Friday, June 24, 2016

Horror List Book Review: Shadowland

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.

This week I'm reviewing Shadowland, by Peter Straub.

I had trouble getting into this one, possibly because it was very removed from my own personal experiences. It's a coming of age story that begins in a boys' prep school with a bunch of privileged kids. There are some odd occurrences, but it's all minor at this point. There's a terrible bully named Skeleton, who becomes increasingly psychotic and dangerous. Even his own father has no idea what to do about him. 

And that's all I really have to say about the first 2/3 of the book.

It got interesting shortly after a fire in the school. Two of the boys, Tom and Del, leave town to go to Del's uncle's home to learn about magic. The uncle is obviously damaged. Del is afraid of him, but wants to be like him. Things get strange, with a mysterious young woman and a troupe of freaky men added to the mix. The uncle isn't just performing illusions -- he possesses real magic. He's twisted, and in need of an apprentice to hand it all over to, but his way of testing this is to torment the two boys. It soon becomes apparent that he sees more than he should, and that he has controlled things leading up to the boys' arrival.

Peter Straub wraps in a magical fantasy with the horrors of a disturbed set of adults. Things get confusing, because the characters are confused, embroiled in one man's insanity. The pacing is slow in the beginning, and a surprising amount of time is dedicated to the mundane. There were also details that got overlooked or left behind. The boys are there to learn magic, but all we see is some showing off on the uncle's part, with no learning occurring. Yet, one of the boys must stand up to him later in the story to overcome him, and just magically knows...magic.

Not my favorite, but Straub's writing power can't be debated. Maybe this would be more appealing to a male, or maybe it fell flat for other reasons.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
10. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
11. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
12. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
13. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
14. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
15. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
16. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
17. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
18. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
19. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
20. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
21. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
22. World War Z (Max Brooks)
23. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
24. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
25. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
26. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
27. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
28. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
29. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

The next book I'll be reading is Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you enjoy Peter Straub's writing? What's your favorite coming of age story?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Factions of Writing

Before we jump into today's post, if you're going to be at Denver Comic Con, please look up my schedule on my Appearances tab and come say hi this weekend. I'll be talking monsters, fairy tales, and short stories, as well as signing books.


When I became a mom, I discovered there were factions. Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. Breast feeding moms vs. formula. Disposable diapering moms vs. cloth. Vaxers vs. non-vaxers. I'd just thought when you were a mom you were part of the Mom Club, and that you minded your own business, and all was well.

I was mistaken.

This was my first big introduction to the fact that cliques form in high school because humans need to feel like a part of a group in order to figure out their own identities, and that this continues long into adulthood. It may take a different form than the infamous high school clique, but it's really all the same thing. Feeling like a part of a group apparently means you have to feel like you are somehow better than another group. We see this in religion and politics all the time, but it certainly doesn't stop there.

When I became part of the writing world, I found it there, too. I'd been writing for a long time, but I was not part of the Writing World before. I once again found myself embroiled in factions. Indie vs. traditional publishing. Genre vs. genre. Oxford comma vs. skipping the Oxford comma. Short stories vs. flash fiction vs. novels vs. poems. I discovered some groups look down on other groups. Horror is often seen as less than the rest of speculative fiction, and there are those that say the writers of horror must be terrible people, lacking in empathy and remorse. Romance writers are treated as if they're unintelligent or lack writing ability. Poets and other types of authors glare at each other over a wide divide.

Writers of certain genres are often stereotyped in these ways, and it isn't limited to romance and horror. Is it true you can sometimes tell what a person writes before they tell you? Yes, this does happen. And it's not a bad thing, but when it reaches the next level, it takes a dark turn.

Why do we do this? Looking at the reason for the formation of cliques, people need to feel accepted. I don't think anyone sets out to be part of a clique. They identify with a group of people, gravitate toward that group, and subconsciously work to prove they deserve to be there. Sadly, this can take the form of putting down other groups. Then you get your factions. It happens in prison. It happens in the business world. It's everywhere.

Of course genre writers are going to be pulled toward each other. If you write romance, you're going to enjoy talking to other romance writers, because you can compare notes, bat around ideas, relish the intricacies you're intimately familiar with. Mystery writers can discuss the best places and ways to hide bodies and plant clues. Historical writers can point out the best places for research. There is support, comfort, and safety in being around like minded people. Moving toward those you identify with doesn't make you a bad person.

But putting down other people to raise your status does.

I see this way too often. College educated folks putting down those who did not go to college. Moms putting down other moms. Traditional and Indie published authors at each others' throats. Genre vs. genre vs. literary vs. poet.

It's seemed amplified to me lately, and I don't know if that's because tensions are so high in the States with such a contentious presidential election going on or if it's symptomatic of a growing sense of helplessness, but I wish everyone could remember that, no matter your faction, we're all people. No one's better than anyone else. No method of doing something is better than any other. If we all did everything the same way and liked the same things, life would be incredibly dull.

Instead of putting someone else down, talk to them and find out why they enjoy the things they do, why they do things a certain way. Understand a different viewpoint. Settle your empathy in place and learn about other people. All it can do is enrich your own experience.

To be clear, I'm not just talking about writers here. Humans are given empathy for a reason. We're given the ability to use logic and reasoning, and we should use it. You can maintain your status and your own individual personality without ripping someone else apart to do it. That, at least, should be where adults grow out of their high school ignorance without losing the person they created and got to know during that time.

Edited to add a note: This post was written before the shooting this weekend. There was also an issue of a racist comment one author left on another author's Facebook yesterday, which has blown up. While I did not write this post about homophobia and racism, it certainly applies. I wish we could spend less time splitting ourselves into groups, and more time working together and caring about each other.

Now for links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a market or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

Outlook Springs is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry "tinged with the strange." Pays between $10 and $25, depending upon submission type. Deadline July 15.

Helios Quarterly Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. Current theme "Miscommunication." Pay varies by type of submission. Deadline June 30.

Bad Apple Zine is seeking YA fiction with a taste of the fantastical. They want at least one story per issue written by someone between ages 16 and 21. Pays £15.


Winter Tangerine Review is holding the Winter Tangerine Awards. Only those who have not published a collection or novel may enter. $250 cash prize, plus publication. No entry fee. Deadline July 1.

FutureScapes Writing Contest asks you to envision a certain world and write about it. Up to 8000 words. Cash prizes, $2000 for first; publication. No entry fee. Deadline July 15.

