Monday, April 28, 2014

Constellation Report 2014

This past weekend, John and I attended Constellation in Lincoln NE. I had a blast, more fun than I’ve had at a con in years, probably because I was feeling better than I have in years. Still, when we got home Sunday evening, I was too tired to write a blog. And today, I tried to catch up with some things, which took way longer than I thought it would. So I decided this week’s blog would be an edited version of my daily journal entries from the weekend:
4/25/14, Friday - got up around 8. John had said he wanted to leave around 1 pm, then at some point in the morning, he said that in order to get on the road by 1, we should probably leave the house around 11:30, to give us time to go the Credit Union and have lunch. That gave me time to print some things for panels. My first panel was 6 that evening, Exoplanets, and although the group was small, and my notes only produced a half hour panel, I think it went pretty well. I took my blue wig off before the end of the hour, it was sliding around on my head so much. If I’m going to do any costuming, I’ve got to figure out how to put on a wig properly.
4/26/14, Saturday - got up around 7 feeling good. After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, went back to the room and watched tv for a time while John was on the computer. Made John into a Klingon for the day, then went downstairs for my reading. An audience of about 6 (numbers are growing!) and at least one of them took notes on where to find my work! Again, about half an hour of reading, but I stretched it out a bit by talking to the audience about the types of books they like to read, favorite authors and so forth. Then down to the basement for my panel on alien archeologists digging up Lincoln NE and needing help figuring out what some of the items they had found were. Not a big audience, but once they understood the concept of ‘audience participation’, I think they had some fun. Again, need to find more items, as I ran out of pre-thought items, and was drawing random items on the white board, in order to get past the 1/2 hour mark.
4/27/14, Sunday - had a harder time getting up this morning. John got me up at 8, and I told him I needed another hour. That extra hour did help. When I got up, I finished packing up, then went to the con suite in search of breakfast so I could take my pills. By then, the elevators were overflowing with people trying to check out, so I walked up to our room, thinking I heard John below me in the stairwell. John had given up on elevators, and started taking suitcases to the car without a cart. Smaller items were all that was left, so I started taking them out into the hall. Couldn’t carry them all at one time, but thought I could move them down the hall towards the stairs little by little. Then John showed up and took most of it to the car, while I took my stuff down to the basement to wait for my next panel time. Bought 3 books from Tyree, and it sounds hopeful that he’s going to publish Cali. ‘First Americans’ was, again, a smallish audience, but I managed to get some comments out of them. Again, need more material, only lasted half an hour. The next panel in that room never showed up, so people wandered in and out, and everybody farbled their way through the hour. Then my last panel - Dissecting Dragons. HUGE audience! Filled up all the chairs in the room, and then some. Lots of audience participation, lasted 52 minutes (thanks to the audience participation), and many people told me they had enjoyed it.

A great weekend, for me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Non Fiction Writing

I keep getting told that I need to write non-fiction. “Write some articles for all those magazines out there; women’s mags, fitness mags, finance mags- it doesn’t matter what kind,” the advice goes. “Get your name out there in those formats, and you’ll develop a group of readers who will follow you when you delve into fiction.”
Excuse me? Yes, I know that’s how countless authors have done it, but what makes these people think that I have anything to offer the readers of magazines?
Women’s mags? Please. I don’t read them. If I’m stuck in a waiting room, I might flip through one, looking at the pictures of uncluttered, clean homes that bear absolutely no relationship to my home, but I have no interest in whatever articles they print, so how am I supposed to write some?
Fitness mags? Yeah, there’d be nothing hypocritical about that. Yes, I have lost 40 pounds so far this year, but that still leaves me on the wrong side of 200, with a long way to go. I’m not even sure how I’ve managed it, so I can’t write any “How I Lost...” articles.
Finance mags? When we got married, we were comfortably located in ‘Middle Class’, but we have definitely fallen to the bottom rung and are trying NOT to make that magical leap into ‘Poor’.
Actually, I have written non-fiction, as part of my job before I retired. I wrote things like instructional newsletters on how to correctly fill out the new internal forms so that the full and correct data could be input into the database; how to use this new-fangled contraption to repair film; step-by-step instructions on how to do the various parts of my job, which got disbursed to the rest of the clerical staff when I went on maternity leave or recovered from surgery. I did not find these subjects very interesting, but at least I knew the topic. I knew where to start, what had to be included, and where I could end.
Even these days, I am writing non-fiction. When I contacted local conventions about doing panels, I offered as many as 4 topics I thought interesting and not already beat into the ground by other panels. All four topics, it turned out, were snapped up. Most of these ideas were inspired by an article I had read on that subject, so now I’ve been gathering more background, trying to break each topic into smaller bits, and organizing those bits into a logical page for an informational hand-out. I don’t expect these to land in any newsletters or magazines, but it is non-fiction. Most of them
Still, I feel like I’m writing 4 different term papers at the same time. I will no doubt tweak these between conventions, but I’d really rather be writing fiction! In fiction, I have my whole imagination at my disposal, and I don’t have to stick to the ‘facts’ if I don’t want to!

