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Upcoming appearances!

For whatever reason, winter always seems to be my busy season for Author Appearances™, and this year is no different.

Panel assignments for Continuum have been handed out, so those of you who’re in the area will be able to listen to me ramble at:

  • Out in the Open. Fan fiction used to be hidden away, subject to takedown notices, and sometimes kept secret from friends and family. Now there are successful mainstream novels about fic writers and readers, and some creators allow writers to earn money from their work. Is this legitimisation or exploitation? What has been gained and what’s been lost in the process? (Sunday 10th June @ 4pm)

Continuum is always a lot of fun, and this year is looking to be especially awesome, with some amazing panels (and panelists) lined up. If you’re able to make it down to (or, alternately, live in) Melbourne over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend you should absolutely grab some tickets and go along.


While it’s still a little way away, I’ll also be assisting in a panel on Author Platforms for the CSFG June member’s meeting (20th June). We did one of these two years ago, and it seemed to go down pretty well, so it’ll be interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in the intervening time (spoiler alert: the social media landscape is very different in this our post-CA/-GDPR world).

The meeting is open to all CSFG members, and if you’re in the area (i.e. Canberra) it’s absolutely worth joining up.


And, finally, to round off a busy authorial month: I’m taking a week off! By which I mean, “I’m taking a week off Day Job to try and finish up the dragon book, which got halfway done last year then put on hold for space demons.” So, yanno. A working holiday.

In other words: it’s gonna be a busy month.

I survived #Conflux13!

(With apologies to Cat Sparks, for stealing some of her beautiful photos, and Leife Shallcross, for the drinks photo, which was much more aesthetic than the one I took.) (more…)

2019-07-31T08:34:36+10:003rd October, 2017|Tags: conflux, conflux 13, cons, fandom, sff, xp|

It’s not about the pitching (baby).

Literary agent Jessica Faust on her experience at writers’ cons.

The take-home from this is that, for unagented writers, the big value of having agents are your cons is not pitching (any interest you could’ve gotten from a pitch session you could also have gotten from a slush query), but rather the opportunity to talk “shop”.

The inside of the publishing industry is both notoriously complex and notoriously opaque to people outside of it, including most unpublished authors. Even a lot of published authors are ratshit terrible at it, particularly if they got their careers started in the “pre-Amazon” age (and have never done work on the editorial side of things) because… I don’t know. The world was different then, or something.

In other words, if you are an aspiring author and you get the opportunity to talk to an agent at a con? Don’t pitch them.1 Instead, try asking them about their work–why the got into it, what they love or don’t love about it–and about the industry. Most people enjoy talking “shop” about their jobs, particularly to people who can ask intelligent questions and are good at listening to answers. Yeah, I know that’s not an easy skill–I’m rubbish at it, too–but it is something you can learn and you can practice.

Come with a pre-prepared mental list, if it helps. I’d suggest compliments to the books of an agent’s authors, questions about contract negotiations (e.g. “what do you look out for in a ‘good’ versus a ‘dodgy’ contract?”) and industry trends (e.g. “what are the current challenges you’re seeing in getting books into bookstores?”) are probably good places to start, and do your prep work. Know which authors an agent represents. Maybe scan insider blogs like The Bookseller or The Shatzkin Files to see if there are any Big Obvious Issues you have questions about. In other words, show interest in, a) the agent and her job, and b) the industry itself.

Why do this? Well, remember that pitching is a short-term skill that will open you a door… but the long-term skill is navigating the maze behind it. Being an author is, fundamentally, a business and your agent is your business partner. Showing interest in the industry shows an agent you’re interested in being a proactive collaborator in that partnership, rather than that you imagine agents as some kind of disposable “stepping stone” en route towards an editor (which is a depressingly common attitude in un-agented authors). Agents are not–and, often, are not even–just “gatekeeper” pseudo-editors; they’re business managers, handling contracts, royalties, and long-term business strategies. Which means they know things. Useful things. Things you’ll want to know, if you get the chance.

And then, of course, once you go home at the end of the con? That’s when it’s time to pick up that pitch, and send that email…

  1. Unless it’s, yanno, an actual pitch session. []
2017-09-14T10:07:12+10:0028th September, 2017|Tags: cons, publishing, xp|

The green peg.

On making friends when you’re the new person at a con.

