Friday, November 28, 2008

Philcon 2008, Part III - Best Quote

The Principal Speaker of this year’s Philcon was author Tim Powers. We’ve rarely had such an engaging, enthusiastic and entertaining guest. He was the star of almost every panel in which he participated.

Tim Powers provided my favorite quote from Philcon 2008. Tim said that the best writing advice he ever got came from legendary mystery author Elmore Leonard, who said, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

It turns out that Elmore Leonard wrote Ten Rules of Writing, which are available online at:

They are also available as a book. The above quote is #10 on the list.

For me, learning about this essay by Elmore Leonard justified the entire entry price for Philcon 2008.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Philcon 2008, Part II - Disappointments

There were some disappointments in last weekend’s Philcon. Author and writing coach Jonathan Maberry had to cancel. My friend, Origami expert Mark Kennedy, was absent. Also missing was author and scientist Charles Pellegrino, who always has something fascinating to contribute. (Charlie, of course, is the man who originated the idea of cloning dinosaurs from their blood, collected by mosquitoes preserved in amber. Without this idea, there would’ve been no “Jurassic Park” book or movies.)

But my biggest disappointment came in the panel on “Editing Anthologies.” I had long wanted to edit an anthology, but the experts on the panel revealed that publishers no longer buy anthologies of old stories. They want only all-new material in their anthologies!

What nonsense! Surely, the best anthologies collect the best material. And when you have the entire spectrum of literature to choose from, you can get the best! (Well, you can try…you can only anthologize what you can afford and what you can get permission to use.) EVERY anthology I’ve read in the past few years has been compiled from previously published stories! Most of them have been “Best of the Year” Anthologies.

But the publishers want all-new anthologies, preferably with a few New York Times Bestselling Authors. It doesn’t matter if it’s BAD writing by a name author, just that you can put a Big Name on your cover! The example given was Neil Gaiman. I’ve read and enjoyed his Sandman work; he’s very successful. But often he places his poetry in new anthologies, not his prose. And most people consider Gaiman’s poetry inferior to his prose. What a disappointment to a reader: expecting a Neil Gaiman short story, and getting a poem!

Ah, well. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

What I’m working on at present:
  • A report on the United Arab Emirates for the consulting firm Getting Through Customs
  • A Promotional Idea for the Writers Coffeehouse on Sunday 29 November
  • New Humor Essay for Wilmington Writers on Tuesday 2 December

Monday, November 24, 2008

Philcon 2008, Part I

I don’t attend many conventions, but I always try to get to Philcon (the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention). After several years of holding Philcon at hotels in downtown Philadelphia, this year it was at the Crown Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ. I appreciated not having to drive into center city and getting to park for free, but anyone dependent on public transportation probably had to take a cab.

Catching up with old friends and meeting new ones is one of the pleasures of conventions, but I spend most of my time at the panel discussions. I’m there in the front of the audience with a reporter’s notebook in my hand, scribbling away. I want to come away from every convention with an inspiration, a new idea, an author I wasn’t familiar with, and a good quote.

Since author and writing coach Jonathan Maberry has convinced me that I need to get out from behind my writing desk more, I also made note of which authors ran their panels well. My Best Moderator Award has to go to Catherine Asaro, for running a panel titled “The Devil Is in the Details.”

She kept the discussion lively, didn’t leave out any of the panelists, and maintained control of the room. (When you invite the audience to participate, there’s always a danger of the audience taking over. I saw that happen in some other panels.) Without using any notes, she kept throwing out topic after topic for discussion. I wonder how much she had to prepare?