What magazines do you read? Would you be willing to write an article for them?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gardening Your Stories

I spent part of Saturday doing lawn work. I wanted to get grass seed down before it rained that night. I have seen other bloggers compare some aspect of their daily lives to writing, and it seemed terribly philosophical to me. But on Saturday, something clicked, and I could see a type of connection between lawn work and writing. Maybe you’ll see it, too.
Before I put down seed, some of the bald spots needed raking to get up the last leaves that we didn’t get rid of last fall. These were mostly the small locust leaves that got left behind when we were concerned with more visible oak leaves that lay atop them. So, that could be seen as cleaning up the leftovers (unused scenes, dialogue, phrases, sentences, paragraphs) from the last story so that I have a ‘clean slate’ to work with.
There were weeds I wanted to remove; dandelions, clover, crab grass, even thistles. I didn’t get many of them, because using the rake had irritated the pain in my right shoulder, so I decided I would poison them later in the season, once the new grass was established. (It took a couple years, but that’s how we finally got rid of our wild strawberries.) Weeds like this might be compared to those leftover scenes and phrases that you absolutely loved in your previous rough draft, but aren’t going to suit your next story at all. Take the biggest, toughest of these and place them in a file for future reference... you might use them someday. Ignore the rest, unless they actually show up again in a story and again don’t fit. Then you ruthlessly edit them out... again.
I spread the grass seed by hand. I know how to do it that way. A spreader is not a complicated piece of machinery, but I just didn’t want to bother with it. I enjoy writing rough drafts, scattering words across the paper. Editing is filling bald spots, pulling weeds, making the whole thing look better.
Now I’m faced with two to three weeks of daily watering to let the grass grow and get well established. Writing a story takes time. The pervading wisdom is that you write every day, watering those words you scattered across the page until they form a strong, beautiful story.

Everybody dreams of having a beautiful lawn. Personally, I find working with words more satisfying than lawnwork. How about you? Would you like to compare your hobby or vocation to washing the dishes or mopping the floor?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Convention Introvert-us

Hub and I got back on Sunday from Willycon, a scifi convention held at the University in Wayne, Nebraska. Unlike Planet Comicon, Willycon is small, with about 300 attendees this year. No, I did not come home with a case of stomach flu, as with Planet Comicon. But I did have a case of Introvert-us to get over.
Do you know what it is to be introverted? I knew that’s what I was, and I knew that spending time with large groups (anything > 0) was draining. But I recently learned of other nuances that I hadn’t heard put into words before, like the fact that ‘small talk’ doesn’t hold any interest for me.
I left Willycon this year wondering how I’m going to cope with the rest of the conventions we’ll attend this year. And next year. And many years to come, I hope. Because when I got to Willycon this year, as small as it is, I nearly did a complete shut-down. I spent most of the convention in the hospitality suite, sipping soda and working on the puzzle book/notebook or book I had before me.
When a friend paused to exchange a few words, I was happy to do so. (Even an introvert can have friends, and I have developed several among convention attendees over the years.) But there were very few panels I wanted to attend, and even some I had wanted to attend, I ultimately decided to skip. I even skipped suppers, because they were held in university facilities, and besides convention attendees, there were also students there - Wayne is a small town, with not a lot of options available to the students.
The subjects I discussed with friends ran the gamut from the weather (one group had driven there on Thursday night, through horizontal snowfall on ice-covered roads) to superheroes (female vs male) to Klingon recipes and applying Klingon prostetics/makeup. But another person sat down to talk, someone my hub knew from way back. I would like to be friends with him, but I had no interest in politics, locations he knew in Omaha that I don’t know because they are no longer there, and his latest kitchen appliance.
I came home worn out. The only thing worth any effort, it seemed to me, was the book I’d started reading while I was there. It wasn’t speculative, it was a British mystery based on one of their cop tv series - and I think I saw that episode, at one time - but tired as I was, I couldn’t put it down and go to bed Sunday until 3:30 am or so. When I finally got up on Monday, I only had enough energy to finish reading the book, and then took a nap. After that, I started feeling somewhat better, although I still didn’t get anything ‘done’.
I need to think this through. I’ve attended conventions for years. When they are weeks and months away, I think of them with eager anticipation. As they approach closer, I start getting uneasy, even when I know I will find friends there. Once I actually arrive - I never know how I’m going to react.
Hub accuses me of ‘hiding’ instead of mingling. What bothers me is when I come home unable to function the next day, especially when the reason is not a physical sickness, like the stomach flu.

Do you have something that really wears you out? How have you learned to cope?