What factions have you noticed as an adult? What cliques did you discover hovering around that you hadn't been aware of before? Have you inadvertently found yourself as part of a clique? What did you do about it? Are any of these links of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Cat Fight Silhouette, by OCAL,
*Cartoon Ninjas, by Kelly,
*Closed Fist, by OCAL,
*Boxing Bears, by OCAL,
*Fighting Cat Bandaged, by Ruth,

Monday, June 6, 2016

Writer's Conference Basics, Part IV - Faculty

The previous posts in this series are as follows:

Part I, Conference Basics
Part II, Attendees

Part III, Staff and Volunteers

I'm ending this series with faculty information. For authors, serving as faculty helps to get both your name and your books in front of an audience. If you are faculty at a writer's conference, you'll be presenting to other writers. If it's at a convention, you'll likely have a mix of writers and readers.

How to become faculty: There are probably lots of ways I don't know about, but this post will cover the ones I do know. Each event is different in how they handle seeking speakers. I'm going to split this into three main categories:

Invitation - This one you really have no control over, but it's by far the easiest way! You may receive an invitation from an event to come speak for them. Maybe they were given your name as a recommendation from other speakers, or they've read your book, seen your website, or heard you speak elsewhere. The people who choose faculty often try to attend other events to scope out speakers they have there.

When you get an invitation, they may ask you to speak on specific topics or they will ask what you are comfortable speaking about. Another option, which I've found with conventions, is that you will be involved in a multi-tier process, wherein you are first asked to propose/suggest panels, and then sent a second email with the panels they will be going with, asking you which ones you'd like to be part of. They then assign everyone to the panels and notify you which ones you'll be on.

Proposal - This is the most likely avenue for becoming a speaker. Go to the event website and look for information on how to be a speaker. For Pikes Peak Writers, we have a Proposal Portal. You propose each workshop individually, so you're not just proposing that you be a speaker. Go into this with specific workshops in mind. I will address below what information you need to have for workshop proposals. Other events/organizations may just ask for an email with your information, and they will follow up later for more information.

Who You Know - If you know someone involved with a conference or convention, you can ask them how to become faculty if you haven't been able to find it elsewhere. Sometimes you need an in to be a part of the faculty if it's something where they typically send invites instead of fielding proposals. Do understand that you can't rely on them to get you in, and don't expect your friends to break rules for you. That's a good way to break a friendship.

Questions to ask: When you are contacted to be faculty, either because you made a proposal or they've randomly invited you, there are questions you might want to ask. The most obvious ones, of course, are time, date, and location. If there is travel involved, find out if they pay for your travel and/or lodging. If there is an entry fee, ask whether you get free admittance or if you have to pay to attend.

Will you be able to sell your books there? Do they order them, have you consign, or ask you to handle payments yourself? If they haven't already told you, ask if they have topics they'd prefer for you to speak on. What is the estimated attendance and class size? Is food included, or will you be having to purchase your own food? If you have health issues, now is the time to let them know that to ensure they will make be able to make you comfortable.

What A/V do they have available? How do handouts work? How long should workshops be? Will you have duties beyond presenting your workshops, such as being a table host, giving critiques, etc.? What sort of audience should you expect (as in, should it be proper for kids, are these all mystery writers or writers from all genres, etc.)? Which of the workshops you pitched do they want you to do? And leading into the next question, what do they need from you, and when?

They will actually volunteer a lot of this information with the invitation or later on in the process. Ask what you need to know when you need to know it. Some of these things you won't need to know until later, some you need to know earlier for your convenience. So determine on your own what you need to know and when.

What Workshop Info They Need: It's a good idea to have your workshop ready in advance, or at least have a good idea of what you're doing if you're proposing. Some information you may be asked for in advance is:

Short blurb
Workshop description
A/V needs
Whether you have handouts
Panel or workshop
If there are other speakers involved (often including their names and email addresses)
Your email
Long bio
Short bio
Most recent publication
Your location (so they know if they'll be paying travel)
Length of your workshop
What attendees need to bring
Any extra important notes

Preparation: So what happens now? You've been confirmed as faculty, asked your various questions, set out the guidelines for your workshops. Now you need to prep a few things:

Travel - If the event folks are handling your travel, you don't have to do anything here until they contact you for information. Same goes for if they're handling your hotel. But if they are not handling these things, you need to secure your hotel room as soon as possible. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, hotel rooms can sell out, and then you're stuck trying to find a hotel room nearby. Two, the discounted group rate events usually have ends before the event. I just made this mistake with Denver Comic Con. If you're not sure what days they need you, ask. And if they're not sure yet, make reservations for the full event, starting the day before it begins, and cancel any unnecessary room nights once you know you don't need them.

This isn't as doable with airline tickets, so you'll either have to wait until you know when you're needed for certain, or you can plan to attend the entire event and get those tickets early and cheap. It's easier if you're driving. Perhaps you can find someone to carpool with if you know who the other faculty members are.

Also of note: Find out what parking will be like. You don't want to get stuck driving around a big city looking for a parking structure because it turns out the location of your event has no parking.

If they're arranging your travel, they should ask you for any stipulations/requirements you might have, and communicate your travel information once it's completed. Things they may ask you are whether you have a preferred airport or airline (though they will likely have a go-to airline or will be seeking the least expensive option), if there's a time that works best or doesn't work, and if there's anything else they need to know. If they're flying you in, they typically arrange to have a volunteer or van pick you up at the airport and drop you off at the end of the event. This is also a detail they should tell you. If they don't, ask. The volunteer picking you up should have information on what you do next and where you go.

Workshop - Once your workshop has been accepted, you need to begin work on it. You will probably be asked for handouts in advance unless they expect you to print them and bring them on your own. Get those ready so you're prepared when they ask you for them.

If you don't have any of the information I listed under information they'd need, get on that. Prepare your PowerPoint or other visual aid if you have one. Run through your workshop. Run through it a few more times. The number of people who run out of time or finish their workshop too early is surprising. If you aren't given a time limit for the workshop, ask. They are usually around forty-five minutes to an hour at a conference or convention, but you want to be sure.

Details - Read the emails you're sent. This may seem obvious, but I can tell you from experience that people frequently just scan these, completely missing important information and questions that are being asked. Conference planners don't ask questions just for fun. There's a reason they're asking. Respond to the questions they ask you. Someone is on the other end of that email waiting on a bunch of people to respond in a timely manner. And there are people waiting on those people waiting on those people waiting on those people. In other words, a chain of  folks with jobs they need to complete are waiting on these bits of information in order to do said jobs.

Consider what marketing materials you need to bring. At a writer's conference, you shouldn't need banners and signs. But business cards, bookmarks, and other small things you can hand out with your information on them are good ideas. If it's a convention, you're more likely to have a table you can decorate however you'd like, including a banner, sign, standee, etc. Ask if you're unsure.

