I found three more words to alliterate, yay!
Days Two and Three of Capclave were pretty awesome. I apologise in advance for any hodge-podgery in this post — I am a wee bit on the knackered side.
Overall, I’d put this conference at the level of AMAZING for the money. It’s not an agent-centered sort of con; it’s about the writing. And for three days, even the procrastinator price I paid ($60) was nothing. Plus, you can’t beat a con on your doorstep for thriftiness.
Yesterday was full of panels, so here are some of them!
Online Presence: The main takeaways I got from this panel (which featured a great lineup of panelists — John Scalzi, Nick Mamatas, Jamie Todd Rubin, and Morgan Keyes) were that an online presence should be genuine and not forced. Interaction is key to an engaging online presence (duh), and it needs to be organic. Whatever you do online, be it blogging, tweeting, reviewing, or picking your nose, do it well. Especially that last.
What I got from Nick and John was that blogs in particular need to be well-curated and consistent (though Nick confessed to loving the batty sort of bloggers who surprise you all the time with stuff like, “Here is a PICTURE OF MY FOOT FUNGUS — and this is how it relates to the issues in the Middle East!” before taking it down the next day). Your blog should be a place that makes you happy and have something to offer to readers. (This here’s my happy place. I hope you get something out of your visits!)
An important point from Morgan Keyes: learn to walk away from what’s not working.
Reading by John Scalzi: This wasn’t a panel, but it was notable for me personally, because he said in front of everyone that I was NOT awkward when I met him Friday night (whee!). Apparently my awkwardness is in the eye of…me. So that’s helpful. Prepare for me to awe you with my grace and charm when we meet. Mmmhmmm.
Also, the reading itself was really awesome. He read from his upcoming, rather serialised release called The Human Division, and from what I heard, it’ll be something to watch for. First episode will be out 12 December. So look out!
He also read a very interesting op-ed sort of piece responding to comments aired by someone who thought women cosplaying weren’t real geeks (or something). John Scalzi was not happy with the “no true Scotsman” sort of dismissal of female geeks who couldn’t pass this dude’s arbitrary Geek Test. Best point? For geeks, “it’s the sharing [of love for a thing] that makes geekdom awesome.” It’s not about hating on people who love other things. Amen.
YA Books: As a writer of adult fantasy, I waffled a bit on going to the YA panels, but I’m very glad that I did. I learned a lot and added more to the To Be Read pile. There are some interesting themes in YA that I hadn’t really given voice to before, but are really clear to me in hindsight. YA readers yearn for something new, something unexplored, something magical that they can pull from the difficulty of transitioning out of childhood. This was a very interesting panel that resulted in good conversations later with Morgan Keyes and Diana Peterfreund, who are both lovely, lovely women. I had several great conversations with Diana this weekend, and I’m very happy to have met her. Go check out her books.
Something else I was finally able to verbalise about what makes the YA market so special is that teens can learn (and lead even adult readers) through actions and choices that “should” be a given for adults. Teens can tackle issues that adults look backward trying to fumble with. A good example is The Book Thief, which is able to show issues of extreme sensitivity and racism through the forming mind of a child/adolescent.
One final note? In spite of the majority of female YA authors out there, male authors are still overrepresented when it comes to the awards in YA. Something to think about.
Multiple Personalities: This panel was the big gem surprise for me. The topic was how to balance being intrinsically introverted with the public face required by being an author. The panelists were Allen Wold, Ron Garner, James Maxey, and Alan Smale, and I was surprised to get teary once or twice. (Shhh, I was running on little sleep.)
As someone who grew up painfully shy, as someone who grew up terrified to open her mouth in front of people for fear of being put down or interrupted or discounted, I’ve had to learn to get out of my bubble to interact with people. Now I’ll talk your ears off, but Allen Wold articulated something it took me years to learn: “If you don’t talk to anybody, nobody’s going to talk to you.”
Introverts have a lot to say. Next time you’re in a group with a couple extroverts dominating the conversation, ask the quietest person what they think. You might be surprised.
Young, Adult, or Both: This panel discussed the different sides of writing adult versus YA or middle grade. Both Diana Peterfreund and Morgan Keyes write both, and they talked about their experiences in the different markets and how it affected what they chose to write.
They also touched on the “New Adult” concept that’s poking into the markets and said about what I expected: it’s not something that can be sold to publishers because book buyers (meaning bookstores) don’t buy things they don’t have shelves for. New Adult exists mostly in e-books, and frankly, considering the rigid age ranges required for middle grade and YA (and the void of 14-year-olds who fit in neither), I’m not sure the market needs or should have yet another addition of strict, genre restricting age ranges. But that’s an opinion I need to mull around a bit.
The most interesting moment of this panel actually came from Andrew Fox, who mentioned that his agent made him change one of the protagonists in his middle grade novel from male to female — and that all he did was switch the name and pronouns. AND he said that the result was a very interesting character. I think if more people did this consciously, we’d see a LOT more interesting female characters in fiction in general. Write people. They’re just better that way. Switching genders like that could bring characters to live in ways you didn’t expect.
The Nick and John Hour: This was just fun. Some interaction with audience, a lot of fun conversation about how Scalzi wrote Red Shirts, and a heap of laughs.
I spent the rest of the evening in an hour Kaffeeklatsch with Nick Mamatas, who is a very interesting, personable guy. He is an editor for Haikasoru, which publishes and translates Japanese fiction (like Battle Royale — really, that’s one of their books). His sister also brought cookies, and it was a fun roundtable discussion.
SCOTCH, there was SCOTCH! I got to go to a scotch party and drink some delicious and rare scotch, including a 25-year Caol Ila, among others. I may or may not have had several glasses. I may or may not have woken up with a bit of a headache.
Today was a whirlwind sort of wrap-up, spent with some new friends (and one acquaintance from a couple years ago! Hi Charity!) playing Carcassonne and finishing up with some cornbread at Boston Market. I will finish my Capclave post with a picture of my new baby bitty ketchup bottle…photobombed by John Scalzi.
So. Who is going to join me at Capclave next year for George R.R. Martin?
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