Monday, August 6, 2018

ArmadilloCon Wrap-Up

I got to do one of my favorite things this week!

Not snuggle a baby, although I did get to do that too, so maybe I should say I did two of my favorite things. The baby part was extra sweet since he's the "new model" of Dzierwa, as in my good friends James and Julia. I had a wonderful time seeing the three of them, and after chatting with Julia I think I worked through a personal roadblock that's been hounding me for years. It sure is good to have good friends.

But the favorite thing I mean in particular is ArmadilloCon. It's a writing conference, and folks... it's by far the best one I've been to. In large part that's thanks to the pre-con workshop, which not only lets unpublished writers get their work critiqued by professionals but also automatically sets up a built in group of people to hang out with for the rest of the weekend. I hadn't been to this particular con in about eight years since it's all the way in Texas, and it was so so good to go back.

The two mentors in my workshop group this year were Deji Bryce Olukotun and Patrice Sarath. I read Deji's book After the Flare ahead of the con, and found it original and compelling.

Of course, Patrice has been a friend since my first ArmadilloCon over a decade ago, and I've read all her novels. (Go check out her latest, The Sisters Mederos!) She is such a generous soul. I tend to find that at every con there's one person who gives their time and energy to make sure other people have a good experience, and at ArmadilloCon that's Patrice. She's great to talk to, and she always has excellent advice for me. I'm very fortunate to have her in my life.

On the night before the workshop Patrice invited me out to dinner at Fonda San Miguel, the most atmospheric restaurant I've ever been to. The decor was exquisite and the food most excellent. We walked in the door to be greeted by this fellow, and the whole rest of the establishment was no less captivating.

On the way to dinner I got to meet Holly Black, who rode with us to and from the hotel. She's incredible, and listening to her read from The Wicked King later at the con was such a treat. She's a phenomenal story-teller.

And look! Proof! (She's the one in the blue hair.) On the left in this picture is my new friend April, who was one of the other students in my group. We both write (and enjoy!) the same sorts of books, and I had a great time palling around with her all weekend. She'll be one to watch! I look forward to seeing where her writing career goes.

Other highlights: new friends, old friends, fantastic panels.

I met a really awesome artist named Rosemary Valero-O'Connell (one of the guests of honor), who was incredibly sweet and great to chat with. I wish I had gotten a picture with her! I picked up her graphic novel, and the art is lovely.

One of those old friends (Marshall Ryan Maresca) is someone I've gotten to watch transition from unpublished writer to published author to prolific author. I went to his reading (which was excellent--The Way of the Shield is coming up soon, and the first chapter is great!) and saw him on several panels.

My very favorite panel of the con was one that he moderated. It was on managing a writing career, with Holly Black, A Lee Martinez and Rebecca Schwarz. The whole panel was a strange but wonderful blend of hysterical, sobering and reassuring. At the very end Holly shared about how the fear of the next book tanking never goes away, even for someone as brilliant and successful as she is. As time was coming to a close, Marshall wrapped up the panel with "And so to sum up: fear is a motivator, play video games, your life will be terrible. Thank you and have a good night." The whole room lost it laughing.

I'm back home now--got in at 2am last night, in fact. I'm still feeling a bit foggy from traveling and sleep disruption. But I'm processing all the good things that happened this week and looking forward to going to ArmadilloCon again some day... hopefully before another eight years go by.