Lessons from a reading

Erin M. Hartshorn reading at WorldCon

Photo courtesy of Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Last month, I attended WorldCon in San Jose. I had an amazing time, primarily because of the wonderful people I talked to, both those whom I already knew and those whom I just met. (I wrote all about it in my newsletter last month — consider subscribing if you missed it!) The last thing I did officially at the con was to give a reading on Monday afternoon of a couple scenes from Troll Tunnels.

Lesson 1: All conventions are not created equal. When I did a reading from Ghost Garages last year at Boskone, two people came to listen. This year, the room was crowded, with easily a couple of dozen people. Maybe more? I tried to take a picture but failed to do the panorama properly. But … a crowded room, most of whom had never heard of me or read my writing, seeking to be entertained and decide whether to check out my work.

The reading itself went well, with a couple of people coming up to me afterward to compliment me on my reading skill.

Lesson 2: I can do this! Even if I’m a little unnerved by the number of people in front of me. However …

Lesson 3: I need to be prepared to say more about the book and series to lay the groundwork for the new audience, and

Lesson 4: People actually want swag like bookmarks or other material to help them remember who was reading from what. I’ve seen a lot of people online say that no one cares about bookmarks, they just throw them away or don’t really look at the content, so I’d dismissed this as something to pursue. Evidently, it’s common because it does work.

The con is over, long live the con

I started the day by dropping in to a reading (Victoria Sandbrook, who was reading some unpublished short pieces. I can’t wait until they’re published so I can point people to them), then dealt with stuff like getting tea, picking up a $3 pair of earrings in the dealers’ room because they matched my outfit, and checking out of the hotel.

My first panel of the day was small — medical advances, science or science fiction, with Dr. Robert Finegold and David Shaw. That was an interesting panel — very cool images and videos with stories behind them. We talked about the MUSE headband, electrodes and prosthetic control, prosthetics, exosuits, 3D printing, lab-grown grafts, CRISPR, new imaging techniques, antibodies as medicine, side effects, personal genetics … It was a really great panel, I’m glad I was on it, and I hope I get the chance to do it again (but I’ll prepare with notes for next time!).

Then it was off for a spot of lunch and socializing with friends before my second panel — great beach reads for winter, which I moderated. Panelists included William Hayashi, Tui Sutherland, and Susan Jane Bigelow (all of whom are now on my “grab their first books and go from there” list). We discussed comfort reads, rereads, length of reads (Tui said that she’s more likely to take on an epic book like Neal Stephenson or a trilogy (currently, one by Jo Walton) in the winter. We talked about classic SF, cozy mysteries, and Regency romances. One young audience member pointed out that one reason he likes to reread is that the first time through, there’s all this tension, but when you reread, you can just enjoy. One audience member asked for short fiction recommendations (Susan  recommended Long Hidden and Hidden Youth; I suggested two collections, Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie and Caroline M.Yoachim’s Seven Wonders of a Once and a Future World). I regret not mentioning the Nebula reading list as a great place to discover new favorites. I really enjoyed that panel, and I think it was probably perfect as an introduction to moderating.

All in all, it was an excellent con, and I’m looking forward to next year, when I hope to be on the programming again.

And I wrote this evening!

Words written today: 400
Words written this month: 9,941
Words written 2017: 50,456
Average words/day 2017: 1,009
Books completed 2017: 1
Pages read: 2 chapters
Books read 2017: 2
Exercise reps: 0

Staying with my friend Bonnie tonight, and I’ll drive home tomorrow. (And write, of course.) Tuesday, we will resume our ordinary life of making school lunches, copyediting, grocery shopping, and so forth. Life is good, both the quotidian and the extraordinary.

Saturday night sleepies 

Panel on the perfect teenage hero went well this morning. I’ve been fortunate in having moderators who are good about asking for input from all of the panel members, making sure everyone gets a chance to speak. Perhaps too much so, as I occasionally have nothing to say and feel like I should try anyway.

My reading … the reading itself was good. Need to work on the main character’s voice, as I was told it sounded too girly. My reading actually ran a little short, so I could pick another scene to round it out a bit. The only other issue was not unexpected — only my son and best friend were there. At least it was a friendly audience!

Spent the afternoon attending panels — there were some very funny lines in both the making your own mythology panel and the worldbuilding in urban fantasy panel. I’m afraid I drowsed during the other talk I went to. Also spent a bit of money in the dealer’s room.

