lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Feeling like more engagement with my fellow writers today, so spent the afternoon hunting up websites/blogs/whatever of various cool people I miss from 4th Street and bookmarking them. Didn't actually go so far as to contact anybody, but at least I have the list for future use (or browsing and non-use, as the case may be).

(Not sure I should ever read anybody's Twitter feed, but that's another matter.)

If any of said people are reading this and are better at flipping the "outgoing" switch than I am today, FYI, comments are welcome.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So, there was 4th Street.   cut for length... )

A Point of Order

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 12:29 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
At closing ceremonies of 4th Street this year, Scott Lynch publicly gave me credit for the Writers Workshop.

This was wrong.

I should have said something at the time, and I wish I had. At first I was too surprised to say anything, and then I was too furious to say anything fit for public consumption. All I did for the workshop was sit in the room and make sure people had pens and coffee. Janet Grouchy did all the heavy lifting that made the workshop happen, right up until the on-site point. And she kept doing it even after she knew that she would no longer be a part of the convention. That deserves a hell of a lot of respect, and a lot more acknowledgment than the nothing it got in closing ceremonies.

Any thank yous or kudos for the workshop should be directed to Janet (and to the panelists, who were awesome), not to me.

At The Foot of Plot

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 12:38 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I mentioned in a very previous post that I came up with a way to ask something, and it didn't work.

My idea was this: When people talk about characterization or world-building, they get very detailed on how-to -- and often very mechanical; there's role-playing character sheets, for example, or something like Pat Wrede's worldbuilding guide.* When people talk about plot, however, it's all examples and results but very little how to do it.**

What I need is the kind of granular, how-to equivalent of what people do with character or setting, but I need it for plot.

I thought this was a clear and insightful explanation of what I'm looking for, but I tried it out on two very different groups of people (fellow seminar participants and established pros), and it failed utterly both times. I got some recommendations for the usual plot books, none of which do what I'm talking about; I got a detailed and specific definition of what a plot is, which wasn't wrong, but again wasn't what I was looking for.

Luckily, this was at last year's 4th Street, so I also got a lot of good discussion and further analysis of what I was looking for. Part of the problem is that I'm so at sea when it comes to plot that I'm still trying to find the right way to ask the questions, and we all know that asking the right questions is at least half the battle.

It was Skyler who put her finger on one of the key elements: directing/misdirecting reader attention. I particularly struggle when it comes to writing mysteries, because of course plot is especially important in a mystery story. And a core component of a good mystery is that the reader gets enough clues that the reveal makes sense at the end, but not so many that they figure it out long before the detective does.*** And how do you get those clues in front of the reader in a way that they'll remember them, without going "THIS IS A CLUE, REMEMBER IT"?

Including the clue in a list of other things is one way. If there's a needlepoint cat pillow, a blue teapot, a thread-bare armchair, and a faux-fur rug in a room, and in a later scene a blue teapot's been stolen, the astute reader might connect the two. Another trick is to make the clue mean one thing when introduced, and another later on; there's a couple examples I can think of where something's presented as a formative bit of character backstory, then later it turns out to also be a vital plot element.

There are doubtless many other ways; feel free to mention your favorites in the comments.

Another good suggestion (and I don't remember whose it was) was to outline/flowchart what's happening from the bad guy's POV (assuming you're writing from the good guy's POV, which I generally am). I may have to try that for the fantasy-mystery that's in the queue, laying out the crime and its fallout from the thief's perspective.

So directing and misdirecting reader attention is part of what I'm looking for. This applies to more than just mysteries; in any story, there are things you want the reader to pick up on without hammering it at them, things you want them to have but not notice that they have until it's time to use them.

I think cause-and-effect is another part of it, but I'm not sure I can yet articulate that part in a way that makes sense to anybody else.

I'm still looking for other questions to ask, and better ways to ask them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sometimes I wonder if anybody understands plot, at least in the way I'm trying to.