If there's a formal event or costume event, you'll want to get what you need for those in advance. Remember that formal clothing is easier to find in stores around homecoming and prom, and mostly absent at other times. Given, you can find these items online any time of the year, but if you're someone who needs to try them on, you want to shop in the fall or spring.

For larger conventions, a lot of the information you need as a faculty member might be on the website, which means they won't email it to you. Look around and see what you can find on your own if there's something you need to know.

Speaking Notes: People like visual aids, and they like to see the folks speaking. Unless you're up on a stage, consider standing for your presentation, so they aren't just staring at the backs of other attendees' heads. By far, the folks with the best feedback on surveys at the end of conference are those who were actively engaged with their audiences, the ones who stood and didn't just read off of a prepared lecture.

A PowerPoint presentation is a good idea if you know A/V will be available. However, don't put all your information on the slides and just read from them. Treat it more like an outline and a place to put longer bits of information, such as quotes, website links, and other references you think they might want to write down. Images and even comic relief are a good bet, too. If you want to use a visual aid, be prepared to bring and use your own laptop for it. Most events will not provide a laptop, only the projector and screen.

Audience involvement is also a good idea if it's possible. Hands-on activities keep the audience engaged and let them try what you're teaching.

If you have a bunch of resources you want to share, consider doing a handout with those. I've also seen people hand around a clipboard and offer to send people resources. Or pass around a clipboard to be added to a newsletter, promising the resources, as well.

Try referring to books other than your own in your workshops. A complaint we saw a lot this year was that people talked about their own books too much. People feel like they're being sold to when you do that.

Please note that I'm in no way saying you must have all these things. Sometimes you won't have a choice on whether you sit or stand. A/V might not be available. You might not be able to speak without having it all outlined. I get it. I'm just throwing out things people have complained about on surveys. The number of people who complain on this is minimal. If you're giving good information, that's what matters.

Onsite: Make sure you arrive early. If you are first scheduled to speak at 11:00, show up about an hour ahead of that. This gives you time to deal with any inconveniences or issues you may have. It also gives you time to check in and get settled.

You will likely need to sign in somewhere. Usually there is a registration desk you can ask at, though faculty may be directed elsewhere. The people at the registration desk will know where you need to go. Or they can find a person who does. If you were picked up at the airport, your driver will direct you.

Consult your schedule right away, though you should have been sent one in advance. If the organizers are doing their job, they should be sending a schedule with any important times, including your workshops, meals, mixers, and other related items. But check your schedule onsite when you get it in order to be sure nothing has changed.

Look through your materials. Be sure you find any badge or meal tickets. Look for a map so you know where you're going. Scope out the rooms you'll have workshops/appearances in so you can be on time. Try to get into the room you're presenting in about ten minutes before your presentation (unless there's another workshop in there). This will allow you to get set up and be ready to go on time, and to work through any A/V issues.

End your workshop on time. It's disappointing to the audience when you finish too early. On the flipside, you're ripping off the next speaker if you go over and force them and their audience to wait outside the room. You're also making your audience late for their next workshop.

Find out who your point of contact will be. Who do you ask questions of? Who do you talk to if there's an issue?

Try to be friendly and hang out with folks. Now is a great time to get to know other speakers, as well as the attendees and staff. Meet other authors. Hobnob. You don't want to be seen as that stuck up author who wouldn't talk to anyone, even if you know it's because you're a mega-introvert, not a snob.

Find some downtime when you can. If there's a green room, visit it. At a writer's conference, there will usually be snacks and drinks in the green room, and it will hopefully be a safe zone, so it's just other faculty and select staff. At a convention, I don't believe this is true, but I'm not sure. I do know that there tends to be a Con Room everyone has access to. So I'm not sure whether faculty have a safe, quiet zone at those, other than their hotel room. But if that's the case, try to hide in your hotel room here or there. You can do that and still be out there interacting with people at other times. Your sanity is important, too. You might even have some writing time!

Final Thoughts: Despite the fact many of us are introverts, it behooves us to get out there and be active at conferences and conventions, as well as outside them. You can look for other places to present workshops and education. Pikes Peak Writers has monthly programming, for example, as do most big writer's groups. Do a little research, attend programming near you, and try to become involved in those communities. The more involved you are, the more likely you are to be asked to be faculty.

As faculty, don't be afraid to ask questions. Too often we stay quiet and hope the right information will come to us, which can cause a lot of anxiety. Don't make demands, but do ask those questions.

What attendees want faculty to know: We want to be able to see you, and we want to know you're not just phoning it in. Please try to speak on topics you have an interest in unless you're assigned a topic. Stand up if you're not on a stage (if you can). Look at us, not at a piece of paper. We're here to learn from you in the hopes that we can reach the place you're currently in. We're not here to judge you. Often, we look up to you.

Remember that we may not know all the technical terms you're accustomed to; don't dumb it down, but do think to ask if people know what you're talking about or just define it for us quickly without asking. Don't get impatient if we ask a question that seems obvious to you. Please bear with us--we're learning, and we're quite possibly new.

We're your fans, the people reading your books. When we're not yet, hopefully we will be once we've heard you speak and have met you. If you're rude, we'll remember forever, and we definitely won't buy your books.

What staff want faculty to know: We're working hard, just like you, and we're volunteers. We have a job, and while we will try to do anything you need, bear in mind that there may be somewhere we need to be, too. We frequently miss meals, mixers, queries, critiques, and other things because we have to work through them. And we do this knowing we will get no credit for our work.

We are here to support you, but also to support the attendees. And there's a good chance we look up to just as much as they do. We don't mind you asking questions, and we want to help, or else we wouldn't be here.  Our jobs depend upon you doing what you have agreed to do, so please fulfill your obligations. We are probably incredibly excited to be working with you, and we've been looking forward to it for months.

Anything I missed? What would you say to faculty? If you've been faculty, what tips would you give? And what would you say to staff and attendees? Have you had a different experience than the information I've laid out?

This was super long, so no links today.

May you find your Muse.

*Teacher, by OCAL,
*Invitation, by OCAL,
*Question Callout, by OCAL,
*Projector Screen, by OCAL,
*Aircraft, by OCAL,
*Mail, by OCAL,
*Romanov Dark Lady, by OCAL,
*Video Projector, by OCAL,
*Library Book Cart, by OCAL,
*Reference Desk, by OCAL,
*Alarm Clock, by OCAL,
*Coffee Machine, by OCAL,
*Man With a Microphone, by OCAL,

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG - Fickle Beast

It's June, and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh!

The co-hosts for this month are Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner! Be sure to stop by and thank them for hosting.

IWSG is the first Wednesday of each month, and encourages us to share our fears, insecurities, and inspirations. Anyone is welcome to join. Simply go here to add your name to the list.

