Oddcon X Afterthoughts

I liken going to OdysseyCon last year as a non-gamer opening up Zork for the first time. I had no clue what to expect, I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings, and there was a good chance that I could possibly be eaten by a grue.

Luckily the con was small enough that people were happy to point me in the direction I needed to go. Even better, I got a chance to sit down and talk with people about subjects that I never spoke about except through email lists and online forums.

This year, I gave back to my first con experience by doing more active participation in Oddcon. And this year proved just as bit as fun and enlightening as last year’s:

  • I did my first "public" reading ever. This was different from the reading I did up at Urbana or at the Intervarsity Arts Festival last year, in that I read in front of people I didn’t know. My reading was jointly done with Nick Ozmet, who read a chapter from his online story "Knight Terrors" (I wound up reading Future Perfect). Only a couple of people showed up, but the room they had us read in was surprisingly cozy, so we got to chat with the people in a more casual manner, so that went over pretty well.
  • I had a couple of chances to hang with Tobias Buckell, one of the Guests of Honor, as well as sit beside him on a spoof panel, "White Men in SF" (which was, predictably, about white men in SF). Got to talk with him a lot about the writer’s life and juggling parental duties. Also got him to tell stories about World Fantasy which made me realize that at some point, I have to stop putting off not going and find a way to go (although it’s not going to happen this year. Sorry. But some things absolutely have to be first priority in my life right now…)
  • I also got to hang with fellow authors Alex Bledsoe and Sarah Monette. Last year, I was a little intimidated by Sarah, so it was nice to meet her again. Also, funny story with Alex. I first saw him last year when my husband and I attended a Midwinter Renaissance Festival on a date. I recognized Alex’s name from twitter, and he was reading a selection from one of his books. I meant to go over to listen, but then I got caught up by someone telling my fortune through numerology, which was fascinating, but ultimately useless. By the time I managed to wrench myself away, Alex was done, and I was too chicken to go up and talk to him. Again, very nice to meet him under a more casual setting.
  • I got to hang out with Jim Frankel, Tor editor, Harry Turtledove, the other literary Guest of Honor, Monte Cook, the gaming Guest of Honor, and a bunch of other writers and editors at the bar…because I could. And it was fun to talk shop with them. I didn’t say much to Harry Turtledove because of the intimidation factor. But he’s a nice guy. I hope the next time I meet him, I’ll have something more to talk about.
  • I did slam poetry…which wasn’t too shabby.
  • I saw a Dalek Tortoise. Really. No lie. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture:
  • dalek tortoise

Ask me to tell you the story sometime.

So all in all, this year’s Oddcon was a lot of fun. I got to hang with writers and talk about the writing life, and I came away refreshed and inspired to get back to my writing.

There was a lot mentioned about Wiscon, which takes place next month. At some point, we did the numbers and we realized that while World Fantasy is definitely the most important con to go to for writers, Wiscon is the largest feminist SF convention, capping their members at 1000. It will be very interesting to see how Wiscon will play out. I’m getting very, very excited!

I bet there won’t be any Dalek tortoises there, though. But then again, I could be wrong.

LaShawn’s Con Schedule for 2010

You hear that? That sound? That rushing, schmoozing chatter slightly on the tipsy side? Yep, it’s here. Con season has arrived and I cannot stay away any longer. No more avoiding its phone calls. No more pulling down the shades and hiding on the floor hoping it would stop knocking and go away. No. This year, I plan to embrace cons so hard, I’m certain at some point I’ll awaken in its bed thinking, "What happened to my spleen? How come I smell funny? And why is that goat staring at me?"

Oh, don’t worry. I won’t go that crazy. But I’m not making any promises either.

So here’s a list of cons I’m either attending or am interested in attending. My hope is to attend all of them, but timing and funds are limited. However, my birthday is coming up next week, so if you’re looking to for something to give me a present—hint, hint…

OdysseyCon (April 16-18) Radisson Hotel, Madison, WI ATTENDING

Hooray! This is happening this weekend! Woohoo!

This was the first con I ever went to that introduced me to the wonderful world of fandom. Oddcon taught me that cons actually were fun, not nerdy and bizarre like I thought it would be. This year, I plan to return the favor by serving on a couple of panels. On Friday afternoon, I’ll do a reading (I’ll do an excerpt from either "She’s All Light" or "Future Perfect"—haven’t decided which one yet). Then Saturday afternoon, I’ll be on the panel "White Guys in SF"…because there aren’t enough white guys in SF…I guess. What’s cool is that I get to sit on this panel with Tobias Buckell, so my first panel experience will prove to be mighty interesting.