It may be because most people don't really have plots in their lives. They have a series of events, related chronologically if at all, but that's exactly what you don't want in a novel. Characterization they have: If you want to show your character is lonely and feeling outcast, all you have to do is show a bunch of people sitting at a table in the breakroom, and your character comes in, looks wistfully at them, and then goes to sit at a different table by herself. Anybody who's ever been to high school can relate to that. And of course we're surrounded by setting all the time; one of the classic ways to teach yourself to do setting is just to pay attention to the details of whatever places you find yourself in. Worldbuliding is just setting with more Why behind it; if one doesn't have that already, one can go and read a lot of history and economics to develop the Why muscle. But true plot isn't something that most people directly experience. (I suspect pacing might be equally as hard to teach on the granular level as plot; I wouldn't know, because I'm lucky enough to have been dealt the pacing card and so can generally do it by feel.)

I want the "Look at the room you're in. How would you describe it?" equivalent for plot. But nobody says "Look at the plot you're in, and describe it" for plot practice, and there's a reason for that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* All of which bounces right off of me, because character and setting/world-building are among the cards I was dealt for free. I can't wrap my head around creating either in such a mechanistic, deliberate way, because my back-brain spits them up fully-formed (or close enough to be going on with) without any conscious effort on my part. Heck, I can't not come up with characters.

** The 4th Street seminar was a prime example of this. The romance writer detailed a very specific set of techniques to show a character progressing through their arc; the mystery writer talked about the effects a plot should have on the reader, and listed several books that did this or that plot-thing well. No dis to the presenters, they were all good, but it was the same disconnect I've run into elsewhere.

*** And not send the reader haring off in some other, completely unintended, direction entirely. This seems to be something I have trouble with. ;-P

Word Wear

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 01:00 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I think I need to get this cartoon on a t-shirt, so I can wear it to next 4th Street.

ETA: Though I'm not sure it doesn't need a comma between "Yes" and "well". Opinions?

lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
4th Street was this past weekend. And I am almost recovered enough to string two sentences together.

It was a terrific con, probably the best one since the first year I went. Pretty much had non-stop good conversations from the moment I walked in until I finally pried myself away from the last few goodbyes. Got very little sleep and definitely over-caffeinated, and I'm not the least little bit sorry. ;-)

I made an effort to pace myself before the event so as not to arrive already exhausted before it even started, despite the overwhelming pressure of the to-do list. Those who know me will appreciate how dubious was my success when I say that I managed to leave without putting maps in the car. Luckily I had my own written directions, and I could probably do the route from memory by now anyway.

Had a great time reconnecting with the Intermediate Writers crowd, even though we didn't officially have a gathering. (Which was only because no one stepped up to coordinate one; guess what I'll probably be doing next year?) And with the consuite crowd, and the smokers' lounge crowd, and assorted other cool people.

The seminar was interesting and well-run, though most of what I came out of it with was the conclusion that I just don't learn well in a seminar format. (And that my process is non-standard and weird, but I knew that going in.) I also came out with what I thought was a good way to ask for help on something I've been struggling with, but I tried it out on two very different groups and it failed utterly, so I guess not. It did kick off some good discussions, though.

My 4th Street tradition continues of there being one or two panels that I don't think I'll be that interested in that turn out to be utterly fascinating, and one or two that I think are going to be right in my wheelhouse that leave me cold. This year, the example of the first was "Large-Scale Structures and Series Planning"; I'm not a big series writer and usually veer away from long tightly-connected series as a reader, but a lot of the stuff about planning and consistency and leaving tools (and toys) for yourself for later was not only really interesting but actually something I could connect to my own work. And the panel on "Writing As A Light Trance State" was deeply intriguing, though I still don't think I came away with an understanding of the difference between trance and just concentrating on what you're doing.

