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April 23, 2007

Pitch sessions viewed as useless
Posted by Teresa at 05:44 PM * 215 comments

(Note: I’ve been adding segments to this post as I’ve written them. If this isn’t the first time you’ve looked at it, check the bottom to see if there’s new material.)

During the great Pitch Bitch thrash—one of the wilder nights we’ve had for a while at Making Light—a question was left hanging that’s never been answered. It concerns the NYC ‘07 Pitch and Shop: A First Novel Pitch Conference.

#218 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:23 AM:

#165, query for Jim or others: Doesn’t charging $600 for the opportunity to pitch to a bunch of editors constitute a violation of Yog’s law? Or is this considered a “how to pitch” teaching venue?

Confused about whether the whole thing is evil, or if it’s just being marketed evilly.

I said no at the time, but I’ve done some further research and thinking about it, and you know what? Mary Dell was right, except for the “bunch of editors” part. It’s a bunch of editors and agents. The NYC Pitch and Shop Conference is either a conscious scam, or it’s being run by people who know so little about publishing and professional writing that they shouldn’t be running workshops at all. Either way, it’s going to be useless to almost all of its attendees. On top of that, it’s absurdly expensive for what you get.

My biggest objection to the conference is that it’s being marketed to unpublished novelists. Its subtitle is A First Novel Pitch Conference. I had the same objection to the now-defunct Pitch Bitch weblog, a deliberately deceitful and misleading site that was run by some of the same people who are organizing the NYC P&SC.

Pitch sessions for unpublished novelists are a cargo-cult activity. TV and movie and radio scripts get sold via pitch. Sometimes magazine articles or nonfiction books get sold that way too—nonfiction sells on its ideas plus the author’s expertise, skill, and track record (if any). But nobody buys first novels via pitch. Fiction in general doesn’t sell via pitch, unless the person doing the pitching is already an experienced and established writer, or is an agent. The absolute most an unpublished novelist can get out of a pitch session is to be told to go ahead and send the manuscript: an outcome that’s hard to distinguish from the normal submission process.

No way is this worth $600. Don’t go.

(This post is almost certainly going to grow over the next few hours, but I’m posting the first segment now: 5:45 p.m., 23 April 2007.)

Onward.

Most first-time novelists don’t know any of this stuff. Unpublished fiction writers are the largest and most reliably naive segment of the whole aspiring writer tribe. Pitch sessions at legit weekend writers’ conferences are perennially oversubscribed by aspiring young writers eager for their ten or fifteen minutes with a Real Agent or Real Editor. The only case I’ve heard of where pitch sessions with editors resulted in sales by unpublished novelists was when Harlequin bought a couple of titles at romance conventions. On the other hand, Harlequin is always trolling for newbie romance writers, and these magic sales happened some time ago. For everyone else and since, the best recorded outcome is still “Sure, go ahead and send me the manuscript.”

On top of that, most workshops forbid writers to bring samples of their work. Brilliant, eh? They ban the single most useful diagnostic tool we have. How do you give advice to fiction writers when all you’ve got to go on are descriptions of their ideas? A writer with a Jack Womack or Jasper Fforde kind of idea is headed for trouble, unless he or she can write like Womack or Fforde. Meanwhile, most ideas for fiction sound stupid when you boil them down to their essentials:

Bill S.: Okay, get this: melancholy Prince of Denmark comes home from school to find Dad dead, Mom married to Uncle. Trouble ensues. What do you think?

Phil H.: I dunno, Bill. That one’s been used before.

In fiction, the execution is what counts. Ideas don’t even come into play unless the execution is good enough. That’s why many publishers won’t buy a first novel that isn’t finished yet. Plot outlines are all very well, but they want to see whether the author can do a passable job of writing the whole thing, start to finish.

Pitching ideas for fiction is so useless that it qualifies as a sin (var. sloth). You and the author or editor might as well be blowing soap bubbles at each other. Granted, some ideas will be more promising than others; but when the book is written, what we’ll look at is the execution. If it’s good enough, we’ll consider caring about the ideas.

How is it possible to be any more useless than that? In previous years, the P&SC managed. Their pitch sessions weren’t supposed to be actual pitch sessions. Instead, they focused on training authors to pitch books, which is not a skill authors need to have.

I have a couple of thoughts on that. The first is that running training sessions for pitch sessions, rather than running pitch sessions proper, has the virtue of making it impossible for anyone to say that your conference is a useless way to try to sell a manuscript.

Second thought: in previous years, the P&SC organizers discreetly mentioned in their advertising that if agents or editors there were sufficiently impressed with your presentation, you might be asked to submit your work to them. That’s a problem. If having your manuscript taken up by an agent or editor was a possible outcome of the sessions, then the P&SC was running real pitch sessions, not just training sessions for pitch sessions.

That raises questions of professional ethics. Legit weekend writers’ workshops typically charge $200 - $400 for a basic membership, and offer a diverse program of panels, lectures, and other educational events which may or may not include pitch sessions. The agents and editors who attend have their expenses paid, may receive a modest honorarium, and work nonstop all weekend.

By contrast, the NYC Pitch ‘n’ Shop is all pitch session. There’s no other programming. The authors and editors have been getting paid $500 plus lunch for 90 - 120 minutes of work. If they’re potentially accepting manuscripts, and the pitch sessions are all that’s going on, then the authors were paying the agents to consider their work.

This year, the P&SC has a couple of new policies. They’re explicitly aiming their conference at first novelists, and they’re putting front and center the idea that these are potential-sale pitch sessions. Someone should mention this to the AAR.

Also:

Please note that writers tapped by publication editors for a manuscript submission during the course of the NYC Pitch and Shop conference are advised to meet with the workshop editors [I think they mean workshop organizers] to discuss, among other things, options for agent representation. Both Algonkian and NYWW [those are other workshops run by the same organizers] are connected to several top-flight agencies.
Beware of any publishing-related operation that funnels authors into the hands of agents, book doctors, or freelance editors with whom they have an ongoing relationship.

