MileHiCon 42: The Answer

What was the answer to the Ultimate Question of what to do on an otherwise mundane day?

Last Saturday, it was MileHiCon.

Somehow, I forgot to bring a towel. Not only did the absence of this item embarrass me–as it showed I’d made no effort to fit into the crowd–but also a towel would have been handy at a cold-season convention.

No one else seemed to mind, freeing me to enjoy myself. Here’s a summary of a few of the day’s activities.

Out of the seven opportunities to attend panels, I attended two–both full of good information and entertainment.

The first panel was “Scoring in the Elevator: Writing a Good Two-Sentence Pitch”. Moderated like a workshop rather than a lecture, it went over the scheduled time by more than an hour to allow everybody in the room a chance to make a pitch.

I listened–and sporadically threw out comments–as the five panelists led the group in picking apart each verbose draft pitch, drilling the draft’s author for information on his or her novel, and then molding carefully selected phrases into pitches of roughly 20 words. (The goal was to create 14-word pitches, but each finished around 20.)

Every draft sounded like a back cover blurb–vague and gimmicky–but reformed into a quick answer to “What is your story about?” that included seemingly-casual hints of background, character, and conflict.

Galaxy NGC4746
Halo around galaxy NGC 4746 - Photo courtesy of NASA

After a lunch with friends, I attended my second panel: “Surviving Clarion”.

The panelists addressed not only Clarion Writers’ Workshop and its siblings but also Odyssey (the Fantasy Writing Workshop) and the short but frequent workshops hosted in Oregon by Dean Wesley Smith.

Six-week programs (i.e., Clarion and Odyssey) share much in common by the way of horror, yet they seem to offer similar benefits as multiple one-week workshops. I realized that important questions to ask before applying to multiple-day, full-commitment workshop are, What kind of experience am I looking for? and Can I honestly sacrifice the required time and sanity?

The con more or less concluded for me with excellent readings by Eric James Stone and Matthew Rotundo.

I enjoyed the different reading styles of the two science fiction authors. Stone read a few of his new, unpublished flash stories and one recently published flash from a electronic…handheld device…while recording himself with what I think was his cell phone.  Rotundo read a standard-length short story (currently available from Escape Pod) from 8.5″ by 11″ white, paper pages and casually paused for a couple water breaks.

Both authors provided treats for those of us who showed up to listen. Stone offered a choice of one publication from an assortment of Analog Science Fiction & Fact issues and books showcasing his work. Rotundo’s wife swept in with party snacks. It was the best reading session I’ve attended anywhere.

It was an extra-ordinary day.