If you don’t go to the nightly dances, at least stretch so your muscles know you’re still alive!

If you have commissions to work on, that’s excellent! If not, consider engaging in conversation with fellow artists. You could make friends and end up helping each other at future cons! If they’re really cool peeps, add them to your mental list of potential con roommates. It’s always great to have options especially when they understand the artist alley struggle.

Get out in front of your table. Be the customer. Check to see that you have clear labeling, plenty of business cards, and that it pulls attention from passersby. Are displays at an odd angle? Is it too cluttered? Remove unnecessary items or signage to make the table more visually balanced. Is there one item that you want to showcase more? I change my table at least three times during a weekend. If the lull in foot-traffic was late in the day, take some time to tidy up. Sometimes people move your display around or set their purses on your table, leaving it in less optimal condition.

Keep your mind active, socialize, keep your body moving, and don’t forget to eat something and stay hydrated!



Food is one critical element to surviving the weekend. I tend to bring a bunch of different shelf-stable items to keep me going since I manage my table alone and don’t always have a fridge in the hotel room. Sometimes I need protein, a sugar boost, hydration, or treats to bribe neighbors with so they watch my table while I run to the bathroom!

Breakfast: I like having Belvita biscuits and fresh brewed coffee for breakfast. I bring my Chemex coffee maker and fresh roasted coffee beans from my local roaster along with me to con hotels. It helps me to save a little $ on much that needed caffeine. There are different ratios to use when brewing on Chemex but 30g coffee to 510g water is my go to. And since it is scientifically tasty, I can drink it black! That means I can reduce my fat/sugar intake a little bit (I’m not exactly moving and shaking all weekend so I try not to binge on Venti Vanilla Lattes!)

Lunches and snacks: Since I can’t guarantee someone will be awesome and get food for me for lunch (which sometimes happens thanks to caring friends and roommates!), I basically pack food for a con like I’m on a hike. Dried foods, bottles and boxes of beverages that don’t need to be refrigerated.

I like to have less processed foods if possible and jerky is one of my new favorite additions to give me more energy with less sugar. Raw almonds are a snack that don’t let me crash like a sugary snack and a little better for you than salted and roasted almonds. Protein bars are acceptable but don’t forget to read the labels!

Nature Valley bars are a versatile go-to since I can eat them for breakfast, crunch them up in yogurt, or add milk to make them into a hearty cereal. A little sugar isn’t a bad thing but I try to keep it at a minimum – 11g is already a considerable amount.

Real fruit is best but dried unsweetened fruit (I prefer apricots, mango, or pineapple) is easy to toss in a backpack and keep around. Juice boxes (preferably 100% juice, low sugar, and/or veggie blend), Gel snacks with the fruit suspended in it (basically Jello with real canned fruit pieces), and Annie’s organic fruit snacks are kept on hand for those times when I feel like I’m suddenly low on energy.

Water! Don’t forget it! Especially if you’re eating a bunch of the dry foods, you’ll need even more water than you think. Also remember that coffee is not the same as water; it will dehydrate you. I used to bring a jug of water with me to my table but if you have a big travel water bottle to drink from, you could leave the jug at the room and supplement with juice and Gatorade. (Also thanks to the uncertainty of fridge availability, I make sure I buy the juice and Gatorade flavors I don’t mind drinking at room temperature.)

If there is a hotel fridge, I’ll often have Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, veggies and hummus. I’ll also chill the beverages and gel snacks. But use at your own risk: I have encountered fridges in hotel rooms that are unreliable (either they are turned off, malfunction, or are set to a warmer (energy saving) temperature.)

Dinner: You’re free from the Artist Alley or Dealers Den by the time dinner-time rolls around. Pizza is easy but if you can find a restaurant with actual vegetables, that’s the best thing to do. You could bring food to eat in the room (Cup-O-Noodle, Easy Mac, and Microwave dinners if you have a fridge and microwave – you may be able to call the hotel and ask to be sure before your trip) but I prefer to make a social outing out of dinner so that I don’t feel like I’m a vagrant all weekend!

Every night: I like to drink water mixed with Emergen-C so that I can keep my immune system up. I usually take it in the days leading up to a convention too. For those who have gotten sick after a con, that’s con crud and it can be avoided! Hygiene, proper sleep, decent diet, and hand sanitizer at the table also help.

First thing when I wake up: I’m usually very dehydrated so I drink a small bottle of Gatorade. This practice has helped me wake up even before my coffee! We think our brain screams for caffeine in the morning but it is really screaming to be rehydrated.


Shopping/Packing list:

  • Coffee stuff
    • Coffee beans
    • Coffee grinder
    • Coffee filters
    • Chemex coffee maker
    • Electric hot water kettle
    • Travel mug for coffee
    • Gram Scale
  • Jerky
  • Protein bars
  • Nature Valley bars
  • Raw almonds
  • Dried unsweetened fruit
  • Juice boxes/pouches
  • Water (two gallons or more)
  • Gatorade
  • Annie’s organic fruit snacks
  • Gel snacks
  • Emergen-C
  • Refrigerator needed
    • Yogurt
    • Fresh fruit
    • Veggies
    • Hummus
  • Travel mug for water
  • Utensils for yogurt/gel snacks
  • Bowls/plates
  • Paper towels

Feel free to suggest some of your favorite snacks and meal options! I’m always interested in evolving my selection since I go to so many Conventions!


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