Where to Find Jaime at Norwescon 42

Norwescon 42 is coming up soon! This is a fun SFF convention in the Seattle area that takes place over Easter weekend (April 18-21). I’ve attended this con a few times, and am super excited that this year I’ve been invited to participate as a panelist. Below is my schedule, though you can likely find me around the con outside of these hours.

Friday

#OwnVoices – Representation & Tokenism in SF/F Fandom

12:00pm – 1:00pm @ Cascade 11

Representation is important in geek spaces, from guests to attendees. Being able to have your own voice represented matters, but sometimes marginalized people are used as tokens or pawns in a larger space they do not control. There are many varied reasons for this. We’ll discuss how to recognize this when it’s happening and what to do about it.

K Tempest Bradford (M), Jaime O. Mayer, J. F. High, Tess Wilder

 

Stop Trying To Make “Fetch” Happen

3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2

Calling all teen attendees and authors of all ages for an interactive discussion about what older folks mess up worst in their representation of youth culture. We’ll tackle topics including clothing and hairstyles, school subjects and extracurricular activities, and how the use of slang can go so very wrong, so very quickly.

Spencer Ellsworth (M), Marta Murvosh, Jaime O. Mayer, Lisa Mantchev

 

Welcome to Slush

4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 9

We all hear about the dreaded slush pile, but is it really something to be dreaded? What are some tips and hints to get your story pulled from the slush and sent up the ladder?

Jaime O. Mayer (M), Coral Moore, Cory Skerry, Neil Clarke, Yilin Wang

 

Writing Is Like Having Homework (Until You Die)

7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2

Movies, TV shows, and yes, even books romanticize the writing process, but for most of us, it’s like being back in school. But who’s teaching the classes? Who’s grading the papers? And who assigned this group project no one wanted? Come hear what writers actually have to do to make the grade in the publishing industry, and why your B- might be someone else’s A+.

Fonda Lee (M), Lisa Mantchev, Jaime O. Mayer, G.S/Gabrielle Prendergast

 

Saturday

Hook ‘Em While They’re Young

7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Cascade 12

Exposure to genre fiction starts with picture books about magic purple crayons and anthropomorphic objects and animals, then continues through middle grade and on through young adult. Come hear our panel of experts discuss how fantasy and science fiction feature heavily in books for young readers and how that story you’ve been trying to write might just be meant for kids.

Marta Murvosh (M), Fonda Lee, G.S/Gabrielle Prendergast, Jaime O. Mayer, Lisa Mantchev

 

Sunday

“On This Special Episode” in YA Lit

1:00pm – 2:00pm @ Cascade 12

When young adult authors address important topics like suicide, addiction, mental health, sexuality, and racial tension, it must be done with respect and skill. Come learn how to include big issues facing today’s teen readers without messing it up or bashing the reader over the head with the After School Special hammer.

Marta Murvosh (M), Jaime O. Mayer, Ren Cummins

 

New Story + Where to Find Me This Summer

Big news! My #ownvoices short story about two fishkid siblings with differing views on adoption is up at Cicada Magazine! You should be able to read the story here.  Gentle reminder that though this is an #ownvoices story it is still a work of fiction. Also, I wrote this before my brother mentioned moving so that’s total coincidence 🙂

The 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference is coming up fast! It’s also my first time being on conference programming, so please excuse me while I flail about. My brief schedule is as follows:

Friday, May 18:

3:30 pm in Marquis C- The Joys and Hazards of Writing #ownvoices Fiction

5:00 pm in Marquis B- Language To Use When Writing and Speaking About Disability

I’ll be there all weekend and would love to meet up with my fellow SFF friends if you’re available.

From July 20-22, I’ll be on the programming for the Cascade Writers Three-Day intensive workshop in Tacoma, Washington. I’ll update when I have an idea of times/panels.

I’ve blogged about this org and the workshop in the past—it’s wonderful. It’s a smaller workshop that offers Milford-style critiques as well as both craft and business track programming. It’s a great way to build your writer community. Because of its smaller size, it’s easier to meet everyone and the vibe is a bit more relaxed. I found some of my critique partners here when I first attended back in 2015.

In August I’ll also be attending Worldcon 76 in San Jose. This will be my second Worldcon after previously attending Sasquan back in 2015. It’s a hugenormous convention and I’m excited to go and get my nerd on. Come say hi if you’re around!

SIWC 2016 Recap

 

So, I gushed a bit after my first time attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last year, which I blogged about here.

siwc

I still love this conference. As a second-time attendee, there was still a huge variety of workshops to choose from. Not each one was a winner, but I enjoyed the majority and would like to go back again. SIWC does a good job of having several recurring workshops as well as adding in new variety each year. This is a fun, inviting, professional conference that is certainly beginner-friendly. No matter what your skill level is, everyone there is welcoming and comes with a similar level of commitment to the craft.

