Back in 2011, I was two years out of grad school and finally starting to feel like writing again. I was in a new recertification cycle for teaching license, and looking for professional development opportunities. I had recently discovered Dragon Age, and was looking for chances to expand my social circle. I had time to read for pleasure again.
I was ready for Readercon.
Readercon bills itself as The Conference on Imaginative Literature, and it does exactly that. While it has “con” in its name, most seasoned con-goers might initially feel underwhelmed: no cosplay, no sprawling dealer floor with an artists’ alley, no gaming, and very little media. The focus is entirely on the written word, and it’s the content that makes Readercon shine.
I’ve been attending nearly every year since 2011; I didn’t attend in 2016, as I’d just changed jobs, or 2017, but I started going again last year, and I’m so glad I did. Even though I don’t have to keep up with recert hours anymore, I still get a lot from this convention as a writer, reader, and lover of the written word.
This year I wasn’t over-scheduled for panel attendance, as not as much jumped out at me. But as a busy toddler mom, having some time away was refreshing, and it gave me time to work on my rewrites and focus more than I’d be able to otherwise. The first panel I attended on Friday was about writing and mentorship programs, and how to choose a good one to meet your goals. One piece of information that was handy was hearing that, if your main goal is to teach writing, then an MFA program will be worthwhile; but if your goal is just to improve your writing, a workshop setting may meet your needs better. It was good advice, and affirming–I finished my MFA ten years ago, and while it was great to help me improve my writing, getting that terminal degree so I could increase my chances for further academic work was a big motivation for me to do the program.
Saturday I enjoyed a panel on heist stories, and appreciated the emphasis placed on the competence of the characters involved in the heist; I also appreciated the understanding that the characters should be flawed, and while they could be heroes or antiheroes, a heist story can be complex. One thing that stuck with me was something along the lines of, if we’re making the characters completely sympathetic and likable, they we’re just “moving the goalposts for heroism.” Where I’m working on a series that includes a series of heists, I found this panel interesting and useful.
The other panel I attended and found useful was titled “Periods of Not Writing”. I needed to be at that one and hear that. The panelists discussed the times they struggled with not writing, and the guilt that can accompany that. It was helpful to hear about the hints and rituals they have to get out of that and keep writing, but also things like giving yourself permission to not write; and forgiving yourself when you don’t write. It’s easy to feel guilty when I could be writing, but I’m not. Then again I have a family and a job, and I have other interests. I like to read as well; I like to game. I’ve gleaned a lot of inspiration from games, and have used games like Thief and Dishonored to really get into the sneak mechanics. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty about gaming rather than writing, even if the gaming is, as a good friend says, “For Science”. The nice thing about the panel, however, was that it did focus on forgiveness and giving yourself leeway; but also not to use it as an excuse. The balance was important to note, and I think this was the panel I took the most from this year.
Sunday was the final day, and I attended a discussion on ‘middle book syndrome’, which was alright, but not very earth-shattering for me or my needs (even though I’m working on my middle two books), and another “From Seed to Story”. It was helpful to hear published authors who’ve been in the genre for years discuss their rejection experience, and discuss the importance of persistence, while also giving some helpful insights about length, pacing, and plot for (mostly) short stories.
I left Readercon feeling creatively energized (and getting some good sleep probably helped a lot there!) and having broken through a tough point in my Turncoat rewrite that will help give me some momentum to keep going. I even submitted a panel idea for next year! It was nice to get home to husband and the Smol Human, as well as my cats, and I feel like I’m going to have some good energy to create moving forward.
I already registered for next year!