Um. Er. Ah. Eek. Uh. Gaaa.
Yeah. That was me at Stellarcon 2011 as I walked amongst the minor deities of the writing world when it was held in High Point, NC the first weekend in March.
Intimidated and tongue-tied is to put it mildly. I knew authors would be there: David Coe, Faith Hunter, Allen Wold, and Todd McCaffrey to just name a few. More than a couple have books residing on my shelves.
Somehow I thought they would be separate from the rest of us. But no they walked among us freely and it was all I could do not to drop to my knees, bow and chant, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.”
I have to tell on myself. I make a lousy fan. This fact has been known by me for some time. My first clue was when I met Simon Hawke and managed to insult the guy. I liked him, I really did.
We talked for a while about religion and argued briefly about what modesty meant in the Middle Ages. Still one day at work I was abrupt with him. I wasn’t mean but I wasn’t friendly either because it was one of those days and my mind wasn’t on practicing good social skills.
He quit a couple of days later and I never saw him again. Do I think he quit because of that? No because the job he was doing was way below his skill level. The question was not if he quit but when.
Two things I learned from him. One is about cons. It is excruciating to sit next to Stephen King or Barbara Hambly at those things. He said that for his one fan they had hundreds. Writers have to have tough hides. Two, don’t wait to apologize or it haunts you.
I couldn’t stand the guilt so I went and bought some of his books. He is a good author and cool; a wears leather and rides a motorcycle kinda cool. The books I bought? They were the ones set in the Middle Ages.
My second clue was an encounter with the Celtic Rock group, Hunting McCleod where they were performing in Frederick, MD.
All I could do was follow them around saying how much I loved their music and how I’d come all the way from N.C. to watch them perform. Fortunately, I remembered clue #1 and managed to keep from insulting them, too.
They were nice to me but they were probably thinking, “Geez. Get a life, eh?” (They’re from Canada), “get this crazy lady away from me!” or quite probably, “I need a drink.”
Either way I love their music and hope they’ll start performing again someday. No I did not have anything to do with their leaving the music business. A personal tragedy for one of the band members did that.
Clues one and two went out the window when I wasn’t looking during Stellarcon. My only excuse is I got nervous, stressed, a bit intimated and therefore I kept a headache the entire weekend. There’s no telling what I did.
After all, I am the one who read a book during one job interview (I swear I do not remember that) and flipped her panty hose in another (unfortunately I do remember this).
I just did not think. What does Holly Lisle say? Feel never thinks. It was never more true than that weekend.
So Allen Wold has a writer’s workshop that weekend and of course I go. What a wonderful gracious man he is. Here is a man like Paul Newman to me and yep, I think I insulted him.
In reality he is a gentleman of medium stature with long white hair and beard; think Tolkien’s fantasy world. I picked up his book, The Eye in the Stone, many years ago in a used bookstore.
I loved the book and looked for sequels but didn’t find any. Nothing else was published so the book remained forgotten on my shelf until the workshop. When the first part of the workshop was complete I asked him if he was the same author.
When he admitted to such I asked him if he would mind signing my copy. He said he would. Please refer to the first two clues as to why I make a lousy fan. This is the third clue.
When I handed my used copy to him with the used bookseller’s stamp on it he gave me such a look I wanted to sink through the floor. Now I know how many authors feel about used books but it truly wasn’t my intent to upset or insult him. If I had found a new book by him? I really would have bought it.
In my defense though? I did the same with Sherilyn Kenyon. She didn’t flicker a lash and was happy to tell me she would be writing sequels. Different authors, different circumstances. Lesson learned. I went to several of his panels and he was always gracious and informative.
Allen Wold was the moderator of the writing workshop but there was also his daughter, two editors and another author to help critique. We had to write in 100 hundred words or fewer about a character.
There needed to be a setting, a time, a place, a problem to be solved and there needed to be a hook and a barb. A hook and barb that could only be answered by reading further.
Awesome. In one little workshop, doing this one little exercise I learned what should be in the first 100 words to begin your story. The man is awesome.
Every person there wrote a great piece. Me? My critique wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad. I had a hook but it was weak, I was trying to combine too many genres and I didn’t start with a strong enough sentence. We were invited to come back with revisions the next morning.
I pouted for a while but rewrote and prepared myself mentally for Sunday morning. To my surprise some people’s revisions got them worse reviews than the day before but they took the critiques well. Mine was mixed again but over all better. Everyone was told their work would pass the slush pile. Faint praise but I’ll take it.
I have to tell this story and I’m done for today. There’s a story I’ve heard at least twice about the newbie writer at a con who followed an editor to the bathroom and shoved her manuscript under the bathroom door for the editor to read. If true all I can say is, “That poor editor!” But what if the shoe is on the other foot?
Saturday after the workshop one of the women editors approached one of the writer attendees and asked her about purchasing the story she had just started in the workshop. It was bizarre. It was amazing. Every panel at the con kept saying not to expect this to happen and yet here it was. It was happening.
The writer did not react well. In fact she was rather negative as she kept telling the editor she was working with another editor on a book due in May. I kept thinking so what? Just say yes. So many other people would give their right hand for that offer.
Who knows what the woman was thinking? Maybe it was shock that a little throw away lesson was turning into a publishing offer. Perhaps it was the location and she was a little put off by that.
But then I have to ask. Would you turn down an offer like that even if it was made in the ladies restroom at a Best Western?
More on Stellarcon and the writing panels next week.