This might be one of the best Norwescon’s I’ve been to, and that’s even with missing half of it. It was great seeing people I knew this time, including a good crop of fellow Wordslingers and new friends I met at the Rainforest Writers Retreat. There was a good mix of writing workshops that were…relevant to my interests (I miss cat macros). And my Fairwood Writers Workshop went much better than last year.
There are a lot of good reasons to go to a fantasy and science fiction convention. Hot girls in tight/skimpy clothes. Cool T-shirts and other gamer gear (my ‘damn right, I shot first’ Han Solo shirt to be appearing in public soon). Art by the original artist, often stuff I can’t afford (damn you, Todd Lockwood) but love to look at. But the best reason are the people.*
Norwescon attracts a large number of professional authors, many of whom are local to the great Northwest. Many of them do readings of their work, most of them appear on panels, there’s even a good chance you’ll run into them at the bar or at a party. It is a great opportunity to meet these folks, to listen to them and learn from their experiences and points of view.
In addition to the established authors, there are the new writers, just breaking out. I met Richelle Mead at a Norwescon, and got to talk about the new YA Vampire School novel she and her agent had been talking about. This year, I got to meet (and get critiqued by, for better or for worse) by Rhiannon Held. I suspect we’ll all be talking about her in the same way we talk about Richelle Mead, soon.
And more than this, are the writers like myself. Just getting published or just about there. It is a great way to meet and support fellow aspiring authors, to form friendships and critique groups. Very, very cool.
Ok, on to the nitty gritty.
Thursday is sort of a light day, the first day of the con. I attended a panel on small press vs. large press vs. self-publishing. That was interesting and very encouraging for those authors thinking about going Indie and publishing themselves on Amazon/Barnes and Noble. The pros for going large press is the money, no question about it. The cons are pretty much lack of control over anything apart from your writing. Even the editing from large houses is going downhill, according to the panelists. The pros of small press is more involvement, if not control. Close attention (your editor in a small press is actually the person who edits you) and a higher likelihood to take a risk on a newbie. The cons are less cash, smaller print runs, somewhat smaller prestige. Self-publishing pros: the barriers to entry are lower, costs are low, for a good-quality product, it is easy to make your investment back and then some. The cons, lower prestige (thought I detected a lot less self-publishing sneering at Norwescon compared to, say, Potlatch), no support, the only editing and cover help is what you pay for.
Whew. Let me start summarizing or we’ll be both be here all day. :)
Friday had one of the best panels, Synopsis writing for novels. I think…I THINK I might have a handle on how to write a short synopsis now. I’ll try it out and see how it goes.
I also attended DAWs ‘coming attractions panel’ and I learned a few things. One is that DAW is not owned by one of the mega corps. That’s pretty cool, they make all their editorial decisions in-house. Two, they seem to be looking for cocky/funny protagonists and author’s who’s ‘day job’ experiences lend credibility to what they’re writing. Tough news, maybe, for software test monkeys like myself.
The panel on Residential Writing Workshops was interesting, I wish I’d had time to ask Rhiannon more about Oddyssey. They also mentioned Viable Paradise, which is a shorter workshop and might bear looking into. I think my question about whether it was ‘worth it’** to go to Clarion West as opposed to just writing a novel in six weeks ticked off KC Ball. He said some sharp things about my Wordslingers and I had to bite back an equally sharp reply. I think we’ve got a damn good critique group. KC seemed to consider us vastly inferior to what Clarion West offered. I don’t know where that came from, it’s one of the first instances of snobbism I’ve seen from a Clarion grad. Or maybe I was still downcast about missing the cut this year as well.
There were also two panels on superheroes I attended with the lovely and talented Minerva Zimmerman. (seriously, check out her work at http://minervazimmerman.com/) I was pleased to see that the panel and attendees are tired of the trend of deconstructing superheroes and wanted a return to ‘good guys’ again.
Saturday’s Novel Outline panel was a perfect bookend to the Synopsis panel. Again, very useful. Much thanks to Irene Radford for her thoughts and words. J.A. Pitt’s two hour panel (with guest appearance by Jay Lake) on Saturday afternoon was amazing and useful. He basically spent two hours answering our writing questions and sharing how he broke through. Can’t praise that session enough.
One thing I noticed this year that stuck me odd. There was a LOT of ‘alternative lifestyle’ programming during the daytime hours. Most, though not all, of the sex panels (and there are a lot of them at Norwescon) were at night. But there was a lot of polyamory, transgender, etc panels. I’m pretty sex positive for a straight, vanilla guy but for others not used to Seattle’s….kinks, be aware.
The majority of the rest of the weekend was spent in author readings. I’ve come to enjoy these as much, if not more, than most of the panels. Thursday I go to hear Jay Lake and then Ben Lake/Joshua Palmeteri. Then Karen Gussoff and Jennifer Brozek (it takes an editor to really do horror). Friday I got to listen to Jak Koke and Janine Young. Then I had a rock block of rockers: Lizzy Shannon, Mary Robinette Kowal and the mighty Randy Henderson. Good, good stuff.
Finally there came the Fairwood Writers Workshop. This is getting a bit (a bit?) long so I’ll talk in generalities today and get specific tomorrow. I will say that submitting your work to the Fairwood Writers Workshop (or any workshop where professional, published writers will critique it) is incredibly valuable. Even if it hurts. Even if you disagree with them. They are going to be kinder and more detailed in their feedback than an editor or agent will be. It doesn’t cost anything extra. Do you want to be a professional writer? Then sign up. You’ll be glad you did, seriously.
Then…I got sick. NotLeigonaire’s Diseases but this is the worst bout of influenza I’ve had in….jeez, maybe a decade. And this was despite me washing my hands frequently and popping cold-ease and Airborne constantly. It may have been something I picked up prior to the con. If so, I sincerely hope I left before I got anyone else sick.
That’s it. Despite missing half of Saturday and all of Sunday and almost ALL the parties, I had a great time. I highly recommend it to any sci-fi/fantasy fan and especially to aspiring writers.
*and not just the aforementioned hot girls
** My question was: “Is there sufficient extra value from the instructors at, say, Clarion West. Or is the value in the disclipline of just writing a lot? Would I be just as well served to take 6 weeks off, stay home and write for 6 hours a day and share my work with my critique group?”