Unfortunately, "The Tropes of Emotion" was one of the latter category, mostly because they did a lot of high-level meta discussion and very little granular, boots-on-the-ground how-to. Which is a pity, because I'm working hard on a bit of how-to in the current revision pass, and I'd have liked some pointers. The other one that left me cold was the That's a Different Panel, which this year ended up being "Clues And Signaling" -- basically, how do we tell readers things -- the very topic I most hoped they'd choose. It would probably have done more for me if they hadn't spent half the panel going on about paratext -- because I am functionally blind to paratext. (No, really. One of the books they cited was one that I read fairly recently and remember well, and they went on and on about the ways paratext was used, and I have no idea what they were talking about.) And what wasn't about paratext was again high-level and meta, not practical and how-to.

(I've realized that when it comes to writing stuff, I do not learn well from getting the big-picture view and trying to apply it to specific usages; I'm much better off with using a specific example in my own work, and reasoning from that to the general principle. I'm not sure if that's how I learn non-writing things as well, or not; I'd need a specific example to consider. Which may answer the question right there. ;-) )

The cookies went over well once again. The dinosaurs were even more popular than I expected (I suspect it was the glitter), and the "writer's toolbox" joke went over well. (Oddly, it seemed nobody wanted to eat the hammers; they were always the last to go. Don't know why.) For future reference: I made 4 batches of dough, but only ended up decorating about 3 batches worth. 3 batches was plenty, enough to stock Friday evening, Saturday mid-day, and Saturday evening, and still have a few left by Sunday. Next time, figure on making ~18 of each shape; that's enough to cover breakage and a few to share pre-con, and still have a dozen+ for the consuite. Which actually is enough, if you're making enough shapes to use up 3 batches of dough.

Drive there was good; the threatened thunderstorms didn't materialize, and I actually took breaks when I was getting dozey, and pulled over for the night when I was tired but not exhausted. Only trouble was that there still isn't a sign for a Caribou/Starbucks/etc. for about three hours past the point where I need one, so I once again arrived at my traditional gas-and-lunch stop rather desperate for coffee. But still overall a nice trip.

The car turned 200,000 on the way, which was cool.

Drive home was much the same; I turned the need to stall for a while to avoid Madison rush hour into a nice long lunch break, and pulled over for a walk and cold beverages when it seemed like a good idea but not yet a dire necessity. Got home around 2am, tired but still functional.

The cats were happy to see me. :-)

And now it's time to get back to normal, although I'm hoping to reboot "normal" to a slightly more satisfactory version. One that involves more sleep, writing, and exercise, and less unrelenting to-do list.

Down and Fourthed

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 11:27 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I had grand plans to write up a detailed and insightful post about 4th Street today. This was thwarted by the kitten waking me up at 8:30 this morning. (I rolled into the driveway at about 2:30 a.m.) Five hours of sleep is generous by my during-4th-Street standards, but as a post-con recovery sleep it is deeply inadequate, and now my brain is pudding.

It was a good con. Highlight as always was hanging out with fun people having interesting conversations. Highlight other than that was definitely the workshop, which went very well from both an organizer and a participant perspective. I'm delighted it's over (tired!), but I'm delighted we did it. Throughout the weekend, I had a great time hanging out with the usual suspects, and also with some of the intermediate-writer crowd, where we talked about stuff and writing and other stuff and writing and more stuff and how it interrelated with writing and stuff.

And now, some disjointed remarks, because pudding.

If last year was Chaos Con, this year was Kerfuffle Kon. Mainly they were localized kerfuffles, though, and they mostly got settled (as much as a kerfuffle ever gets settled, anyway), and didn't need to spill over into anyone else's enjoyment.