Following that, I will be on the "How to Submit your Writing" panel, because, what can I say? I know stuff about submitting stories to markets. And I get to sound like an expert. It’s not often I get to say that.

Besides that, I plan to do the usual schmoozing, hanging out, etc. Since it’s at the Radisson and it’s a small con, it should be real easy to find me. I’m probably the only person there with dreadlocks. 🙂

Wiscon (May 27-31), The Concourse Hotel, Madison, WIATTENDING

Last year, I could only attend one day, which was fun, but still. This year, I’m gonna be alllll there, baby!

I’m showing up on a couple of panels there as well. On Saturday, I’ll be on the panel discussing the book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria" (I signed up for it because I happen to have that book, and it’s interesting considering that I was not one of those black kids who sat with other black kids. So that will be interesting.) I’m also going to be on "Internet Publishing: the graduate seminar", because again, I get to sound like an expert. And on Monday, I’ll be on "Pshaw! Psst! Aaaargh!!!" because I get to figure out how to best write "sighhhh…haaaahhh…shhh" and other sound effects. I also have an essay in the upcoming Wiscon Chronicles Volume 4, which would be available there.  And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing the Guests of Honor Nnedi Okorafor and Mary Anne Mohanraj. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing all my SF Sisters of Color. So even though this is my second year, I’m going to be very busy at Wiscon. Exciting!

Madcon Convention (September 24-26) Crowne Plaza Hotel, Madison, WI


From what the website says, this con is starting up again after nine years. It sounds like a big one: they’ve managed to snare Harlon Ellison, who is a pretty big name in the SF field. To be honest though, I only heard about him last year, andwhat I heard wasn’t really all that great. However, I also watched Babylon 5 for the first time last year, and was quite astonished to find his name high on the credits.

So I’m intrigued to see this man in person, but I’m also a little leery. What helps is that Pat Rothfuss is also slated to be attend, which means it’s bound to be a most interesting weekend. Then again, it might be way to much. Still thinking it over. We’ll see.

World Fantasy Convention (October 28-31) Columbus, OHUNDECIDED

So I’ve been thinking about attending this now that I’ve been getting more into cons–


I just got wind of this a few days ago:

American Gods celebration (October 29-30), The House on the Rock, Spring Green, WI<deep breath> OH MY GOD I AM SO GOING EVEN IF IT MEANS I HAVE TO SELL MY OWN BLOOD TO MALNOURISHED VAMPIRES!!!!!

This is big. No, it’s bigger than big. This is BIG BIG BIG!!!!

I’ve been to the House on the Rock. Few years ago, before my son was born. Before we moved to Madison. My hubby and I took a trip up there when we needed to get away for a staycation. I’ve seen the nautical room. I’ve seen the music machines, most of which was broken down. I’ve even seen the carousel.

And,I’ve read American Gods. I’ve also read the companion book too, Anansi Boys.

Oh boy. Ohboyohboyohboyohboy!

What do you do when you learn that one of favorite authors is going to be at an event 45 minutes away that is affordable, AND there will be literary panels AND a special reading and Q&A with him AND there will be a scavenger hunt AND a costume ball WITH full dinner buffet ANNNND a chance to get in a raffle which prizes includes a RIDE ON THE CAROUSEL AND IF I TYPE IN ANY MORE CAPS I’LL START TO HYPERVENTILATE–


As you can see, I am pleased about this. I am also going. This is not open to discussion. I. AM. GOING.

This is going to be the bestest Halloween Weekend ever!!!!

Dissing the Wisconsin Book Festival (or bad LaShawn, bad LaShawn for not supporting books like you should!)

The Wisconsin Book Festival was here a couple of weeks ago, and I didn’t go. I just wasn’t interested. Even last year, back when we first moved up here and I first learned about it, it just didn’t grab me.  Not like the Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora, which sadly closed due to low attendance.

Ragging on the Wisconsin Book Festival isn’t fair. How can I criticize something I barely attended? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the Festival was a week-long event, crammed with so many book readings, it lost me. Or the panels didn’t grab me as particularly interesting for a writer like me. I seem to recall complaining about this last year as well.