Great keynotes all weekend long, kicked off by Canadian author Angie Abdou on Friday morning and followed by authors: Daniel Jose Older on Friday night, Jael Richardson on Saturday morning, Larry Brooks on Saturday night, Cat Rambo on Sunday morning, and closed out by literary agent Donald Maas at the Sunday luncheon. Food was fine, just like last year. I can be a bit of a picky eater but always found enough to eat in the buffet, plus the Sheraton’s restaurant is pretty good too (though pricey…it’s hotel food). I bought a full conference package which included lunch/dinner in the ballroom, but there was also a small snack bar set up near the room where the Blue Pencils and Pitches were held that sold coffee, bagels, pastries, etc.

SIWC has four sessions a day, each an hour and fifteen minutes long—great for having enough time for the presenters to go a bit deeper than 101 level and still have time for questions. Each session has 8-9 different workshops going on at once, so there’s plenty to choose from—both a good and a bad thing! If one workshop isn’t panning out, the conference encourages you to try one of the other ones. The Blue Pencils and Pitches run throughout the day all weekend so people are always quietly coming and going (thank you, door monitors) and it’s not awkward if you get up to leave.

siwc2

View from the hotel. I don’t think I left the building all weekend.

I had an informative pitch session with Moe Ferrara this year. I went in more for practice/experience than anything else since my novel isn’t complete, and I almost chickened out and canceled the pitch, but I’m glad I went through with it. Moe was great and gave me some tips on how to tighten up my phrasing, and invited me to send a query when the novel is finished.

I got in for a second Blue Pencil this year in addition to the one included with registration. You can try to get extra Pitches or Blue Pencils if there are openings with the presenters (I think there usually are), and I got in with Daniel Jose Older on the last day. My first Blue Pencil was with Cat Rambo, and both were great. You can bring a maximum of three pages to the critique session, which is only fifteen minutes long. I brought the beginning of a new short story and got some good feedback on how to mete out the backstory better, as well as some markets to approach when the story is ready. The fifteen minutes goes fast, but I’ve gotten valuable feedback within it—especially helpful in the beginning of a short story.

It’s a big conference, but I’ve made some amazing writing friends both years that I’ve gone. A real “finding my people” kind of event. It’s not inexpensive being a three-day conference, plus the convenience of staying in the hotel, though it being in Canadian currency does help. But, if you can afford to go, SIWC is a wonderful experience. Next year is the 25th anniversary! I wonder what they’ll have in store for us…

Norwescon 39 Recap

Norwescon ribbons

My lowly assortment of con ribbons.

Norwescon 39 has come and gone, so here is my recap of a fun weekend. This was my first Norwescon, but hopefully not my last. There were more positives than negatives, though the negatives were aggravating. Thankfully (I guess?), most of the negatives happened right at the beginning and the con experience greatly improved once I got over those hurdles.

The main negatives: 1) Parking is atrocious. The lot at the DoubleTree isn’t small, but for a con with a few thousand people in attendance it doesn’t cut it. Being in Seattle that’s not surprising, but the hotel didn’t do anything to help the situation. The ticket booths to enter the lot were unmanned, so the poor souls that didn’t arrive early on opening day (I didn’t get there until 3pm) got to drive around for however long you could stand it until giving up or being fortunate enough to find someone leaving their spot. I get it, parking frustration isn’t a new thing, but it would’ve been nice if Doubletree had posted a staff member at the ticket booth either directing people away or putting signs up indicating the lot was full (they did start to put up signs later on during the weekend). Because the hotel is right next to the airport there was airport parking/garages available, which kinda sucks, since the con rate for parking at the hotel was $8, and parking at the airport garage was running somewhere in the $20+ range.

2) Registration at the hotel (not Norwescon reg) was super slow when I got in. This is really more on the hotel than Norwescon, since you’d think if the hotel knew thousands more people than usual would be in that weekend then it might be a good idea to have an extra person or two at the registration desk.

Again, not the end of the world or all that unexpected, but coming on the heels of the parking frustration, seeing the row of empty stations at the registration desk and the lone person trying to handle it all…

My #3 actually got fixed by the second day, but originally programming was scheduled up to the hour without a break. As in, panel A goes from 10-11, panel B from 11-12, etc. Without a break period, you’d have panels cutting into the subsequent panel’s time. At the end of each panel there’d be an awkward shuffle to get people out of the room and then to get people waiting in the narrow hall (that’s my #4 gripe) in, settled, get the speakers situated, etc. It really sucked for the authors’ who had readings where the panel before them ran over and ate into their reading time (usually 30min). This did get fixed though, and panels started ending at 10min to the hour.

4) Norwescon is so-so, in my opinion, on being accessibility-friendly. The big plus is that the elevators were decently sized, there were 4 of them, and they ran quickly. I never encountered long waits or broken elevators. The Doubletree in Spokane for Worldcon was a different story. However, the halls for the conference rooms where the panels were held weren’t very wide. I guess Norwescon can get away with it since attendance is only around the 2-3k mark, but there were times where the flow of traffic had to completely stop so that someone in a scooter or wheelchair could move forward because the halls weren’t wide enough to accommodate a lane of traffic moving in both directions.

There also wasn’t a lot of seating available if one needed to sit while waiting for their panel, and what seating there was could end up being a long way from the room where the panel you wanted to attend was located. I know there were volunteers running around, but I’ve been to cons in the past where each room has a door attendant who usually handles getting someone with accessibility needs into the room without fuss or fanfare. I didn’t really see that at Norwescon, but that’s not to say they weren’t around. I’m also not sure if people were issued accessibility badges or stickers or whatnot to access rooms ahead of time.

I went solo to Norwescon and am fortunate to be in a position where most of the accessibility issues don’t impact me anymore, but having been in the situation where they once did I tend to be sensitive/aware of them or the need. Norwescon isn’t the worst with regard to accessibility, but it isn’t the best either. Some of that isn’t its fault in a direct way; they can’t control the physical width of the hallways. But these are things to consider for non-able bodied people.

Now that I’ve ranted about all the negatives (oops. I’ll cut some of it down in post), Norwescon really is a fun con. I think of it as Worldcon Lite. Lots of programming dedicated to the many aspects of SFF fandom, writing, cosplay, etc. An eclectic mix in the Dealer’s Hall, and a nice-sized art show. It was great to be able to meet up with friends that I rarely see otherwise, and to meet some in person that I’d previously only conversed with via social media.

Oh, and the DoubleTree’s food is actually pretty good. Not inexpensive (not surprising), but tasty, and they re-worked some of the items on the menu to cater to attendees with dietary restrictions. Example: the roasted cauliflower soup apparently is normally a vegetarian option, but they made a vegan version for Norwescon. And it was good. Maybe the server who told us that was making it up, but considering that she went back to talk to the chef, I doubt it. Or bravo for going through the work to make up an elaborate story. Never did find out why the bread pudding wasn’t considered vegetarian though.

I mainly attended Norwescon for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop, which was lovely. My critique session was Saturday night with Catherine Montrose, Elizabeth Guizzetti, Tim McDaniel, and Pat MacEwen. I submitted a short story for the workshop, and was selected for an individual critique. The critiques were held at the top of the DoubleTree tower in the Mountain conference rooms, which do have a few stairs down to the table, though they were quick to note this during the workshop registration process. I imagine accommodations are made if you can’t navigate stairs. Our only gripe about the room was that we couldn’t get the lights to go above what we were calling “mood lighting.” The other room didn’t seem to have that problem, but we managed just fine. It was light enough at 7pm to get by, and dim lighting is a better trade than getting roasted by the sun with all those windows.

The workshop was great from registration to the actual critique. The guidelines were clear, and the workshop was great with communication. They make accommodations so that you don’t get put in the same group for a round robin session with someone you’re already critiquing with outside the workshop if that applies.

My critique went well, and I’m all squeeing inside because overall my story was well-received and doesn’t need a complete rewrite. They gave suggestions for ways to tighten it up and other revisions, and it was pretty nice—and telling—that all four agreed on what the structural flaws were. Onward to revisions I go, and hopefully can get it out to markets in April.

The novel’s progress is steady if also a bit slow. I’m past the first act of the rough draft and wading into the soggy middle. I think I said last blog post that I was hoping to have a post about the novel/my writing quirks…well, maybe next month! It’s only a few days away after all.

I was able to get a crash course on pitching as Jennifer Brozek offered to teach a 2hr class for the workshop participants on Thursday night. My takeaway is that the cobbled together logline I had for the novel was actually decent, but my title needs work. Brozek is a big proponent of titles not being generic, and fulfilling a promise to the reader in that it tells a little something about what the book is about. So I need to work on that. I’ll be attending the one-day workshop hosted by Cascade Writers next month covering the business of writing and will be doing some more pitching there, so this was a nice starter.

SIWC 2015 Recap

Last weekend was my first time attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, held in Surrey, BC at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel. This was its 23rd year, and first time selling out!

It was amazing.

It’s a professional conference geared at writers of fiction and/or nonfiction, all genres, and at all levels, though it does assume a level of dedication. Beginners are certainly welcome, but the workshops and content covered are designed in a way that expects you to have a basic understanding of the craft, and really, the dedication to improve. There were plenty of unpublished writers in attendance, but everyone was there to get better. I don’t mean to dissuade newbies from going because the bar isn’t high. If you have the enthusiasm (and can park your ego at the door) and the desire then I highly recommend going. It’ll help if you have a basic understanding of things like plot and character development, but the point of the workshops is to learn and ask questions about how/why/what. There’s a different vibe than the writer panels you’ll find at cons like PAX or Worldcon (no cosplay, for one). Not a bad vibe, just different. Still fun and friendly. But all the offerings are aimed at the craft and business ends of writing. No panels on games, geekdom, or fandom.