(More to come. The foregoing segment was added at 10:25 p.m., 23 April 2007.)

Our summaries thus far:

1. For fiction writers, pitch sessions are as close to perfectly useless as you’re likely to see; and the NYC P&S’s sessions are more useless than average.

2. The NYC Pitch and Shop First-Novel Pitch Conference is deliberately aimed at unpublished fiction writers, who are a chronically naive bunch. The organizers are selling them a grossly overpriced pitch-session conference, when first novelists are the writers who are least likely to sell anything to the professional publishing industry via pitch session.

Onward, then.

Something I didn’t mention in the last segment: This year, as in previous years, the NYC P&SC’s organizers are forbidding writers to bring samples of their work with them to their pitch sessions. Why? As they explain:

Editors will not read the actual prose during this conference. The NYC Pitch and Shop is a pitch conference, not a word craft shop.
That is, it never crosses their minds that looking at the prose itself might be useful for the instructors.

Who are these people?

The NYC P&SC appears to be part of Michael Neff’s cross-promotional chain of online literary magazines, the Web Del Sol literary portal site, Algonkian Workshops (both online and in person), New York Writers Workshop, and assorted book-pitching training sessions.

Someone who’s been involved with the NYC P&SC for years is Kaley Noonan, a failed fiction writer with a BA in Magazine Journalism from Ohio University and an MFA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. She’s Neff’s short fiction editor at Del Sol Review and teaches online writers’ workshops for Algonkian. She has never made a commercial fiction sale in her entire life. (Scroll down for her professional bio. Michael Neff’s is there too.) Noonan was responsible for the mendacious weblog Pitch Bitch, in which she pretended to be “an editor on the inside” and handed out advice which largely consisted of promoting other parts of Michael Neff’s operation. I got into a major thrash with her a few months ago.

Short version: In January of this year, a woman styling herself “An Editor on the Inside” started up a Miss Snark/Pub Rant-style weblog called “Pitch Bitch”, and spammed authors’ forums to advertise it. She promoted the NYC P&SC and Algonkian Workshops. Her website was specifically aimed at first novelists. The NYC P&S website linked back to her. It also promoted/still promotes Algonkian Workshops.

I read the material posted at Pitch Bitch and put up a post at Making Light saying that far from being “An Editor on the Inside,” the author of Pitch Bitch was not an editor at all, and furthermore her advice was worthless. Our enterprising and ingenious readers went to work on the mystery. In a series of three comments, Mary Dell identified “An Editor on the Inside” as Kaley Noonan.

This sparked an epic comment thread. The first few hundred messages are especially interesting. It is very likely that Kaley Noonan was the person posing as “Julie Field” who showed up to aggressively defend Pitch Bitch and the NYC P&S in a sockpuppety style. Then, in a series of comments (164, 168, 170, 173, 199, JDM@176, 199, 233, 238), Greg London outed Julie Field as a stooge or sockpuppet of NYC P&S, and connected her with Kaley Noonan. The Pitch Bitch site disappeared. In message 219, Mary Dell observed that the link from the NYC P&S site to Pitch Bitch vanished at the very same time that the Pitch Bitch site was taken down.

(Pitch Bitch later resurfaced as a sub-page on the NYC P&S website. If I’d had any lingering doubts that the NYC P&S people were consciously dishonest (as opposed to clueless), having a Pitch Bitch page pop up on their site would have ended them. In my opinion, this is a dishonest operation.)

The gist of Greg London’s discoveries was that Julie Field’s entire online existence consisted of showing up in venues where people were criticizing the NYC P&S in order to do damage control. Sometimes she just praised the NYC P&S to the skies; but in one instance Greg found, a discussion thread about the NYC P&S at Lulu.com, she called out the troops.

Greg spotted a bunch of suspicious accounts on Lulu.com which appear to have been created for the sole purpose of helping Kaley Noonan shout down a single post by a critic of the P&SC. Those same names were later quoted on the P&SC website. All of them were real people who’d previously attended the P&S Conference. Their appearance at Lulu.com was the only time any of their Lulu.com accounts got used. Here’s the post they showed up to quash:

Posted: Tue May 23, 2006 4:13 pm
Post subject: NYC Pitch is a very expensive and useless conference

Hi innocent writer: Do not attend the NYC Pitch, unless you have $500 extra to throw to the winds. This is three days when you essentially sharpen a “pitch”, and meet three editors. Face time with editors - about a minute each. The editors may not be people in your genre. They may not be interested in your manuscript. There is no guarantee that you will be given a “contract”, which the misleading advertising in the NYC Pitch claims.

Instead, save your money, break it into $75 chunks, and attend six other well reputed conferences where you can get the same face time from different editors and agents. You can also invest your cash more wisely by hiring an editor and copy-editor to comb through your manuscript.

Again, don’t waste your cash.

Apparently this was enough to get the Pitch & Shop organizers to make a formal complaint to Lulu.com. Trouble is, that description matches fairly closely what I’ve heard about the P&S Conference—including from one of the instructors.

Julie Field also complained about a comment by this same disgruntled customer at Evil Editor, saying he or she had been “…posting all over the net in a vendetta frenzy.” Do two instances qualify as “all over the net”? Because that’s how many I can find.

One of the areas of professional expertise listed on Kaley Noonan’s personal website is guerrilla marketing. We know she set up a fake weblog, Pitch Bitch, and posed as a commercial editor in order to promote the Pitch and Shop Conference and the Algonkian Workshops/New York Writers Workshops complex. This is almost certainly her work. We know she repeatedly spammed a bunch of online writers’ forums to promote the Pitch Bitch weblog. As “Julie Field”, she does her best to suppress legitimate online criticism of all these enterprises. I think she’s one of those people who believes that calling yourself a “guerrilla marketer” means you have a license to lie online.

