At the urging of my friends Torrey and Nate, I attended my first Foolscap Convention. For those unfamiliar with it, this is a convention geared towards the written works of SF. No other part of fandom. Just books and the like. For some reason I thought the convention was geared towards just writers, but it is actually for readers and writers. Even then, I’d peg the numbers at 125-150. Very tiny convention.
So, here’s what my experience was like.
I will start off by saying that I didn’t like the panels on Friday. I guess there was some cool workshopping stuff during the day, but I had to work so I didn’t get there until evening.
I had an awesome dinner with Nate, Torrey, Michael Hacker and Andrea “Knives” Howe of Blue Falcon Editing. We dined at Ruby’s Diner, and it was good. Then there was chocolate fondue at the “kickoff” for the convention.
The panels, though, didn’t thrill me. I didn’t have many I was interested in that evening. I have low patience for the dark side of geekdom. There’s a flavor of geek humor I don’t enjoy, and I really dislike nerd arguments. And that was what the evening kicked off with. I made it through one panel and that basically killed my night. I just didn’t feel there were good alternatives for my tastes.
Right off the bat I felt very discouraged about my weekend.
Saturday turned that all around and the awesome continued through Sunday. I sat in on some awesome panels, I met a bunch of awesome people, and ate good food. It was just spectacular. Some highlights:
- Attended Mark Ferrari’s reading Saturday morning. He read from a work in progress and we gave him lots of feedback on it. Mark’s writing was wonderful to hear and he was wonderful to be around. We wooed him into having lunch with us and had a grand time.
- Saturday night was a reading by Mary Robinette Kowal from Shades of Milk and Honey. Her talks on panels at Norwescon were among my favorite things at Norwescon. Combined with the fact that her book is done in the style of Jane Austen, and I just had to have that book.
Before the reading, I passed her in the hall and asked her to sign my book. I’d been uncertain how to approach it, because I don’t want to intrude on an author when they are just trying to get to the bathroom or just want to be left alone for a minute or whatever. But, Ms. Kowal was kind and signed my book there in the hall. While she did so, a friend passed me and exclaimed, “Oh, you managed to talk to her. You know, he was so nervous about talking to you?”
I hugged this friend because otherwise I would have to kill her. Some day, Ms. Podmajersky, revenge will be mine. And it will be sweet.
The reading itself was awesome! Mary Robinette Kowal does voice acting both for puppetry and audio books, and so it was delightful to hear her read. I haven’t been able to read Shades of Milk and Honey yet, so this was my first exposure to it. It conjured to mind everything I love about Austen’s writing. Between her reading and the prose about the main character, Jane, I was constantly reminded of Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility.
To top it off, there was a shadow puppet show! The puppet show was a piece that appears in the novel and is based on a historic shadow puppet show from Jane Austen’s time period.
In case it was unclear, I really enjoyed all of this.
- After Ms. Kowal, Nate did a reading from his piece in Cthulhurotica. I will not gush as much about Nate, but suffice to say I love his reading voice. Even if he’s reading something that will scar me for life.
- Lastly Angel Leigh McCoy did a reading. Normally I associate her with horror, but she read an adorable piece of steampunk short fiction told from the point of view of ferrets. My pancreas almost didn’t survive the encounter. There is something gut wrenching about having cute animals in danger. I don’t know what it is.
- I had a chance to talk to guests of honor Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. I share a couple mutual friends with them, and when one of those friends heard they would be in the Seattle area for this convention he emailed them to see if they would talk to me about some of my concerns about writing as a career. They were awfully gracious in giving of their time. Their answers were similar to other authors I’ve spoken to on the subject.
I think ultimately what leaves me feeling so discouraged is that this is not something I can do right now. I have a hill of debt I’m trying to fight down and I probably won’t have it gone for at least another year or two. Once I kill off that debt, I could conceivably live off of half what I make now. But that’s a long way off.
Emma Bull in particular said something very sweet that nearly made me cry. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and on a certain level I’m surprised it affect me the way it did. It was so unexpected and caught me as I felt really awkward about approaching them kinda out of the blue that it was a little overwhelming.
So I’m totally going next year. I doubt I can afford to stay there like some of my peers, but this was exactly the sort of thing I would want out of a convention experience.