Tag Archives: potlatch con

Potlatch Recap

March 8, 2010 – Back from the Potlatch con.

Their Web site describes Potlatch as a place where SF readers and writers meet on common ground. And that’s pretty much what it is. You don’t necessarily know, at first, whether the person you’re chatting with is a reader, a writer, a published author, a bestselling author, a bookseller, or an editor.

This is a little disconcerting, but overall, I really like it. I’m what you would call an author early in her career – a few short story publications under my belt, but no published books. I really need other authors to hang out with, and an informal setting is a nice way to do it. Some of my favorite times are when I’m in a circle of readers and writers talking about something a little tangential to writing – we may be trashing Star Wars, for example, discussing imaginary children, or commenting on how the sentence “I have to turn off my phone or it will take pictures of the inside of my pants pocket” would not have made sense twenty years ago. I also had a couple of wonderful in-depth conversations with people I like.

Here are the events I attended:

Friday afternoon writing workshop:
I took a writing workshop with author Ellen Klages (author of Portable Childhoods, The Green Glass Sea, and others). I’ve taken a lot of workshops, and I have to say, she was a breath of fresh air. There was general respect for all the stories (all of which were quite good and two of which – not mine – were nearly publishable) and a lot of laughs and running jokes. (“Three dyslexics walk into a bra.”) We took her for a beer afterward and talk ranged from the development and use of the first atomic bomb to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and googling one’s grandfather. I appreciated most of all that she had genuine enjoyment for stories and admired writers whether they were published or not – she told a story about a manuscript she had once read that was lovely and lyrical and wonderful but which the author never intended to publish, and how much she respected that.

Friday evening panel:
Authors Nisi Shawl, Ellen Klages, David D. Levine, Eddy Smith, and Natasha Oliver gave a panel on writing the “other” – how to responsibly portray characters whose ROAARS (race, orientation, age, ability, religion, or sex) differ from your own. For background, you can check out Nisi Shawl’s article “Transracial Writing for the Sincere.”

Saturday morning reading:
I went to a reading by Ellen Klages. She read some stories about interactions with her imaginary eight-year-old daughter. (Related stories have been published in her collection Portable Childhoods.) Nobody believed her at first when she said she has in fact no children whatsoever. “But it’s so spot-on!” all the parents said. “How did you know???” She attributed it to having been a child, but I personally think some of it must come from reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Or the child was an actual ghost. Or both.

Saturday morning panel:
I attended a panel on electronic publishing, presented by Vonda McIntyre, John D. Berry, and Janna Silverstein. It was a pretty high-level talk for authors and editors. Some topics included: the dreadful typography in ebooks; the cost of buying ISBNs for each version of ebook reader; a wish list for readers of ebooks; whether or not ebooks could do without graphics; and a question of whether e-publishing will destroy livelihoods for authors.

Saturday evening auction:
The auction at Potlatch benefits scholarships for the six-week Clarion West writing workshop – a fabulous cause, because it means that writers can participate regardless of income, which in turn means that upcoming novels will be more diverse class-wise. One of the high points: Ellen Klages auctioned off a dramatic reading of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story, with the phrase “Don’t touch D___.” Also auctioned off was a lock of hair from someone who, sadly, is undergoing chemotherapy. I scored, among other things, a book autographed by Vonda McIntyre and a lap blanket she knitted. The auction ended right on time, which was good because folks had run out of money.

Sunday morning readings:
Short-story author Vylar Kaftan gave a reading of a story she had written the night before. She had donated the writing of a 750-word flash fiction piece on whatever topic the auction writer desired. It turned out to be disturbing and squicky, but with an orange tree and a happy ending, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Eileen Gunn, author of the collection Stable Strategies for Middle Management, gave a reading of a hilarious time-travel story she had finished that morning, along with the funniest story I’ve ever heard about the writing-of.

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Potlatch tomorrow!

March 4, 2010 –

Tomorrow I’m going to the Potlatch con, held in Seattle every other year. I’ve been every other year since 2002, except for the 2004 one, which I fully intended to go to, but due to new-baby amnesia, completely forgot about. I’ve been introduced to, um, Scotch-tasting, the game Zen-Do with the Icehouse game pieces, fabulous reading lists, the Locus February issue (best-ofs!), cool people, interesting conversations, and informal skits of Nickelodeon show put on by a seven-year-old.

Tomorrow my story “Swallow the Clock” will be workshopped. I am looking forward to it and hoping comments might help me upgrade it from not-publishable to publishable. I’m slightly apprehensive, but not too much, because I’ve done a whole lot of workshops before. Also because I wrote the story several years ago and am not attached in the same way I’d be attached to a new story.

Books and Shows I love

December 3 2009 –

This year, I got reacquainted with L. Timmel Duchamp, author of The Marq’ssan Cycle and publisher of Aqueduct Press. It took me a couple months to work up the courage to approach her, but she remembered me from a story she critiqued in a Potlatch workshop in 2002 and from various times I’ve talked with her over the years, and she welcomed me warmly. To make a long story short, I’ve been posting over on her blog, and here is a post on the pleasures of reading, writing, and listening. In the near future, I’ll repost bits of that in this blog.

Next year will be an exciting one for me. I’ll be attending Potlatch and Norwescon, but best of all, the Fishtrap winter workshop. I’ll also be revising stories I’ve already written and submitting them to magazines.