It's a truism that I never have the conversations I anticipate having at 4th Street. (I have other cool and fascinating conversations instead.) This year, it extended to panels; the couple I was side-eyeing and thinking I'd better sit near the door for turned out to be fascinating and engaging, whereas the couple I was keenest on didn't connect with me. The writing panel on "How To Play The Cards You Ain't Been Dealt" particularly left me cold, which leads directly to:

I need a translation algorithm, or possibly several. My writing process is non-standard, on almost every axis you can think of. This is frustrating and leaves me odd-man-out in process discussions, but it also means that when I'm trying to learn a bit I don't have, people keep giving me advice or tips that just don't fit. They're handing me a piece for my jigsaw puzzle, but I'm playing with Legos.

My workshop manuscript seems to have nailed my target audience pretty well; unfortunately, I severely underestimated how narrow a niche that is. Contemplation required.

The driving there and back was pretty good. A few bouts of really stupid traffic and a lot of construction, and a poorly timed encounter with one major city's rush hour, but on the other hand, hardly any weather; a few spats of rain, but no thunderstorms and certainly no tornadoes. Getting gas on the way back turned into an epic saga, but I know where the failure point was. (Edgerton, dammit. If not before, Edgerton.)

Arrived at con ridiculously early. Woke up ridiculously early most mornings, too, including Monday; I was moved out and checked out before most people were stirring. The one day I didn't wake up ridiculously early, the shrieking children actually proved quite useful. Note to self: just put the travel alarm in 24-hour mode. (Yes, I did it again.)

Good food was consumed, good talk was talked, good times were had.

The cats were startled but happy to see me last night. After I'd gone upstairs with the intention of going to bed, Ember brought a toy all the way up the stairs to present to me. Awwww.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I am packed enough that I feel like I should be leaving today, because that would mean I had just enough time to do the last few things in a mad, frantic scramble before leaving only an hour or two later than planned.

In fact, I'm leaving tomorrow, and I have enough time to do the last few things in a sane and reasonable manner, provided I don't dawdle. This is confusing the hell out of me.

The housemate will be home with the cats, so I only feel mildly guilty about going at all. The biggest challenge at this point is trying to coordinate my departure time with the weather; my ideal schedule, cunningly devised to avoid all rush hours at all major metropolitan areas I pass, threatens to put me in the path of some very nasty forecasted weather at some very inconvenient points. I'm considering leaving rather earlier and sitting out the storms at various points as needed.

Sugar Status

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 11:41 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So it turns out that the empty box from a Toblerone is the perfect thing to prop the large frosting bowl at an angle for scooping out the last of the frosting. Given what I usually listen to while frosting cookies, this amuses me greatly.

Once again, I am reminded that for all the astonishing amount of time this takes, the immediate limiting factor is actually the number of cooling racks we have, and the shortage of places to put them. I could get a lot more cookies done now if I had anything to put them on, or anywhere to put that thing once they were on it.

ETA: It's looking like I'm going to get cookies done for the workshop, but not for the con as a whole. I still have an amazing amount to do (both RL and my own con-prep), and there just isn't time.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Ever wondered what 4th Street Fantasy is like? Imagine a three-day version of this Jo Walton article crossed with a really raucous game of Cards Against Humanity, with occasional breaks for very good food.

4th Street Feelings

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 01:01 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, there was 4th Street this past weekend. It was a real roller-coaster of a con for me... but the high points were awesome. I'll try to go into more detail later -- there are some ideas I want to explore more fully -- but that'll have to wait until I can brain for more than five seconds at a time. ;-)

The cookies went over very well, including one comment that pretty much means I'll be making them every year as long as there's a 4th Street to take them to. And they absolutely vaporized, so no, three batches wasn't excessive.

Cookies Everywhere

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 05:58 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
In my ongoing quest to make cookies for 4th Street without frying myself to a crisp, a note to self: Three batches of dough yields more cookies than you have cooling racks for, which leads to a frustrating and time-consuming shell game trying to get some of them done/set aside/boxed to make room to decorate more. (Especially if you don't burn any beyond usability, which I miraculously didn't this year.) Next time, two batches of dough. Two will be plenty, really.

