Friday, September 6, 2013

Emerging from the Vortex that was WorldCon 2013

So, the WiFi in the lobby was was not great and my phone's battery is also not great, so instead of tweeting and blogging throughout the con as I'd hoped, I simply gave in and experienced WorldCon live and in real time. 

Before I recap last Friday, I want to note the interesting - and important - discussion about diversity in the genre that's sprung up on various social networks. This is because of the often glaring lack of diversity at these events in both the attitudes of some panelists (no panels that I attended), and too often in the demographic of attendees. WorldCon did skew old, white, and male. This is a worthy conversation and I have some thinky-thinks I may blog about in the near future, but for now I'm just going to talk about the experience of my first WorldCon. Being constrained both financially and by my delightful family life (Seriously, it's hard to abandon my husband, daughters, dog and chickens!), there aren't many big cons I'll be able to attend. So, by way of "loving the one you're with," I really did have a fabulous time.

Friday was my first full day at the con and I started it out by meeting one of Short Story heroes, Kij Johnson, in the hallway of our hotel. We had a wonderful chat in the elevator and on the walk over to the Convention Center. She was genuine and gracious and even went so far as to ask the people at the registration desk for a "First WorldCon" ribbon for me.
I only made it to a couple panels. The first one, Graphic Novels You Should be Reading,
was more nostalgic than I expected with a fair amount of discussion about some of the greats of the 1960s and 70s, especially the Europeans. I started reading comics much later and am not familiar with most of the books they brought up, so I have more to add to my reading list like the Blueberry comics and Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths. 

The next panel, The Things They Never Tell You About Getting Published the First Time, was a nice mix of informationa and anecdotes about both novel and short story publishing. Vylar Kaftan pointed out that, especially in the short story market, new venues often have poor contracts because they don't know any better. The panelists also agreed that you shouldn't put too much importance on reviews. What really matters for a story to get traction is readership from the venue. In other words, getting the work out there in front of eyeballs can trump the opinions of reviewers. Words of comfort indeed!

I sat in for half of the Editors and Writers panel before I had to leave for my Writers' Workshop.
This one had some heavy hitters: James Patrick Kelly, Gardner Dozios, Janet Harriet of Apex, Lou Anders of Pyr Books, and Shelia Williams of Asimov's.

Gardner Dozios told an anecdote - and others agreed that they'd had the same experience - about writers who have had a story accepted then withdrawn it to revise or workshop it. I couldn't believe anyone would even think of doing this with a SOLD story. I can't believe any editor would even agree to it (which just goes to show that editors can be nice to a fault). They all agreed that the stories they got back weren't what they wanted, i.e. what they had originally BOUGHT! Chasing perfection can lead you down some dark paths. Don't go there!

Shelia Williams said that, in the short story market, she is always looking for writers who can reliably (every other month or so) send her good stories, reminding me again just how important it is to produce consistently! She also mentioned that she loves novellas. Good to hear since I'm working on a couple.

I hated to leave that panel, but it was time to be off to my Writers' Workshop. There were just three writers and two pros. Our pros were John A. Pitts, a novelst at Tor and Alex Shavartsman (read his con recap here), a short story writer and publisher of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies.

I brought a slightly older story, but one that isn't selling, and got some great feedback. After their comments I could see some missing pieces in this story and now have some ideas about what I can change to really make this story pop (and sell)!

After the workshop, I had lunch with Alex and another workshop attendee. Sure I missed some panels, but that's what conventions are all about -- making connections, renewing old friendships and forming new ones. And, spending every day from dawn to well after midnight talking about writing!

After that, I perused the Dealer's room, took a catnap, grabbed some dinner, then off to make the party rounds with Patrice, my partner in crime. We checked out the Helsinki Bid party, The Tor Party and the Dell Party. I saw Marshal Ryan Maresca and Stina Leicht, who I know from ArmadilloCon. I met Keffy Kehrli (Shimmer) and Lynne M. Thomas (Apex) and continued my conversation with Alex about how hard it is to write humor and the difficulties of translating fiction.

I opened far too many conversations with "You rejected me!" Even pitched in thrilled fan-girl voice, really, it's a terrible line. Everyone was awesome and fun to talk to. It was great to get to know the human face behind the genre that I love.

Here I am with Alex Shavartsman at the Dell party

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