Writers and Nebulas

If you’re involved with publishing or books in some way or another, you likely know that BEA (BookExpo America) is in Chicago this year (May 11-13). What you may not know is that there’s another literary event overlapping as well. The Nebula Conference is in Chicago on May 12-15 and will feature seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing.

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There is no one path to being a writer (except for the work of writing and revising). Some of us have gone through MFA or PhD programs. Some of us come from backgrounds in journalism or advertising. We are lawyers, teachers, therapists, burlesque dancers, parents, doctors, baristas, puppeteers. We have varied experiences, perspectives, and skill sets. Conventions and conferences give us the opportunity to learn from one another, and the Nebula Conference has assembled an impressive array of topics that are timely and relevant.

Here’s a sampling of the programming options for writers who register for the Nebula Conference Weekend:

Best Practices for an Author Website

Commissioning, Working With, and Compensating Expert Readers

Understanding Translation

Fighting the Harassment Game

Patreon

Podcasting for Writers

Language as Rebellion

Historical Research from the Margins

The Moral Responsibility of the Storyteller

Day Jobs for Writers

What Teens Are Looking for in YA Literature

The Future of Racism

Promotional Bootcamp

BarCon and other Secret Handshakes

So you want an assistant…

Western Narratives, There is No Single Voice in The West, So Why Do Only Hear From One?

Defense Against The Dark Arts: Protecting Yourself and Others From Harassment Online

Literary EstatesPart I and II (pre-reg required)

How to Give an Effective Reading

hodgman1Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the annual SFWA Nebula Conference will be held at the Palmer House and will include professional programming, receptions, and an awards banquet and ceremony with Toastmaster John Hodgman.

On May 13, a mass autographing session will also take place at the Palmer House that is FREE and open to the public. You can view the list of participants here.  (I’ll be there with Stephen signing copies of Geek Parenting! Stop by and say hello!)

While the organization sponsoring the weekend, SFWA, is a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres, the programming and speakers participating in the conference are pertinent to all manner of professional writers. From freelancing to social media, digital assets to agents—these topics transcend genre and will be presented by professional writers, editors, lawyers, and social media specialists.   

More information about the SFWA Nebula Conference can be found at: http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/2016-nebula-conference/

 Autographing

Writers in Chicago in the Summertime

Next month, Chicago is hosting the 50th Annual Nebula Awards and Nebula Weekend! A few years ago, I had no idea about the rich resources and networking opportunities afforded by something like the Nebulas. I really wish I had known, and so I’m passing this along to writer friends in the Chicagoland area (and those looking for an excuse to visit Chicago…Come!)

The Nebula Weekend is an amazing opportunity, and it rotates cities. This year (the 50th Anniversary!) and next, Chicago will hosting the weekend. (Chicago in June is so lovely–finally warm and sunny, but not yet sweltering. The lake breezes are perfection, and we have such lush, green spaces.)

The panels offered are targeted at authors. There will be a self-publishing workshop on Thursday, and experts are participating throughout the weekend to discuss things like the future of cities, intellectual property law, and selling your work to Hollywood.

On Friday evening, the Mass Autographing session is FREE to the public, with more than 50 authors expected to participate, including Cixin Liu, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jody Lynn Nye, Connie Willis, Aliette de Bodard, Daryl Gregory, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Liu, Fran Wilde, Alyssa Wong, Usman Tanveer Malik, Sam J. Miller, and so many others!

There’s also the Awards Banquet and Ceremony on Saturday evening with toastmaster Nick Offerman, best known for his role of Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation!

Incredible writers and editors who are brilliant and inspiring and delightful are coming in from all over the world. So because I adore many of them, and I adore many of you…you should meet!

Do let me know if you’re coming because I will be there all weekend.

Register to attend here! 

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Breaking Time

I asked my friend Pat Prather, a talented photographer for 8 Eyes Photography and a brilliant artist, to create a memory board that I could mount in my kitchen. It would be a place to put precious photographs and mementos so that I could see them every day.

Pat Prather's Steampunk/Nouveau Memory Board. (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)
Pat Prather’s Steampunk/Nouveau Memory Board. (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

Pat created not just a work of art, but a story told through the steampunk sculpture that surrounds the handcrafted frame, a story about a fairy who breaks time so that the memories can remain alive forever. (You can read about his process here.)

Close-up of fairy. (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)
Close-up of fairy. (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

I’m nostalgic, increasingly so as I get older. I often think back fondly to people I’ve loved, places I’ve called home, adventures and conversations that have had an impact on me. I’m grateful for them, really grateful for these experiences. They are treasures, and even as I look forward to the future, I am gratitude for everything and everyone who has brought me to this point.

“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
― Milan Kundera, Ignorance

I wanted the memory board to be a place to mount those sentimental treasures, and they are frozen there, snapshots into important moments. I’m slowly printing out photographs to affix to the board. Some are obvious choices: the dearest of family and friends. Others inspire, challenge or remind me, like the photograph of Gene Wolfe and me that I added last week.

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Close-up of Pat Prather’s Nouveau/Steampunk Memory Board

On May 7th, I met Gene for lunch to celebrate his 82nd birthday. Each time we meet, we chat about our lives and works in progress. I always enjoy Gene’s stories about writers he’s known, places he’s traveled, stories he’s read–so many memories, so much history. On the drive back to Chicago, I’m often lost in some Gene-inspired reverie or creative provocation.

This time, Gene mentioned an exercise attributed to Benjamin Franklin called “Imitating the Style of the Spectator.” The idea is that a writer should choose a piece of writing by an author he/she admires. After reading it over many times, the writer should hide the original text away and attempt to write the story from memory. Once it’s completed, the writer should refer back to the original and note the differences: the places where he or she forgot a detail, or did not capture the same mood or character, or had trouble with dialogue, and so on.

Gene did the exercise early on in his writing career with one of his favorite Lord Dunsany stories, The Assignation. He explained that there is much to be learned by studying the craft of the masters.

He’s right, of course. Gene Wolfe is a Master. This weekend,Gene Wolfe will be honored by the SFWA with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award for his contribution to the literature of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I am grateful for lessons I’ve learned not just from his writing, but from his friendship.

Just below the photo of Gene and me is a photograph taken from last year’s Fuller Awards to honor Gene Wolfe. That one has a group of people who are both dear and an inspiration. They each inspire me in their own way: to keep writing, to strive for excellence, to learn from the examples of the past, to connect with others. That night was one of those important moments in my life, a night to remember.

Unlike Pat’s fairy, we cannot break time (except in stories). Time will continue with or without us.

But I find that nostalgia can work like a touchstone. Memory and nostalgia motivate me to reach for the stars, to step into the chaos of creativity, knowing that I am grounded in the past and am part of a continuum that stretches backward and forward in time. Just like Gene’s exercise about writing from memory, there’s much to be learned from the intersection of what is and what is remembered.