Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Armadillocon Friday

I left the house at around 7:45 a.m., which was a bit later than I'd hoped--but despite some significant congestion on I-35 on the south end of Austin, I made it to the hotel in time for teh start of the writers workshop at 9 a.m. I have to say, for this being her first year in charge, Melissa Taylor did a bang-up job in keeping things moving along at a good clip. She and I may have been listed as co-chairs, but the truth of the matter is that she did 99 percent of the heavy lifting involved in getting the workshop off the ground.

One weird thing happened, though. Rick Klaw and I sat next to each other during the workshop introductions, and throughout the rest of the evening, three different workshop participants came up to me and expressed how much they liked Half Price Books. It took me a while to puzzle this out, but then it dawned on me that they'd mistaken me for Rick! That's never happened before, and here it was happening 'd leathree different times. I'm not sure what to make of it.

After initial introductions, we broke out into smaller groups for critiques. Diana Gill, editor at EOS, was my co-instructor (funny how that worked out, eh?) and I spent a good deal of time paying as close attention to her critiques as the workshoppers. Since she was the apex predator on the literary food chain, as it were, her comments always came last. She pulled me aside right before we began and asked how we were supposed to approach the critiques--if the sessions should be "rah rah" or more blunt. I suggested she not pull any punches, but be nice about it. And boy howdy, she came through all aces on that count. I'm afraid I came off as the bad cop in the session, eviscerating every manuscript but one--and that one had reworked tired tropes so that it wasn't viable in the marketplace. I tried to be gentle but firm, but my natural inclination is to err on the side of tough love, since my growth as a writer was stunted for years by people telling me how wonderful the drek was that I was producing. Diana, however, delivered her critiques in such a gentle, masterful way that I almost wished I'd entered a manuscript in the session, just so I could hear her tell me how bad it was. Seriously, she was that good. I was also gratified to hear her make many of the same points as I did--albeit with far more eloquence--which gives me hope that my editorial instincts aren't too far off the mark. I may have learned as much from listening to her critiques as the workshoppers did.

After a fun alien-building exercise led by GoH Julie Czerneda, the workshop wrapped up with a 45 minute lecture/Q&A from Special Guest James P. Hogan. The workshop participants seemed to enjoy the whole affair, and the instructors seemed to as well (even if I screwed up and assigned Martha Wells to the wrong partner. Sorry Martha!). After a dash down the road to eat dinner at Freebirds, I was back in time for the opening ceremonies. Mark Finn, that wiley rascal, had been pressed into service as the stand-in Toastmaster after Esther Friesner had to cancel for personal reasons. But she really was there after all, as Finn revealed to all that he really was Friesner, having perpetrated a Tiptree-in-reverse hoax for the better part of the last 20 years, going so far as hiring his mother to portray Friesner at conventions. Oh, that wacky Finn.

Typical convention shop talk followed, lubricated by the ubiquitous Shiner Bock. After confirming the validity of one bit of information with Jess Nevins, I revealed to Mark Finn that Jules Verne had written an ape-themed opera titled Monsieur de Chimpanze, which had never been published in the U.S. I swear I thought Finn would drop dead right there. Tara Wheeler, one of the workshop participants, offered me a sample of honey mead she'd homebrewed. It was a sack mead, and quite sweet. It was almost like a good port, although it didn't quite have that much alcohol. But it had excellent balance, and enough acid to keep the rich, honeyed flavor from being cloying. Most of the meads I've ever made have been semi-dry, so it was quite nice to sample something so smooth and drinkable that also had that sweetness most neophytes expect all mead to have. After that, I ended up at the Apollocon party and managed to talk with Diana Gill some more before heading to the hotel bar to chat with Chris Roberson, Rick Klaw and Jess Nevins. Those guys packed it in after a bit, but James Hogan showed up shortly thereafter and we had a fun talk about the unprofessionalism of most comics publishers, even though Hogan admitted he didn't know the first thing about comics publishers. Ah conventions. Gotta love 'em.

Now Playing: David Shire Original Music from the Motion Picture 2010

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