After my sleeping misadventures on Friday night, I woke up Saturday morning at 5 in the morning and never really went back to sleep. And I knew Saturday was going to be a looong day because I had three panels, 2 readings, and a critique session.
Fortified with a chai latte and a bran/carrot muffin (the fortification of choice over the weekend), I dived into my first panel: "But I thought you wanted my opinion! All about critiquing and when to critique." My co-panelists were Nisi Shawl, Laurel Anne Hill, Kami Miller and Bill Johnson. I thought the panel went rather well, Nisi did a great job moderating with several good questions that were food for thought. We covered what we critique, how we do it, adjustments in critiquing style based on critiquee, online versus in-person, critiques versus criticism versus "coronation", critiquing horror stories, and what your goal is.
My summary: A Critique is structured feedback designed to improve someone's abilities. Find something positive and something that needs improvement. Give the kind of critique you'd like to receive. And in the end, remember: it's all just your opinion.
After that I sat in on the "So you want to be a writer" panel where several successful writers talked about the early days, what it was like, and what got them through it.
Summary: It ain't easy. It's hard. Money is always an issue. But if you want to do it, you will keep going and persistence is a key. Write, finish, revise, submit, repeat.
Noon was "How a writer's workshop affected my life", which I attended while having a lunch of Diet Pepsi and peanut butter sandwich (my standard lunch). The talk was about what a writer's workshop does for you, the structure, the different formats, and even some horror stories.
Summary: They can be very helpful if done in a constructive manner. They are tremendous learning opportunities. Start small, with a workshop at a con (like Orycon!) or an online one, before jumping into the big intensive ones like Viable Paradise or even the Clarions. [I can vouch for all of this]
At 1, I took time for a little browsing of the dealer's room and a little rest and reorganization in the hotel room as I knew the rest of the afternoon and evening would be non-stop non-stopness.
2 pm was another panel for me: "But I thought it was perfect! The pain and pleasure of receiving critiques." This was the other side of the 11 am panel, so they made a nice pair. My co-panelists were David Goldman, AM Dellamonica, and Judith R. Conly. We talked about useful and non-useful feedback, different forms of feedback, how you might sort the wheat from the chaff, and the different types of people who might give you feedback (readers, writers, family, etc). I think it was a good panel, and I think the audience members in attendance got something useful.
My summary: Listen carefully. Write everything down, both positives and negatives. Give it a little time so the feedback can soak in. When offered solutions, try to figure out the underlying problem and remember that other people's solutions are from their point of view (the "Bruce Sterling critique" story). Take what feels like it works for you, and for the story
3pm, another panel for me: "I just made my first sale! When do I seize the pay!" My co-panelists were Bob Brown, Devon Monk, and MK Hobson. We had a good time, talking about what happens once you sell a work, both short fiction and novels. We also talked about what you're really selling (rights), and how the process goes (novels are much longer and more involved than short fiction). Since novels are more involved, Devon Monk, who is smack dab in the middle of the process in multiple ways, walked us through that in detail and it was very enlightening.
My summary: Short story process is short and easier, novel process is longer and more involved. Keep track of things. Meet your commitments and know how you can meet those commitments. Be a professional. And keep on writing!
4pm was my critique session. Writer Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Editor Maggie Slater, fellow writer Katherine Q, and I got together to review Katherine's and my stories. Much good feedback was given all the way around, and I think both Katherine and I got a lot out of it.
In my story, some items were very unclear both in my world-building and in my internal character motivation and growth. Opinions on the story were split, with Nina not being fond of it (because she's not fond of brutal fighting in stories, and I can understand), Maggie finding good things in it (she edits for Apex, and the dark sf angle is right at what they look for), and Katherine liking the story and writing and being intrigued by the world.
I have work ahead of me on this one, but it seems like there's a solid core from whence I can build when I rewrite it. Current plan is to let it sit for a couple weeks while I do other things, then rewrite it and get it out by the end of the year.
5pm I went to the Broad Universe reading. Broad Universe is an organization which supports having more women's voices in speculative fiction (always a good thing), and several members read from their works. The works were interesting, insightful, funny, and solid, and I really enjoyed hearing them. I need to join Broad Universe, because I totally support their goals. And they allow boys in the club!
6pm was a short break in the room to regroup because I had my reading at 6:30 pm.
