Sliding Down the Conduit

We got in on Friday with about an hour to spare before my first panel: “The Girl

Brad, Me, and Tammy

as Hero: Feminism in YA Literature.”   There I was delighted to be reunited with Tamora Pierce (see WW 5-09-12) whose role as Guest of Honor was one of the reasons Jim and I decided to attend Conduit.  The panel was lively and fun, one of those really good ones where  panelists trade ideas with enthusiasm.  I scribbled down the name of fellow panelist Mette Ivie Harrison on my “read soon” list.

After the panel ended, we met up with our good friend Julie Bartel.  Since Julie is a specialist in YA fiction (she’s a librarian), the discussion continued as we went to meet her husband, Kenny, and their three and a half year-old daughter, Nora,  at Ruth’s Diner.  The food was good.  The setting was an absolutely breathtaking canyon, green-furred with trees right up where the upper edge met the sky.

Following dinner, the Bartels took us for a tour of Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.  The architecture was splendid.  The statues and icons were fascinating.  For me, however, the gardens – especially the peonies, roses, irises, and delphiniums – were the best part.

Saturday began at 7:00 a.m. and was busy from start to finish.  First Jim and I went out to breakfast with my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Dick.  They showed us an entirely different part of Salt Lake City, including a misty view of the Great Salt Lake itself as seen from their deck.    We arrived back at the hotel with time for a deep breath and a comb through the hair, then off to a variety of panels.

First was “Gods in Fantasy” with Tamora Pierce (hereafter Tammy) and Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame).  As you may have guessed from reading my fiction, I’m a serious mythology junkie, so this panel was exactly to my taste.  Even better, we had three panelists with strong opinions and good manners.  That meant that even when we disagreed about such things as Campbell’s interpretations, the disagreement stopped short of us throwing things.  However, I think we could have easily gone on for another hour without anyone on the panel or in the audience minding at all.

However, other duties called.  For my part, I had a reading to give.  Following the panel, I got up to the room early enough to enjoy a good part of  Mette Ivie Harrison’s reading.  Then it was my turn.  Since it has been recently re-released, I chose to read from Changer.  Struggling with strange lighting and my reading glasses, I fumbled a bit, but my audience was kind and patient.

After that, I had enough of a break to get a cup of coffee and breathe deeply before my three  p.m. panel, “Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox.”  I mostly talked about my on-going collaboration with David Weber and the excitement of being asked to write a Man/Kzin War story for Larry Niven.  The panel as a whole  discussed the does and don’ts, pros and cons of writing in someone else’s universe.  Once again, I really enjoyed the contributions of the other panelists, one of whom was the trustee for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s estate and had some interesting non-writer insights into the topic.

Then came Tammy’s Guest of Honor presentation, so I happily shifted to the audience side of the room.  She read to us from her forthcoming novel Battle Magic, talked fluently about what had brought her to writing, and was in general very entertaining.   That evening, we went out to dinner again with Julie, Kenny, and Nora.  This time we went all the way out to Sandy.  They took us up into a granite-lined canyon with snow on the slopes and waterfalls spilling down the sides.  It was really impressive.

After a dinner of Thai food, we went back to the Bartels’ house.  Julie and I alternated between talking shop and playing “Beauty and the Beast” with Nora, complete with songs.  Jim and Kenny took over Nora for a round of “Aladdin,” so Julie and I could discuss impending projects.  Really, it was a very storyful evening.

Sunday morning I had my earliest panel of the convention: “Getting Your Stuff Published.”   We had a little bit of a snafu when media guest of honor, Tim Russ, started playing his electric guitar very well – but very loudly – on the other side of the thin partition wall.  However, the convention staff found us another room and we all trooped across the hallway and resumed our talk.

I wish I had a better list of my co-panelists for this one because I was very impressed by the balanced discussion.  Tammy and I definitely represented the “old” model: sell short stuff, gain a reputation, attract an agent, sell novels.  Several of the other panelists had taken other routes and were very honest about both the difficulties and satisfying elements of the newer models.  However, one thing we all agreed on was that networking remains an important intangible.

Right before the panel, Jim and I encountered writer Paul Genesee.  We’d met Paul a few times before, mostly at World Fantasy Conventions, where we could only chat briefly for a few minutes.  One of the great things about smaller conventions is that you get time to actually visit with people.  Paul (and Julie, who was still putting up with us) knew the convention hotel well.  They found us a room with comfortable furniture and we settled in to talk books, writing, mythology, the changing role of libraries, more books and…

Suddenly, I realized that we hadn’t had much to eat and that Jim and I both had presentations later in the afternoon.  Paul and Julie put their heads together to find a good place, close to the hotel, that was open on a Sunday in Salt Lake City.  They came up with an excellent “brew pub” sort of place.  None of us had any beer, but my wild mushroom pizza was fantastic.  We made it back to the hotel in time for Jim’s talk: “Archeology – It’s not Indiana Jones.”  Jim mixed personal anecdotes with the history of the profession and then took questions.

I had to hurry to my next (and last) panel before he finished with the questions.  This was “Fantasy Not Set in ‘White, Medieval Europe.’” We had a boisterous group of panelists, but somehow managed to provide both a wide range of suggested reading and some tips about how a writer might go about breaking out of the same-old, same-old fantasy model.  Tammy was particularly eloquent in her request that people stop re-telling King Arthur.  I emerged from the panel with Vodnik by Bryce Moore on my reading list.

This ended the formal part of the convention, but that evening we met up with Tammy and finally got to have the long chat we’d been hoping for.  We talked about writing, books, cats, World War I, and a whole bunch of other things.  Then with Tammy’s 5:30 a.m. flight looming and Jim and me anticipating (dreading?) a twelve or so hour drive back to New Mexico, we reluctantly parted ways.

Sound busy?  Oddly enough this doesn’t even touch on half of it.  It doesn’t mention the short but interesting chats with readers before and after panels, the really great costumes, the helpful convention staff (thank you especially Eddy and Tamara), the incredibly weird weather…  Part of writing is knowing what to put in, what to leave out.  I hope I’ve chosen rightly and kept you just a little amused.

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5 Responses to “Sliding Down the Conduit”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    Thanks for the great report, Jane.

    Apparently, some climate scientists are suggesting that “global weirding” is more appropriate than “global warming.” We’ve had nice weather so far this year, so I can’t say much.

  2. Barbara Joan Says:

    Totally enjoyed the report on the convention.

  3. janelindskold Says:

    Glad folks enjoyed.

    I went into this much detail for an additional reason than the obvious.

    Most people assume it’s “easy” to be a pro at a con. One “ghost” even referred to this trip when it was coming up in a fashion that implied I was going to a party.

    Actually, it’s a lot of work. Especially when I’m moderating, I probably put in more time in advance of the panel than the panel itself takes…

  4. heteromeles Says:

    And I think we all appreciate that work.

    By the way, I hope you’re not getting too much smoke from all those fires.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Most of the smoke hit here when we were in Utah. However, it’s been a bit overcast, so I think it is influencing our weather.

      On the good side, this meant I was able to get the grand finale of my garden in without the plants having to suffer the full force of the sun.

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