What surprised me most about the program was how many writing panels there were. I have no idea how many writers were actually in the audience, but man, there were talks on everything from villains to comedy to critique to tense and while I didn't attend them all, I did wish for a clone at one point so I could. I got some information out of them that I haven't really seen anywhere else and since I know I've got a number of writers reading this, I thought I'd share them, along with everything else I did.
Unfortunately, this post is going to turn into a novel if I put all three days down at once, so you're getting a day at a time, all week.
Small Press And Self-Publishing: Not Just Vanity - I almost didn't go to this one, but then I realized I was at the con with an hour to kill before the first panel I wanted to attend, and everything else was still being set up. So. The panel was composed of small press editors and self-published authors, with one of the editors was also a small press author. There are some points they made that I might contend with, and I know a lot of NYC folks would, but I did get tips and otherwise learn things:
- Don't ever write "Dear Editor". If you absolutely can't find a name, write "Dear Editor of (Publishing House)".
- Don't self-publish. This tip was given by one of the self-published authors.
- Don't mass submit in a single email.
- There are lots of small presses that take sci-fi and fantasy (not just the ones in New York), and there are lots of anthology and magazine markets as well. There's a good list of these here, and another here (see "Markets" subheading near top).
- Both self-published writers are using that platform to prove to publishers that there is a market for what they're doing. They're both working hard at selling the book to people, online, at cons, locally, etc.
- Promotion needs to be just as creative as your writing.
Where's My Flying Car? - Not actually a writing panel, but interesting. This one was about all those classic SF inventions, how possible they are or could be, how they would change the world, and why we don't have them yet. One panelist was a space-related engineer; the other was a very well-read SF editor. Great discussion, but I have no notes for it.
Science Fiction and Comedy - This one talked about how hard it was to write comedy, especially science fiction comedy, and how one should attempt to do this. Basically, it boiled down to, "Don't write comedy to be funny. Write it to make a point." Work that's just joke after joke with no underlying substance gets tiresome and comes off as having no plot. It's plot first, then humour. Also, the best SF (and fantasy) comedy generally has worlds set up so that humourous situations can just happen. It's not forced.
Multi-Author Book Launch* - This was about as good as I'd expected—a bunch of authors in a small room with not quite enough tables, and convention goers milling about trying not to bump into or step on anyone. I had about five minutes of conversation with Cherie Priest, and she signed my as-yet-unread copy of Dreadnought. (Cherie was the author Guest of Honour.) I also petted a dog.
Heather Dale Concert - This was absolutely wonderful. Heather Dale was the music Guest of Honour and to be honest, I hadn't heard of her before the con schedule went up, and didn't look into her music after it did. This means that the concert was my first time hearing her music and …wow. She's a great songwriter with wonderful stage presence and one of the most beautiful voices I've heard in a long time. She writes Celtic-inspired folk music about legends, history, and magic. Check her out if you're at all into that. (She's also a delightful person to talk with.)
Other Friday highlights: I only got lost for 30 seconds on my way to the convention hotel, and didn't get lost once I got there. I wandered around the art show a little and was impressed by a lot of the work. I struck up a conversation with another young writer, which was awesome and over too soon. We met up again on Sunday again.
The Saturday recap will be up on Wednesday. :)
* Why yes, I am reading straight off my schedule.