I’m successfully back in Maine at last, a bit sick, but otherwise no worse for wear. (Poor Denisa got sick right before she had to pick me up from the airport, and I think she’s worse off than I am.) I’m also very pleased to say that I had a wonderful time at the conference. I’ve been to some of these before, but this is probably the best experience I’ve had at one yet. I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that I didn’t feel like I was under any pressure. I wasn’t trying to Impress Important People, with my publishing hopes on the line. Instead, I was just trying to meet new people and make new contacts and friends. In that, I was successful. (And looking back on it, if I’d been less concerned with Getting the Big Break in past cons than I was with Meeting People, I think all my other cons would have been more enjoyable—and more productive. It also helped that I was on several panels. Allow me to break down the panels I was on and the people I met:
- First up was “What a Kid Wants in a Story.” My fellow panelists were Dene Low (author), Julie Wright (Whitney Award Winning Author®) and Jessica Day George (author). There were probably around 10-15 people in the audience, and I think it went quite well. What does a kid want? I said it was a pretty easy question—kids want the same things anyone wants: a good story. Ideally, a story where the main character is someone near their age (preferably a bit older) and is able to have a significant adventure, where he/she solves the main problems on their own—without adults butting in. Kids *don’t* want a story that has a Theme or a Moral.
- I also had a reading on Saturday, and that . . . didn’t really go that well. Two people were in the audience: Isaac Stewart (my current writing group member, and the maker of maps for Brandon Sanderson and more–looks like his web page is still under construction. Come on, Isaac!) and my brother, Ben. That said, the place they had readings going at the conference was extremely difficult to find and very out of the way—so it wasn’t likely that I’d get much foot traffic. Also, my reading time was different than the one in the written program. Anyway—I read the first chapter of Vodnik, and I felt quite good about it. Nice to have a bit of practice with a reading without any hint of pressure.
- Other events on Saturday included going to lunch with a bunch of friends, attending the book launch and Nebula Award celebration for Eric James Stone (short story writer extraordinaire, and a former writing group member of mine), playing Pandemic with Dan Wells (author), Larry Correia (author) and his daughter, and then learning the basics of The Legend of the Five Rings, a role-playing game I played in front of a (small) audience that night. Rob Wells (author) had gotten sick, and they needed a replacement. It was DMed by Bob Defendi (author), and the other players were Dan, Larry, Howard Taylor (web comic author of Schlock Mercenary), Steve Diamond and Nick Dianatkhah (the runners of elitistbookreviews), and Dan Willis (author). My character was a womanizing samurai who never missed a chance to hit on women. Dan was an assassin (and his faithful servant Convenient—I mean, Chen). Howard was a pyromaniac wizard, Nick was a one-armed, one-legged samurai, Larry was a berserker, Dan Willis was a horse expert, and Steve was a sniveling coward of a back-stabbing loser. So . . . pretty much everyone was typecast. 🙂 Fun times.
Sunday was a tad quieter—not as many attended, likely due to church. (Go figure—it’s Utah.) I was on three more panels:
- What Makes a Successful Writing Group and What to Avoid—with Bob, Ann Chamberlain (author) and me. For 10 in the morning (the first panel of the day), I thought it was quite well attended—something like 10 or 12 in the audience. I’ve been in writing groups for years, so this felt like a panel that I had a lot to offer on.
- Potters of the Caribbean—an overview of the year in sci-fi/fantasy film, with Larry, Steve, Blake Casselman (screenplay writer) and me. Talk about a fun panel. We all got to sit there and discuss what films we liked, which ones we hated, and what we thought the future would hold. About 10 in the audience.
- Urban Fantasy—with Bob, Lesli Muir Lytle (author), Karen Hoover (author), Carole Nelson Douglas (author and guest of honor at the conference) and me. Urban Fantasy is a hard genre to define, and this panel wandered far afield, covering everything from contemporary fantasy to magic realism to Don Quixote to following trends. I’m not sure how much the audience (of around 15 to 20) learned about Urban Fantasy, but it seemed like they enjoyed themselves, so that’s good.
And that was that. A great weekend overall. Many interesting people, lots of new friends, and some board gaming to boot–what more could you ask for?