ConClave 35 has come and gone. It was a fun and eventful weekend to say the least. Friday, the hotel buzzed with the excitement of arriving con-goers and psyched panelists.
The Writer’s workshop met promptly at 8:30PM. M. Keaton, Stewart Sternberg, Dan J. Hogan, Christine Devlin, Christine Purcell, and William Jones appeared eager to greet this years enthusiastic upstarts. Stewart took the helm of the conversation and queried all involved if they prefered to break off in one-on-one sessions or rather hold an open forum for the night and break-off into individual sessions Saturday. Very quickly a quorum was met and the open discussion ensued.
At this point, I must mention that the intensity and energy of the workshop tripled in volume. All panelists agreed to not speak names directly or to point fingers at the authors whose failings they lamented openly. The hope was to allow each of us to learn from one another’s mistakes.
Stewart again grabbed the lead in both of his meaty hands and looked directly at me. He said, “Characterization is one if not the most important part of a story.”
Every panelist jumped onto that subject and went into great detail on the why’s, how’s, and impact’s of good characterization. Eventually, M. Keaton and Stewart both broke the rule and talked directly to me and about the pages I had submitted. They loved what I had done, they were very happy to read it, but the way I dragged my feet building on my characters weakened my prose. Christine P. even piped in about how much she loved many of the lines I had written. She too was disappointed in having to read so many pages of inner dialogue before the story began.
“I liked the first paragraph, but then I didn’t care until four or five pages later when the other character came in. Then I didn’t want to set it down,” she said.
After an hour, the panelists transitioned to speaking about passive voice, not engaging the reader, and the importance of writer’s groups. Occasionally they found a way of wrapping back to me and commenting about a specific parts of my fiction they both loved and hated. Had I started the story at a different point, had I not led them astray for so long, they wouldn’t have anything to say to me at all.
To hear these words. To see these professional authors look at me like I was an equal. I still cannot find words for it. There in my chair, I just sat as stoned faced as always, as if we were having any other conversation about anything else in the world. Now, over 24 hours after hearing their praise and validation, I am still speechless.
Stewart–“You remind me a bit of Bradbury.”
Christie–“Some of your prose is the most beautiful I’ve read in a while.”
Dan–“You are the most improved author this year.”
Saturday’s individual sessions lifted my spirits even higher. Christine P told me to never give up writing because I was already there, I am publishable. Those words burned into my brain and rattle me to even think about. Not even a full month ago I was ready to walk away from my writing forever, to give up the dream as just one more hair-brained failure.
William told me he thought it was time I spoke to his editor at Elder Signs Press, Charles P. Zaglanis. “Making contacts like this is what conventions are for,” William said.
Sunday, we held an open forum to wrap up the weekend of critiquing, with the panelists touching on all we had discussed both openly and individually. Stewart commented that the panel he was on prior was such a waste of his time that he could have ran through the room topless and still not been able to get a word in edgewise. He was glad to be back with us talking about things that really mattered. We laughed together and bonded just a little more before the session ended.
Charles from Elder Signs Press came to this last meeting also. When I presented him with my novel he said, “Christine has said a lot of really good things about you.” He read the first few paragraphs at the beginning of the book and then said he wished to read the rest. I now have a novel under consideration via the connections I made at ConClave.
As I said before, it was a fun and eventful weekend to say the least.