However, this year's cookie horde is finally done. And I got to go to bed last night, instead of staying up until nearly dawn/dawn/well past dawn spreading colored sugar over small baked shapes.

4th Street

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 08:53 pm
Home. Great con. Very tired.

Sugar Rushed

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 10:04 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I finished the cookies for 4th Street Sunday. Well, Monday, technically, after a 10-hour overnight marathon. For my own future reference, total time (I tracked it this time) was 44.25 hours, of which 2.5 was making dough, 4.5 was making & baking cookies, and a whopping 37.25 hours was decorating. Photography is included in decorating time; I took pictures as I finished 'em, rather than saving it all up for a massive photo shoot at the end, which was definitely a good idea.

That was 3 batches of dough (about 2.5 batches of actual cookies, after the rejects were culled -- I had the damnedest time getting things out of the oven on cue this time), and 5 batches of icing.

I'm glad I did them this year, especially since I managed to finish up a few days before launch, but next year I've got to do something less time-intensive. Perhaps some nice simple chocolate chip cookies, and maybe a batch of my infamous blueberry cookies (which are tetchy, but at least not a massive time sink).

Now to see if my cunning packing scheme (sandwich baggies for do-it-yourself air packs, anyone?) will get them there in one piece. I don't hold out much hope for the unicorns, even with cardboard layering, but we'll see.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Yes, there is more write-up. Yes, it's weeks after the con. I was tired (still am); deal with it. Cut for length... )

The drive was an interesting experiment, and I'll probably do something similar next year. Which I will totally have the opportunity for; I can't wait for next year's 4th Street.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Addendum to Day 1: I forgot the puppet theater! In addition to filking and foam swords Friday night, Mary Robinette Kowal brought out her portable shadow-puppet theater and did a condensed version of a classic puppet story (The Broken Bridge?) for us. Nifty!

Sunday: Morning came early enough that I was glad I was used to a different time zone. Forgot my morning Red Bull and had to go back up to the room for it, which enabled me to cope with coffee.

"Science, Technology, and Fantasy" started off with a demonstration from Klages on the wrong way to combine these ingredients: she played us all "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" on her iPhone. This inspired S. Monette to quip, "Curse you, Leonard Nimoy, you bastard," which seems only fair. The word "technology" was first used around 1650, at which time it meant more "technique" as in art/craft/language than "machines". It was a very quotable panel, to wit: "The 19th Century is one big morass of 'holy crap!'" (Marissa), and S. Monette boiled down the scientific method to "What does that do?" "Holy crap!" Klages pointed out that the pouch (pocket, handbag) was the first human tool, vitally useful to any hunter-gatherer, and went on to define science as trying to recreate the manual that should have come with the Earth but wasn't put in the box. Other notes include that the Chin Dynasty had mass-produced crossbows with interchangeable parts circa 200 B.C., and something about memory palaces as a mnemonic technique, which I need to read up on.

I missed the last two panels and lunch because I was sitting in the con suite with Pat Wrede, talking writing and queries and synopses. Need I say more?

I did make it to the wrap-up panel, which the con board sensibly started off with the things they already had solutions for for next year. Somebody else brought up the issue of newcomers feeling excluded (I was in such a good mood by that point that I hadn't been going to bring it up, though I did chime in in support). It says something about 4th Street that not only did they take the criticism in good part, but within ten minutes there was an official Newbie Wrangler for next year along with a fistful of ideas to make new attendees both be and feel more included.

I understand the cookies got public kudos during 4th Street's version of closing ceremonies, which I was sorry I missed (although I was doing the one thing I'd rather have been doing); several people made a point of telling me later how they'd liked them. And none of them were left to take home, which is of course the ultimate compliment. (Note to self, that was three batches of dough. And put in some cardboard or other support system next time, esp. for the wands & unicorns.)

