As a result, I think I had more fun and got a lot more out of the convention. I also learned some things, both about myself and about writing, and formed some plans for the next few steps in this writerly journey.
What did I learn from Norwescon this year?
I learned that my craft abilities have improved and I am nearing the point where I might sell stories based on strong craft and storytelling. I can have interesting ideas, I can create characters, settings and plot, and I can carry a story along, keep it interesting, and make an ending that links to the beginning. The two stories I took to Norwescon were older stories and I can see how my skill levels have improved since then (this is something that Mary noticed as well). Even in those stories, there was something in each of them that people enjoyed and thought carried a lot of promise.
But there is still another step I need to take. I need to quit "scratching the surface" of the emotional aspects of my stories and dig deeper. Mary described it as looking at a pond where first you see what's on the surface but after a while you learn to see deeper into the bottom of the pond. If I'm going to "write what I like to read", since what I like to read is stories with emotional resonance, then I need to dig deeper and see deeper and give my stories emotional resonance. This can't come from anyone else, it has to come from inside me, and that's the most difficult and scariest part of the whole deal.
I learned that Mary Rosenblum is really a wonderful person and that she's very helpful and she has great insights into writing the way I want to write. I learned that Jay Lake is a lot of fun with a never-stopping mind (well, I knew that) and thinks a heck of a lot about this writing stuff. I learned that Ken Scholes is one of the nicest people in the world, is very thoughtful, and also is a lot of fun to be around. I am very fortunate to get to interact with these three authors and there is a lot I can learn from each of them.
I also learned that the whole science fiction fan community is a complete blast to be around and that I am very much at ease in that group. The writer community is also a nice community full of interesting people who really think about things, not just writing but life and the world in general. Cons are fun and I need to keep going!
In summary, I've come a long way in the 2.25 years since I started taking it seriously, but I still have a long way to go. It's one step at a time and I need to be persistent and keep trying to move forward. This is definitely the hardest thing I've ever done as a solo achievement, but it's not really solo as there are all these great people around who offer help and thoughts and insight and make the struggle and journey a little bit easier.
In the short term, I have two submission deadlines coming up on March 31: WOTF and the "Taking Flight" anthology. I will revise "Fly, Boy" and submit it for "Taking Flight". I now realize that "Difficult Diwali" needs more work on its emotional core, so when "Crow and Samoset" comes back from the Polyphony submission I'll send it to WOTF (perhaps with some revision), as it still is one of my strongest stories.
Beyond that, I'm realizing that of the almost 40 stories I've written so far some have much more emotional resonance than others. I need to send out more stories, so I'll tackle the ones with less resonance while I let the big ones sit and cook and gather depth. The first big one will be "The Fishing Trip", which I'll tackle sometime in April and then submit.
And after that, it's simple: keep writing, keep challenging myself to add emotional depth, keep trying to get better, keep revising, keep submitting. It never ends, but that's okay because I really do love writing.