Tag Archives: World Fantasy Convention

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

So what kind of year has it been? A year of transitions—although that may not be saying much since it increasingly seems that all years are transitioning to and from one thing or another. The idea I once held in my imagination of a stable life and career seems more far-fetched every day.

The reality is that I didn’t make much overall progress on my fiction in 2016, although the business of my writing life is a different story. After a four-year absence, I dove back into the convention pond (I attended two, When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta and World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio) and emerged with some excellent prospects. I had a very good year in my writing-adjacent day jobs, as a newspaper owner/editor and freelance book editor. I broke ground on a novel which I expect to be my most challenging and ambitious project to date; it’s the sort of project that keeps you up at night for the sheer excitement of plotting it out.

And yet I didn’t actually do very much writing, an ugly truth which I must stare down. In the face of this, it can be small consolation that I’ve greatly strengthened the infrastructure of my life. I must do better in 2017. It’s as simple as that.

Let me talk about those convention appearance, which I came back from energized to produce more and better work. Every time I attend a convention, it solidifies my certainty that there’s a market for my writing. That’s the value of conventions, but they are really hard.

Well, maybe they’re not hard for everyone. For me they’re nigh impossible. Gone are the halcyon days when I went to my first conventions and filled my days with programming. It didn’t take long to realize that the panels are mostly doesn’t come at all naturally to me. You need the ability to walk up to strangers, or near-strangers, and find something to talk about instantly—without seeming needy and pushy. This is quite a tightrope.

Because that’s what you’re there for. You’re generally not there to listen to a panel of novelists talk about the importance of map-making in fantasy literature, nor are you there to listen to well-established professionals wax eloquent about their decades-long careers and the generally pretty unrelatable logistics of publishing fifteen-volume epics. Those are definitely perks, but eventually you’ll realize that those panels are more or less all the same, and they don’t get you from A to B. You could get a similar result from an afternoon browsing YouTube clips.

I spent the first evening of World Fantasy returning periodically to my hotel room to steal precious alone time, breaks from the stress of wandering through the convention halls looking desperately for people to talk to, like a feral animal.

At one point, a friend of mine said to me that most of the people there were just like me and they were wildly faking their smiles and easy-going manners. He pointed out that a majority of writers are probably introverted shut-ins, which explains why they would be attracted to a field where so much of the work happens when you’re, well, very much alone.

But anyway, you don’t spend hundreds (thousands) of dollars on convention fees and airfare and hotel rooms and pub food only if you’re going to actually dive into that pond. So when the second day dawned, I pulled on some swimwear and got wet. The water was excruciatingly cold at first, and only slightly warmer by the end when I finally crawled onto shore like a beached whale, but damn it I came away with a couple of manuscript critiques and some short story anthology opportunities. (One of those opportunities came when an editor inadvertently dumped his entire beer all over me, a soggy mess which ultimately paid off handsomely by weekend’s end.)

It’s not comfortable, and it’s not my favorite part of the job, but I’ve already booked a couple of conventions for 2017 and hopefully it won’t take me so long to acclimate this time.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, a completed trilogy. In addition to writing science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.

The Late One – World Fantasy Convention

For most, convention season is winding down. While you can find cons at any time of year really, the bulk of the major cons take place during the summer months. But one major con is different, choosing to fight the power and place itself in late October or early November. And since I won’t be making it to any conventions this calendar year, that makes the 2014 World Fantasy Convention (which I did attend) the perfect one to write about.

I call WFC a major con, but that’s really misleading. While it’s a very venerable con with (it will be putting on its 40th convention this year in Saratoga Springs, NY) and it has a major genre award attached, WFC numbers in the hundreds rather than the thousands of attendees (to say nothing of tens or hundreds of thousands).

As opposed to broader media cons, it’s also almost entirely focused on books, and is almost entirely focused on business rather than fandom. WFC is a work con. It’s a place to go and network, to meet people serious about the business of writing and publishing. As such, if you’re someone like me, who doesn’t have a lot of time for con attendance, it offers a strong “bang for your buck” factor if your main goal is networking.

But I don’t want to make it sound boring, because it’s anything but. Sure, the focus may be on business, but this is still a place to meet up with friends in the industry and a gathering of some of the world’s biggest genre geeks. While it’s true that cosplayers are generally nowhere to be seen, there is still plenty to enjoy. Both times I’ve been (2014 and 2012 near Toronto) I had a great time. And frankly, as a pretty strong introvert, WFC’s smaller size is appealing to me (and I suspect I’m not the only introvert to whom that would be true).

As a Virginia native, when I learned that WFC 2014 would be in “Washington, D.C.” (and I say that in quotes because it was really in Crystal City, Virginia, just over the Potomac River from D.C.), I knew it would be criminal not to attend. Having a major con show up within driving distance really gives you no excuse to do otherwise.