I’m a deep introvert and incredibly shy, which manifests as a kind of aloof standoffishness. Nonetheless, even I managed to accrue a circle of Con Friends, mostly thanks to being adopted by more gregarious networkers (shoutout Alex and Elizabeth). Being passive about it–with the exception of joining the local spec fic writer’s club–it took maybe two or three cons to happen, starting from a baseline of “knowing no one”. So, yeah. If you’ve never been to cons before, breaking into “the scene” is damn intimidating. But, in general, people are nice, and most of the “aloofness” is a manifestation of the exact same feelings of anxiety and shyness you’re probably having.1 So… show up, and be patient.

Incidentally, at the last Continuum I was at, they has a system of color-coded pegs you could clip to your lanyard to show how open you were to approach from new people. Pretty much the only color I saw people take was the green “come talk to me” peg. I didn’t have a peg myself, for a variety of reasons, but I’m kinda interested to know how they worked out for people…

  1. I’ve had conversations with people that were basically “OMG I was, like, so intimidated you seemed so cool and you knew everyone and I was scared to talk to you!” from both sides, so… y’know. []
2017-08-21T08:08:45+10:0022nd September, 2017|Tags: cons, fandom, xp|

Conflux 13: Ye Panele Schedule.

Yikes. Only a week until Conflux 13? Where did that go?

For my sins, this year I will be appearing on four panels. They’re gonna be great. Y’all should come see them.

  • Magic systems in SF fiction: Friday, 29 September @ 10am.
  • Remembering Terry Pratchett: Saturday, 30 September @ 10am.
  • Reinventing the myth: Monday, 2 October @ 10:00am.
  • Wonderful, wide, weird, cruel & cool (worldbuilding): Monday, 2 October @ 1:30pm.

Or, actually. you should come see all of them except the Pratchett panel. Because I am totally, 100% going to cry in that and it’s going to be awkward for everyone. And by “awkward” I mean “amazing”. It’s going to be amazing. So come along!

2018-05-01T11:07:12+10:0021st September, 2017|Tags: appearances, conflux, conflux 13, cons, fandom, pop culture, sff, xp|

First aid for paper cuts.

On combating microaggressions at conventions. Notably provides handy lists of potential responses for calling-out or shutting-down gross comments, which are useful for those of us who can freeze up in social situations. Allies of all stripes; this one’s on us. If you hear something, say something! I know it’s hard. I struggle with it too! But just remember it’s much, much harder to be on the receiving end of microaggressions when they occur. Which most of you probably well-know, because intersectionality and all. So, yanno. Be the bystander–or, better, institutionally organised change–you wished someone was for you!

As a disclaimer: I was at the Continuum this post is talking about, though I apparently managed to miss all of the problematic panels and I had the luxury of having a pretty heavily (self) curated experience. Continuum is what I would call a “generally good con”, by which I mean it seems to make a special effort to be diverse and inclusive, although there can occasionally be a… factional split, may be a polite way of putting it, between more conservative, “oldschool” SFF congoers and, um. Everyone else. So yes, there are issues, and I think race is probably one of the areas the con culture in general is weakest in.

Also, as an aside–and for my own “papercutty moment”–it’s amazing what people with mutter to their friends while sitting next to you in panels if they think you’re too busy drawing to pay attention to them…1

  1. Spoiler alert: painting/sketching is a fidget activity for me. So yes, I am paying attention and yes I can hear you! []
2017-06-29T08:53:35+10:0028th August, 2017|Tags: cons, continuum, continuum 13, culture, fandom, sff|

Conflux 13 program thoughts.

So, holy shit, where did the year go? Apparently “somewhere else”, meaning Conflux season is hurtling towards us, fast.

Conflux, for the uninitiated, is Canberra’s local specfic (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and associated genres) convention and, unlike its sister-cons, e.g. Continuum, Conflux’s main Thing is that it tends to be more focused on the writing and craft side of things than the fannish side. Which isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of fannish things to do and see–there totally always are–so much as that it’s also The Writer Con, meaning there’s always a pretty strong programming track for craft and publishing.

Anyway. Confux’s program has gone up, so this is the part where I pretend I do some kind of scheduling and/or planning for where I’m going and what I’m seeing. Neat.

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2019-07-31T09:37:13+10:0021st August, 2017|Tags: conflux, conflux 13, cons, fandom, sff, xp|

Community.

