This was my second "running with the Penguins" and I had a blast!
Last year, I participated as a speaker on several panel discussions, read from my short story collection (okay, DRAKE's short story collection) and volunteered in the bookshop a little bit. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and I came home tired... good tired.
This year, I took a different approach... I didn't participate on any panels, and focused on experiencing the Con as a writer instead. I still volunteered at the bookshop... I'll always do that... but this year, it was nice to get out to some of the panels and sit with the "regular" people rather than present. It's a different type of exposure to an event that has so much to offer. I enjoyed having this different perspective. It was fun.
I took part in a panel on pitching your MS to whomever... this was a great way to be reminded that a pitch, whether in an elevator or at a festival, is NOT necessarily your back cover blurb. I knew this already, but of course, who among us doesn't need an occasional refresher course?
I attended a panel that discussed the wonderful writing of Ray Bradbury and how he influenced other writers of that genre. I also attended a session devoted to the mechanics of writing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. I loved this session because this is something that's on my list of writing projects. I've toyed with it for several years, but couldn't quite grasp the nuts and bolts of the build. This session was extremely helpful in showing me an effective flow process. Now, that project is again closer to the front burner... not like I don't have enough irons in my creative mind's fire already!
There was a lively discussion about Tropes. This session was particularly helpful for me... not because I'm confused with what tropes are or how to use them, but because I'm planning a major collaboration project that focuses on using tropes as a momentum vehicle for the story's progression. I'm being cagey about this right now because it's a great idea, and I'm still working on the specifics with a team of outstanding writers. But, stay tuned, because more details will be leaking out shortly. Tease? Me? Never!
There was also a very supportive discussion about attaining your MFA on your own terms... DYI. Hearing about the positive aspects of designing your own degree program was a great reminder that the writer doesn't necessarily need a "credited" program to learn more about craft and thrive as an author. There are a lot of accelerated workshops and low residency retreats that can fuel the writing flames just as effectively, without the long-term commitment or cost of a degree program. The information given to us regarding programs and pricing was helpful, as were the tips and tricks of how to choose the best program for your style of writing.
The discussion group I enjoyed the most, I think, was the panel on Subversive Fairy Tales. This was a delicious romp through the world of what is and isn't a fairy tale, and the history behind them. So many people equate these stories with a Disney-esq approach, and it was refreshing to hear that other writers loved the original, darker tales, as I do. The Grimms Brothers didn't have talking animals in their stories, and they frequently didn't end happily ever after - regardless of how strong the orphan was at the end of the story. This conversation stimulated yet another story idea... and this is exactly why I enjoy Cons so much. You never know where your next story idea may come from, but you're certainly to locate many of them at a Con, if you sit, listen, and watch for a while.
Rounding out the event was time spent with fabulous authors, hearing them read, discussing craft, marketing approaches, and books, in general. I was honored to hear many authors read their work, including Michael W. Lucas, David Erik Nelson, Mary Lynne Gibbs, Jean Davis, G.S. Scott, Brigham Vaughn, and Clif Flynt. Cons are wonderful for networking and making new friends. I even got to play with baby Kit throughout the weekend!
The staff at The Westin in Southfield were exemplary, as usual. Kindness and cleanliness permeated the weekend. The staff got involved by collecting ribbons to show their support, and every one of them had a smile and a "hope you're having a great day" to add to the experience. This truly is a wonderful venue to hold a Con, and I can see why the organizers of Penguicon keep coming back.
Authors, Books, and a Baby... a great way to spend a weekend... even considering the wee bout of ConCrud that came home with me. Will I do it again next year? You Betcha!
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