As with many cons of this sort, while the panels provide a lot of quality programming, the real action happens in and around the hotel bar. You’ll find convention goers there at all times of day, their only concession to the rising sun switching to coffee instead of harder stuff. It’s always surreal to roam around the bar area, noticing various writers and publishing giants just sitting around, talking business or just shooting the breeze. I even got to discuss the 2014 NCAA College Football season with literary agent extraordinaire (and Michigan Wolverines fan) Joshua Bilmes after he noticed my Virginia Tech shirt.

As I alluded to above, WFC is also the keeper of the World Fantasy Awards, in the past won by such luminaries as George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Susanna Clarke, Madeline L’Engle, Gene Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin. The award winners are selected by a committee from a pool of nominees supplied by conference goers. There is a banquet to announce the winners at the end of the convention, which any attendee (provided they paid the extra fee) may attend. I attended in 2012 but didn’t feel the need to do so again in 2014, preferring instead to get home a little earlier.

I came back from last year’s convention with a bunch of new friends, a submission request from an editor, some great loot (a print of the A Memory of Light cover art signed by Brandon Sanderson and MIchael Whelan and a early-release signed copy of the Jeff VanderMeer Area X Omnibus), massive sleep deprivation and a whole lot of fun memories. If I had to do it over again, my only change would be to determine that our hotel wouldn’t allow more than two beds due to fire code restrictions. It made for a difficult sleep situation for our third roommate. At some point, I am fated by karma to sleep on the floor of a hotel room in Martin’s name.

So if, like me, you have to carefully pick your conventions and maximize your limited opportunities to attend, give World Fantasy Convention a try.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, will be available later this year. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens and the upcoming Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

From Plane to Progress

wfclogoWhen too many helpful incidences come together for a protagonist, we call it contrived. Sometimes, however, they happen in real life. Is it coincidence, divine intervention, karma? I know where I stand on the subject, since I’m a devout LDS Christian who believes in inspiration, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

After listening to some of the Writing Excuses podcasts by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells, I decided that I should try to go to the next World Fantasy Convention (WFC). This was about six years ago, and the convention was happening in San Jose. I calculated plane trip, hotel, and food and realized there was absolutely no way. Then, I remembered…my step-father-in-law had a daughter, whom I’d met once, who lived in San Jose. I felt like a mooch, but I was desperate and determined. I contacted her and asked if I could stay. She not only agreed, she was a spectacular hostess, drove me around, and thanked me for coming. I know, that’s not strange, it’s sweet. This is the unusual part:

While getting my tickets, I felt like I should go with a different airline than I usually do even though I had to pay more. With the upgrade came the option to pick my seat. I chose one at random, trying to get close to the windows, but then thought, “No, I should sit in this one.” and picked an aisle seat (which I don’t like), way too close to the engines. Months later, while sitting in said seat, I couldn’t help but pick up my companions’ conversation. After a few minutes, I put away my laptop and the book I was working on and got up the guts to ask if they were attending WFC. Not only were Gini Koch and Glen Glenn an absolute delight to talk with, Gini told me to find her at the con. With the numbers of people, I didn’t think I was likely to actually see her again, and I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the subsequent events.

Dinnertime the next evening found me by myself, deciding between a tasty sandwich shop (which I love), and Jimmy John’s (which I’m not crazy about). I grabbed the door handle of the sandwich shop and yet felt compelled to go to hamburger-joint Jimmy John’s instead. So I did. Inside, a group of Tad Williams fans saw the WFC bag, initiated conversation, and invited me to join them. Through them, I discovered the after-parties that go on in the hotels and the opportunities there to meet agents, publishers, and fellow authors.

Of course, I went to one and through the stifling crowds and multiple floors, Gini Koch happened to walk by and we met up again. Gini is a wonderful person who loves to encourage aspiring authors, and Glen is a fellow writer who has traded a number of works with me for critique and helped me grow more than I ever could have on my own. Gini introduced me to her agent, other agents, publishers, and took me under her wing. She has given me writing tips, done invaluable author workshops with my local writing group, and has helped me develop my craft until I felt confident in my abilities. I’m not sure I would have made it to publication without her belief in my potential.

Did blind luck, divine guidance, or something else bring me the friend I needed in my life at just the right time? Personally, I believe I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, but I’m also happy to leave my story to my readers’ interpretations. Maybe it will seem like fiction to you, but I know my story is too coincidental to be made-up.

Never Pitch to an Editor in the Bathroom

A guest post by Gerald Brandt.