Had I posted this two weeks ago, I would have been in a more negative head space. It hit me that I gave up too much in terms of my personal aspirations in writing in order to fulfill two volunteer positions for a writer's group I'm part of. I stopped writing for several months because of it. While I was still submitting, though at a slower rate than usual, during that time, it has finally caught up to me that I didn't do what I should have been doing. Things are a bit slow right now, and I had a period of panic where I thought I had perhaps shot myself in the foot.

I do believe that I shot myself in the foot, and that I will now be playing catch up for awhile. Because I paused my forward progression, I am in a gap of time where I haven't placed stories at the rate I previously was. Who knows how long it will take me to get back to where I had worked so hard to get before.

However, I'm writing again. I've finished two short stories and gotten partway through two others in the last two weeks. I'm about to jump back into novel edits (finally). And I'm making notes on a new novel. This progress has helped me get past my dip into panic. Mostly, anyway. I still regret that I put myself in this position, but knowing that I'm taking it back is helping. Publishing is a slow process anyway, I didn't permanently harm anything, so it comes down to patience and determination to get it back.

If you've come around before, you know I post submission rates for the previous month with my IWSG post to keep myself accountable. I also usually post publication links on Wednesdays, but have decided to post only once per week over summer, except in special circumstances, such as IWSG. You can find the publication links I typically post on my Monday post from this week.

My stats:

In May, I submitted 7 stories, had 0 acceptances, got 3 rejections (1 personal, with valuable feedback), rewrote the endings on 2 stories that I've resubmitted, had 2 pieces published, and finished 2 new short stories, as mentioned above. I currently have 10 pieces on submission. The longest has been out for 205 days. Yeesh.

This is an improvement just over last month, so I'm feeling good about it. I'd like to get up to 20 stories in action at any given time, so that's my next goal. I'd also like to write in a different genre than usual. I've got several ideas floating around in my head, so we'll see which one takes the lead.

What are you feeling insecure about? Has anything helped to settle any of your insecurities lately? Any regrets you're facing in the writing world? Have you submitted or queried this month? How is your writing going?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Writer's Conference Basics, Part III - Staff & Volunteers

If you didn't see the previous posts in this series, you can find them at the following links:

Part I, Conference Basics
Part II, Attendees

Conferences need a lot of help to be pulled off successfully. There are two general ways you can be part of this: Staff and Onsite Volunteers. Typically, both are volunteers, but staff tends to have work in advance of conference, including planning and/or setup, and onsite volunteers tend to be attendees who have offered to lend a hand at the actual conference, but do not take part in the planning and setup (other than possibly onsite setup.) Staff also generally have job titles and roles they must fulfill. These roles run the gamut from coordinating the ballroom decorations to directing the conference.

Benefits of volunteering/being staff: So why would you want to help? What's in it for you?

One major plus to volunteering is being part of the community. Particularly if you are staff, you'll find that you spend a lot of time together during the planning stages. You get to know each other, and a tight knit bond can be created. I've been staff at PPWC for several years now, and some of my closest friends are people I met through my work there. My critique groups are made up of people I've met through PPWC, as well. Even if you just volunteer onsite, you'll meet people you might not have otherwise met.

Another benefit is getting to see behind the scenes. It takes a big chunk of the nerves out of the process of going to a conference. You get to know the people who run things, to become more comfortable with them. You learn a lot about how conferences are put on. I know that, for me, it helped me a ton going forward, and took a lot of the mystery out of everything, giving me a much better understanding of conference and what I might get out of it.

You know how I mentioned above that you meet a lot of people? Well, some of those people might end up being agents, editors, and bigwig authors. As a staff member, I've had the opportunity to sit down and talk in a friendly one-on-one manner with all of the above. I've sat in the green room and chatted with people who fell into these categories. As a non-conference volunteer, I've exchanged emails with all kinds of writers, editors, and agents. It has made it so I'm no longer nervous talking to them. I don't go gaga anymore. Not that I've ever been one to fangirl openly, but in my head, well, that might have been a different story.

Finally, there's the possibility of a comp/discount for the conference. I mention this one last intentionally. If you're volunteering only in the hopes of getting a discount, chances are they'll realize that. The people who continue to be asked to help are those that bust their butts working. If someone comes along and does a half-assed job, we notice, and we don't invite them back. We certainly don't offer them higher jobs or jobs with bigger comps. Plus, if you're doing it just for the comp, you're going to be sorely disappointed when you miss out on things because you're working. There may be perks that aren't money-related, too, such as preference for appointments, being the first in a door, mixers for staff and faculty, etc.

Drawbacks: The time investment might be a lot. You might miss workshops. You might take on a job that requires an unpleasant task (though this would usually be a higher up position). You may find you don't like the job you volunteered for.

My advice is to volunteer if you want to be a part of things, not for any perks it might offer. The perks are a happy extra, and are by no means guaranteed. But if it's a conference or organization you care about, why not give some time?

How to volunteer: Most cons will have some sort of volunteer tab/link or a way to volunteer on the registration form. Some will have advance information meetings you can attend to find out about job openings. You might also look up staff on their website to see if a volunteer coordinator or similar position is mentioned. If so, you can shoot them an email. Otherwise, you can contact the director or another higher up position and ask if there are any volunteer positions open.

This is specific to Pikes Peak Writers, but a good way to get picked up for a volunteer conference job is to be a presence at the non-conference events and to volunteer at them. Non-conference, in our case, is small, so there aren't a ton of volunteer positions, but a lot of us got our start by just offering to do simple stuff like clean up after an event, stack chairs, hold the clipboard and have people sign in on it, give out door prize tickets, etc. Look for openings and offer to help. You can do this at the conference, too, but most of the volunteer positions there are filled in advance, so it would be a case of an immediate need of help.

Either way, making yourself known, being friendly and helpful, these are ways to get asked to volunteer. But do look for other means if you aren't able to do that.

Questions to ask first: If you're considering volunteering your time, there are questions you should ask first in order to not bury yourself in a miserable position or one that takes more time than you can afford to give.

What is my time investment? You'll want to know how much time you'll have to give, both in advance and at the actual event. Find out if there are particular times/hours you'll be needed. Will you be needed at meetings. If so, when will those be? Will these hours be daytime, night time, weekends, or a combination of all these? If you have time limitations, you'll want to make sure they work with your volunteer job. You'll also want to know how flexible things will be for you, in terms of when you can complete your work. I get a ton of advance work done in the middle of the night, but I couldn't do that if it involved phone calls, for instance.

How much of the conference will I miss? This goes hand in hand with the time investment, but is specific to whether you'll be required during workshops. Some jobs may require you miss one or two workshops. Others may require more. While still others will be between workshops, so you won't miss anything at all.

