Notes from the front lines.

I feel like a dork. I utterly failed to transition my last post from, “Here’s the anthology I’m in” and “And now about RustyCon.” I could go back and edit it, but it’s populated out to other places, including FB. I have no idea what would happen, and I don’t want to be blamed for crashing the Internets. Those tubes can only take so much strain.

As I mentioned last post, I frantically took notes on my iPhone notepad. I emailed myself the notes, but it’s still just random information. At first my plan was to at least talk about the “calls to action” I felt in the presentation. But it occurs to me that others may find this info useful, so I figured I could dump out my notes and see how much of it makes sense while it’s still fresh in my head.

These books came up under the suggestion that no one is going to want to publish you until you get published. Or, at least, no one wants to be your agent. Which is a little ass-over-teakettle from what I’ve heard other places, as I often hear that no publisher wants to see unsolicited manuscripts, so make it of it what you will.

How to Be Your Own Literary Agent, by Richard Curtis
Beyond the Bestseller, also by Richard Curtis

Loosely connected to that idea was the recommendation of places like Hadley Rille Books being a good small publishing house to take your first work.

Many people also recommended On Writing, by Stephen King. I’ve enjoyed some of his books, but he’s never been the sort of writer I aspire to be. But, really, a lot of people recommended this.

In a panel on “Word Wizarding” I heard The Dictionary of Obsolete Language recommended. There was another one, named something like, The Dictionary of Forgotten Words, but I can’t definitively find it.

In a steampunk panel I sat in on someone recommended, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It was described to me as “steampunk set in Seattle, with the setting designed to rationalize the modern steampunk fashion sense.” The cover looks painfully familiar, and I can’t remember where I’ve seen it before.

In that same panel they brought up, The Assassination Bureau, which was an unfinished novel by Jack London, later made into a movie with Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas. Dude.

There was a lot of good writerly advice, mostly by K.C. Ball. Some where things that I’d heard before, but were good solid reminders that kicked me on my slothful ass. This ranged from quotes like, “Adverbs are the refuge of a weak writer” to emphasizing the need to write every day. Her practice was to set a daily writing goal on top of the uglier work of writing: revisions, shopping around manuscripts, etc. I don’t know that I’ve quite delineated my schedule for that just yet. Especially since I spent six hours today typing up my ADRPG modifications for a diceless Exalted game at ACUS, and the day after tomorrow I’m starting my class. (ZOMG.) But it’s a good goal to work towards.

(An aside: I had this total panic attack, thinking that I got the date for the class wrong and was nearly a week behind. I guess this means I can look forward to ten weeks of nightmares about being at high school in my underwear, and still haven’t graduated after 17 years.)

Ms. Ball also talked a fair amount about “First Readers.” She had some fair criticism of the “weekly writing group” structure. I’d never heard of first readers, but it was pretty easy to grok what she was talking about. I really like the idea of more of a circle of peers that help each other as need be with a common goal of doing this for a living. I spend so much of my scant free time working on writing that eating into that for a formal critique group is off-putting. Especially when I’m also expected to read stuff from people and be prepared to critique. I’m happy to do it for friends. It’s harder to do it for “people I met through a writing group.”

Granted, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up my Type-n-Gripe night. But then, we never make any claims to being a “serious” writing group.

There were a couple workshops that were recommended in the “Wrangling Writing Groups” panel. (This was the same panel that spawned the phrase, “getting people out of the fan-fic ghettos.” Any interest I had in writing fan-fic died with that statement.) One of them is the CSSF SF Writer’s Workshop organized by Jim Gunn at the University of Kansas. I thought there had been mention of Kij Johsnon having a workshop in the Seattle area, but all I can find is that she does a Novel Writing Workshop at the same time as Jim Gunn’s workshop. Based on the dates, this could be a good first alternate if Clarion/Clarion West falls through. My second alternate looks like, Viable Paradise. The latter I heard about through another writer friend. It looks like Elizabeth Bear teaches at it. I feel vaguely embarrassed that I never noticed on her blog. I guess that shows how closely I read her blog… It would be surreal on a lot of levels to attend Viable Paradise.

Another thing I had only been vaguely cognizant of but had never payed attention to was the Writers of the Future contest. It’s free to enter, the prize is nice and, though it’s run by Scientologists, it was pointed out that their money spends as good as anyone else’s. My viablility for other contests is open for a while, my viability for this one is a little more narrow.

I had in my notes, “Gilbert: Youtube?” I don’t remember what I was thinking of when I wrote that. I vaguely recall “Gilbert” was a woman. So I think it was a reference to this video featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, talking about creativity. (It’s 20 minutes long, so I haven’t watched it all the way through.)

I’ve also been mulling around the idea of flash fiction. There are apparently professional venues for getting flash fiction published. I got excited when I thought I might have found a new home for Golden Apples, but it’s too long for flash fiction. But K.C. Ball does have a flash fiction e-zine that she does, so that may be something to consider for the future work.

While I’ve gushed a lot about Ms. Ball a lot, there were several other writers at the convention that I got to hear talk and thought were pretty great people. I can’t comment on how good their writing is, but I encourage you to check out the Web sites for these authors on the basis of their strong characgter: John Hedtke, Brenda Cooper, Robin Hobb, Michael Ehart, Ted Butler and John P. Alexander.

I feel a bit bad I didn’t go to any of the author readings/signings. I was gunshy about sitting in on a author I’d never heard of, dreading being the only person in the audience and having to admit I’d never heard of them. I mostly met these authors after they had their reading, or they had a reading when I wasn’t able to attend.

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