Other book recommendations include John M. Ford's The Last Hot Time (for interesting POV use) and The Scholars of Night (SF spies), Anthony Price's spy novels, and William Sleator's House of Stairs (for creepy spy stuff).

Dinner was with another group of nifty folks at the exceedingly yummy Chinese place again, where we ordered several dishes for the table and nibbled in abundance.

Then there was hanging out in the con suite until late, and eventually helping tidy and consolidate con-suite-ish stuff. And finally a quick whirl of packing up my own stuff for the next day's departure, and bed.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
The problem with doing a con report is that the better the con, the less time and energy you have to document it.

Cut for length... )
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Friday: Started the day with a lovely long sleep, courtesy of the person who lent me binder clips to hold the light-blocking curtains together. Followed it with a bit of hanging out and chatting in the breakfast area, and then boiled myself in the hot tub for about a week. Aaaahhh.

Got to chatting with another writer who's also in query-writing hell, and it occurred to me (somewhat belatedly) that there was an opportunity here. Since schedule changes meant the con was starting a bit later than planned, they kindly let me slot an impromptu query review session into the con space. About 20 people attended, five of whom had queries -- which is pretty good turnout for something that was only added to the programming about four hours before. We ended up reading queries aloud; some read their own, some had others read, both for nerves and for the change of perspective. The feedback was quite good, and it was great to get a variety of reactions from the usual caliber of 4th Street attendees, i.e., smart thinky people who read.

I have to rewrite my bloody query again, of course. But at least now I know.

Official programming kicked off with "Story Templates and the Folk Process". The essence of the panel was kind of lost on me (mostly because I needed to decompress from the query session), but it was entertaining watching other people geek out about it.

"POV Fixes Everything" was more up my alley. Brust pointed out that POV solves description troubles, because you can talk about not what a thing looks like, but what the POV character notices about it. Beth Meacham scored a major point in my book by defending the dread "head-hopping" (a term I hate, because dammit, shifting POVs is not bad if you do it right) by saying that it can be a character duet, something that illuminates both characters simultaneously. Scott Lynch chipped in that "POV is the tool that allows you to leave a trail of clues without giving a lecture", and restated show vs. tell (speaking of terms I hate) as "providing evidence rather than assurances". There was also a lot of talk about trusting the reader to notice what they're getting and what they're not, which left me feeling rather insecure about the novel-again-in-progress as it doesn't parallel my experience with readers at all, but overall it was a fine panel.

The guerrilla auction (assorted items being auctioned in between panels) was highly entertaining, not least because of the tentacle of philanthropy.

Had a very tasty lunch with a semi-random group of nifty people; spent dinnertime in the con suite, being still full from lunch, with a smaller group of still nifty people.

Late night hanging out was outside on the patio, as that seemed to be where the conversations had migrated. (Inside was the music circle, but -- and I know this sounds un-fannish -- I'm just not that keen on filk, even when it's good filk.) Eventually outside turned into filk as well, and I turned in, which is just as well as I was getting morose about the query. (It's an annoying but necessary part of my process, best not shared.) I did get to duel Scalzi with foam swords first, though. And I never knew I needed to hear Radiohead on the ukulele until I had.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Got off to a late start by a couple of hours yesterday; fortunately the friends whose floor I was crashing on were up for a late-arriving houseguest. Made the first leg of the trip in 4 hours and 6 minutes, which I'm pretty sure is a new record. And that includes the time it took to wedge the car into a not-quite-big-enough parking space. Construction wasn't too bad, and traffic was moderate. Had a pleasant if non-verbal exchange with the car that had been using me as a pace car when I pulled off for gas at the usual stop.

Today, hit the road in the early a.m. Took side streets because the ramp from 294 to 90 was closed, and of course missed the side street I meant to take. This was actually good, because it meant I went by the Caribou Coffee I remembered up that way. Got directions from an extremely helpful parking cop, and got to the expressway fairly painlessly. Think I'll do it that way on purpose next time.

