Con Round-Up Part II: BOSKONE

2020-02-15 09.10.40

Life has been weird ever since COVID-19 went global. The past few weeks have been simultaneously dragonfly-quick and slow as a New England winter. One day drags by while the next is gone in a blink, and time, for me at least, has become a fickle capricious thing, heavy as stone yet as hard to hold onto as a handful of fine, dry sand.

That being so, I suddenly realized it’s been a month and a half since over a thousand sci fi, fantasy, and horror fans gathered for Boskone 57, and I’m long overdue a con round-up!

Boskone 57 was once again held at the Westin Waterfront in Boston on President’s Day weekend. For once I had no program items I was scheduled for on Friday, so I was able to drive in and settle down, catching up with friends and getting in the mood for my Saturday panels.

photo CY 2
With con buddies and Boskone regulars Shecky and Clarence Young (the photo is Clarence’s)

On Friday I only watched a couple of program items. One was the interview with Holly Black, Boskone’s YA Guest of Honor. This brought a fun insight into Holly’s work and creative process, as well as a chance for a sneak peek at some of her upcoming projects.

I also caught the Fashion in Fantasy Worlds panel, with Janice Gelb, Melissa Caruso, Zig Zag Claybourne, Nightwing Whitehead, and Sarah Morrison. My main takeaway from the panel was that fashion in novels is about the flavor, not the details; it’s about how the character feels in the clothes they wear, and not necessarily the clothes themselves.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, and I was more than ready to go by the time programming started at 10am. I always like to sign up for a kaffeeklatsch if possible, and this year I was lucky enough to have the chance to sit down with the wonderful Charlaine Harris, who confessed that “I write because I get bored!”

Next up was Blood-Curdling Science Fiction, with Errick Nunnally moderating, and Julie C. Day, Nicholas Kauffmann, Darrell Schweitzer, and myself as panelists. We were supposed to be discussing the line between horror and sci fi, and since I write (and read) mostly fantasy, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But the conversation ended up being great, and I had a really good time. Our takeaway? That horror is a matter of feeling, and mashes well with any genre. Oh, and that science is creepy!

photo by Dana Cameron
Blood-Curdling Sci Fi panel (photo credit Dana Cameron)

I had a quick lunch and then went to Holly Black’s reading at 1pm — another thing I always like to do at Boskone is fit in a reading or two, if possible, as I really enjoy hearing stories in the author’s voice.

Afterwards, it was time for a panel on Editing from Agent, to Editor, to Publisher, with Joshua Bilmes, Beth Meacham, John Kessel, and James D. Macdonald, moderated by Melanie Meadors. Some of my notes on this panel include:

  • Polish your work as much as you can before sending it to beta readers (John and James) BUT don’t over-edit, as earlier drafts can have a raw intensity that can get lost in the polishing process (Beth).
  • “When a manuscript is accepted by the publisher, that’s when we like to say the real work begins” (Beth).
  • Remember that your editor is not supposed to be your uncredited co-author! Be prepared to do the work (James).
  • Revision letters: recognize that your feelings are going to be hurt (Beth). Give yourself time to absorb editorial critiques before reacting to them.

Later in the afternoon, I headed down to the New England Horror Writers Meet Up, hosted by Jack Haringa. I was delighted to find that I wasn’t the only ‘accidental horror’ writer around, and that lots of us tend to tread the line between horror and other genres, occasionally tipping one way or the other. For more information on this group, look up http://nehw.blogspot.com.

I had two more items on my schedule for the day, and I was in both of them! The first was a panel I was moderating, Books That Get Kids Reading, with Michael Stearns (who writes as Carter Roy), Julia Rios, and Trisha Wooldridge. Not a lot of people showed up to watch, unfortunately (the 6pm dinner slot is a tough one!), but we still had a great time exchanging book and graphic novel recommendations for kids and teens. Our panel was unanimous in several things, including our love for diverse books and our admiration for Carlos Hernandez’ Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (as well as for his publisher, Rick Riordan Presents).

To finish up the evening in style, I once again took part in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, where members of BU each had a six-minute slot to showcase their work. I love this reading format, which is like a literary taster menu of voice, style, and genre. For my turn, I chose an excerpt from my short story The Sugar Cane Sea, which comes out later this year in the Not All Monsters anthology by Strangehouse Books.

photo dana cameron
With Dana Cameron after the Law & Justice panel (thanks to Dana for the photo)

On Sunday I caught one last panel, Law & Justice in Speculative Fiction, with Leigh Perry, Kenneth Schneyer, Bracken MacLeod, and Diana Rowland. The panelists discussed how concepts of law and justice work — or not! — in fictional worlds, and what were some of the common traps that writers fall into, as well as pointing out a dearth of restorative justice in fictional worlds.

After this, it was time to pack up and return to real life. Boskone was, as always, full of wonderful conversations and inspiring panels and presentations — I was sad to take off my con badge, but it’s always exciting to get home and apply that creative boost to my own writing. And of course, to start the countdown to Boskone 58!

2020-02-14 13.29.10
View from my room

Check out my Con Round-Up Part I: SCBWI NYC

2 Replies to “Con Round-Up Part II: BOSKONE”

  1. This sounds wonderful. I saw the post pop-up and at first I thought, huh, how it’s quarantime! And then I read it and oh yeah, this was a little while ago. Lol. Any who, thanks for this lovely look back at your experience. I still haven’t been to a con but it’s nice to see them through the experience of another.

    So is your book considered horror? I haven’t read the sequel yet but I hope to get to it this year. I’m not much of a horror reader so I had to ask. It seems more often than not books fall into multiple categories. When I’m adding books on Goodreads I notice off to the right at there’s ALWAYS more than one category listed for where people are placing the book.

    These are great notes, thanks for sharing! Still working on my first draft but I hope to remember not to over-edit before beta readers. I like the idea of it being more raw for them. Rare not medium! 🙂

    I’ve not read anything by Holly Black although I’ve seen her books are quite popular. Are there any recordings or transcripts of the interview?

    Again, thank you!

    Like

    1. Thanks for your kind comments! I went to my first writing conference in 2014 (and my first SFF con in 2015), and I was terrified at first! But then you make a few friends, and get to know how things work, and suddenly it’s fun instead of scary. And there are lots of small bite-sized cons/writing events that can be easier to handle as well as cheaper/free to attend… (once we’re all allowed out again!)

      My YA books aren’t horror, but I have a couple of published short stories that definitely tread the line, and I have a story coming out this year in a horror anthology (even though I didn’t mean to write it that way and didn’t actually know it was a horror anthology when I submitted!), so I’d consider that I write SF and Fantasy with occasional horror elements.

      Re Holly Black, I’m not sure if there were any recordings, but if you like darker fantasy then her latest trilogy (which starts with The Cruel Prince) is great.

      Rare not medium! I love that and will think of it as I work on this new project. 🙂 Keep on with that first draft, and wishing you all the best with it.

      Liked by 1 person

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