Alcestis Books Readings Travel

Something like a con report

Wiscon! I went, I met a bunch of wonderful people, I had a seven-day-long migraine. Thank god for marathons of Law & Order on hotel cable when one isn’t up to anything more strenuous than lying down with an ice pack. (Ice machines: also a thing to be thankful for.) When there are gaps of time in the con report below, just picture me listening to the familiar tones of Sam Waterston in a darkened room.

I got to Madison later on Thursday than expected thanks to some goofiness on the part of Delta, who had decided, for kicks, to swap our full plane for a smaller plane and boot 20 people off. This did not go over well, as you might expect, and the process of finding a larger plane meant that we arrived about 2 hours late.

Wiscon itself is fascinating. This was my first con-attending experience of any length; I stopped in at World Fantasy in 2006, when it was held in Austin, but only to meet the two people I already knew who were attending. At Wiscon I was lucky enough to be guided around by Jen Volant, who knows everyone and happily introduced me to them all. When I say “everyone,” though, I mean “writers” — it seemed to me that there are at least two Wiscons happening simultaneously, a writer-centric one and a fandom-centric one. There’s certainly crossover between these groups, but on the whole, they seem to run in parallel.

And then there was the little pride of feral fourteen-year-old girls, daughters of older con attendees, all long-legged and bare-footed, who were clearly having their own shadow convention. We were particularly taken by their habit of occupying the elevators and demanding that visitors to their domain answer personal questions. When I got on, two of them were lying on the floor and punching the elevator buttons with their toes.

Friday I went out to breakfast with Jen and her friend Jessie, dropped off some copies of Alcestis at the Broad Universe table, later worked the Broad Universe table for a little while, went out to dinner with Jen and a huge group of people who I won’t try to name here because I probably would feel like a weird name-dropper, and finally ended up back at the hotel in the evening, observing karaoke shenanigans in which I did not participate.

Saturday I went for a short run (down fraternity row, by accident) and hit the farmer’s market briefly, though I’ve been spoiled by the Texas growing season and forgot that it would be all green onions and garlic. I love green onions and garlic, but it might be unwise to eat them raw in your hotel room, especially if you’re meeting a bunch of people for the first time. Madison is charming, but the layout of the downtown, the narrowness of the bit of land between the lakes, is the most fun part. There’s something really odd but pleasant about running down a normal block in a small city and then glimpsing the lake through the buildings ahead of you. (UW, any chance you want to hire a fiction writer soon?)

I got back to the hotel in time for the 10 am “Craft of Writing YA” panel, which I enjoyed but wasn’t blown away by. Maybe this is because I do tend to read YA writers’ blogs where many of the same issues are discussed. The panelists were all interesting and articulate, but I’d been hoping for something different, I guess — not that I have any idea what. Here’s a transcript of the panel, which is worth a look.

That afternoon I moderated a panel called “What’s the Future of the Past?” I haven’t found any transcripts of it yet, though somebody was live-tweeting it. Now that I’ve moderated one panel on this topic, I feel like I’d actually be prepared to moderate a panel on this topic well — I don’t think I did a great job this time, though I appreciate the great participation of the panelists, who muddled through quite well despite my cluelessness. As on the YA panel, the panelists were conversational and interesting and had clearly thought a lot about the topic, but it seemed to me that the conversation still sometimes felt like we were summarizing notions about historical fiction that have already been expressed rather than reaching for anything new. I think panels of this sort — the “gather a group of people to talk about a certain generic form” panel — may need a firmer moderating hand, and I wasn’t sure how to employ one, given my lack of experience with con panels versus academic panels at which everybody shows up with a prepared talk. This is something I want to think about for next time so that I can facilitate a discussion that moves into more complex territory. Also, note to self: next time, don’t have a migraine.

Saturday I also attended a fabulous reading by Jen, Meghan McCarron, Alice Sola Kim, and Anthony Ha — definitely a highlight, and I hope to be able to read what I heard in print soon.

Sunday morning, bright and early and migraine-y, I was a panelist on the “What is Feminist Romance?” panel, which was packed despite the 8:30 hour and was very ably moderated by Robyn Fleming. We talked about romance novels and about romantic storylines in other genres, and Robyn did a great job of distinguishing between those generic conventions. The same kind transcriber also recorded this panel, which I’m glad to see, because I think we ended up having an excellent and varied conversation (even if we did tend to get sidetracked listing features of romance novels/romantic storylines that are not feminist).

Sunday afternoon I participated in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading. It was scheduled against a reading by Karen Joy Fowler and Carol Emshwiller and others, sadly — I’d have loved to go to their reading! But we had a great audience and I enjoyed hearing snippets of work by other Broad Universe members, including Gwynne Garfinkle, another Team Diana Fox author.

And Monday I made it back to Austin without any complications, unlike just about everyone else traveling home from Wiscon, apparently. I had a great time and I am really hoping to be able to go again next year.

Books I bought or am planning to buy soon:

  • Christopher Barzak‘s One for Sorrow (bought on my Kindle, so I could read it before the con)
  • Greer Gilman‘s Cloud and Ashes (same, though I haven’t read it yet; I had a friend’s ms to read instead on the trip up to Madison)
  • Neesha Meminger‘s Shine, Coconut Moon (Neesha was also on the Feminist Romance panel)
  • Emily Horner‘s A Love Story, Starring My Dead Best Friend (Emily, too, was on the Feminist Romance panel!)
  • Karen Healey‘s Guardian of the Dead, which falls into the ever-growing category of “books I’ve heard about and keep meaning to buy but haven’t yet.”

And there are so many people I met who are currently looking for agents or publishers for books — I want to read all of those, too! And short fiction. Argh. So much wonderful stuff to read, so little time.


  1. It wasn’t awful the whole time, fortunately, but yes indeed.

    I wonder how many people at the con watched at least an hour of L&O at some point during the weekend? I’m willing to bet it was a lot.

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