Will there be costs associated, and will I be reimbursed? Ask in advance if there will be situations that will cost you money. If you take on a signs job, will you have to pay to have signs printed? If so, will you be reimbursed? When and how? How fast will you be reimbursed? Is there a process to get reimbursed?

What is my job? Ask in advance what the job is. What is the description? Ask for some specifics. What duties will you be required to perform? Will you need to interact with people? Will driving be involved? Is there a write-up of the job you can be sent in advance? You can ask for a time line of your work to see what your time as a volunteer will look like. Find out what expectations they have of you.

Who do I report to? It's good to know if you'll have a direct supervisor, and who that might be. Will they guide you, or is this something you'll have to step up and take care of on your own? How often do you need to report in, and in what ways? It's also a good idea to know who's above your supervisor, so you know where to go if there's an issue.

This is just a sampling of things you should ask. Be sure to consider other information you might need, and to ask questions accordingly. Don't be afraid to approach someone who used to do the job you're being asked to do. Ask them questions, too. Find out why they quit, and if they have any advice. Ask them if the time investment and job description are accurate. They might not have been the ones to write it up.

Final thoughts: If you volunteer in any capacity, whether as a staff member or as an onsite volunteer, don't come to it with the mentality that you're going to leech something out of it without doing the work. Approach with an open mind, ideas of your own, and as a self starter. All volunteer events, like Pikes Peak Writers Conference, run only as well as the volunteers running it. Be prepared for hard, but rewarding, work. Be prepared to work as a team, sometimes with people you don't necessarily get along with. This is true for any job, really.

What attendees want staff to know: Please bear in mind that, while this conference might be a place of comfort to you, to me it's quite possibly overwhelming. It's new. I might not know anyone at all, whereas you probably now have a group of friends that you've been working with leading up to the event, meaning you have a safety net I lack.

If I ask questions you think are silly, remember that you have inside information I don't have. Just because you know how all of this works, does not mean I do. And therefore it's not a stupid question.

Please be patient with me. Guide me. Reach out to me if you see I'm struggling. If I have a puzzled look on my face, ask if you can help. Chat with me. Introduce me to someone else who's new.

Anything you can do that won't make me feel like I'm drowning will be much appreciated, and I'll remember you forever for the help you gave me. I'll remember you greeted me with a smile, that you asked if I needed help, and that you answered my questions and made it seem like you were happy to do so. The opposite is true, as well. I will never forget you if you're rude to me or make me feel foolish for asking a question or being confused.

What faculty wants staff to know: Your conference is new to me, even if I've been to others, so please guide me to where I need to go. Let me know where I'm supposed to check in. If there's a green room, or a place faculty can rest, please tell me about that. Make sure I have a schedule, and that I know how your schedule works. Let me know how specific types of workshops work. If there is something particular to your event, tell me about it so I'm not caught unawares. And please give me as much information in advance as possible, including my schedule, book/consignment information, expectations, etc.

If I'm cornered or have someone in the audience who's a problem, please step in. The speakers aren't supposed to have to be the bad guys.

Now for some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing along information I've come across. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

The Literary Hatchet is seeking dark fiction, poetry, and prose. They also take artwork, photography, and more. 1000-6000 words. Pays $1-$10, depending upon submission type. Current deadline July 1.

Thema's next submission theme is Second Thoughts. Short stories, poetry, art, and photography. Pays $10-$25, depending upon submission type. Deadline for this theme is July 1.

Manawaker Studio is seeking retellings of legends, myths, and fairy tales in science fiction and punk settings for Starward Tales. Short stories, poetry, and art. Pays $2-$30, depending upon submission type. Deadline July 1.

Sanguine Press is seeking science fiction, fantasy, and horror with the theme I Regret Nothing for their anthology Transitions & Awakenings. They pay on varying scales for length. Up to 10,000 words. Deadline June 30.

Flash Fiction Online is always open to stories between 500 and 1000 words. Pays $60 per story.

The Gettysburg Review seeks poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and visual art. Pays $2 per line for poetry and $20 per printed page for prose.

Of Interest:

IndieListers allows people to post the marketing methods they've used, and their success (or lack of it). Credit goes out to Marla Newbrough Bell, from whom I got this link.

Do you have anything you'd want volunteers/staff to know? Have you been staff and have other pointers? Is there a question you always ask that I missed? Have you considered volunteering, but have held back? Is there anything you'd like to know that might help you volunteer?

May you find your Muse.

*Meeting, by OCAL,
*Clock, by OCAL,
*Volunteer Form, by clipartfan,
*Blackheadhead, by OCAL,
*Plastic Chain, by OCAL,

Friday, May 27, 2016

Horror List Book Review: Prime Evil

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.

This week, I'm reviewing Prime Evil, edited by Douglas E. Winter.

Since there are only 13 stories in this anthology, I'm going to address each one. Before I start, let me say that this is a solid collection of stories. However, not as good as a collection by the masters of horror should have been, necessarily. I was also disappointed that there were no female authors considered masters of horror in this collection.

Random fact I found interesting: The majority of these writers were born within years of each other. The earliest birth year was 1932, but it was an outlier. Then 1952 and 1953 were outliers. Everyone else was born in the 40s, with three born in 1947 and three in 1943. You think these horror authors were products of their time? Or was this just a coincidence?

Without further ado:

The Night Flier, by Stephen King. The book opens with the King of Horror. This story was a revamped vamp story. It was a little bit serial killer, a little bit vampire, a little bit mystery. Interestingly, the POV character of the story had a dark soul, himself, which added to plot. He's a reporter tracking a serial killer he's certain must be a vampire. But what is he really? A good, clean read. Compelling characters, as always, in the case of King. Good details. There's a bit with a urinal that I got a kick out of. Not my favorite story by him, but good all the same.

Having a Woman at Lunch, by Paul Hazel. This one was a bit odd for me. There was a lot implied, rather than shown in this. I would have liked to see more. A group of men gather at a restaurant regularly, but their tastes change, and they do something extreme. The "twist" was obvious from the beginning, so then not having follow through in terms of details was deeply disappointing. If I'd known there would be so little to it, I would have skipped reading it. The writing style was interesting, though, so this definitely didn't turn me off the author. Just not the story for me.

The Blood Kiss, by Dennis Etchison. Another weird one. This had two story lines going side by side. One is the screenwriter, a woman who is getting screwed over by the boss. Running concurrently is the screenplay she's written. Interesting, but hard to stay engaged with when it went to the screenplay. And none of it was scary, so it wasn't really horror. There was a psycho involved near the end, and the screenplay was horror. The first two...horror. This one? Not so much.

