As you know, I just got back from another sci-fi/fantasy conference, this time to sunny Utah for LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything). One question that kept coming up time and time again was “Why did you come all the way from Maine for this?” It’s a valid question. LTUE happens the same weekend as Boskone, a convention in Boston. Why am I flying all the way across the country when I could just drive down to Boston and go to a con there? They’re about the same size, on similar topics . . . and I hate flying. Seems like a no brainer, right?
Except there are a couple of outside elements that factor into the equation. Number one, I lived in Utah for 9 years, and I have a slew of family and friends out there I like to see and get together with. True, Boskone usually attracts a few of my writer friends (and my agent), and that’s cool, but nowhere near the number of contacts I have in Utah. So being able to travel for business and see all those cool people is definitely a perk. Not only that, my writerly connections in Utah are way more robust than they are in Boskone. (Of course, this is in large part due to the fact that I spent a lot of time in writerly circles in Utah, and I haven’t taken the time to do the same in New England. Time constraints are a bummer.)
Second up is the fact that since I have so many friends and family in Utah, I have free places to stay and people who will give me rides. This means that although I have to pay for a plane ticket out to Utah, everything else is just about free. For Boskone, I’d have to foot the bill for a hotel for 2-3 nights, which is about the cost of an airplane ticket. All told, I break even when comparing the two conferences. Next year, I hear one of my writer friends is coming out from Utah to Boston for Boskone, which means I’ll probably do Boskone instead–assuming I can get on some paneling, which should be in the cards. Then again, I was on 9 panels out at LTUE. One of the main reasons I do these things is so I can introduce myself to readers and let them know I exist. Just by eyeballing the room each time and making estimates, I presented to over 600 people at LTUE. That makes the trip very worthwhile, from that perspective. Not sure if Boskone could compete in that area, but then again, I also don’t have to worry about flying with Boskone . . .
So what did I present on?
- Blogging for self-promotion–Nicely attended. This one was an area where I felt like I had plenty to say, mainly coming down to three essentials: only blog if it’s something you’re interested in doing, be yourself when you blog, and be consistent–it gets better and easier with practice.
- How to create a language–I was moderating on this one, which was a relief. I have my linguistics undergrad to fall back on, but seeing as how one of the panelists was a linguistics professor at BYU, that undergrad gets trumped very quickly. Still, it was an interesting panel, and I think I kept things moving nicely as the moderator. I don’t personally do much from the language creation side of things, though I did have a chance to talk about how I used language in Vodnik, which was fun.
- Collectible card games–I play Magic, and I play board games, but I don’t do much from the CCG side of things other than that. I had a bit to say on this one, but my main contribution was probably strong arming Dan Wells to come appear on the panel with me. He has way more experience, and said much more interesting things.
- How to revise–Probably the best attended panel I did, with 150 or so people in the audience. Lucky for me, it was also one of the ones I had the most to say about. Revising can be a real pain, but it’s also very rewarding. Great audience questions, great panelists. I was really happy with this one.
- When and how to query–This panel didn’t fire on all cylinders for me, possibly because I never queried as much as I probably should have. But I also never got the chance to give my best piece of advice when it comes to querying: approach it like you’d approach getting a job. Becoming an author and being an author is very much a business. If someone told me they were trying to get a job and were discouraged, but then also admitted they’d only applied to 10 places or so, I would question their approach. Spend time researching. Yes, it’s difficult, but it also pays off.
- Board games–A very fun panel that I worried about ahead of time but which I really had a blast doing once we were in it. Lots of interesting discussion. Good times.
- Movie adaptations–I moderated this one, and I feel like it went well. It pays to know a fair bit about what you’re moderating, and all those years of studying film adaptations certainly helped. Nice to be on another panel with Dave Wolverton, too. Got to catch up with him briefly before and after.
- YA protagonists–fun to be on a panel with Janci Patterson, especially when it’s on a topic we both have plenty of opinions about.
- Hard magic vs. soft magic–Another one I moderated, thankfully. My magic systems are about as squishy as they get.
In addition to that, I played plenty of board games, went out to lunch with interesting people, squeezed in an 11pm IHOP run, signed some bo0ks, played some Magic–all while seeing a slew of family members. When you consider the fact that all of my planes ran more or less on time, and I somehow avoided the major snowstorms that have been hitting New England time and time again, then there’s no other way to look at the trip as anything other than a huge success.
Thanks to everyone who came out to see me. I had a blast, and I hope to get out to Utah again in the not-too-distant future.