Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Which We Hit A Conference!

Well, not actually "hit", but you know what I mean.

So Hannah and I hit up 4th Street Fantasy Conversation conference Friday Saturday and Sunday. We'd gone last year and wanted a repeat of the experience.

4th street isn't exactly a writing conference (though there's definitely a lot of writing discussion). You're not going to find any agents or editors (unless they're a panelist or just a participant), or have pitch sessions or chances to have your work read by industry professionals (unless you become friends with them or something).

4th street is set up as one giant conversation. There's a group of panelists, mostly authors, usually a fantasy fan, and sometimes an agent or editor, and they discuss, with the audience, the panel topic.

It's fun and I always seem to learn a lot.

Here's a run down of the conference (and like I said Monday, I have quite a few blog posts planned from discussions, so there will me more details on specific topics in future posts)

Friday morning and afternoon was reserved for the Writer's Seminar. This was an additional $35 (I think) and was one long panel devoted to a topic related to writing. For this year it was Writing Support Networks.

Elise Matthesen was the moderator and we spent hours talking to Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Bear and Patricia C. Wrede about their paths to becoming authors and the support networks they used along the way.

This, for me, was the best part of the whole conference.


Topic: Magic, Monsters, Metaphors
Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Caroline Stevermer

What was discussed: This was pretty much a big discussion about monstrous people and forces that could control them. Jekyll and Hyde was mentioned quite a bit as was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who, both who were good examples of men who, without their companions, could be quite monstrous.

Topic: Birth Control and Families in Fantasy
Panelists: Lois McMaster Bujold, Pamela Den, Sherwood Smith

What we discussed: I was really excited about this panel, but it kind of let me down. I think it was due to weak moderation and so the topic kept delving into real world discussions about women's issues.


It's a Secret to Everyone
Panelists: Anne Gwin, Will Shetterly, Patricia C. Wrede

What we discussed: This delved a bit into whether or not you as the writer are keeping secrets from the reader, or keeping secrets from the characters. Also discussion of surprise vs tension (A surprise is when people are playing poker and the table explodes. Tension is when we see a person plant a bomb under the table)

Topic: Feast and Famine
Panelists: Alec Austin, Elizabeth Bear, Jon Singer

What we discussed: mmmmm, food. This panel was deliberately scheduled right before lunch. Which was good because there was less talk about eating horses and dogs, and more talk about how stupid it is when adventurers cook stew out on the trail.

Topic: Middle Book Blues
Panelists: Steven Brust, Marissa Lingen, Scott Lynch, Sherwood Smith

What we discussed: Talks about how people can take as long as they want to write that first book, but once that's published, there's a lot more constraints when writing the second one

Topic: Scenes of Conflict
Panelists: Lois McMaster Bujold, Pamela Dean, Caroline Stevermer, Patricia C. Wrede

What we discussed: Another panel I was excited for and then a bit let down by. Discussion about how violence doesn't always = conflict and how emotion can equal conflict

Topic: Class and Colonialism in Fantasy
Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Will Shetterly, Ginger Weil, Skyler White

What we discussed: This panel created a lot of arguments and got off topic pretty quickly. There was a lot of discussion regarding how people imagined the middle class throughout different ages of human history and how they're frequently inaccurate


Novelty, Complexity and Mass Appeal
Panelists: Emma Bull, Scott Lynch, Michael Merriam and Sherwood Smith

What we discussed: A lot of talk about different levels of writing within the genre. That often a newbie to the genre sees something in the work as groundbreaking, but experienced readers of the genre find it derivative. But that everyone starts somewhere and there's nothing wrong with writing books as breakout genre novels for those who are inexperienced

Topic: Getting beyond a successful character
Panelists: Steven Brust, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ginger Weil

What we discussed: Both Brust an Bujold are authors of long running series with the same character. Brust said he would never tire of writing this character and Bujold says she struggles with leaving people wanting more before you've given them too much and ruine the whole series for them

Topic: Pestilence, Plague and Public Health
Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Anne Gwin, Stella K Evans

What we discussed: A great panel talking about the lack of public health concerns in genre fiction. I learned a crap load about cholera and was relieved to realize I often have characters with missing teeth and illnesses in my fantasy novels.

So that was the conference in a nutshell. I'll be going on at length in later posts about specific discussions and the awesome brunch Hannah and I had on Sunday (IT WAS SUPER AWESOME!)


Maria Zannini said...

I've interviewed both Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Bear.

Bujold is absolutely brilliant. I asked her a ton of questions that never made it to the published interview and I was awestruck with the depth of her knowledge and experience. I hadn't read her books before, but after the interview she made me a fan.

Talli Roland said...

Wow - it all sounds really interesting! I'd never even thought about birth control in fantasies!

Looking forward to hearing more about the conference.

Rain Laaman said...

Wow, where and when are these conferences and how can I go? Sherwood Smith and Wrede have written some of my favorite books ever! Oh, and the topics sound amazing...

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Maria - yeah she's awesome and SUPER smart - it was always great when she's on the panel. Hannah and i had brunch with her on sunday and had long chats

Talli - it was! And i'm always worried about pregnancy in fantasies, which is why i was so hopeful for the panel

Rain - oh sherwood smith was awesome! She was so smart and cool! 4th street happens every June around the solstice in the Twin Cities. Registration is already open for 2012 link here

Matthew MacNish said...

Was this in Minneapolis? It sounds awesome.

L.G.Smith said...

What a great gathering. I love the topics discussed. I often read Sherwood Smith's blog posts on Book Cafe and I can imagine she (and others) would be quite outspoken on a panel. :)

Angie Paxton said...

This conference sounds amazing. I would have gone just to be able to listen to Lois McMaster Bujold. I love her stuff!

Teebore said...

I'm totes going with you guys next year. I don't care what I have to do to make it happen.

Also, I was thinking about the stew discussion, and I wonder if maybe stupid authors just use the wrong term? Like, I could see characters on some kind of quest heating up a pot of water at night and tossing junk in it to eat before moving on.

But that, to me, is a soup, not a stew (which takes time to, well, stew...).

Jacqueline Howett said...

Sounds fun. I have never desired to go to one, but you made this one sound exciting. You sure did walk us through it with plenty of food for thought.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, you hit a lot of panels! I definitely understand the pressure to write faster after that first book.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Matt - not in the city itself, but right off 394 and 100. You should come some year

LG - she's awesome! Super sweet and nice

Angie - she was in a lot of the panels too, so you would have had that chance

Teebore - it was mostly to point out times where people are walking in the woods, then stop to eat stew for lunch. There was alos discussion abotu how you could eat stew on a trek if you had a cart and a straw box. You should def come next year. Early registration for cheaper cost goes through december i think

Alex - LOL yeah i bet you do!

She Ra Princess of Milk said...

I feel like I went to the conference!!!! Great rundown.... you know you inspire me to write better? Im thinking of doing a creative writing course dont know if I have the imagination to come up with a story though.... Anyway thank you xxx

Hannah Kincade said...

@Sarah/Teebore - Early registration goes through February, so plenty of time but I'm probably going to register as soon as I'm done moving. I hope Elise manages to snatch a few of the people she mentioned to us on Friday.

Rebecca T. said...

Oh man... they all sound so interesting! I love panels that go well - you get some really good info. Sometimes off topic works, sometimes it doesn't, but it looks like you had a fun mix of stuff :)

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