Coming to Grief, by Clive Barker. This was one of my favorites, and I'm not sure if the reason is because Barker caught me unawares. I'm not big on body horror, so his usual fare tends to bore me with the repetitiveness. Yeah, yeah, more skin got torn off. Yawn. However, this was understated, haunting, and beautifully written. It follows a woman dealing with grief after her mother has died. As she goes through the motions, a creature gets closer and closer. The character development was in-depth. We never really see the creature, because it takes on the guise of someone the victim has lost. The buildup was leisurely, yet not dull. Thank you for showing me you could write something different, Mr. Barker!

Food, by Thomas Tessier. I couldn't figure out if I liked this one. I don't think I especially did, yet it stuck with me. A chronic overeater, who can no longer leave the house, eats and eats until she begins to change. It was interesting and unexpected. Not sure what else to say on this one.

The Great God Pan, by M. John Harrison. This was another story where the majority happened offstage. Three friends have apparently committed a terrible act. We don't know what it is. We never find out. They are being tormented for it. Punished. But are they really, or is it all in their heads? As with a previous story, I would have preferred to know more, to see more. If you're going to tell me they did something horrific, but never tell me what it was, I'm going to be disappointed. It also didn't have full closure at the end. 

Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity, by David Morrell. This one was a bit long, but a gorgeous, multi-layered story. It had a great "Ohhhhhhhh!" moment. Mostly psychological until the end. An art history student and art student are good friends, both rooming in the same place. The art historian begins studying work by someone named Van Dorn. He disappears, but gets in contact with the artist saying he has figured something out, and it's huge. His death in the same manner as Van Dorn's causes the artist to try to figure out what happened. Overwhelmingly, this is people's favorite in reviews. I found the concept of it fascinating and creative. Definitely a good one. My favorite? Probably not.

The Juniper Tree, by Peter Straub. I already reviewed this one in a different anthology, and it dealt with a little boy being molested in a movie theater. Repeatedly. No way in hell was I going to read this one again, though I did start it before I realized it was one I'd read. This time I noticed there was a theme of stickiness. All I can remember is that it was deeply disturbing to me. The character is about my son's age. Nope.

Spinning Tales With the Dead, by Charles L. Grant. This one starts out simply. A bunch of people are fishing. One pair is a father and son. It becomes apparent that everyone is dead except for the POV character. To me, this was about his guilt. I don't want to give more than that away, and I may be wrong. Not particularly scary, but it did make me think. A good story, all in all.

Alice's Last Adventure, by Thomas Ligotti. This one struck me as being about a woman's fear of aging. She saw death and a loss of her former looks when she gazed at herself. There were shadows around her, and people treated her as if she were elderly (or she took their actions to imply this). She was an unpleasant character, which at first made me wonder if Ligotti disliked women and thought this was their thought process. I'm not certain this isn't the case, but I think perhaps it's just this particular character. I was pretty neutral on this story, other than my dislike of the main character.

Next Time You'll Know Me, by Ramsey Campbell. This one was psychological. The POV character is a writer, yet he never writes. He just insists he's a writer (I imagine we've all known those folks.) He reads stories, and thinks people are stealing them from him, because he's certain, once he's finished the book, that he thought of that first. He aggressively goes after an author, insisting he stole the idea straight from his brain. The author, to make a point to his family, and because he thinks this kid has balls, pays him a stipend for the idea. So he continues to go after authors whose stories he feels were his own, because they owe him. His behavior escalates. I'm not sure this one would get to people who aren't writers quite the same way as it did me. What would you do if someone came after you and said you'd psychically stolen their book? What if they showed up at your house? Creepy.

The Pool, by Whitley Strieber. A horror story for dads. A father finds his young son in the pool, attempting to drown himself. He says he hears voices, sees something amazing, and that his dad has to let him go. This continues, with the boy becoming increasingly agitated. This one will hit you as a parent. I can't say I understand the paranormal source of it, but the child's intensity is striking. This story was incredibly short, at least compared to the others. Not a favorite, but haunting.

By Reason of Darkness, by Jack Cady. There is something chilling and deeply affecting about horror stories told from the POV of Vietnam veterans. At least for me. This story follows three veterans who met in Vietnam. Our POV character is the better adjusted of the three. The other two barely hold onto sanity, and their experiences in Vietnam were extreme. One of them calls the other two out to his house after years of no contact. They go. But what awaits them is not what the POV character expected. Both paranormal and psychological in its horror, this was a stunning story to end on. The characters were fascinating. It was intense and fast paced through much of it. Excellent story. 

All of these are well written, whether I liked the story or not. The opening by Douglas E. Winter is deep, peeling away the layers of horror in the 80s (when this anthology was put together), but I found it discouraging as a horror author. The beginning of it says most horror is generic and cliche. I had to remind myself that he was speaking to readers, not writers, and that he was talking about horror at that time, which had a specific feel to it. He goes into why horror is fun, why we need it. Then he discusses how horror had changed in the 80s, and analyzed the source of fears during that time, detailing what impacted the changes we saw. It was definitely food for thought. I wonder what he'd say about the 90s? The 00s?

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
9. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
10. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
11. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
12. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
13. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
14. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
15. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
16. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
17. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
18. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
19. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
20. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
21. World War Z (Max Brooks)
22. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
23. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
24. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
25. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
26. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
27. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
28. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

The next book I'll be reading is Ghost Story, by Peter Straub.

Are you familiar with any of these authors? Any stories by them you'd recommend? Have you read this particular book? What did you think?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Writer's Conference Basics, Part II - Attendees

If you didn't see it last week, here is Part I of the Writer's Conference Basics series, in which I did an overview of conferences and conventions. In that post, you will find:

  • Conference or Convention? Definitions of the two.
  • Attendee, Volunteer, Staff, or Faculty? Definitions of the attendee types.
  • Cost. This includes additional costs you might run into.
  • How Do They Work? This includes registration, check-in, and workshops/panels/programming.
Today we're talking about conferences from an attendee's point-of-view.

Benefits of being an attendee are:
  • Gaining knowledge in your field
  • Meeting/networking with other authors, editors, and agents. In the case of conventions versus conferences, there may be more fan-related folks to rub elbows with, such as actors, graphic artists, illustrators, etc. Or at a conference such as SCBWI's, where illustrators are part of the group.
  • Creative inspiration
  • Possibly getting feedback on your work, if offered at that conference
  • Possibly getting to pitch your work to an agent or editor (or more than one)
Okay, so you're an attendee. You've registered in advance, checked-in, gotten your registration materials, and looked through the schedule to figure out what workshops you want to go to (or you're playing it by ear). What next?

Downtime -  If there's a session where there are no workshops you're interested in, don't despair! Downtime is important. Especially at an event that's more than one day. Take a session to sit by yourself or to find other folks to talk to. This is a good time for networking and meeting other authors. Visit the bar. Writers spend a lot of time at the bar.