But back to the night of 24 January in Making Light’s comment thread. Many things happened, including ML readers hunting up online specimens of Kaley Noonan’s fiction. It’s unmistakably bad. I was especially smitten with the bit where a girl is going around with a big old workboot pulled down over her head, with only her mouth and nose showing, to “force others to acknowledge her pain.” Woof!

One of the reasons I’m increasingly suspicious of WebDelSol/Algonkian is that Kaley Noonan is one of their editors, and has been teaching pricey online workshops for them. Only extra-textual influences or a complete disregard for the quality of the instruction could explain that. Another reason I’m dubious about the Algonkian workshops is that training their students in how to do pitch sessions is a major element in their syllabus.

And an odd bit I couldn’t fit in elsewhere: Usenet veterans will recognize the pattern. “Julie Field” responded to criticisms of Kaley Noonan’s writing as though she were the author. She was obviously badly stung, and felt obliged to respond to everything said about KN’s writing. Someone who does that always turns out to be the author in question.

(A few more observations will be added tomorrow. The foregoing segment was posted at 1:20 a.m., 24 April 2007.)

I’m hoping this will be the last segment of this post. To reiterate an earlier set of summaries:

1. For fiction writers, pitch sessions are as close to perfectly useless as you’re likely to see; and the NYC P&S’s sessions are more useless than average.

2. The NYC Pitch and Shop First-Novel Pitch Conference is deliberately aimed at unpublished fiction writers, who are a chronically naive bunch. The organizers are selling them a grossly overpriced pitch-session conference, when first novelists are the writers who are least likely to sell anything to the professional publishing industry via pitch session.

To these, add:

3. Kaley Noonan, the front person and probable organizer of the NYC P&SC, has a BA and MA from university writing programs, but has never made a single commercial fiction sale. She is nevertheless charging writers $600 a head to come to her conference and learn how to make commercial fiction sales.

4. It is perhaps not a coincidence that after four years of pitch-session conferences, K. Noonan still doesn’t have an agent, and hasn’t placed her novels with a commercial publishing house.

Conclusions:

1. If you’re in the business of selling advice to aspiring novelists, shouldn’t you know how novels do and don’t get sold?

2. We already know from the sockpuppetry, forum spamming, and the whole Pitch Bitch fiasco, that Kaley Noonan is willing to lie and mislead other writers in order to get them to buy into the Web Del Sol/Algonkian Workshops/New York Writers Workshops/NYC P&S Conferences. If she knows that novels (especially first novels) aren’t bought via pitch session, her conference is a scam from start to finish. If she’s been doing the conference for years and still doesn’t know that pitch sessions are a grossly ineffective way to sell novels, she’s thick as two short planks. In neither case should anyone be buying writing advice from her.

3. I’m not saying that publishing is perfect, or that the submission process doesn’t have its frictions, irritations, and irrationalities. However, none of these are addressed by the NYC PItch and Shop First-Novel Pitch Conference. All they’re doing is intermediating themselves in processes that don’t need intermediation, and charging an arm and a leg to do it.

4. There is no value in the NYC Pitch and Shop Conference. Don’t go. Warn your friends not to go.

(Finished, 11:55 a.m., 24 April 2007.)

Comments on Pitch sessions viewed as useless:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:18 PM:

I love the phrase "cargo-cult activity." That's exactly right.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Agreed. Very good term.

#3 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:32 PM:

The absolute most an unpublished novelist can get out of a pitch session is to be told to go ahead and send the manuscript: an outcome that’s hard to distinguish from the normal submission process.

The one time I pitched a novel, the person I pitched to asked me to send exactly the same package I would have sent as an unsolicited submission.

Once I stopped congratulating myself for not fainting, farting or collapsing on the floor in a puddle of flop sweat, I realized that the only thing I'd done was risk being turned down for what I said about the book rather than the book itself.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Got it in one, Harry.

#5 ::: DarthParadox ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:38 PM:

I realized that the only thing I'd done was risk being turned down for what I said about the book rather than the book itself.

This is one of the big things that makes the novel pitch generally useless, I think. Unlike a television show or a movie, where the content will eventually be communicated to the audience in a format quite different than the script or treatment which gets pitched, a novel is already in the form it will take upon presentation to the audience (sans fancy cover and binding and whatnot).

TV and movie writers need to speak for their work, especially when there's a lot more to their vision than what you see on the page. But novelists can let their work speak for itself.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:54 PM:

It didn't feel right when the first thread came up in January. It still doesn't feel right. It did cause some interesting visitors to come out of the woodwork, though.

;)

#7 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:59 PM:

What do you make of pitch sessions as part of a larger conference, if one doesn't pay extra to schedule them?

I know some folks who were involved in a local conference that did this recently, and while I'm still torn on whether the sessions were actively useful, they didn't seem to do any harm, at least.

Unlike a conference where you only pitch and pay $600 for the privilege. Doesn't that actually violate AAR standards?

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Isn't pitch what people use to caulk their roof with?

#9 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Because really, it is a well known fact that writing a novel and being able to market it -- in person -- to professionals are exactly the same skill.

(Warning, this message contains levels of sarcasm which have been shown to be toxic in humans. Do not read without prior written consent of your doctor.)

#10 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:20 PM:

Zak @ 9: Because really, it is a well known fact that writing a novel and being able to market it -- in person -- to professionals are exactly the same skill.

Precisely. It's why we're all actors and don't need agents.

#11 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:29 PM:

Not Ideas about the Book,
but the Book Itself

At the NYC Pitch Conference,
In March, a scrawny cry from the author
Seemed like a sound in her mind.

She knew she had heard it before,
A writer's cry, over latte at Starbucks,
Where the smell of sweat and stale muffins mingled.