Eating was fraught. The bar was packed, but it was still easier to get a seat in than the Irish pub. I think between showing up to look for a table and finally paying (or signing for it to be charged to the room, anyway) and leaving, my son and I were there for more than 2-1/2 hours. For a burger and a wrap.

Anyway, I did eventually sit down and get some words.

Words written today: 408
Words written this month: 9,541
Words written 2017: 50,056
Average words/day 2017: 1,022
Books completed 2017: 1
Pages read: 2 chapters
Books read 2017: 2
Exercise reps: 0

As you can see, I finally broke 50k. Maybe after I get back home, I can get that average word count trending back up again.

That’s a peregrine?

Drive to Boston went well, although as usual, I’ve gotten too much sun on my face. You’d think I would remember that. Son picked what we listened to in the car — first, the Hamilton soundtrack (downloaded with Amazon Music — I love Prime!), then the first couple short stories in The Legend of Drizzt (from Audible, grabbed when it was a Daily Deal — great voice talent on this).

The Once and Future Teen panel — wonderful group of people on the panel. We talked about agency and vibrancy, how much more extreme things feel for teens, about the value of firsts and how romance isn’t required. I mentioned a book (not by name) that I wanted to throw across the room because of the stupid decision the protagonist made — but how it was in character and totally believable for a teen and how my son thinks I should finish reading the series so he can talk about it with me.

Designing a Game panel — another amazing varied group.value of immersion, designing for fun, how graphics aren’t everything and computing power could be used for more than particle effects. Value of story. Iterative design. Value of being able to pick up a game and start playing without long explanations.

Bumped into a few people I knew, like John Murphy, and chatted more with people I met on panels. Now have the recommendation to watch Something Rotten.

Last event of the evening was Pictionary with the Pros. My team lost, but we had a lot of fun playing. There were interesting things that came up, like how do you convey “union” in a picture?

After getting back to our room, I realized I still needed to write, so I did. Hence the late update. Fortunately, I can sleep in in the morning.

Words written today: 160
Words written this month: 9,133
Words written 2017: 49,648
Average words/day 2017: 1,031
Books completed 2017: 1
Pages read: 2 chapters
Books read 2017: 2
Exercise reps: 0

As you can see, I didn’t break 50k for the year yet, although I did finally break 9k for the month!

Monday marches on

broken walnut branchIt’s a bit stormy through the Mid-Atlantic right now. Last night, as I was going to bed, I heard something fall. Worried about it, wondered about it — but nothing came crashing through the roof, so I went to sleep. This morning, I found this branch off the walnut tree in our backyard. I’ve been meaning to call someone to deal with it for a while now. Anyway, I now have a to-do on my list for March (better weather, I hope) to call someone to take it down — with the phone number, so I don’t have any excuse.

Today is, without a doubt, the best writing day I’ve had in a long time. I hit that “the end is sight” point (though really it’s still thousands of words away), and everything just started flowing. Very pleased about this.

Words written today: 5,051
Words written 2017: 33,786
Average words/day 2017: 1,469
Books completed 2017: none yet (getting close!)
Pages read: 1 chapter so far
Books read 2017: 1
Exercise reps: 0

I didn’t exercise today mostly because I was so busy sitting at the computer typing. Tomorrow, I’ll get different exercise — lifting many boxes of Girl Scout cookies for transport — so I’ll be counting that, regardless of whether I do formal reps of any sort.

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SnowpocalypseCon 2015

This weekend, I headed up to Boston to attend Boskone, the annual convention put on by NESFA. I had an incredible time — learned new things from panels, met some online friends face-to-face for the first time, caught up with other friends, laughed like mad at the SF improv, had some excellent seafood, and do not appear to have contracted con crud.

I’m grateful to Elaine Isaak, who accepted me and my son as roommates, which meant we had somewhere to stay.

I’m grateful to Erin Underwood (programming) and all of NESFA for an excellent con.

I’m grateful to the panelists and others who gave so willingly of their time.

I’m grateful to Westin, which was very accommodating at extending reservations at the con rate for an extra night because of the storm.

I’m grateful to all the plow drivers and other highway workers who cleared the roads and highways so the rest of us can get where we need to go.

I’m grateful to the toll workers who have to be exposed to the cold all day — and the gas station attendants in New Jersey who stand out there and pump gas, which means I didn’t have to get out in the cold.

And I’m really grateful for being home safe and sound after a fantastic weekend.

What are you grateful for today?