Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Back from a weekend of dancing, singing, writing, reading, connecting, reconnecting, marketing, learning, and having a blast at the first science fiction convention I've attended in almost two decades....

Journal excerpt from last Wednesday (October 25), the night before Mary and I headed to Tampa:
Here’s why I need to leave my ego behind. This writing business is bigger than I am. The visions are bigger than I am. I’m here only to give them voice. Yes, I draw from my own experience, my own psychology, my own imagination. But those are tools. The characters are bigger than I am. Their stories are bigger than I am. I am here as their vessel and I am here to get them out into the world, and whether or not they are embraced by other people is beside the point. They need life.

So maybe I must take that attitude at Necronomicon. Be there as a participant, as a student, as a networker. I am not there for myself. I am there for the characters. Period. I must relinquish that ego, that control. I must trust in them and in the Muse....It isn’t about me. It never was.
I can be a ham on stage and articulate on paper or pixel, but pathologically shy when meeting people. This was a way for me to overcome my jitters on, oh, maybe the third pass. I came to "Necro" toting an envelope filled with pitch packages: query letters, synopses, return envelopes, stamps, self-address stickers, business cards. I carried that envelope everywhere, along with a flash drive in my pocket that has the entire trilogy on it.

As my workshop buddy Belea Keeney put it, "You feel as though you're bothering them. But it's a business." I need to have that phrase tattooed on the inside of my forehead. Belea was on the "fate of short fiction" panel. She's sold about 20 short stories over the past three years and just received a state grant for fiction (and has encouraged me to apply). She knew what I was talking about when I mentioned I was going beyond my comfort level in just going up to people and talking with them.

I've gotten some attention from that, though at this point nothing is definite. Stay tuned!

Underneath my name on my purple badge I wrote in ink, "Finalist, 1985 John W. Campbell Award" (given to the best new science fiction writer of the year as chosen by the reading public) and, underneath that, "Have trilogy, will travel!" Barely legible against the purple paper, but it served mainly as a form of self-encouragement.

Taken from inside our room at the Hyatt Regency Tampa. I thought I'd experiment with reflections and different exposures. I've posted a stereo shot here.

As one who is trying to re-break in and get up to speed with a rapidly-changing industry, I attended panels on "The business of writing," "Breaking in," "Genre poetry," "POD [print on demand]/self-publishing/e-publishing," "The fate of short fiction," and "Research for writers," as well as those on "Where do SF and F meet?" "Look what they've done to space" (after which I spoke briefly with one of the panelists, who like me had experience in the planetarium field), "How SF has changed since the 50s," and "Ethics and science." A couple of the folks on panels told me afterwards they were very glad I was there and speaking up. "You can tell you're an author," one said. "You sound as though you never stopped writing."

Pool reflection in windows, taken from inside our room.

At the genre poetry panel I got to meet folks from the Science Fiction Poetry Association, including people I knew through correspondence 20+ years ago when I edited its journal Star*Line. I hadn't been involved in the organization for years, having basically dropped off the face of the earth due to illness and an insane schedule. I learned that people had wondered what happened to me and wondered if they could get me to come back (yes!).

Most of my poetry nowadays is mainstream, but even the National Federation of State Poetry Associations contests have included a couple of categories that fall into the speculative realm. One, the Futuristic Award, asks for a poem "that is optimistic, sensitive and persuasive concerning 2057 AD." A past category, the Cecilia Parsons Miller Memorial Award, called for poetry of a fantastic and/or mythological nature. I've won honorable mentions in both. On my "to do" list is to write an article about the panel to submit to the newsletter of the Florida State Poets Association, in which I've been involved since I moved down here.

I also learned that I can potentially do more with an old, dusty draft than was previously possible, given certain changes in the industry.

A window reflection of Tampa

Friday night I attended the Fan Cabaret, where anyone could come up on stage and do just about anything: singing, dancing, telling jokes, skits. I belted out some a cappella scatting, completely extemporaneous, and got good feedback on that plus a 3rd place ribbon. Then I gyrated until midnight at the 25th anniversary dance, featuring music from 1982.

Prior to '83 I'd danced almost exclusively inside my head. After I left my marriage and when I started living on my own for the first time, one of my goals was to dance freely in the street -- which I fulfilled at a block party for the Grolier poetry book shop in Cambridge, MA. I haven't stopped dancing since.

Weaving by Loren Damewood, who also performed at the cabaret. "I make several of these a day at conventions," he said. He gifted me with this rope bracelet, which took him about 10 minutes to make. At the time he was wearing an extraordinary, diamond-patterned chainmail vest that had taken him 300 hours to produce. He runs Golden-Knots.com out of St. Petersburg, Florida: "Hand-crafted Knot Jewelry: Decorative Marlingspike Seamanship rendered in precious metal."

This was also Mary's first convention ("Unless you count some people selling Star Trek memorabilia in a church basement") and she had a great time as well. Before we headed home we took a brief walking tour of downtown Tampa -- most of my photos from the weekend are of the local architecture and window reflection play similar to what's above, plus some plant and wildlife shots. I'll post those photos in several installments. I was hoping to make it to the Masquerade -- what costumes I saw were terrific -- but by that time I was pretty much tuckered out.

Our drive back was a bit adventurous. I missed one scheduled turn due to Mary's excited shout of, "Billy goat!" (I didn't see it, was too busy watching the road.) I automatically assumed she was talking about road kill, but it turned out a live goat was cropping the grass by the side of the road. She informed a couple of cops parked outside a gas/convenience store, so that someone could be sent to corral it. Not long afterwards I spotted a gopher tortoise moseying across the 4-lane highway we were on. ("Tortoise!" I called out; this time she assumed it was road kill.) I was driving in the middle of the day and the highway was relatively empty, so we're hoping the tortoise made it safely across.

When we got home I was very glad I'd put out two litter boxes -- one filled with the cats' preferred clumping litter (which needs changing more often) and the other with Feline Pine (which doesn't need changing that often). Our sweeties had clearly gotten all that they could out of the clumping type and then huffed over to the Feline Pine. The first thing I did when we got inside -- before Mary turned the water back on and before we even thought of unloading the car -- was to clean their facilities. Mary made sure their food and water were still up to snuff (they were) and dispensed cat treats.

Daisy is on my lap as I'm typing this, with her diesel purr at full throttle. Last night we had Cuddles For All!

She would also like to wish you all a Happy Halloween.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was so much fun to read about! I love those radio head guys in suits.

I've often felt like the muse's stenogropher...or her waitress. Feeling that sure puts me in my place!

3:03 PM  
Blogger Brenda Clews said...

I really enjoyed visiting the conference with you. And it was more than delightful to hear that people not only remembered you from 20+ years ago, but missed you. It must have felt in some remarkable ways like a homecoming.

8:46 AM  

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