The light was fading and flickering,
No longer a gem shining out from the slush ...
The news would arrive in an envelope.

It was not an unmixed metaphor
Towering like a concrete cliche with missing teeth ...
The rejection would come in an envelope.

That scrawny cry - It was
A scrivener whose s preseeded the spellcheck.
It was part of the colossal first draft,

Destined never to be revised,
Only brandished. It was the sound of
Mary Sue, unmarried, threatening to sue.

#12 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Janni, speaking here with my often-struggling author's hat on, I'd say that anything that arouses false hopes, or sets up false fears, that distract you from the actual work of writing and submission is an actively bad idea. Even if it's not costing you money, it's costing you attention, and reduced attention feeds directly into reduced craft. Your work and your business need you.

This is where the cargo-cult comparison is so handy. There's little necessarily destructive about setting up shrines to vehicles, and so on. It's just that it's energy that could have been used to build something useful, to study, to learn, to help. Likewise with this sort of activity. Even when it's not bankrupting you or enriching frauds, it's not actually helping you write or sell. So don't do it, and don't think of it as desirable.

My take, anyway.

#13 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 09:24 PM:

Oh, hey, thanks for the answer. Glad I was apparently thinking straight about it. I was just reminded of this notion the other day, when I tried to tell my husband about a story I'm writing, and ended up sort of helplessly waving my appendages and sputtering.

#14 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 09:40 PM:

So, in the end, we could take Bruce's idea and rephrase the title:

Pitch Sessions considered Harmful*

*recursive footnote.

#15 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 09:40 PM:

Regarding cargo cults, I once had what I expect was the only incorporated cargo cult in NYS. This had been for a freelance art business, where the bulk of my business had been ad mockups for local ad agencies. I figured 'ad mockups:advertising::cargo cults:aviation'. It seemed clever at the time; if I were doing it over again, I would come up with something that required less explanation (also, I was told some people were made nervous by 'cult' in the name, as if any real cult labeled itself).

Full color business cards are not so uncommon now, but were unusual in the 80's when I was doing this business. I did some airbrush art, which a printer friend ran on the margins of another job (saving me lots of money).

It's been more than 10 years since I was running that business.

#16 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 09:44 PM:

Janni, years ago I participated in such sessions at a local writing conference. I did it twice.

The results were less than promising, to say the least. And I was out $50 each (or was it $25--that was back in the late 80s) for, essentially, nothing.

I've gotten equivalent results (hey, I've got this novel, here's the premise, do you want to see it?) from doing a quick two minute pitch to an editor at a convention party that had a similar result--changing the submission from unsolicited to solicited. That didn't cost me anything, I got to have some fun and interesting conversations with those editors, and I had good food and drink at the same time. Plus I got a look at that particular publisher's new list of books coming out (ooh! shiny! I want! I want! I want! Droool)

My experience is also that writing conventions that feature this kind of activity tend to be a.) incredibly expensive as compared to sf conventions, b.) tediously loaded down with pretentious, self-promoting How-to-Write "experts," c.) and boring as hell compared to sf conventions.

Save your money. Go to a sf con and hit the writing panels as well as the fun panels. Cheaper, much more fun with varied entertainment, and a heck of a lot less painful to endure.

Especially if there's Toxic Waste anywhere around....

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 10:41 PM:

Let me just say that the Google ads that have started showing up on this thread are interesting indeed. My first thought is that, like the Google ads that show up on most of the writing-related threads here, it's Scam-a-rama over in the right-hand column.

But ... it's a different mix. No ads for PublishAnything. None from Bobby Fletcher's Boca Raton bungalow.

Still: I doubt that "Top Producers Are Scouting New Reality TV Show Ideas Online." And I really doubt that Display Sites work any better for TV shows than they do for books.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Jim, have you noticed that even those disreputable Google ads use "pitch" to refer to selling TV writing, but don't use it in connection with prose fiction?

#19 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Does the "Self-Publish Your Short Stories!" one involve pitching to yourself?

#20 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 12:16 AM:

elise #19: That's completely okay, as long as you wash your hands afterwards.

#21 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Only January that all went down? I'd thought it was last year... I was just thinking in terms of sober aphorisms:

The mill of TNH is slow,
But it grinds fine,
She waits with patience,
And she reveals all.

(Adapted from a Google-crystalized book which points out that the "grinds slow" bit is originally from Plutarch. Old!)

#22 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:29 AM:

Pitch is another name for what makes a Tar Baby so hard to get offa you.

I'm going to have to sit down at home & read through that post properly. Thanks, TNH

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:45 AM:

As it happens, I was just reading the latest Radio Times, and a mention of the movie Total Recall, which is pretty strong evidence for how little the original written story, whatever its format, matters to the final product. There are so many people involved in the process that this shouldn't be a surprise, and those films which are still recognisable as the original deserve some praise.

And you can still see the battered and bleeding body of the original idea, about memory and reality, in the film.

Of course, with all the energy expended on making a movie, it's debatable whether spinning the author in his grave is going to make a net positive contribution to the California energy markets.

#24 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 05:27 AM:

Thanks for this! I'll probably never be able to attend any writing conferences, so the more I can read about them the better.

Just a couple of times in the post/article you used "author" when I think you meant "agent":

You and the author or editor might as well be blowing soap bubbles

and

The authors and editors have been getting paid $500 plus lunch

#25 ::: Madeline Kelly sees pretty spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:31 AM:

#25 is both attractive and spamalicious. How can this be?

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:35 AM:

It occurs to me that this, as with so much else on the shady side of publishing, is about how one gets an editor to look at a book in the first place.

We here have heard tell of slushpiles. We know how dreadfully, and obviously, bad the writing can be. I would be unsurprised if everyone posting regularly to Making Light comments could write well enough to get past the "first page" test. But there's a general feeling, maybe fed by stories from the world of film and TV, that there are other barriers; that, without an agent, getting published is a hopeless effort.

