Here's the honest truth: I'm no celebrity at Wiscon. There are authors who, when they attend Wiscon, are followed around by a line of giddy fans. I'm not that guy.
However, I do have a fair amount of friends who I'm glad to be with for the Memorial Day weekend. I've developed some great friendships over the years, for which I'm very grateful, and each year, it seems that there is always someone new to connect with in meaningful ways, not as mere business connections, but as friends with shared interests and mutual respect. This year was no exception.
The past two years, I have purposefully avoided being on or moderating any panels. I've done my fair share of participating on panels in the past and have decided that, for the last couple of years, at least, I would concentrate on attending and learning from panels in order to improve my writing craft. This has become especially important as my kids get older and I have less time to spend on writing.
I was particularly impressed, this year, by the panel on microbes, which included several microbiologists and science writers, including Ada Milenkovic Brown, Jacquieline Houtman, Carl F. Marrs, Greg Press, and Joan Slonczewski. Biology was never my strong point, though I've made it a point to study a bit about the biopunk movement in order to lend some veracity and depth to some plot points in the novel I'm currently working on, Solistalgia. In all honesty, I had not touched this novel for several months. As of tonight, I've picked up where I left off and finished half a chapter in the last couple of hours. I'm feeling it again! Once more into the breech!
I also attended the Journeyman Writer's meeting for the third year in a row. What a fantastic resource - attendees are required to have at least one SFWA sale (sorry, no newbies), and we have a round-table discussion about . . . whatever we want to. Last year, agents were the hot topic. This year, we talked a lot about slushpiles and editing. I find these discussions both very encouraging and very helpful, and judging from the number of returning writers, it seems that others do, as well.
Our discussions lent themselves to the next panel I attended on "Editing for Writers". While I knew much of what was discussed (I've done a bit of editing myself), it was good to sit back and examine things from the writer's perspective. Tor's Jim Frenkel led the discussion, with my agent Kris O'Higgins participating, along with Alex Bledsoe, Deb Taber, and F.J. Bergmann (who is a member of my writer's group). Jim's words were encouraging. Of course, I have a couple of novels in his to-read pile, so I'm hoping for the best!
I also attended a reading by Shira Lipkin, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Lisa Bradley, and Patty Templeton. Lisa's poem (with helpful glossary and recipes!) was fantastic. And this is the second year I've gone to hear Patty read from her upcoming ghost novel. I am very much looking forward to reading the completed work, which shares something of Nick Cave's ouvre from And the Ass Saw the Angel with a touch of Beetlejuice (I do the work injustice with inadequate comparisons). I can't wait for the novel to be published, something to really look forward to!
And, of course, there's the party. The Party. Yes, I'm talking about the notorious Scribe Agency party, which I help host every year. Kris, as well as being an agent, is a capable home-brewer. Now, I don't drink alcohol, so Kris is so good as to brew up a potent ginger beer for me and my non-alcohol-drinking kin (or those who are sick of being inebriated - it's kind of a drinking marathon for some people, I understand, and not everyone can or wants to keep pace). This year our party had a Halloween theme, so a few of us brave folk masked up and had a great time. Sorry, I don't have any pictures, though I'm including a photo of our agent-client dinner below.
I must add, also, that I love Wiscon because the programming is a bit more . . . rigorous, I guess is the right word, than some other cons I've been to. There's a slight academic bent to it all (witness the microbe panel I mentioned above), but none of that ivory tower aloofness. It's a fun time, but it's a fun time with some really, really smart people. Yes, there is the occasional fan squeeing about, but they tend to behave a little better than I've seen at a couple of other cons. Of course, everyone is welcome, squeeing or not. That's one of the things I love best about Wiscon - it's a safe place for us geeks to get together and just be ourselves for a weekend. It feels like family.
Here we are having dinner outside of Kabul. Kabul Restaurant, that is. That's me in the denim jacket with the USCSS Nostromo patch on the sleeve. To my left is Agent Kris, then Jenn Brissette, Marguerite Reed, and Andrea Hairston. I can't vouch for the other people, though they agreed it was okay to put their picture up online. Not that you can see any of their faces anyway. Oh, and it was frickin' freezing out there, Mister Bigglesworth. Hence the hot and spicy dish in front of me. Nothing like ginger and garlic chicken to warm you up on a Wisconsin spring evening!