Masterclasses were offered on Thursday, the day before the official start of the conference. I was fortunate to get into the class on short stories taught by the fabulous Mary Robinette Kowal. Mary is awesome, and a great teacher. She’s a professional puppeteer as well as an award winning author, and the way she integrates her experience as a puppeteer to writing is unique and informative. The masterclasses were 3 hours, and it was a lot of information to cram into a relatively short window, but I felt that I got my money’s worth. It was nice to have a class dedicated to short stories that looked into their structure, and how they’re similar and different to novels.

SIWC restructured the days for this year’s conference to fit four workshops in a day: two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The day started with the morning session at 9am and a keynote speaker, then attendees had two mornig (and afternoon) sessions comprised of four 90-minute workshops to choose from. You could leave workshops that didn’t work for you and attend others if you wished, and every room had a door monitor to make sure entrances/departures weren’t disruptive (so nice!). This was one of the most organized cons I’ve been to ( a sentiment I heard echoed by several pros in attendance), with lovely volunteers to keep everything running smoothly. There were several hundred (I heard numbers from 400-700) people in attendance and I didn’t run into a single problem. Well, small and slow elevators, but they can’t really change that.

The Sheraton staff were also polite, helpful, and kept the banquet hall running like a well-oiled machine. I purchased the “full conference pass” which included lunch and dinner (full conference and single-day passes included lunch, dinners were only for full passes) all three days in the banquet hall, though there are options to skip the meals if you so choose. But, then you miss out on the keynote speakers, and they were amazing. The food was great too, and the kitchen staff were polite and accommodating for people with dietary restrictions.

Everyone was friendly and inviting, and I didn’t run into a single snobbish person. I went solo (sort of, husbeast came along but went to see his family/friends during the days) to the conference, which is always a bit nerve-wracking. Fortunately, SIWC had a hashtag going and I tweeted a “first timer going, anyone want to meet up?” message a few days before the conference. Got plenty of responses, because that’s just how friendly this conference is, and I found a “tribe” of people which included first timers like myself as well as veterans of several years. I hope to attend this conference annually in the future.

Some particular highlights/things I really liked: the depth of workshops and the time length. Four options every session offered great variety, and with 90 minutes to work with the presenters could really get into some substance. It did make for some really long days though, in chairs that weren’t the epitome of comfort. Due to personal issues, it was a bit rough on my knees.

Keynotes at every meal (aside from breakfast because that was on your own). Variety in speakers who represented different genres, backgrounds, ways to approach the craft, all were motivational in their own ways.

The Saturday luncheon was the “This Day We Write” meal where each table would be joined by a randomly assigned presenter. They didn’t come in until most people had already sat down so that you didn’t know who would be at your table. My table was graced by C.C. Humphreys, and he was wonderful. There were 8 or so of us at the table and he chatted with all of us. He also has a lovely English accent.

Really, all the pro writers I encountered were kind, encouraging, and pretty laid back. Terry Fallis joined my group briefly for drinks after the afternoon session on Friday, and was so at ease with us that it felt like a bunch of friends chatting, not a bunch of unpublished newbs making nervous chitchat with a Published Author.

Door monitors. Enough said.

Blue Pencil and Pitch appointments included in your registration fee. These were fifteen minute sections that you signed up for during registration, and the list of pros available to choose from was amazing. I didn’t do a pitch since I don’t have a novel ready, but I did have a Blue Pencil with Mary. These are quick critiques where you can bring up to three pages of a story, and I was amazed at how constructive Mary was able to be within such a short timeframe. Plus, she uses fountain pens too, so I have huge amounts of geek love going on. There was also an option this year to wait in line for second/third pitches and Blue Pencils if someone dropped out, and from what I heard it was successful.

Things I didn’t love/could use improvement: the armless chairs. OMG, my neck/shoulders/back were sore after every workshop from the hunching over to take notes on my lap. This isn’t really something SIWC can fix since there probably isn’t the space or availability to put in tables, but it sure made me appreciate the Cascade Writers workshop having tables for every group. To be fair, the CW workshop is much smaller, but that has its own set of pros/cons. If you’re in the area go to both, as they’re quite different experiences.

It’d be nice if there could be a first time attendees meet and greet, or a mentor/mentee event since there were a lot of returning attendees as well as many first timers (I think this was the most first timers in attendance) either as an informal event on Thursday night, or on Saturday night since there isn’t anything slated after the dinner banquet.

That about sums it up. Great event and I plan to go next year.