There are always going to be people with a false idea of the quality of their writing, desperate enough to be prey for the low-lifes of publishing. In an ideal world, it ought to be easier to submit a work with some sense of it being "properly" considered.

But that costs the publishers money. And the whole thing depends on everyone handling unsolicited manuscripts in the same "proper" manner.

Can you say "tragedy of the commons"? It's a distored mirroring of the classic idea of economics, but if a publisher can get enough salable books without digging through the slushpile, will they even want one?

As a pixel-stained technopeasant wretch-in-waiting, I wonder if the ebook phenomenon is an opportunity to bypass the whole problem. But it needs the traditional publishers to be paying attention to what is a virtual slushpile, and the only way that can work is if there are reliable, easy-to-use, measures of the traffic a free ebook generates.

If an editor can easily find the writers who are repeatedly read--not just the one text being downloaded by the bored and curious--that might be a good first-stage filter for writing ability.

Unfortunately, the same people who sell courses in pitching, and extol them with fake identities, are going to game a system like this to hell and back.

#27 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 07:05 AM:

Dave Bell @ #26: it seems to me that the traditional way of getting published works PERFECTLY.

My friend [pro author] spent about 10 years writing short stories. His first few were SF. He got 1. a form rejection, 2. a personal, "send us another" rejection 3. an acceptance. Then he switched to mystery fiction. He published one story after another in Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. One of his stories was anthologized. He wrote a pretty good novel and shopped it to a whole bunch of agents. They all rejected it. He kept publishing short stories and he wrote another, better, novel. A well-known agent who had read his short stories contacted him and he sent her the new novel. She asked for several editing passes on the novel, and because he agreed with all of her suggestions, he made the changes. Eventually she decided to represent the novel, put it up for bidding, and got him a three-book contract from a major press. His first book got a bunch of good reviews, including a mention in Entertainment Weekly. He's just finished his tour for his second book.

He published his first story around 1994 and he got the book deal in 2004. Talent, time, and hard work--it takes all three. But there's a whole industry designed to prey on people who may have talent but don't have the patience to develop it into something lasting.

#28 ::: Jack Kincaid ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:02 AM:

There is only one meaningful way I know to pitch a novel manuscript and that's with your hand. Not that I would recommend that to a writer unless the manuscript is suitably horrid. As for editors ... well, that's their rightful province.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:15 AM:

Jack Kincaid @ 28... Lousy aerodynamics too, eh? (Hmm... That sounds like something for the MythBusters to test. They still have the air cannon with which they launched turkeys.)

#30 ::: Megan Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:26 AM:

Serge and Jack: Works best if you put some spin on it, like throwing a Frisbee.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:32 AM:

Careful with that frisbee-throw. If you catch the web of your thumb with the corner of the manuscript, you can pick up multiple parallel papercuts.

MikeB (11), I neglected to tell you how much I liked that, though the second-to-last stanza puzzles me.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:35 AM:

Woo! The addition of the post above (Mary Dell, #27) that mentions short stories and novels added Google Ads from BookSurge (vanity press), Novel Writing Software (100% Guaranteed To Have Your Finished Novel In Only a Month), and someone with a list of Writing Contests.

(Writing contests are, generally, worthless. Every publisher out there holds a contest every day: the cost is "submission" and the prize is "publication." Unless it's a contest whose name you've seen on the cover of a paperback edition, stay away from contests. And please note: The contests that you've heard of (National Book Award, Pulitzer, Hugo, etc.) are all for already-published books.)

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Megan and Teresa... And the manuscript had better be held together by very sturdy rubberbands.

#34 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:56 AM:

Another Google ad: "Book Coaching Especially for Women: Delight in Writing - and Finishing!"

Delight in finishing is something every woman should strive for.

#35 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:57 AM:

I presume that the art of grading final exams by throwing them down the stairs can also be adapted to manuscripts:

http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2006/12/a_guide_to_grad.html

#36 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Mary, I think it's a question of perceptions. Not just whether you think you have talent, but whether there's a way to get that talent within sight of an editor.

Your friend wrote a pretty good novel and shopped it to a whole bunch of agents. They all rejected it.

That doesn't sound perfect to me. And I can see naive authors hearing stories like that, and falling prey to the snake-oil salesmen who claim to know the secrets that this guy, obviously, didn't. Not the secret of good writing, but the secret of selling.

Self-publishing is becoming so easy: why do you think the snake oil is about editing and selling to the "real" publishers.

#37 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:08 AM:

Mary Dell: Delight in finishing is something every woman should strive for.

This is true. The satisfaction one gets from setting-in a fully-fashioned sleeve, picking up stitches for the neck, and binding off in pattern should never be underestimated.

#38 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:40 AM:

If I may gently and respectfully (yeah, right, coming from a shark) point out why a pitch is even more meaningless in publishing than in H'wood:

In publishing, the "product" being provided "on paper" is the final product. Sure, it will get editorial attention; hopefully, it will get attention from a decent designers, too, but I never get my hopes up. (Yes, in fact I am a bit of a snob on interior book design.) The point, though, is that the final product is words on the page.

In H'wood, the "product" being provided "on paper" is, at best, the blueprint for the final product. One can make a bad film starting from a good script (Exhibit A: the wretched DeCaprio/Danes adaptation of R&J), but it's almost impossible to make a good film starting from a bad script (Exhibit B: ScriptWhores, Episode One: The Phantom Screenplay). The point is that the pitch — or whatever means of sale gets used — is at a much earlier stage of the creative process in H'wood than in publishing.

This is the precaffeinated way of saying "paying money to learn how to apply one industry's sales techniques probably won't help in a noncomparable industry." And these days, the script is usually — at least, in terms of the order in which things get paid for — only the third or fourth item in the H'wood production system anyway.

