It’s been two weeks since I attended ArmadilloCon in Austin, and it’s past time I posted a recap.
On Friday (8/27), I participated in the optional Writing Workshop, which attracted about 50 aspiring writers. We spent the morning having a panel discussion about publishing and playing a couple of writing games. After lunch, we broke into critique groups. In each group, two instructors and five participants got together to give feedback on writing that the participants had submitted a couple of weeks earlier. The workshop had a slew of great instructors lined up, including Ilona Andrews (Ilona and Gordon worked as a team), Rachel Caine, Julie Kenner, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Ace/Roc editor Anne Sowards, and Joe McKinney, a real-life homicide detective who writes horror, mystery, and science fiction.
The other instructor in my group was horror writer Lee Thomas, an awesome writer who offered astute insights and helpful suggestions for every single story. And the stories we got to read were fun: a couple of horror stories (one about zombies and the other a frightening twist on the grumpy-old-man-who’s-really-a-softy theme), a comic sci-fi story, a swords-and-mages mystery, and a haunting story about a dying opera singer who faces a difficult, otherworldly choice. I was especially impressed by participants’ ability to offer feedback that was constructive and respectful. It’s a scary thing to hand out your work for critique, but there were no tears in our group. It was a productive exchange among colleagues.
Especially once we got down to business with our critique groups, the workshop was interesting and productive. And fun. It helped that we had good stories to work with. Wherever the story was in the writing process—in other words, whether it needed substantial revision or was close to being “send it out” polished—these stories had potential. Each one was on its way to becoming a story that could entertain, unsettle, frighten, or make readers think. I was impressed.
I didn’t go to Texas just for the conference. My daughter lives in Austin. On Thursday, the day I arrived, I went out to dinner with her and her boyfriend (hi, Sean!). We went to North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery, not far from the conference hotel, where I enjoyed a tasty amber ale, a good meal, and a fun conversation. On Friday evening, we skipped the con’s opening ceremonies and went out for Mexican food. (I mean, how can someone from NY state NOT get Mexican food in Austin?)
I can see why they say Austin is a foodie town. I think that on the flight home, I weighed down the plane by five pounds more than I did on the trip out. Good thing that airlines aren’t yet weighing passengers and charging by the pound…
More to come (ArmadilloCon recaps, not pounds).