9:00 am - 10:00 am = Breakfast and Chat
I wandered downstairs to get a coffee and cinnamon roll and ran into Mary Rosenblum. She said she had read the "Straw" story and would like to talk about it. So, we headed to a quiet place and talked about it. She liked much of what I was doing in the story and thought it might be able to sell on the idea and the technical skill of the story itself.
But, she said, there's more to the story and I am just scratching the surface. Making the main character defined solely by anger makes him simpler and less sympathetic. If I were to make him more complex, disappointed, confused then he becomes a character that can resonate with a lot more people because they will understand his situation. There also is the issue of class in the story, which I barely touch but is also huge especially in the medieval world.
She's completely right. I made the character choices I made because they were easier. I did make more interesting setting and situation choices, but my main character is simplistic and defined by one emotion. I am, indeed, once again "scratching the surface" with the story. This is one I'm going to have to think about some more.
10:00 am - 11:00 am = Pre-Critique Nervousness
My critique was in an hour, so I wandered around in a fog of nervousness. I did some email checking and might have browsed the dealer room. I honestly don't remember.
11:00 am - noon = Critique Session for "The Fishing Trip".
Attendees: David Silas, Ray Vukcevich, Spencer Ellsworth, Leslie Howle
I had already heard that Ray Vukcevich wouldn't be able to attend, but Harold Gross mailed me his version of the document with comments so I had those available. Leslie didn't show for the session, but I found out later she had a horrible time parking (parking is a big issue at Norwescon).
So, it was just David, Spencer and me at the critique. We had a good time discussing the story. They gave some good feedback mainly around the flow of events, the feelings of the main character, and the reasons he stays rather than goes. We also got into the larger issues and back story behind the story and the world where it's set. They both felt the story had value and in fact Spencer said "You can tell I'm excited about this story because I'm starting to have many ideas about it." Overall it was a really good session and some good help on one of my favorite stories.
Noon - 1:00 pm = Aimless Wandering
After the critique, I ended up wandering around the con again as I processed the feedback. I did sit in the bar area and do some email so something concrete did happen. I also made sure to re-read "The Game of Chase" before the next critique session.
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm = Writing Workshop Reception
The reception for participants in the writing workshop was in the Presidential Suite and I was able to attend the first hour. This was a lot of fun, I spent time talking to cscole and topayz4 and Fairwood member Erin Tidwell. I also ran into Fairwood people I met last year like Chris Bodan and Renee Stern.
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm = Critique Session for "The Game of Chase".
Attendees: Darragh Metzger, G. David Nordley, Kim Ritchie, LJ Bothell
This was a tougher session, and I knew it would be going into it. "The Game of Chase" is a rougher story, and there are many things in it that don't work as well (as I discovered when I re-read it before the session). This story is a big example of something that just scratches at the surface of something much deeper, and has events that don't make sense. It also needs to be more intense, more desperate, and have more action that can drive towards the conclusion.
However, I will say that the attendees were pleased by the fact that it was a different form of the "zombie apocalypse" story and didn't involve teenyboppers getting killed. We also had a good discussion after the story about some of the issues I'm working with in the story, like damaged people in a damaged world, parents and kids, and the "games" people play. Again, another good session and I got very useful feedback from it.
3:00 pm = Decompress
After the session, I finally decompressed and started relaxing. I did find Leslie Howle before a session and arranged to meet her at 5:00 PM. I also got to meet Cat Rambo, which was cool as I'd heard the name many times (including from Spencer Ellsworth in my first critique as someone to whom I should send "The Fishing Trip" for consideration).
3:30 pm - 4:00 pm = Ken Scholes Reading.
I needed a break so I went to hear Ken read. He read a humorous story about Medea and Jason which was a lot of fun and I laughed out loud at several spots. Given my past drama history, and that I played Jason in a production of "Medea", hearing that story was good timing.
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm = Panel: "Orbital Living".
Panelists: C.S. Lowe, Daniel Erickson, Cheryl Lynn York, G. David Nordley
This was a panel about possibilities for space habitats. I stayed for about half of it as I wanted to go try to hear Michael Swanick's reading (where I was also going to meet Leslie Howle). I ended up wandering aimlessly for a while and not hearing the Swanick reading (I didn't want to disturb at the very end).
5:00 pm - 5:45 pm = Meet with Leslie Howle to talk about "The Fishing Trip"
Leslie and I found a good spot to talk about "The Fishing Trip", and ended up being joined by Mary Rosenblum (who has known Leslie for a while). This was probably the toughest feedback of all.
She had many comments on the first page and wanted to see the prose as smooth as possible, and also didn't feel the story ended well but kind of dropped off. She didn't see enough justification for why the main character stays instead of leaving, and also wanted to see the belief system of the people infuse further into the story. But she also did think there was something to the story and said I should definitely rewrite it and send it out.
Again, good feedback and it means a lot given that it comes from Leslie who has been associated with Clarion West for many years. Mary said that she wanted to read the story so I gave her Leslie's copy.
5:45 pm - 7:15 pm = Dinner with VP folks
I had dinner with fellow VPXI alums Pam Bennett-Skinner and Mark Teppo, and VPer Erin Tidwell and her husband Mikal Tidwell. We talked about various and sundry subjects, ranging from fans to conferences to college basketball to whatever. It was a nice and relaxing time.
7:15 pm - 9:00 pm = Volunteer with the Masquerade and Masquerade
I helped out with the Masquerade as a door guard and kept people out then let them go into the Masquerade in an orderly fashion. After that, I watched the Masquerade. It wasn't as impressive as last year, I felt like there were fewer costumes and they weren't as ornate. There was a cool "big bug" costume and some fancy dresses, but that was about it.
9:00 pm - 11:30 pm = "Weird Tales" Reception
Back at the Presidential Suite, "Weird Tales" Magazine held a reception that was open to the public. It got pretty crowded after a while, but I had a good time. I talked to one couple about asteroids and asteroid mining (one of my new interests), talked to a guy about steampunk, talked to another person about technology, talked to Ken Scholes about random stuff, and talked to G. David Nordley about corporate space exploration (another of my interests).
I also talked to Mary about "Fishing Trip", which she had already read by then, and she echoed many of Leslie's comments and again challenged me to let it expand, to dig deeper into the story, and to really work on backstory and on bringing forth the main character's emotions, feelings and perceptions.
At the tail end of the evening, I made plans to meet Jay Lake at 9 AM in the coffee bar to chat. Eventually I was pretty exhausted from the whole intensity of the day so I went back to the room, watched some TV for a while, and fell asleep somewhere around 1 in the morning.