#39 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:47 AM:

It's funny... I belong in that target audience (unpublished fiction writer) and when it comes to the world of publishing I consider myself fairly naive... but a "pitch workshop" would have absolutely NO appeal to me whatsoever. Why? Because nobody would read my writing!

I guess that's the first time my innate narcissism has saved me from being ripped off. My understanding is that it usually works the other way around.

#40 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Dave Bell @ #36: If I spend my hard-earned money and my scarce time reading a novel that's just "pretty good," by an author with no track record, I will probably never want to read another book by that author. I expect books to be wonderful, terrific, superb. As a reader, I'm glad that agents and editors are choosy. I don't want writers to feel encouraged to produce anything other than superlative work.

#41 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:22 AM:

TNH:

How is it possible to be any more useless than that?

Now there is a contest to attract my interest!

  • Braille driving maps?
  • a perfectly secure computer?
  • a black-ink-and-black-paper writing kit?

Well, maybe not; but I'm sure I'll come up with something, even if no one tries to explain the phrase "rhetorical question" to me.

#42 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:25 AM:

doing a quick two minute pitch to an editor at a convention party that had a similar result--changing the submission from unsolicited to solicited.

How valuable is it, getting a submission from "unsolicited" to "solicited"?

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:25 AM:

TexAnne @37
Delight in finishing is something every woman should strive for.

Indeed.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:28 AM:

(To explain: in bookbinding terms, finishing is the application of gold and other metals to the cover of a book.)

#45 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Still thinking about this--it occurs to me that pitch sessions might theoretically be useful in cases where one is unagented and the publisher won't even read at unagented queries (meaning a "sure, send it to me" actually is better response than one would hope for if querying cold, since a cold query would be ignored as a matter of policy).

Otherwise ... the idea that the problem is that you're just giving the publisher an extra chance to reject your work, only on the basis of something other than the actual writing, makes much sense to me.

I do get the impression that pitch sessions are much more the norm in, say, RWA, where they're a regular part of larger conferences; it'd be interesting to see what RWA members' take on their usefulness is.

I suppose one could use a (no-additional-fee, part-of-the-conference-anyway) pitch session to simply learn more about an editor and feel out whether you'd want to work with them, rather than actually pitching (or rather than having that pitch as your main reason for being there).

#46 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Rejection via mail is bad enough, rejection in person is cruel.

Heck, if I want rejection in persion, I shlep down to Tor and let TNH slap me upside the head with my MS in person.

#47 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:51 AM:

#8 Serge, no that's what you use to water-seal boats. Or used to. Caulk goes between the planks, pitch goes over the whole thing.

#28 Jack Kincaid, I think that was the old process of grading term-papers. Whichever hit the bottom step from the pitch off the top step got the A. But if you add sufficient spin to that pitch, you can get a curveball, or something like that.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:52 AM:

Steve @ 47... I stand corrected.

#49 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:02 AM:

abi, 43: I was quoting Mary Dell.

Steve, Serge: My ancestral method of grading papers (handed down from my father's father) is that one stands at the bottom of the stairs, and the papers that reach the top receive an A.

#50 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:05 AM:

#26: I think it's a matter of education. Sometimes, not making it past the first page is a proper consideration of the work. Yes, this is not a happy realization. Also, I don't know about other people, but I find it very hard to write a useful critique of anything I wouldn't read past the first page. So I doubt a "proper" consideration would actually satisfy anyone.
(This is part of why I was thrilled that my rejection from Strange Horizons came with terrific and useful crit of my story. An editor thought enough of my story to use some of his valuable time to write to me about it. Whee!)

Until everything everyone writes is highly sellable and there is enough demand for all of that writing, there will always be a slushpile. The question is where you have moved it. I guess publishers can get enough salable books without digging through the slushpile by accepting only agented submissions. But that just moves the slushpile over to agents. We've already tried e-books ventures which publish all comers. That just moves the slushpile to the general public. What we discovered is that agents and publishers serve a useful function. We want someone to tell us, "We think you'll like this book." Readers, as a whole, do not like sifting through slush. So whoever does this is not a typical reader.

I don't know that I would say that the current system is perfect. But everyone's attempts to improve it thus far has resulted in something worse. So rather than trying to improve the system, I would focus on innoculating novice writers against scams.

#51 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:05 AM:

So, TexAnne, the grading curve is actually a parabola?

#52 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:06 AM:

#49 TexAnne, that works as well. The weight of the submission, I mean the term-paper, would also enable the pitch to go further. Although I think in that case you need to pitch them singly, instead en mass which would work better going downstairs.

#53 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:07 AM:

I'm astounded anybody would actually plunk out hundreds of bucks for this kind of thing. I paid just $60 to attend NorwesCon 30 and got FOUR DAYS of panel after panel after panel of ESTABLISHED SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WRITERS AND EDITORS discussing the trade, the craft, the whole thing. People who knew WTF they were talking about and had no desire to snow us. Funny, not a one of them had anything to say about pitching. To the last, they all said pretty much the same things:

1) There is no replacement for good writing.
2) To write well, you must work at it.
3) There is no replacement for working at it.
4) There is no replacement for sending the work out.
5) There is no magic bullet for rejection.
6) This is true even among established writers.
7) Those who can't deal with rejection are encouraged to quit, and soon.
8) Those who can handle rejection, can handle the work, and who have a little talent and are very patient and persistent, will eventually find some measure of success.
9) Few writers ever get fabulously rich or famous writing SF or F exclusively.
10) Agents are useful only for new writers who have already been offered a book deal.
11) Agent land is replete with frauds; writer beware!
12) Never, ever, ever PAY MONEY to anyone for representing you. DON'T DO IT!
13) Violate advice #12 at your peril.
14) Self-publishing is the fool's gold of the industry; so eschew it and get back to work on something that will sell to a real publisher.
15) Never take any advice from anyone lacking a proven, observable publishing or editorial record.