The reading went well. I ended up with 6 people in the audience, which is just fine because there were a few big events including dinner going on at the same time. I read "Fairy Lover" (twitter story), "All That Was Left Behind" (spam flash fiction) and "The Very Difficult Diwali" (first two sections). The audience seemed to like the reading, and the Indian gentleman in attendance was intrigued by my choice to set a story in Bangalore.
From there it was straight to the room for the Jay Lake reading at 7:30. Readers were Mary Robinette Kowal, David Goldman, Camille Alexa, David Levine, MK Hobson and me. We had a good time reading two of Jay's stories, the audience (fully bedecked in Hawaiian shirts) really enjoyed the performances. . The other aspects of the Sekrit Project must still remain Sekrit, because I'm pretty sure the subject doesn't know about those.
We escaped the reading room just as several streams of water started pouring from the ceiling. No, it wasn't raining outside. (The hotel staff was on it ASAP, and it was actually fixed by tehe morning.)
After that, I needed a break! I went to the room and did another re-grouping in prep for the parties then headed on up to the 15th floor for fun and merriment!
There were multiple parties: the Endeavour Award reception, a book signing in the RadCon room, the Renovation (WorldCon 2011 party), the pirate party, and one more party whose name I don't recall. I spent my time going from place to place, having drinks and snacks, and chatting with a whole host of people. I don't think I could name all the names, but it was editors and writers and fans and programmers and teachers and partygoers. Subjects ranged from video games to movies to the tech industry to middle school students to the pacific northwest to publishing to politics to conventions to wine to you name it. I met many new people, gave out cards (I have cards!), received cards, and had a great time. Finally, at about 2 am, I was worn out, the crowd was thinning, and it was time to head home.
Several glasses of water later, I was in bed and crashed immediately thus ending a very successful Saturday.
I finally crawled out of bed about 8:45 on Sunday morning, showered, got packed, got dressed, grabbed a chai latte and muffin (again), and went to the first event.
10 am was a "Coffee with Lou Anders". Lou Anders is the editor of Pyr, and Lou Anders is a blast! There were about 10 people attending and he kept us all entertained with his thoughts on the sci-fi industry in general, movies, books, publishing, reader and audience trends, and how both sci-fi and fantasy are doing. The man knows his field rock solid, can pull works and facts from his head (even after he was admittedly up til 2am drinking), and is very entertaining. I'm really glad I went, and I learned a heck of a lot about the industry. But dang it, I should have given him a card, because he edits anthologies! Still more to learn.
11am was my last panel: "Social Networking". Co-panelists were Petrea Mitchell, John Hedtke, Mark Niemann-Ross and Lisa Linderman. We talked about things like LiveJournal, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, covered the good and bad points of each and of social networking in general, talked about how we used the sites, and talked about the idea of online communications and online presence. It was a lot of fun, we had a good time, and I think the audience enjoyed it too.
At noon, I checked out of the hotel, stowed my bags, and went shopping in the dealer's room. I got presents for C, E, and A, along with two books: "The Apex Book of World SF" (yes!) and the GRANTS PASS anthology (nifty!).
1pm was the "What happened to AI? Where are we at?" panel, which was very informative. The panelists knew a bunch, and there were some audience members in attendance with lots of knowledge as well. I took more notes at this panel than any other, and I got some nifty story germs which will be rolling around my brain for a while.
After that I went with Mary Rosenblum and Janet Freeman (they were both on the AI panel) to hit the chocolate tasting and chat about things. It was a good talk, we talked about writing and the purposes of stories, about what we were each working on, and about how relationships to parents and kids is something at the heart of so many stories. It's always nice to talk to Mary about writing and development as a writer, and Janet (Mary's cousin) is a just-starting-out writer herself who is also a retired aerospace engineer and extremely smart. I had a great time talking to the both of them.
Thus ended my Orycon. A MAX ride to the airport, and this writeup on the con conclude the weekend.
As always, Orycon was a great time. It's fun to feel like I'm becoming part of the writing crowd, and thus feel freer to chat with people, go to parties, and have more participation in all aspects of a con. But behind it all is the reminder that there is plenty more to be done with my writing, and it's entirely up to me to put in the work, to continually dig deeper into my stories, and to always try to write the best story I can. One month is left in the year, so I'll be working to close out 2009 on a really strong writing note!
Now it's time for two slices of pizza and a plane flight home! Yay, home! It will be good to be home and see everyone. Can't wait!