What did I learn about the science fiction and fantasy community by going to this convention? Like any community, ours is kind and beautiful, but broken and imperfect. We’re going through some tough times. Often challenges to the status quo, especially those held valuable by men, will result in abuse. Kaffeeklatsch signups are terrible and need to be reconsidered. There are actually people who will look directly at you multiple times in group situations and snub you with no regrets and no one will say anything to them because they’re more important than you are. Many important conversations happen at the bars of various conventions. White men will ruin the end of a great panel by mansplaining to the women/POC panelists. Serious conversations and debates will spring up in the middle of a hallway. Everything feels a little surreal. If you’re me, in almost every new social situation you will find your personal Justin Landon and metaphorically cling to him because he makes you feel accepted and safe (you can’t have mine; I’ve claimed him). And, perhaps most importantly for me, I learned that empathy is easier in person, and being online can distort the picture you have of other fans if you forget that there’s a human being on the other side.

Renay on community.

I’ve only very recently been attending cons, mostly because I am painfully shy in real life, and I needed to have a professional-context excuse (i.e. having published a book) to force myself to get out of the house and socialize. It took a few tries, but I ended up meeting some amazingly awesome people, to the point where I spent pretty much all of the last Conflux at barcon (and had a great time while I was at it).

2018-05-22T09:00:51+10:0022nd December, 2016|Tags: cons, fandom|

I survived #Conflux12 and all I got was…

(…this badly photographed pile of awesome stuff!)

So yeah. I survived my second year of Conflux; go me!

Special big shout-outs this year to:

  • Elizabeth, for babysitting me and letting me crash her Dungeon World game1
  • Alex, for listening to me rant about Marxism, Evil Ernie, and pro wrestling
  • Rivqa, for WoW squeeing and letting me hijack her Ancillary Justice panel with my this-book-is-really-about-the-American-War-of-Independence/-Civil-War conspiracy theory
  • and Elanor, for sharing my love of Paul McGann’s Doctor and rage over Children of Earth.

I didn’t end up going to very many panels this year, mostly because I kept getting sidetracked by ranting at people in the bar (lots of ranting… lots and lots of ranting). On the other hand, I did get to do a workshop on the Friday where I had to create a YA character and book plot on the fly while being live critiqued by a panel of teenagers, and that was kind of traumatising, not gonna lie, so I pretty much needed the rest of the three days to recover.

Since it wouldn’t be a Conflux without a book haul, you can find the full list at GoodReads. I’m super-jazzed about Tansy Rayner Roberts‘ Mocklore books and Kaaron Warren‘s The Grief Hole in particular (and also super-jazzed that I got them signed). Tansy’s one of those people I secretly stalk online and absolutely fail at talking to in real life because I’m too busy dying of squee, while I fell in love with Kaaron’s writing after the last Conflux because ohmigod Australian female horror writer gimmie gimmie gimmie.

My other discovery this year was Meri Amber, who’s both adorable and writes adorable geek-pop you should totally go and listen to. She’s also the one who sold me my single most expensive purchase of the con: a set of metal rainbow Level Up Dice. Because seriously nothing says “beware the DM” like when she destroys your dining table by rolling her razor-sharp, heavy-as-shit, candy-coloured metal dice across it.

Zoltan says, "Showing up is METAL!"

Zoltan the Dungeon World Bard says, “Showing up is METAL!”

Metal was actually a bit of a theme of the con, I guess. Poor Zoltan, the Elf Bard with the power of METAL!. We hardly knew ye. (Also, I’m kinda glad you got killed off halfway through because holy shit was my voice wrecked from death growling the next day. Good thing I had no panels on the Saturday!)

Oh, and next year? Next year, we’re getting ribbons.

  1. Even if she did kill me. Twice. []
2018-11-26T08:05:27+11:004th October, 2016|Tags: books, conflux, cons, fandom, my art, xp|

Continuum 11 post-con roundup.

So yeah. Wow. That was Continuum. My first Real Live SFF con and also, terrifyingly, the first con I was speaking as a panellist at. I figured it would be a way to meet people, which it was, but also, holy shit. Speaking in front of roomfuls of people.

We were in the “big room” for both panels (more on which in a bit) and, like, spoiler alert, but for all I fake this confident, jetsetting, rich hipster persona online I am super fucking shy in the real life. So I fumbled through my intros and babbled through the half the points I wanted to make while forgetting the others, but hey. I did it. So yay me. Achievement Unlocked: Panelist.

Anyway, that was only about two hours out of the three days (the con is four, but we had to fly home on Monday, so I missed that day… boo Qantas), so what was I doing for the rest of the time? Going to other people’s panels, of course, because I am a talking heads fucking junkie. And also spamming my Twitter feed with livetweets which, sorry not sorry, because the con was great and y’all should’ve been there.

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2018-05-01T11:29:12+10:009th June, 2015|Tags: cons, continuum, continuum 11, fandom, makeup, sff|