Most of us in wannabe-land ought to already know all these things already. But it's good to have them re-affirmed in an intimate panel setting where you can see the seriousness on the faces of Those Who Know and take comfort in the fact that there is no easy way to break into print, nor any easy way to stay in print once you are there.

Writing, apparently, is not work for the timid or the lazy.

#54 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Steve, 52: Pitching them singly destroys the system's elegant simplicity. Also, it interferes with the ceremonial Holding of the G&T in one's non-grading hand.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:12 AM:

TexAnne @ 49... My ancestral method of grading papers (handed down from my father's father) is that one stands at the bottom of the stairs, and the papers that reach the top receive an A.

So, aerodynamics do make a difference. And the strength of your arm. Or do you use a catapult?

#56 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:13 AM:

I have a related question, about editing.

Where do editors (or slush-pile readers) draw the line between "This manuscript is not worth taking the time to edit" and "This manuscript would be good with a little editing"?

Or to put it another way, I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a manuscript that doesn't need editing. But why?

#57 ::: Caro ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:19 AM:

45 Janni:

I do get the impression that pitch sessions are much more the norm in, say, RWA, where they're a regular part of larger conferences; it'd be interesting to see what RWA members' take on their usefulness is.

The reaction varies -- there's certainly a tremendous amount of chaff in the pitches, but I do know some people who've managed to get an editor interested in something that doesn't quite fit the current norm and have it requested. If they'd gone through the regular query/slush pile, they would have stood a much higher chance of getting rejected flat out.

The big advantage of getting a request is that it can now go in as "requested material." Also, if your pitch is good enough, editors and agents have been known to request a full manuscript, allowing you to bypass the partial stage altogether.

It's certainly a mixed bag -- but the way my particular RWA chapter looks at it, going into a pitch session is as much about getting a sense of what interests the editor or agent and what doesn't as trying to tell them your story. The meeting after National in July is dedicated to disseminating information gained at the conference, which is a big help.

No one that I know of has ever sold directly off a pitch, though a pitch has started the process by which some people have sold.

#58 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Laurence @ 56: This may not answer your question, but is a place to start (if you haven't already read it): Slushkiller.

Read it all the way through. Read the comments, as well.

#59 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:22 AM:

#53, I'm choking a bit on number 10 of that list--I'm a newish writer, sure, but my agent actually GOT me the book deal (and at about three times the advance I would have ever dared to ask for...) and got me the gig after that, and will hopefully continue to do so in the future, and was furthermore invaluable for things like sitting on the editor's head saying "Why hasn't the contract been mailed yet? Where is that check again? C'mon, let's get this show on the road!" which I would never have the nerve to do.

So I would balk at the analysis that agents are only good for new authors who already have book deals. In my limited experience, they're definitely worth their weight in gold for those of us who are shy and polite and hate to bother people.

I grant you, though, it was for a kid's book, not a straight SF&F kinda thing, so maybe there's a significant genre difference...

#60 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Ursula,

I think the panelists were just trying to warn all us wannabes away from getting suckered by a scammer who would prey on our hopes as unpublished folk, and string us along. They were also telling us that even a beginner can get better money running an existing offer through an agent, as opposed to just taking the house boilerplate contract.

Yes, it's the old chicken/egg conundrum, presented anew: how to get a good offer without an agent, and how to get a good agent without an offer.

But it made sense at the Con.

=^)

#61 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Slushkiller. Read it all the way through.

By the time you've finished, your work will have sat in the drawer for the requisite three months, and you'll be able to go back to it and fix a lot more problems. ;)

Seriously: Slushkiller was my introduction to this blog, a couple of years back, and took a long time to read even then. It hasn't stopped growing yet.

#62 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:59 AM:

TexAnne, my grandfather graded by throwing them against a wall, with whatever stuck to the wall getting an A.

#63 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 12:03 PM:

in #50 JC wrote some excellent things about "moving the slushpile." Two thoughts:

(1)It's probably right about where it needs to be: in the hands of people who have a financial incentive to get good work published.

The only contrary example I can think of is webcomics, and there the (non-advertising-based) model is self-publishing via pre-orders. In other words, incentive has been moved onto the fans. Who then act as half the publisher, and the cartoonist acts as the distributor/packager. Not a scalable* model for most people in cartooning.

(2) JC Wrote
I don't know that I would say that the current system is perfect. But everyone's attempts to improve it thus far has resulted in something worse.

Agreed, but I have a suggestion anyway. It would be helpful to authors if we knew you had rejected our mss as soon as possible, so we could speedily submit it to someone else. Serial submissions are...well, they just are. I can think of a number of ways to do this that are...
Impractical:
- such as bar codes on the cover page that link to a internet accessible database like LibraryThing.
Or would be the same speed as getting a form letter:
- an enclosed postcard:
check one; ( ) rejected ( ) considered ( ) we lost it


*Even if you can afford to spend a small car's worth of money for each print run, eventually your garage will run out of room for the boxes. Plus, distribution is a pain. Multiply this times 6-20 volumes over the course of 10 years and the capital outlay doesn't match up well against the velocity of income. Needless to say, some people have been able to get this to work anyway, (E.g.: Girl Genius by the Foglios) but they seem to have a lot of practice.

#64 ::: Mags ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 12:06 PM:

My publisher had a booth at the Philadelphia Book Festival over the weekend and invited some of their authors to spend a couple of hours signing books. In the two hours on Saturday that I was there (a fraction of the two-day event), three authors came up to the booth and attempted to pitch their novels. I should point out that this company publishes no fiction, and even if they did, the young ladies working at the booth were marketing and publicity managers, not editors of any description, but that didn't stop our intrepid pitchers. I wanted to shake them and ask, "What are you thinking?" It's not like the information about which publishers would be at the festival, with links to their Web sites describing the type of books they publish, was not available before the festival, and all these people got for their trouble was a postcard with the company's URL on it to read their submission guidelines. It was the real-life equivalent of spam and it was positively painful to watch.

