ConText 2009 part 2

Saturday, the actual convention actually began for us, although there had been programming on Friday which we pretty well missed, what with one thing and another.

The hotel had a dynamite breakfast buffet but guess what? We only got two tickets per day. Five people, two days, four tickets. Our friend Dave Creek, who had his own room, also had two tickets per day. One person, two days, four tickets. Since he’s a stand-up guy, he gave us his extra tickets. Since SOME of us slept in, we had enough to cover us. I’m sure the literary world is happy to hear that.

Saturday, we participated in a panel called “Yeah, I’m A Geek, and Your Point Is?” There were lit geeks and tech geeks, computer geeks, history geeks– The upshot seemed to be that anyone who is passionate about anything, so passionate that he/she wants to share that passion with everyone, whether everyone wants to share or not, is a geek. There are just some forms of geekiness that society accepts and applauds (mostly sports and celebrity obsessions) and some not so much. To raise a happy child into a happy adult, be open to his/her particular geekiness, and don’t try to impose your own.

From noon to 2pm, we participated in a mass autograph session. Most of the attending authors were there, ready to sign their work. Not all of them, because there were panels, readings, workshops and gaming going on concurrently, not to mention lunch, and not all authors were there, and relatively few fans. At a small, friendly con like this one, where everyone mingles all weekend, there’s really no pressure to hit the autograph session in order to get your favorite author’s signature.

Two members went to the session on using fortune telling cards to brainstorm stories, something some of us have used for years. The session was informative, nevertheless, which is why it’s a good idea to take advantage of presentations telling you about things you “already know”–a fresh take on a familiar subject can open doors and windows in your mind and make everything you already know new and invigorated. Later that night, we found a couple of free online tarot reading sites and had a character ask, “Why am I not as cool as the villain in my book?” One of us thought the answer was, “Because your author won’t let you be,” but the character’s author thought the answer was, “Because you aren’t.” Or something. It was late.

Back to the conference: Some of us were on a panel called “Why Write About Freedom?” One panelist said it for all of us when he said, “Lest we forget.” We write about freedom because freedom is a basic human drive, and we need to keep being reminded that it isn’t free and it isn’t easily held. The balance between liberty and security is one, the panel and audience agreed, that has to be constantly monitored both socially and in our individual lives. The panel had a wide range of participants, from a Libertarian to a Labor Union proponent. Lively.

Attended a panel called “Can You Love Your Characters?” Consensus was that you must love them–even the unlovable ones–or you’ll write flat characters; you mustn’t love them TOO much…or you’ll write flat characters. The “wicked” ones have to have important virtues and the “good” ones have to have important flaws. A personal note: It seems to be easier as a writer to give villains endearing characteristics than it is to give “the good guy” serious flaws.

Back in the room, we were out of towels (five women, two nights, four towels), so one of our number went to the desk and requested more. She had no sooner returned than Housekeeping brought a stack of towels that seemed to say, “Take some showers. Please.” The phone rang. The desk wanted to be sure the towels had arrived. We were like, “Are they having trouble with Housekeeping embezzling towels, or what?” “Yes, the towels arrived.” “Was there anything you need?” “…Um, two blankets.” “Certainly, right away. Will two be enough?” “…Yes, two will be enough.” Then we were like, “Did they run out and buy more? Did somebody check out? Are these infected with chicken pox or diphtheria?” But we slept well and we slept warm. Turn off the light. Click

We had back-to-back panels on “Writers Groups and Workshops” and “How To Publish Your Group’s Anthology”. Neither was well-attended, since check-out was at 11, but the people who were there REALLY wanted to know about the subjects. Writers Groups: If you can’t find one, start one. Starting one is good, because you can make up the rules you want and tell any members you attract, “These are the rules.” A critique group should work to make each member’s work do what that member wants his/her work to do. If all the stories from that group sound alike, the group isn’t working correctly. A workshop should know what it’s purpose is, state its purpose to people who might want to attend, then do its best to deliver. The publishing panel brought out the importance of shopping around for publisher and publishing packages. It also underlined the frustration of trying to find the right price point for selling a self-published anthology: Price it too high, and no one will buy it; price it too low, and bookstores that require a 40%-50% commission for selling the books eat all the profits and bite into the production cost.

And so ended the conference. Lovely time. Looking forward to next year.

Our next stop: Indianapolis Author’s Fair on September 26.


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