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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back from WorldCon

What a great party! I’m still not caught up on either sleep or writing, but thought I’d take a moment out to give an overview before I forget it all.

The Program

I didn’t get to many panels. One about agenting - as my agent was on it, I wanted to know what she had to say. Not much I hadn’t heard, but a good intro to the basics of the publishing business. I urge any hoping-to-be-published writers to attend a conference or convention where reputable agents put on this kind of panel. SO much info that is good to hear. One about marketing, which didn't give any answers to the great question, "What works?"

As for my own panels, the one I was most worried about was one called Is SF the new mythology?"

We talked about how myth feeds our own work, and the difference in works one might describe as myth-based and those you wouldn’t. Think not just Hero’s Journey, but works that strike you "where you live," touching on visions common to us all, eg. Platform 9 3/4. What kid hasn’t dreamed of finding the magical amidst the mundane, the fairy house in the nest of grass? And we put forth some names of writers we felt wrote books that one would describe as mythic (McKillip, Kay, McKinley, Kushner et al).

I was the only writer on a panel about moving into the convention community from outside "fandom." I felt a bit beleaguered at first, as another panelist who has worked convention programming for many years talked about the sense of arrogance and "entitlement" she feels from authors trying to get on convention programs. I outlined my own experience of being wholly unaware of fandom and conventions before being published, and the feeling of being an outsider with no credentials but my one published book. When told how important it was to remember that the people running conventions were volunteers, I pointed out that all writers who attend a convention (other than the guests of honor) are also volunteers, who often spend a great deal of money to attend. I think by the end, we had come to a better mutual understanding of fan and writer feelings. Too bad we had only a few attendees to benefit from all our hard-won wisdom.

The Torture Panel was just Elaine Isaak and I on an evening opposite the Masquerade. But we had twenty or so people to hear us talk about why we put our characters through such hard times, and what were the limits we saw or imposed on ourselves. It is always a great topic and Elaine was most companionable. I loved her buttons: You Do Not Want to Be the Hero of My Book.

I had a standing room only kaffeeklatsch with some old fans and some new who got to sit around asking me questions for an hour. I love that. I did a reading from Unholy Alliance for a decent-sized crowd. And some people actually brought books for me to sign. All good.

Attendance seemed modest at the panels this year, maybe because they jam-packed some panels with the really big names – Willis, Niven, Haldeman, Shinn, et al, and populated the others with us lesser knowns.

The People

The best thing about a con is running into people. When I went to my first WorldCon in 2000, I knew NO one. My agent, whom I had met once for about ten minutes and my editor, ditto, were supposed to be there, but I wasn't even sure I could recognize them. And of the other 5998 or so souls, I knew not one. This year, as I walked into the hotel and convention center in Denver, I saw familiar faces everywhere. Who were they?

The Roundtable: Back in 2000 I met a fellow newly published, first-time author on the My First Novel panel. She remains a great friend to this day. At the next WorldCon, I met her writers' group. Then, at World Fantasy in 2000, I ran into a woman I knew from a writers conference in Denver, and she introduced me to some people she had met at other World Fantasy Conventions. Over the years these two connections have grown into a network of published and aspiring writers who stay connected in between World Fantasy Conventions. We call ourselves the Roundtable Writers, which doesn't signify anything in particular except for sharing ups and down, triumphs and rejections (AND PARTIES) with terrific like-minded friends. I wish you all to find such a group.

Warriors: About ten members of my WarriorOfTwoSouls yahoo group came to the con from Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, California, and Denver. It is great having such cool people to hang out with for lunch and after panels (for my readers ARE the coolest and most intelligent of readers). We found a fine Italian café, shot the breeze in the Sheraton after my Torture panel, played with Theresa’s Kindle reader (I still prefer paper and multiple pages to access at once, but they are pretty cool gizmos.)

Locals: For once WorldCon came to Denver. So I saw lots of familiar faces from MileHiCon and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Booksellers: To a writer, booksellers are our best friends. I always enjoy running into Dwayne Wilkins, the sf buyer from University Bookstore in Seattle. At that first WorldCon, when Transformation was a mere six weeks old, he came up to me and said, "Your book is selling well." I’ve loved him ever since. As I am 5'2" and Dwayne is at least 6'13", it is tough to hold a conversation in a noisy room. But we work it out. I caught sight of Ron and Nina Else, the big hearts behind Who Else Books in Denver, who unabashedly support regional authors. And I waved to Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman from San Francisco’s Borderlands, and the folks from Larry Smith Books who actually DID have copies of Breath and Bone at this convention.

Broaduniverse: I stopped a minute to talk to Lettie and Kathleen “womaning” the BroadUniverse table. BU is an organization that supports women writing speculative fiction. They print a "What’s New" brochure each year, listing new releases from members, sponsor rapidfire readings at cons (really sorry that I had a conflict this year!), and even sell members' books at the table. It is a great organization, and I wish I had time to contribute more to it. You can find great articles, news, and info about BU and women writers at http://www.broaduniverse.com.

Agents, editors, and other "pros": I’ve gone to enough conventions now, that I’m starting to meet up with some of the same people. Not only my own agent, and (sometimes, but not this time) my own editor, but some from other agencies and publishing houses. It was a pleasure spending some time with Rani Graff, my Israeli publisher, and to meet Jessica Wade, who works at Roc with my editor. I am not the world’s best networker, but I ran into some people I met at Westercon in Seattle a number of years ago, and had drinks and dinner with members of the Oregon Writers Network, which must be a great deal of fun as the members are all so friendly. Saw Ken Scholes who just sold a major series and had lunch with John Pitts who is selling stories. I met Devon and Laura, two new Ace/Roc authors whose books will be released this fall. And I hung out with Jeanne Stein who writes urban fantasy for Berkely and Mario Acevedo who writes really noir (like really, really noir) humorous vampire detective novels. All in all, a great time.


Jean said...

It was great meeting you (as a fan) at your kaffeeklatsch and reading. I'm reading Transformation and loving it. (Had the Lighthouse duet before) Thanks for attending and offering your time. - Jean Huets

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the ride, Carol. It was great to see you again, and to finally meet Pete. Does ES stand for exemplary spouse or elusive spouse?

I read BREATH AND BONE on the plane home. No wonder you're thinking of coming back to Valen! Look at where you left the poor guy!

carolwriter said...

Hi Jean,

Always a pleasure to meet new readers. Thanks for joining in the fun. That's what makes a con.


carolwriter said...

ES is definitely exemplary or exceptional spouse. You should know as you have one yourself. A marvelous asset for a writer.

Well, OK, I left Valen in an interesting spot, but I figured every one could imagine his "coming out!"


Elaine M Brennan said...

About the panel on moving into the convention community from outside "fandom"...

The attitude you describe is indeed present in a few well-known conrunners (I didn't have to look up who was on that panel ...), but it's thankfully not pervasive. We all know who the major idiots are, and we all try to avoid having to deal with them. Occasionally, we might even succeed.

I wonder, though, just what we can do that would make that transition from "not a part of/unaware of fandom" to "an author suddenly immersed in fandom culture" an easier one.

Catie said...

*beams* Duane is one of the most awesome people ever. I just love him.


carolwriter said...

elaine_m_brennan said: I wonder, though, just what we can do that would make that transition from "not a part of/unaware of fandom" to "an author suddenly immersed in fandom culture" an easier one.

Seems like I read some kind of "intro to cons and fandom" paper somewhere before going to my first con, but words didn't really prepare me for the reality of "fandom nation." Maybe a new author introduction party in the con suite on one of the first nights would start the relationship out on a good note.