I'm sure the pay-to-publish press with several booths across the way (fortunately not one of the scammy ones, but still) was delighted to hear all about their "fiction novels," however.

#65 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Nancy C, 62: I believe that was my maternal grandfather's system as well. Of course, for most efficient use of the professor's time, both methods require a graduate student to collect the detritus.

#66 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Janni: An author without agent or extensive record who finds that a particular publisher looks only at agent-handled submissions should thank the publisher for this info and submit elsewhere. This is a free and quick transaction, and nobody needs to pay money for an elaborate session built around it.

Seriously: Good editors are giving away all the info anyone needs to make sales to them, adn they rejoice publicly and privately when they get to make new discoveries. Notice that it's the folks handling the world-class successes who are giving it away, too, and it's people who may not have any success of their own at all who want to gouge you. Let the people who publish the good writers help you get yourself published.

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 01:36 PM:

TexAnne @ 49
Yeah, I know, but I didn't want to steal your credit for punning on it.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Nancy C @ 62... my grandfather graded by throwing them against a wall, with whatever stuck to the wall getting an A

Dare I ask the circumstances under which a school paper could stick to a wall?

#69 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Here's my personal perspective on the right time and place to pitch a novel:

I pitch novels ...

... at my agent. Before I write them.

The purpose of the pitch is not to sell the book. Rather, it's to get my agent to say one of three things: "I can't sell that," "Eh? I didn't understand that", or "I can sell that".

"I can't sell that" isn't automatically the kiss of death, but it does mean that a canny industry professional who's on my side thinks I'd be making a mistake if I went with the book I just described. The highway of literary success is lined with the burned-out wrecks of promising careers that were driven off the road by a driver who refused to read the signs, so I tend to listen up when my map reader tells me I'm heading for a ditch.

"Eh? I didn't understand that" is equally valuable; it means that I need to refine my own understanding of the idea I'm trying to communicate. Something was lost in transmission, and as the whole job of writing fiction is about magically transmitting ideas from the author's brain to the readers', that's another warning signal: not as strong as "I can't sell that", but strong enough to send the pitch back to the drawing board.

Finally, "I can sell that" means that my agent is happy to see me spend six months -- time neither of us will see again -- writing the idea, because if I execute it to my usual standard she's confident that she can turn a profit from it. Because she's on commission, if she mis-calls this verdict, she loses out; she doesn't get to sell the book I spent those six months writing. So she doesn't say "I can sell that" unless she's pretty sure of it. This is about as close to a green light as an author can get.

Once we hit "I can sell that", I then go back to my desk and work up a written proposal that encapsulates and expands on the pitch. (It's like writing a grant proposal, except the synopsis comes first.) Then we kick it around until it's no longer a pitch but a serious business proposal, and she goes and tries to sell it.

All a book pitch does for a neophyte with no track record is give them a chance to have their work rejected before it's even been read. Not recommended. The right stage for the pitch is before the book is even written, and nobody's going to give you an advance to write the book until you've got a track record.

#70 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:30 PM:

So, aerodynamics do make a difference. And the strength of your arm. Or do you use a catapult?

Arm strength affects catapult cycling speed....

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Tully @ 70... Same issue with a ballista?

#72 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 02:59 PM:

#64: Concerning the lunacy of pitching one's novel to a publisher that carries no fiction ... I can reveal that, following God knows what arcane depths of market research, would-be authors regularly submit stories, novels and even poems to Ansible.

A very few provide return postage. The rest get, well, pitched.

#73 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:03 PM:

I don't know, Serge. I never attempted to use a ballista for exam-tossing. Maybe someone could develop a specialized polybolos...

:-D

#74 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:06 PM:

#65 TexAnne, ah, well, with grad students all thngs are possible.

#75 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:13 PM:

From the adult/continuing ed school in my town:

Publish Your Book ... Guaranteed!
What's the point of being a writer if nobody ever gets to read what you've written? Get a publishing professional's inside perspective on how to publish your manuscript and get it onto bookstore shelves. You'll learn everything you need to know, from designing your book and getting it reviewed, to arranging your own promotional signing tours. Tuition includes a helpful textbook full of tips and techniques for successfully marketing your own writing.

The instructor is someone named David K. Ewen, who appears to be president of a publishing company named "Ewen Prime Company," which has one book, published in 1997, listed on Amazon, with no sales rank. Ewen Prime subsequently transformed into a consulting company called New England Publishers Association which seems to largely offer workshops.

#76 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:13 PM:

#74 with grad students all thngs are possible

Engineering students demonstrate an alternate method. Still not a ballista, exactly, but then again that's not a term paper either.

#77 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:19 PM:

#76 Tully, I prefer the trebuchet or steam-cannon myself. And handling the firing-pin while under tension? My guess is he isn't at the top of the class. Although it looks like they got excellent yardage. I think if you used that for the papers you'd just get confetti. :)

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Tully @ 76... Ptoinngggg!!! That is an interesting way of tossing the Great Pumpkin. Meanwhile, I wonder if there are Scottish engineering students who ever built one of those for caber-tossing.

#79 ::: Matt Jarpe ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Re: #53, 59 and 60.

I completely agree with the panelists on the best time to get an agent. I sent out agent queries every year or so while I was waiting for an editor to read my manuscript. 6 to 8 weeks, form rejection, not interested. Then when I got an offer I found the one perfect agent for me in Preditors and Editors, sent him an e-mail and got a call back in 15 minutes. The sale in hand makes all the difference.

And why do you need an agent once you have a sale? You ever see a book contract? