I had worked up the courage to finally talk to one of my favorite authors at the convention this past weekend. It was right before a panel was about to begin and I wasn’t sure there was enough time. Scanning the other seated attendees frantically, I was worried she might not be in the room. Perhaps she left the convention early?
Then I heard her voice directly behind me. I turned around and there was Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey and one of the voices on the Writing Excuses podcast. She said “You listen to my podcast, don’t you?” When I asked how she knew, she said because I had turned around when she started to talk and had recognized her voice. While she signed my notebook (because her books are on my kindle) with her own fountain pen, she told me a story about meeting one of her own favorite authors, asked about my writing, and talked about the crochet project in her lap. She is as lovely a person as you could ever hope to meet. In my notebook she wrote “Be kind to yourself”.
The panels were a gold mine for sure, but that was only half of what made 4th Street amazing. They’re just a bunch of lovely human beings who somehow manage to have a tight knit community that is still welcoming to newcomers.
4th Street Fantasy convention, to me, was like drinking from a fire hose while having an IV drip sustenance into my veins at the same time. There was so much to take in. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. But there was also something incredibly energizing about being immersed in the atmosphere of 200 or so other writers and readers. This was not CONvergence, which is my only other con experience, where thousands of people create a lot of noise and there is occasionally a panel on how to write. This was a little known gem filled with authors and editors who are dedicated to their craft. There was so much knowledge and experience in the room, that often the audience would take over the panel, offering comments and suggestions as well as asking questions. I’ll never forget when I saw one man interrupt the first panel I attended and the entire panel stopped to listen to him, and he had a lot of good things to say. I found out later he is a Senior Editor at Tor books.
I’ll probably occasionally rehash some of the panels here on the blog as I have time to decipher and type up my notes. No promises on accuracy, cohesion, or doing it in a timely manner. I have a lot to think about now and I’m excited to get back to writing.
And reading, of course. I came away with no less than 231 book recommendations that aren’t your ordinary recommendations where you put them on your list because you have a nebulous feeling that you ‘ought’ to read them. These recommendations each came with a reason, as they were mentioned in the panels as examples of authors who wrote a particular thing well. I know which books to turn to if I want to encounter well-written examples of moving the plot forward without the use of war or violence, realistic depictions of war and violence and the fallout from that, what books have good soft magic systems or hard magic systems, authors who have done well at restrictive writing and cutting things out. Even video games, plays, and podcast recommendations. There was talk about how to end a series, or kill off characters, the emerging genre tags Grimdark vs. Hopepunk and how they’re not mutually exclusive, and how cities are built in layers over time and how we communicate with people across time by what we leave behind.
There was even a lovely older gentleman whose hobby is finding toys and fixing them, who gave my ten month old daughter a Happy Apple that he had repaired. I also came away with a pair of dinosaur bone earrings made by Elise. Elise even had a piece of meteorite in a bottle sealed by wax from one of Neil Gaiman’s beehives, so it was pretty much straight out of the Stardust novel.
I cannot say enough good things about my experience and I hope that if you have any desire to further your craft of writing, or to discuss your favorite fantasy novels with high-minded thinkers, that you’ll take a good look at attending next year. (Especially if you want to meet Mary Robinette Kowal or Caroline Stevermer.)
Of course, since I’m all about reading, I’ll be posting the book recommendations soon, and hopefully with the reasons they were recommended. Stay tuned!