Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reflections on LTUE #32

I’ll get back to Book Trailers, but first let me tell you where I was last last week and what we all, as humans, should know about the power of sharing.

"You want to buy my book? Yeah right."
I’ve attended the Life the Universe and Everything conference three times in my life. The first was way back when the earth was young and I got to play Magic the Gathering with Richard Garfield, the inventor of the game (he signed some cards for me - one says “tap: Johnny wins.” Totally legit.)

The second time was last year and now I just got back from this year’s conference. I’d say I was a regular now for going twice in a row, but the conference has been going for 32 years.

I seem to remember LTUE as being another sci-fi con, Star Trek and Babylon 5, some costumes, a few books, movies and a dealers room where you could by D&D dice. Fandom might have been the case then, but now, LTUE is a writers conference now. It caters to authors at the beginning of their careers – authors struggling to complete manuscripts, looking for clues to break into the world of publishing and learning the craft from those who still remember what it’s like to be where they are. There’s still a dealers room with dice and some gaming events - even a Magic the Gathering Tournament, but there be writers there now.

This year, for the first time, I was asked to sit on panels and share what little expertise I’ve clawed out of the ether about these things. I applied to be on a bunch of panels when and to my surprise, I got place on seven of them. I dare say, the best seven. Life’s good that way sometimes.

Larry Correia, Michaelbrent Collings,
 >>>>   Me,   <<<<
Holli Anderson, Michelle Witte
Being an insecure writer, (that’s a redundancy, I know), I wondered why I was chosen to represent as much as I was. Seven is a lot. I tried to remember any bargains I’d made at crossroads recently or look at the planners and figure out if any of them owed me money. I couldn’t find a clue. Maybe I was just available those days, maybe I had a relative on the committee I didn’t remember. Maybe it was magick. Maybe they’d made a mistake. Maybe I was just lucky.

I never found out why I was selected, and I stopped worrying about it. Instead, I realized I had an opportunity.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m an expert in anything – ANYTHING (I’m not even sure I could find a hammer in this house, and don’t even start on me what that thing on my back is - spider bite? new arm? I don't know), but I have been scratching at the wall a while and know a few things I’d wished I’d known before.

Peggy Eddleman putting up with me
When I started on this crazy career, I made a few rules, collected a few aphorisms to help guide me. I may have mentioned some of them: “Get your butt in the chair,” “Finish what you start,” “It only takes one yes to erase all the no’s” and, one of my favorites, one of the pearls of wisdom I gleamed from my exile in Oregon: “To achieve your dreams, help others get to theirs.”

That’s what the opportunity was for me. A chance to give back.

I don’t make a secret of how, for example, Michaelbrent Collings has influenced my career. He’s a workhorse. He’s a blue collar guy who grinds out greatness. My work ethic has much to do with him, if only in positive reinforcement and focus.

So many panels are just people talking about themselves. The ones that offer concrete useful advice are golden. Collings was golden. I want to be him, I want his success, I want to he lp others as he helped me. LTUE gave me an opportunity.

My coffee cup.
(And Orson Scott Card)
I was on a three part panel about writing a novel which was the awesomest panel in the whole convention. Really. I was also on a great one about writing horror. I moderated one about the apocalypse which was fruitful and offered advice on writing plagues. The one I was most stoked about, because it was going to be the most well attended was one on writing in culture. The keynote speaker, guest of honor, sci-fi legend, Mormon cultural lightning rod, Orson Scott Card was set to be on it. We’d have packed the house on that one. But, my luck ran out (or not) and Scott got snowed-in back east and didn’t show until the last day.

I prepared for each panel and fueled myself with caffeine and reflected energy from the crowds. I left it all on the field.

I think I might have done some good. I tried. I was asked to publish my panel notes online. I did. Here they here. I was surprised there was interest. And gratified.

I connected with lots of folks at LTUE. Not just at the panels but in the hallways and audience, in the coffee lines and lounge. LTUE is great that way. It’s the biggest writers convention I know, but it’s also the most intimate. I sat down with J. Scott Savage and Peggy Eddleman in the lobby and come away a better writer. Really.

(Jeeezz - look at that hover-hand!)
Candice Kennington, Me, Kasie West
Photobomb by Renee Collins
And this is my confession: for as much effort as I put out to give back, I took away twice as much. I feel like a cheat – a vampire sucking the energy and experiences from those around me. Luckily, it’s not a zero sum game. The energy is created out of the air, from the souls and hopes. Magical thing people connecting. Magickal.

I doubt I said anything that Larry Correira didn’t already know, but he said things that will echo in my career. Chatting with David Brown over lunch opened new ideas of self-publishing and school interaction. Absorbing the traditional publishing vibe from Renee Collins and Kasie West was like a stolen perfume. Talking tie-dye with other ex-Oregonians made my day. Meeting people with similar interests, problems and goals is positively powerful. Seeing how they’re coping with the problems is like money in the bank – knowledge and power. Shared with friends.

I didn’t sell many books, but boy am I richer for going to LTUE.

Can’t wait for the ComicCons and WesterCon. WHC in Portland? Fandemonium anyone?


  1. Loved seeing you there and listening to you. You are one of the people I quote when I get home. Oh, and the tie-dye is cool, too. :)

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  3. I loved meeting you!

    I always feel the same way too-- that I always get so much more than I give. Conferences like that are always amazing. Especially when there are so many incredible people to hang out with.

    And congrats on being on so many panels! That's awesome!