As I mentioned yesterday, Rainbow Rowell drew me to NerdCon last weekend, but the event ended up being so much more wonderful than I imagined. I knew John Green, Paul & Storm, Stephanie Perkins, and John Scalzi would be there as well. Other than that, I didn’t know many of the guests.
It turns out that didn’t matter.
I found the sessions hilarious, enlightening, and enjoyable. I was moved to tears several times by writing that people read. I laughed hysterically, a lot. And I tried to soak in as much bookishness as possible.
Here are some of the topics covered by the sessions that I attended and some of the thoughts I took away from the weekend.
Why Stories Matter
This question was addressed by many different people throughout the convention. Paul Sabourin and Storm DiCostanzo (of Paul & Storm) discussed this question separately and took more comedic approaches. Others were more serious. I was most struck by John Green’s response to the question. As you may know, John suffers from OCD. He talked about being trapped in the prison of his body and how fiction (writing and reading) helps him escape that prison. I don’t find my body to be a prison, but it is nice to escape my problems by reading books. I also like to experience what life might be like for other people by viewing life from another person’s perspective while reading.
Adaptation into Alternate Media: But They Changed the Thing I Love!
John Green, John Scalzi, Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Matt de la Pena
You all know how I reacted to The Martian movie, and I didn’t write the book. Obviously. It was so interesting to hear authors speak about having their books turned into movies. The general consensus was that you have to accept that the movie will be a completely different thing. But, unfortunately, fans will still hold you accountable for the movie version, even though the author has very little say in the casting or adaptation of the book to the screen.
The sad thing was that many authors feel like they have to say yes to movie deals because it’s a way for them to make money, and it’s a way to get more publicity for their books. The end goal is to have people read their books. Only John Scalzi was able to say no and wait for the right movie deal to come along.
Honing Your Craft: Embettering Your Word-Doing
Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, Lev Grossman, Nalo Hopkinson, Paolo Bacigalupi
This session was one of my favorites. I loved hearing how each author approaches the writing process. They were all so different. Clearly it boils down to finding what works for you. I absolutely loved Holly Black and Paolo Bacigalupi, and I will be checking out their books as soon as I can.
Connecting through Stories: Communities and Fandom
Leslie Datsis, Sarah Mackey, Cecil Baldwin, Paul Sabourin, Paul DeGeorge
This session was not what I was hoping. I’m not exactly sure what I was hoping…Harry Potter or Fangirl discussions? Who knows. This ended up being more of a discussion about the mediums available for connecting with other fans. The Internet and social media basically. And how different the fan communities are now vs. 20 years ago. It was interesting, but more broad than I wanted.
I did really love Sarah Mackey from NaNoWrMo. She almost inspired me to try writing a novel in November even though I am not at all ready for that. Maybe next year?
No Pressure: How to Keep Creating Once You’ve Technically Succeeded
Patrick Rothfuss, Tea Obreht, Dessa Darling, John Green, Rainbow Rowell
This was my favorite session because I got to hear both Rainbow Rowell and John Green talk about continuing to write books after their success. John Green basically said he hasn’t written anything in the last four years. Rainbow Rowell said she was lucky in that when Attachments was published, she already had her next two novels written. Everyone was SO honest. It blew me away how real everyone was.
During this session Patrick Rothfuss compared life to playing a game of Settles of Catan. He said you have to figure out what your winning conditions are and make sure your strategy aligns with that. You can’t do it all. For example, as a famous person, you can choose satisfying your fans or spending time with your family. That was a really great take away.
A Conversation about Science
Hank Green, Ben Lillie
I enjoyed this little nugget of awesomeness during the Friday afternoon session. They discussed whether our brains are wired for stories and whether all sentient beings tell stories. I think it’s true. As a mother I have seen how much stories help in explaining things to children: how the world works, where they fit into the hierarchy of society, etc.
Matt de la Pena, Holly Black, Mara Wilson, David Nadelberg
Writers read some of their earlier works. It started off serious with a poem about a mental health patient, then moved into some hilarious 8th grade fantasy, then into some online forum posts by a pretentious high school girl, and ended with a laugh out loud (even the sign language interpreter) poem about a fictitious bagpipe player. “I like that bag, Mr. Pips.”
I’ll let you guess who wrote which piece.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Patrick Rothfuss, Mary Robinette Kowal, Hank Green, Paul Sabourin, Joseph Fink, Maureen Johnson
Have you ever played this game? Or seen it played? Basically everyone pretends they’re in a Medieval tavern, and the person to their left says something like, “Won’t you please tell us about that time that you parked your horse on top of the Tower Bridge in London,” And that person then has to tell the ridiculous tale. Each other player also has some coins, and they can jump in and ask questions or add details that the person then has to incorporate in their story.
I enjoyed watching Patrick Rothfuss attempt to explain this game to everyone. They kept chatting, and he kept getting annoyed and trying to bring them back to the point. I loved it! He so reminded me of Jim. His intensity when playing games. I was really wishing Jim was there during this session.
I could never play this game. But it was incredibly amusing to watch. I laughed until I cried. And I was blown away with the creativity of everyone, except Hank Green. He struggled just as I would have struggled (well probably not as much as I would have struggled) if I ever had to play this game.
The fans were given 3 hours over the two nights to share their own talent. I enjoyed this a lot. It was a unique open mic in that there were mostly stories read and not as much music played. But my two favorite people were musicians.
1. Zoe Gray sang this adorable song begging to go to Hogwarts. Check it out.
2. Tea Rose rapped and sang an amazing song. She blew me away! But I can’t find her on YouTube.
Once More with Feeling: Storytelling through Song
Paul Sabourin, Storm DiCastanzo, Steven Brust, Dessa Darling, Joe DeGeorge
I love the title of this session since it’s a shout out to the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My favorite episode of the entire series!
Anyway, I skipped out of this session early to get my book signed by Rainbow Rowell. But before I did, Steven Brust said something that struck me. He said, “We all love words.” That is very true of a lot of people there. A lot of bookish people, especially those who want to be writers, do love words. I think that’s why people struggle with re-writing and can’t get past a point in their writing because they can’t think of the right word.
I don’t love words. I love stories. What’s holding me up from writing stories is that I cannot think of a good plot or good characters. And my fear when I do come up with a good idea is that I won’t be able to tell the story because I suck with words. I don’t do flowery language. I am very analytical and factual. My story will be something like, “She loved dogs, so she went and bought one. The End.”
It could be good though. Maybe. During the open mic, many people read stories that were so heavy on the description, but so light on actual substance. Maybe a minimalist approach to writing could work. We’ll see when I finally write some descriptive prose. I have an initial idea in my head, and as Lev Grossman suggested, I’m mulling it over in my head, so that when I sit down to write, I can make good use of that time.
There was so much more that I didn’t take notes on. As I said yesterday, we crammed a ton of amazing stuff into two days (Friday, Saturday). I highly recommend the convention to anyone who loves stories of all forms.
I plan to return next year, but I’m getting a babysitter, so Jim can come too. He would have loved it!