This is also an excellent time to get some writing in. If I travel without friends for a con or conference, I like to spend time alone in my hotel room writing. It's a nice break when you're accustomed to a house full of people and responsibilities. There's no cleaning to do, no laundry, no making lunches. Me time.

Or nap.

My first conference, I felt I had to attend something every single session. I know better now. It's okay to take time for a breather here or there. It will help you get through the rest of the event.

Appointments - Make sure you know when and where your appointments are if you have any. If you can, scope out where you need to be for the appointment in advance, so you don't end up being delayed in getting to it. These things are packed, so if you miss your appointment, there's no rescheduling.

Also make note of what you need to bring to the appointment. If it's a critique, how many copies of your piece must you bring, and how much of it (1st page, 1st three pages...)? Do you need to bring your query letter? What else? Always bring something to take notes with. And if you're pitching, bring water. It gives you something to do to take a moment if you need to think, and it keeps your voice going.

Clothing - If there is no information on the website about a dress code or dress for specific meals, consider the type of event you're going to. If it's a writer's conference, rather than a fan convention, business casual is a good direction to aim. If it's a fan con, you can still do business casual, but casual is also perfectly acceptable, and you might actually be overdressed in business casual. Costumes are also fine at a convention. I wouldn't recommend wearing costumes to a conference unless you want to be the only one (or they're having a costume event.)

If there is a banquet or awards ceremony, you can usually dress it up. Especially if the two are paired. Unless it says black tie is required, you can usually dress in any way between formal and casual, and there will be other people dressed the same. Personally, I like to dress up for a night.

One thing to bear in mind is whether you will be pitching or querying. If you will, I suggest professional dress. It's like a job interview, so dress for it.

And remember, you're going to be alternating between sitting on your butt in probably uncomfortable chairs, squeezed between other people (meaning you can't adjust your sitting as much as you might otherwise), and walking around to different rooms, possibly even different floors/levels of the hotel/convention center. So dress comfortably, and wear comfortable shoes. After my first conference, I gave up on heels, except at banquet. Even if I'm dressed business casual, I'm in my hiking sneakers, because they're comfortable, though I do bring a pair of dress shoes if I'm querying/pitching.

Plus, wear layers. The way most of these venues work, you're going to have a different temperature in every room. And it's a case of the three bears. One person likes it hot, one likes it cold, and one likes it juuuuust right. Inevitably, someone will be happy with the temperature in a given room, and someone else will be miserable. So make sure you have more clothing to put on, and an acceptable amount of clothing to take off without going full nudist.

Meals - If meals are included in your registration, check for any meal tickets in your registration materials. At PPW, we put them in the badge holders, and there are specific tickets for specific meals. Find out where you eat and when. If you miss the meal, you don't get it, much like the appointments. If there are table hosts, where you have the opportunity to sit with a faculty member, get there early! Chances are, there will be major lines. People like food. Fooooood.

There will often be somewhere to get snacks. If it's being held in a hotel, they will have a coffee shop, a gift shop, a restaurant, or some combination of these things. If you're at a convention, they will usually have a Con Suite, in which various snacks are provided throughout the day, supplied by room hosts that change out every few hours.

Don't depend on this, though. Take your own snacks, especially if you have blood sugar or related issues. Do note, however, whether there are rules against snacks in the meeting spaces, which should be noted in the program. I say this because hotels will fine the organization running the conference/convention if they have rules against it. For a nonprofit, additional fees like this can be crippling. At Pikes Peak Writers Conference, we can't allow outside snacks in the meeting space, but people are allowed to enjoy them right out in the lobby or in their rooms, so it's just a matter of walking a few steps to save us from getting fined.

Volunteers/Scholarship Recipients - If you've offered to volunteer at the event, or you've won a scholarship and it requires you to volunteer, show up for the volunteer times and jobs you've been given. Not doing so may mean having to pay it back (if you received a scholarship), and will ensure you're never asked to help or take an active part in the running of the event again. The staff depend upon volunteers showing up for what they volunteered for. So do your fellow attendees. You may not be getting paid for this, but it matters.

Hydrate - We say this a lot at Colorado events, because people from out of state don't realize just how dry it is here and can get incredibly sick (emergency room sick) if they don't hydrate. However, I think it's important to hydrate at ANY event you're at. If you can, bring a refillable water bottle. A lot of events have water stations set up throughout the venue, but the cups and glasses they put out don't hold much water, so fill up a bottle and take it in with you. In my experience, this does not violate the no snacking rule. Assuming you aren't spraying water all over the place, no one's going to yell at you for having a water bottle. Unless it smells like tequila.

Read the Workshop Descriptions - I'm not saying they're going to be well written, but they hopefully usually will. Don't decide whether you want to go to a workshop based on the title alone. I named my short story workshop To Make a Long Story Short. My description listed exactly what it was about (writing, editing, and submitting short stories), but folks who came in based on the title alone thought it was an editing workshop. Now, if the description is bad, that's on whoever wrote it. But if you go into a workshop you didn't want to attend, because you didn't read the actual workshop description, that's on you.

Branch Out - My first two conferences, I took earbuds and a book. In between classes, I found an out of the way nook, put my music on, and stuffed my face in a book. This cut out networking for me. Everyone I met and talked to, I met in the food line or, in one case, waiting for a workshop to start. But think of how many people I could have met if I'd walked around and been open and friendly instead of introverting so hard. I've since made many amazing connections, despite being a shy introvert who hates small talk. Stretch past your insecurities and discomfort as much as you can. No one expects you to be perfect. Even if you give yourself ten minutes to do that before going into introvert hibernation in a corner of the lobby, you'll have pushed yourself.

Also falling under branching out, attend some workshops that are out of the ordinary for you. If you're a mystery writer, attend a romance, science fiction, or horror workshop. If you're in the middle of edits, attend a workshop on the next steps or on the craft of writing. Do one thing you wouldn't normally do. It might be worth it. I've now heard from several people that they attended my short story workshop as the "something different" we recommended. They were solely novelists. They're now also playing around with the short form. You never know what you'll discover or what you'll like.

Focus - If you're overwhelmed, and you're not sure what to attend, find a focus. What I mean by this is, choose a goal for what you want to leave the conference knowing or having accomplished. Then pick workshops that meet that. For instance, if this is your first conference, and you consider yourself a beginner, maybe mostly attend workshops on the writer's life and craft. Your focus should probably be on those things. The next year, maybe you'll attend mostly editing and query/submission-type workshops. After that, maybe it's all about marketing. Look at what will benefit you NOW, and go from there. It's a way you can narrow down your choices.

