I spent last weekend at the 2011 ConCarolinas and I had a blast! A few years ago, when I attended my first one, I went because I was interested in the gaming. I wanted to spend a whole weekend immersed in gaming of many flavors – RPG’s, board games, CCG’s, etc. I knew there were panels and writers and artists there, but honestly, I didn’t pay them much attention; the gaming was too shiny and new, and I was still (more or less) on writing hiatus. Last year, I had just started writing seriously again, and during a break between games, a couple of panels caught my eye and I made a point of attending. Suffice to say, I was hooked. There’s a certain amount of validation in attending the panels. I didn’t feel so crazy for wanting to immerse myself in this challenge to get my words out there, and there was a hefty dose of reality that drove the point home – this really is work, but it’s totally worth doing.
When I was getting ready for the con this year, the first thing I looked at was the panel schedule. I circled every one I wanted to attend and I scheduled my gaming around those events. I did miss a couple of games that piqued my curiosity, but what I took away was more than worth the price of admission for the weekend and I think it was the best decision. Not only did I learn a lot, I had the pleasure of hearing from some truly insightful people, specifically, the minds behind www.magicalwords.net.
I’d been introduced to the Magical Words blog quite some time ago, but I have an affliction lovingly dubbed “internet ADD.” It never fails that when I log on to my computer, the bright, shiny, even somewhat seductive Firefox logo lures me into the wicked web and I end up losing hours falling in wiki-holes or circling the Facebook time suck. I never accomplish anything of real merit when my iADD kicks in (with the exception of soaking up some little factoid or bizarre thread that later becomes fiction fodder) but I can’t seem to resist its siren song. I’ve looked at programs to restrict my internet access, or gizmos to completely lock me out for a specific period of time, but right now, I’m too rebellious to actually install it. When the iADD kicks in, even though I sit down with the intent to ONLY visit specific writing-related sites before getting back to the business of putting words on the page, I always seems to forget that intention and hours pass before I realize my hands are covered in the blood of wasted time.
I am much better at reading when it’s unplugged, or at least closely mimics being unplugged, so I picked up How to Write Magical Words a few months ago and added it to my imposing to-be-read pile. Looking over the program, I recognized some of the names on many of the panels, and I remembered my initial impression of perusing the site and flipping through the book – “these are sensible people who seem to know what they’re talking about.” I started circling the panels I wanted to attend choosing those I had interest in, and others that featured familiar names. This method of choosing where I was going to be seemed to be one of the smartest moves I made all weekend (right up there with bringing snacks to keep in the room and picking up the bottle of Three Olives cherry vodka I almost decided against). Two of the panels I chose this way left a significant impression and granted me the opportunity to familiarize myself with some of the members of the Magical Words crew. First was “The Future of the Printed Word” with Nathan P. Butler, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, David B. Coe, Nicole Givens Kurtz and Rob R. Shelsky. Just listening made me realize that I wanted to know more about what they thought, to hear what they had to say because what they were sharing in a small space of time made SENSE. It sounded SANE, and damnit, they had a following and a stack of books to validate their experiences. While I realize that this is not always a mark of quality, it’s certainly something that should make you take notice and dig a little deeper. So I did. Wandering through the halls and perusing the writer’s tables, I chatted up Edmund R. Schubert, who invited me to lunch with them the next day. Being somewhat shy, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to go, but I said I’d try to attend.
The next panel that struck me was the “Learning to Write” panel with Theresa Bane, A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Harry Turtledove and Wendy S. Delmater. The only reason I chose a panel at 9am on a Saturday morning was because of those familiar names, and I’m so glad I hauled my butt out of bed and made it downstairs on time. I learned a lot, and while much of what they had to say was common sense, or things you’d figure out on your own with a little practice, it never hurts to hear it from the voices of authority…the ones sitting in front of you with a wall or stack of their own words in print to drive those points home. From that point on, I was ready to hear more. And I was ready to write more. In fact, I left that panel, went upstairs and wrote for 45 minutes, until my next activity – a writing workshop with Allan Wold focused on plotting and developing your story before you start writing. I think it was kismet, because this is something I know I need. Here, however, my genre preference and my twisted little mind felt a little out of place. The other attendees were coming up with wild SF/F plot lines and characters and I was digging around in my dark little brain brewing up a horror story a la the Little Fears RPG. I persevered though. I’ll probably still write the story I outlined once I finish the one I’m working on now. When I finished with the writing workshop, I knew I had to conquer the squirmy feeling in my gut and just go to the luncheon.
And what an awesome time I had there.
I got to talk to writers about writing, and about books and about beta-readers and audience and to hear from them what it’s really like to hang your whole life on the hook of a dream and live it out…even the ugly parts. Our table stretched halfway across the restaurant and there were so many people, they handed out numbered coasters just to keep track of everyone. I’d heard Kalayna Price speak the year before, and earlier in the day, but I really enjoyed talking to her (not to mention envying her corset), Stuart Jaffe and everyone else over lunch.
I’m not entirely ashamed to admit that I stalked them all across the panels for the remainder of the con and even managed to get them all to sign my brand-spankin’-new copy of their book. (SQUEE!)
Since I got home, I’ve also gotten my new Magical Words username and password set up because my intent (*ahem* notice I said “intent” there…) is to be a more regular visitor, commenter and participator. I’m going to make yet another stab at conquering my iADD. I’m looking forward to reading more of what they have to say, and as soon as I get to their books in my TBR pile, I’ll try to get up a Something Like a Review along the way.
I’m glad I went. I’m already looking forward to next year, and hoping they’ll be there again…and maybe I’ll even have something of my own to share by then too. 🙂