As for authors, well, they did bring on Gregory Maguire, who wrote Wicked. I’m not a fan of his novels, but I do like his short stories. The only other author I recognize was Kevin Henkes, and I am bummed about missing him. We’re currently discovering him in our household, and Daniel is becoming a huge fan of his books, all on his own. It would have been neat to take Daniel to meet the creator of his favorite book, "Julius, the Baby of the World", so I could introduce him to the world of writers. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know Henkes was attending the festival, not until I heard from someone else the following week who did attend. So I was bummed.

Perhaps the reason why I didn’t go to the festival is because I’ve grown more selective in what festivals I network at. After all, I’ve been to two cons this year, OdysseyCon and Wiscon. Both are geared towards science fiction and fantasy, genres that I’m developing my writing in. Both deal with the fandom of the genre, which I have more knowledge of, as opposed to say, bass fishing in Wisconsin. Both give me the opportunity to mingle with writers and editors in my field—I’m still blissed out over my chance to meet with the editor from Tor—the Wisconsin book festival seemed more general.

I don’t want to come down hard on the Festival. It does look like a great, well-organized festival, and there were some authors I genuinely wanted to see had I actually made an effort to go see them. But maybe what I need right now is to get more involved in the fandom of the genre I’m writing in.

But I do promise to pay more attention to the Wisconsin Book Festival next year. I really am bummed I missed an opportunity to introduce Daniel to his favorite author. It looks like, however, like some of Kevin Henkes’ artwork, as well as other illustrators, are on display at the Wisconsin Academy until December 6. Looks like I need to arrange for a field trip.

In the meantime, I’m making plans to not only go to Oddcon and Wiscon next year, but I may even squeeze in one more con. I’m thinking World Fantasy 2010. Road trip to Columbus, OH, anyone?

Oddcon Thoughts

So this past weekend, I attend my first science fiction/fantasy convention ever.

It’s not like I’ve actively avoided cons when I was living in Chicago. I knew about WindyCon and Duckon and Anime Central (my sister went to that—kudos to her). It’s just that I thought they looked sort of…weird. I had no great desire to go to a place where people walked around in costumes and going to panels where they debated what really killed the Star Trek series (hey, I liked Enterprise, that is, until it started going all weird and angsty and dark).

Plus, I didn’t really have anyone to go with. I wasn’t about to drag my hubby to one, although it’s possible he would’ve enjoyed himself, and most of my friends were SAHMs with young kids. I just couldn’t see myself bringing a bunch of moms and kids and watching them gawk as a dude dressed as Xena strolled by. Well, okay, I can see that, and in hindsight, it would’ve been hilarious…Also, the Guests of Honor seemed to be people who had their stuff self-published, and suddenly, they’re an “expert”…

Okay. So I did actively avoid the cons in Chicago.

When I got to Madison, I heard about OdysseyCon and checked out the website. The first thing I saw was that Tobias Buckell was attending as Guest of Honor, and hey, I knew that name. Then the whole RaceFail thing happened and, whaddyaknow, some of the LiveJournalists and other authors involved were going to be in attendance too, including Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Then Tobias Buckley bowed out because his wife was having twins (good for him!), and he’s been replaced by oh, some guy who, I don’t know, made the NY Times Best Seller list but I never heard of him. But by that time, I decided. Oddcon was too good to pass up.

So out of all that, what did I get out of Oddcon?

  • The panels I went to were informative and fun. Some were geared towards writers, but some were fantasy/scifi in general. There were a few that definitely had some in-jokes I didn’t get, but all in all, not bad.
  • I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss, who has one freakylooking beard. But once you get over your fantasy of hunting him down with a pair of scissors, shouting, “AT LEAST MAKE IT EVEN FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!!!!!!”, you find that Patrick Rothfuss is a pretty laid-back and absolutely hilarious guy. And his debut book made it on the NY Times Best Seller List. AND he won the Writer’s of the Future Contest in 2002. That’s stuff I’d like to do.  Edit: I finally got around to reading his book, The Name of the Wind. You can find my review of it here.
  • Yes, there were people playing D&D. Yes, there were people doing LANgames. Yes, there were people dressed up. But there were also regularly dressed people there too. And oddly enough, I got to know my upstairs neighbors, who I wasn’t expecting to see there.
  • I also didn’t expect to see Jim Frankel, Senior Editor of Tor Books. Actually, I knew that he was coming from the Programming schedule, but I didn’t actually think I would actually meet him and have actual conversations with him. Which was nice. He was gracious, casual and fun to talk to.
  • I got to meet a couple of LiveJournal people whose names I recognized from the whole RaceFail thing—including Moondancer Drake, who can really rock a Stetson. She was fun to talk to, and I really enjoyed getting to know her (and her 6-year-old, who is a sweetie).
  • And yes, I got to meet Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, who at first pretty much intimidated me, as well as Sarah Monette, who does some collaborative work with them. But they’re pretty easy people to talk to once you get to know them. I even screwed up courage to talk with them and about RaceFail. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I had some genuine questions. I think it was a good conversation overall, and I generally had fun. In fact, this general ease of talking to these well-known authors led to…
  • A most surreal late Saturday night when somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I wound up hanging out with Bull, Shetterly, Frankel, Monette and a bunch of other writers at the hotel bar. Being that it was past my bedtime anyway, and the fact that I’m sitting with well-known authors and a senior editor of Tor, it sort of blew my mind. Then on Sunday, some more friends and I went to have Thai food with Rothfuss and his girlfriend. And I found myself thinking, being a writer ROCKS!
  • Oh. I won a garlic/ginger grater at an art auction.