Now I'll leave you with a couple thoughts from the other attendee categories. I'll do this at the end of each post.

What staff and volunteers want attendees to know:

First and foremost, we're volunteers. No one is getting paid. We do this for the love of helping our fellow writers/authors.  Staff put months and months and months into building this event for you, spending their own time and money to make it successful, often while also having day jobs, their writing careers, and families. So if you have a complaint or an issue, take a moment to consider that we're just people like you, there to learn and further our writing careers, and maybe tone it down a little. You can address an issue and remain respectful. We want to help. Just let us try to do so before you get upset. Certainly, whatever has gone wrong was not intentional.

If you run into a volunteer or staff member who is disrespectful or not helpful, please find another one and let them know, on top of whatever your original issue was. It is horrifying to us when a member of our team behaves inappropriately. Like us, they're volunteers. We try our best to put people where they are best suited and to screen for people who will not be friendly to attendees, but there may occasionally be someone who slips through. There's also the issue of us not being able to do anything about it if no one tells us. If something is reported after the fact, we can't fix it, but we would have been able to if someone had told us when it occurred. And we would have worked our butts off to make it better for you. So please do find someone--preferably above the person who caused issues, such as the director--and let them know what happened. We don't want your experience ruined because of a bad apple. The same is true of faculty and other attendees. Let us know.

And if you saw a staff member excel at what they were doing, or there is someone who was particularly helpful, please tell someone! It's nice to hear the good, too.

If there are surveys, please fill them out. Don't walk away upset because something wasn't to your taste. Instead, make suggestions! We spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out what our attendees will enjoy. The more feedback from past attendees we have, the better an idea we have of what will be well received. We want to make people happy and deliver a product they desire. So please give us that chance!

Finally, there are a lot of working parts to a conference. A ball may be dropped in one place. Sometimes things will occur that we have no power over (for instance, a blizzard or a faculty member backing out at the last minute). Please be patient with us. We're doing the best we can.

What faculty want attendees to know:

We're as much a fish out of water as you at any of these events. We are coming in from the outside, and expected to be in certain places at specific times. Our trip out may not have been pleasant. Something bad may have happened on the way, or in our every day lives. We won't always be at the top of our game. Sometimes we're sick, but we can't cancel. If a faculty member is cranky with you, remember that they're human, and there may have been a reason for it. Although one hopes this won't occur.

We are not always given a lot of information in advance (in fact, we're frequently not), and may be having to adjust or play things by ear. Maybe we thought we'd have a projector, but we don't. Maybe we thought there'd be sound, but there isn't. Maybe we have to speak into a microphone on a table because the sessions are recorded, so end up having to sit down to deliver our workshop (or stand holding a mic like a rockstar, which is not easy to do if you have a lot of notes to consult.) Some of us are introverts and/or shy, too, and this may be something we have worked to overcome in order to be up there. We may be last minute fill-ins, or they may have switched our topic for whatever reason. We have no idea how many people to expect in a workshop we're giving until people are sitting down in front of us.

Some of the complaints I saw on the surveys I mentioned in the previous post were things like: "the speaker sat at a desk, and I couldn't see her;" "there was no PowerPoint;" "the speaker did not appear to be prepared for the large crowd they got." That sort of thing. Some of these were out of people's control. Also, what one person complains about, another person praises. The person who didn't like that a speaker didn't have a PowerPoint? Their arch-nemesis complained that too many speakers had PowerPoints...there is no way to make everyone happy with everything. We certainly do our best to try, though.

Not all faculty are paid or even comped. Don't assume we're making bank off presenting to you. We may have just presented an hour long workshop for free. Even if it wasn't for free, it probably wasn't much. We may have gotten a small stipend, but had to pay to get ourselves to the event.

If the faculty member is an agent or editor, don't pitch to them in the bathroom, don't confront them if they've previously rejected you, and don't interrupt them when they're speaking to someone else in order to pitch to them. Do respectfully ask if they'd be willing to listen to your pitch, as long as it's a reasonable time and place. If they are running to present a workshop, that is neither the time, nor the place. Sitting next to them at dinner, especially after you've made pleasant conversation with them, might be the place (and the time, as long as they aren't eating.) Use your common sense, and remember, above all else, that we are human, too.

Signings can be horribly humiliating things if you aren't the Stephen King of the conference. If you liked what we presented, come talk to us! You don't have to buy the book, but please come say hi and tell us you liked the workshop. Ask us questions. Obviously, if you aren't buying a book, do try to stand off to the side so someone else can make a purchase or get a signature. If we had to consign books, we're out that money until someone buys them. There are no returns, in most cases. Those of us who are low on the totem pole are going to be sitting there watching the lines stretch out the door for the keynotes/guests of honor, and hoping for one sale. So maybe consider buying the book, too, if you liked the speaker.


Okay, that's it for this one. These are turning out to be longer posts than I might hope for, but maybe the amount of information will make up for that. Before I end this post, I'm going to put the links I usually do on Wednesdays. I'd like a little wiggle room over the summer (and maybe even after that), so I'm not going to scrap posting links, but I am going to move them to the end of my Monday posts instead, and just post once per week, except in weeks I have a horror book review, like this upcoming Friday. Once this series is completed, I'll be back to shorter posts. But because I'm combining two posts, I will post fewer links unless I have too many to share to mitigate them that way.

As always, please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing along interesting links. Always do your own due diligence before submitting to a market or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

The Threepenny Review is open for submissions through the end of June. They do not read between July and December. Length varies by type of submission, as does pay, but pay is between $200 and $400. Deadline June 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has a couple calls ending soon. The topics are blended families, curvy & confident, and stories about teachers & teaching. Pays $100 to $200. Should be in first person, and be a personal story or poem. 1200 words or less. Deadline for these calls is June 30.

Dark Alley Press is putting together the Ink Stains Anthology. Dark literary fiction. 3000-20,000 words. Pays between $5 and $20, depending upon length.

Litbreak takes short stories, poetry, essays, reviews, and various other things. Word count varies by type of submission. Pays between $25 and $50.


Bacopa Literary Review is holding a contest. First prize is $200. There is a winner and a runner-up in each: poetry, literary fiction, creative nonfiction. Up to 8000 words. Deadline June 30.

Can you think of any attendee tips I left out? If you've been staff or faculty, is there anything else you want attendees to know? Do you have any questions you'd like answered in the posts for staff and faculty? Anything you'd want either of those categories to know?

May you find your Muse.

Man in Chair, by OCAL,
Cartoon Cat Sleeping, by OCAL,
Man in Suit, by OCAL,
Pancake and Syrup Coffee Bacon Hashbrown, by OCAL,
Glass of Water, by OCAL,
Business Man, by OCAL,