So, I missed the first fifteen minutes of "The Object In the Story, the Story In the Object," but the part I saw was fascinating. Kat A. Beyer, Catherine Anne Crowe, Wendy Alison Walker, and Terri Windling all had a lot to say on the subject. My notes include thoughts about how storytelling has changed over time - one good point was that the need for constant innovation in storytelling is a recent thing, compared to the way that stories were repeated and used to teach in the past, with layers of meaning attached to the objects within the stories. Someone said that that there was a commonly understood symbolic language that we've lost, ironically, now that books and information are the easiest to acquire that they've been at any time in history. I scribbled a lot of notes throughout that panel, but didn't always keep up with who said what. I'm not going to try to summarize the whole thing here, but it was a *great* panel, and Kat Beyer made a lot of effort to give audience members the chance to participate in the discussion.
I went out for lunch with James and the boys after that, and when they headed home for the afternoon, I seized the opportunity to go back and buy an earcuff that I'd seen the day before, silver with a bright violet amethyst set in it. My rule is that I can buy jewelry that I'm not able to make myself, so it was a virtuous purchase. :)
In the afternoon I went to "That's Not Scary Anymore," a discussion of horror fiction with Gary A. Braunbeck, Kelly D. Link, Stephen H Segal (not the ponytailed actor, but the new editor of Weird Tales), and Debbie L. Smith. Nick Mamatas was supposed to be the moderator, but he had to leave early, so Gary Braunbeck became the new moderator at the last minute. I was interested to see what he was like, since I'm signed up for a writing seminar he's doing at Context in September. I felt like this panel was interesting, but didn't stay on-topic - I didn't come away with much insight into what isn't scary anymore. That's probably no one's fault, because "scary" is subjective, so I think the panel topic wasn't crafted as well as it could have been.
At one point, I asked a question and was both amused and irked by the way it was misinterpreted by the whole panel. I wanted to know which horror tropes they were each personally sick of seeing, out of curiosity about their tastes and what they thought had been overdone. I swear that as the question came out of my mouth, I could see them all flipping into the assumption that the poor newbie writer in the audience was trying to understand why her stories were being rejected; they all answered along the lines of "any idea can be good as long as it's written well and treated with originality." You know, I get that! The funny part is that I don't aspire to writing horror at all. Dark fantasy, maybe. Anyway, I'll have to live without knowing what kinds of horror stories make Kelly Link roll her eyes.
My last panel of the day was "'Overnight' Success and the Experienced Writer," featuring Ellen Klages, Shana Cohen, Lori Devoti, Kelly McCullough, and Jennifer Stevenson. This was the panel where I learned that Ellen Klages (klages) rocks! I went to this one because I'm always curious about the development of writers, and what happened along the way before they got their work published. They gave the crucial-but-widely-ignored advice that "butt in chair" is the best technique for success at writing. Sitting down and actually writing every day is the most important thing. klages said that second only to "butt in chair" is going to conventions and getting to know as many people as possible, not just the authors, but everyone attending. "Never be mean to anyone." I love the way that Wiscon is all about the community. Everyone on this panel seemed really nice, and interested in being helpful to new writers.
I felt that I didn't get the whole experience this year, because I only went during the day and therefore didn't attend any of the ceremonies or parties at night. I'm already registered for next year, though, and I plan to stay at the hotel for the weekend to make it easier to go to parties and panels at night and then roll out of bed and go to the early stuff each morning, too. I may volunteer to help out with things, as well. I could easily spend the next year doing homework for Wiscon, reading tons of books, learning more about current feminist thinking, and especially writing more of my own fiction. For the next few months I'm going to have to prioritize authors who will be at Context, though. Whee! :)