Viable Paradise 14 was fantastic. We had a diligent group of students this time, all devoting their time to revision and composition. I performed adequately as sous-chef and stuff wrangler, occasionally terrorizing small children, and though the chili recipe I meant to get still eludes me, I had a great time. The first few days of the workshop passed in a haze of pep talks for talented writers suffering crises of confidence, 1:30 AM calls for help with critique, and late-night impromptu crit groups. Sadly, the bacon brittle I attempted did not turn out. I will have to experiment to see what I did wrong, so I can have a better chance at it next time.
Thursday I left the island (just in time to miss the good weather) and flew to Boston on a plane roughly the size of a lozenge, then from Boston to New York for Comic-con. I got to meet my editor, discover that she’s just as charming in person as over email, and discuss a few upcoming projects with her. Friday I had a chance to visit my agent, then work out a few outlines for chapters on my own before heading over to the Javits Center for Comic-con.
The panel was a hoot, and I managed to drag it into the gutter…er…several times. I regret nothing. I also got to briefly speak about Soul Hunt on an Eos/Avon preview panel the next morning, but managed to remain presentable through that. Mostly.
I also got to catch the performance of The Two Towers at Radio City Music Hall with a live orchestra and chorus, then joined one of the chorus members (a very talented writer in his own right, and damn do I want a copy of his novel once it’s ready) for drinks afterward. All things considered, it’s surprising that the con crud waited till I got on the train home to hit.
I don’t really have a full con report in terms of booths visited, costumes photographed, costumes causing an immediate need for brain bleach, and friendly people who I hope will enjoy the books they received. What I do have is a number of strange similarities between downtown New York and Martha’s Vineyard, all of which kept coming to mind over the weekend:
- Music. One of my best memories from my first year as staff is waking up to hear soft guitar music from the living room. This year, there was plenty, although any contribution I made was probably very off-key. When I crashed at my hotel downtown on Thursday night, it was apparently live music night in the bar downstairs, and so for the next few hours I heard acoustic guitar and a pleasant baritone singing nearby, muffled just enough that I was certain I knew each song but could never identify it. It made for a strange and welcome continuity.
- Direction. I grew up in a town where most of the streets run north-south or east-west, and it’s fairly easy to make your way through them. So while I’m always, always lost in Boston, I was able to find my way through New York fairly easily. (I also seem to have the look of someone who knows where she’s going, because I got asked for directions three times. The third time, I was able to give them.) In Oak Bluffs, I’m familiar enough that I can usually make my way through without too much trouble (minus the occasional confusion among too many similar summer homes). It helps that I have one big landmark: if the ocean is there, then the hotel is that way. But in both places, I’m working entirely on memory and deduction rather than any sense of direction. I could not for the life of me tell you which way was north when I was in New York, and on the Vineyard my knowledge ended at one end of the beach. What does it take, I wonder, to develop the natural sense of direction, the ingrained knowledge of landmarks and how the rivers and streets twist? And what does it mean that I’m starting to develop it in Boston — after mumble-many years?
- Community. Half of the fun of my first VP was suddenly meeting this group of people who all spoke the same language — all of them had experience with unruly characters, revisions from hell, plots that sprouted subplots like mint invading the next garden bed. That moment of click — of community, suddenly realized — is something that I’ve felt every year, and I love watching new students find the same. This also results in conversations on specialized and highly geeky subjects: linguistics, Doctor Who, production horror stories, the serial comma, and so on. At Comic-con, the geekery is both deeper and more spread-out: it’s on display, rather than buried in conversation, and walking through the Javits Center is like breathing an entirely different atmosphere. (Cue the usual joke about convention hygiene — seemed okay while I was there, but then I left by midday Saturday.) It’s a different form of social recognition, and one with which I’m less familiar, but it’s still very present.
Overall, both VP and Comic-con — and the week of recuperation I’ve had since — left me with a few new resolutions: restart blogging at the Magic District, finally get off my butt and put together a Facebook page, and update the dratted bibliography. (Not least because I’ve sold another short story to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, set in the same industrial fantasy universe as my recent stories…only this one’s about the brink of change from fantasy to industrial fantasy.)
I’ll have those taken care of shortly, but the writing comes first. If I’m lucky, I can get another chapter taken care of today. Or at least spackle some chapter pieces together. (It’s a first draft; it can get smoothed over later.) Onward!