I have been going to World Fantasy Conventions since 2008, when it was held in Calgary, Alberta. I had been “seriously” writing for a couple of years before that, alone in my office, churning out mediocre short stories, gathering rejections.

That year, I happened to go to a local convention, and met some other science fiction and fantasy writers. As a group, we decided that since the World Fantasy Convention was in Canada, we had to go.

Once there, I attended every panel I could, took copious notes, and got to bed early so I could start the next day fresh. I did manage to meet a few people, and made a couple of friends. All in all, a great convention.

I have learned how to do conventions better since then.

Out of our group of five that attended that convention, only two of us are still writing, and published. Of the people I met in Calgary, one became part of our little convention group, and we ended up hanging together at every convention we attended. This story is about Adria, Sherry, and me.

The 2010 World Fantasy Convention was held in Columbus, Ohio. All three of us were able to attend. We flew in at different times and met in the heart of every convention—the bar.

Columbus was beautifully set up, with the bar situated in an open area, right between the room the panels were held in and the hotel rooms. Everyone, no matter where you were going, walked through the bar to get there. Columbus is where I learned how to do conventions.

On Saturday night, the second day of the convention, two parties were held. There were probably more, but these were the ones the three of us were interested in. One was held by a small press out of Calgary: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing was doing a reading and a book launch.

Across the hall from Edge was the Tor party. Tor parties always start out as private affairs. After a couple of hours, they open their doors to the general riffraff. People like me.

Adria, Sherry, and I went to the Edge party after a late dinner and listened to some of the readings. A bit later, the Edge party got into full swing and we chatted with the people we knew, introduced ourselves to the ones we didn’t, and generally had a good time.

At one point, we ducked out to the hallway and walked into the Tor party. It was a zoo. There were so many people milling around the two-room suite, we could barely breathe. After about ten minutes, we gave up and went back to the Edge party.

Sometime around 1:30 in the morning, we decided we’d had enough. We were exhausted and ready for our beds. The hallway was relatively quiet by then, and we chatted as we waited for the elevator.

Someone in our group, I’d like to think it was me, but I doubt it, decided our night shouldn’t be over yet. One of the reasons we were here was to meet editors and agents, and from what we’d heard, the Tor party was the place.

We left the elevator and went back to Tor’s room. It was still full, but not nearly with the same amount of people as earlier. Even with all the people, there was no one we knew.

Throwing caution to the wind, we ventured in deeper, eavesdropping on a conversation here and there. Eventually, someone approached us, a smile on his face and a drink in his hand. He had noticed we didn’t have any drinks, and he knew where they were. Did we want one?

Hell, yeah!

The drinks, as it turned out, were stored in melted ice in the bathtub. Our generous host plopped down on the toilet and reached into the cold water, asking us what we wanted. As he pulled out our bottles and tried to get them open, he asked what we did.

Me, being the shyest of the group, didn’t answer. Sherry stepped forward and made the introductions. We were authors, she said, from Canada. The next words out of her mouth were “And what do you do? Do you write as well?”

The response was a quick no. “My name is Paul Stevens,” he said. “I’m an editor for Tor. Do you have anything to pitch?”

After a second of embarrassed silence, Adria took over, calmly pitching her latest novel while Paul sat on the toilet looking up at us. Sherry was next. By the time it was my turn, Paul had already stood up, and we moved outside the bathroom where I finished my pitch (with some help from Sherry. Thanks!).

They always say never pitch to an agent or an editor in the bathroom. It’s rude. It’s uncouth. But what are you going to do when the editor asks? That’s easy. Pitch your heart out as he sits on the toilet.

We each got a full request that night, meaning Paul was either very kind-hearted, or we pitched pretty damn well.

 * * *

As a follow up on where to spend your time at a World Fantasy Convention, it’s obviously the bar. You’re not there to get hammered and make a fool of yourself, you’re there to meet and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t try to sell yourself or your book. Just relax. The people you meet there—agents, editors, other authors—will all remember you, though it may take a couple of conventions. They say it’s not who you know in this business, and they are right. But if these people see you, year after year, and put a face, a personality, to the submission that crosses their desk, it helps put a human element into what can be a very difficult process.

I’ll see you at World Fantasy 2014, in Washington, DC.

Gerald BrandtGuest Writer Bio:
Gerald Brandt has spent most of his life dealing with computers, from programming to administration. At other times, he has flown airplanes, climbed sheer rock faces, been a famous mascot, waitered, flipped burgers, sold flowers, and learned kung fu. Born in Berlin, he grew up in Canada and gladly calls it home with his two kids, beautiful wife, and a shedding cat. Gerald is a long-time member of the Backspace Writer’s organization, and a founding member of Poverty of Writers, a local critique group. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter as geraldbrandt. http://geraldbrandt.com