They were mowing the verges along the expressway, so my nostrils were filled with the lovely green smell of fresh-cut grass as I drove, accented with moisture or dust depending on location. Could have done with less traffic along 90, but it kept moving fairly fast.

Western WI is some beautiful terrain, but damn there's a lot of it. I love to drive, but even I was ready to be done by the time I hit the traffic jam just short of the border. Ten mile backup for a ten-foot lane closure, I swear.

The St. Paul expressway interchanges are a bit much, coming at the end of a long drive. The traffic was backed up as seems to be standard for the area regardless of time. Was very glad to see the hotel.

Walked in the door to a big hug from Janet. This is just plain the friendliest con I know of. Had dinner with a miscellaneous collection of folks in the restaurant at the old hotel; good food and conversation. Picked up minimal groceries, then came back to find that neither the fridge nor the AC in my room were producing anything like cold. Hotel sent someone up right away, and when they couldn't fix it, moved me down the hall to another room. A hassle, but they made it right right away. I'm a little bummed only because my initial room was at the very end of the hall, right by the stairs; Michael Westen would have approved. I'm consoling myself with the thought that the new room is equidistant between two sets of stairs, which gives an operative options in a pinch. ;-)

The story-circle is still ongoing as I type this. Cool idea, seemed to be going well, but I've had a day and a half's worth of sleep over the past three days, and I'm dead. Gonna sleep now, in whichever of the two queen beds I have all to myself I see fit.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, 4th Street was last weekend. It was awesome.

We started off with the writers' seminar. Lois McMaster Bujold, Patricia Wrede, and Elizabeth Bear talking about everything from beta-readers to accountants -- what more could an aspiring author want? TBH, it didn't tell me all that much that I didn't already know, but it did confirm an awful lot of things I'd been strongly suspecting. Ultimately, it all boils down to finding the right people for your support network. There may be some learning curve involved, but part of being the right people is being willing and able to do that learning.

Met some interesting folks during the luncheon, which I'm sure is part of why they set it up that way. Don't know if anything will develop out of that, we shall see, but it was nice to talk to some people in more-or-less the same boat.

The con itself started up Friday afternoon, and pretty much kept going non-stop through Sunday. It's been a long time since I've been at a panel with that high a level of discourse, never mind an entire convention. A bunch of very smart, very well-read people having serious discussions without ever losing sight of their senses of humor -- fabulous. Everybody brought their A game and kept playing it all weekend; in fact, it seemed to be their default setting. I actually had to skip one panel, not because I wasn't interested, but because my brain was so thinking-saturated that I was literally losing the ability to parse complete sentences. The single-track programming schedule fostered a real sense of involvement throughout, as did the attitude that while the panelists are there to kick the topic off and keep it moving, audience participation is just as important. (The organizers also sensibly scheduled in time for things like food, sleep, and the limitations of the human bladder; very clever folks, these.) The panel topics were generally interesting, and even the ones that might not have sounded like my cup of tea on paper turned out to be fascinating once they got going.

In fact, it was a low-key but very well-run con overall. The con suite was small but very well stocked, with some seriously yummy chow. (Man, those brownies!) The Sunday brunch was very fine. Information was distributed clearly and effectively. (Probably helped to have most of the con in one place most of the time.)

The best part, however, wasn't something that could be scheduled or planned. 4th Street is a very small, mostly-local con, and most of the attendees have known each other forever. You never know what you're going to get, walking new into a situation like that; people can be cliquish and exclusionary to newcomers, sometimes without meaning to or even realizing it. But not so here. Everyone at 4th Street was extremely friendly and welcoming. And not just during panels and organized events; I've never seen so many conversation circles in a con suite open up so fast to include new faces. And they were conversations worth joining, whether about books or rock-climbing or pets or How To Spot A Minnesotan.

Overall, I had a fantastic time, I left wanting more, and I'm definitely planning on going back next year.




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