So there you have it. My first con. I had a great time, and people kept telling me that I chose a good one to attend. Oddcon was small enough so that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle, but prestigious enough to pull in a couple of big names, but small enough that those big names could mingle easily with the rest of us. Everyone tells me that if I liked Oddcon, I would love Wiscon, since it’s gained quite a name for itself over the past few years. I’m looking forward to that, although I’ll only be able to attend that Friday’s events.

There are some things I learned from Oddcon that I’ll take with me to Wiscon. 1) Read up on not just the Guests of Honor, but also people who’ll be attending panels. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to know Sarah Monette more.

2) Bring business cards. For the first two days of the con, I completely did not have anything with me to pass out. Actually, that wasn’t such a bad thing, since I got to know people first before I started handing cards out to them. But I had to put a reminder on my laptop because I’ve fallen out of the habit of carrying my cards with me.

3) Don’t bring a 4-cheese toasted bagel with garlic and tomato cream cheese to a panel. Especially since the con had food there. I didn’t need to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast. But dang…it was good. Smelly, but gooooood…

4) Plan to help out at the next con. Which is one thing I definitely intend to do. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a book contract by that time. And then I’ll be the one chasing people down the hall with a big styrofaom mock-up of my book cover, cackling madly. Well, Pat Rothfuss didn’t actually cackle when he did that. But it still looked cool.

Weekly Cafe update and a little Writing News

Another bunch of links for you. I’m finding it easier to squeeze these kind of posts in between writing and real life.

First, an update on Willow: going slow, but I expected that to happen. I want the first three chapters of this book to really pull readers in, so I’m taking my time to make sure that it’s right. I’m planning to workshop the 1st two chapters at the Wiscon writer’s workshop, so I need to get those done by April 1.

And speaking of Wiscon, yes, I’ll be there, albeit on Friday only, due to some scheduling snafus. But the scheduling looks very good indeed. After the workshop, there will be a Cultural Appropriation 101 class that looks to be very interesting in light of some very interesting discussions that’s been taking place on LiveJournal. (I’m still working on my own thoughts of the matter, but there are a couple of things I still need to do before I set those thoughts into words.) I also plan to go to Odyssey Con April 24-26. Hmm…from writing workshops to geekcons. I’m making my way up the networking ladder.

Other news: “She’s All Light”, the story I poured my heart and soul into for the past year, got Honorable Mention at the 1st Quarter Writers of the Future Contest. I was a little bummed about it, but overall a lot happier over it than I was making finalist at the Oddcon writing contest. It also means that I’m free to send it out, so I’m putting it out on the field. Wish me luck! I’ve already started on a new story for WOTF. I won’t make the 2nd Quarter deadline, seeing that April 1 is already reserved for Willow, but I do plan to take my time so that I can send it in time for the 3rd Quarter, which will be around June.

In other news, one of my favorite podcasts is being put on hiatus. Adventures in SciFi Publishing is not ending—there may be a couple more episodes put out, but it’s not known when it will go back to its regularly scheduled broadcast, if ever. Kudos to Shaun Farrell for putting it all together. I’ll miss his and Sam’s insight on the industry. Mr. Farrell, by the way, also placed as a semi-finalist in this quarter’s WOTF. I bet his was the one that got me knocked down to Honorable Mention. ;-). Mucho, mucho congratulations to him.

In light of that, I’m looking for a new podcast that deals with the fantasy/scifi genre in the writing community. I would love to hear suggestions from any writers out there (and I know you come to the Cafe. I keep needing to refill the coffee machine…)

Back to writing!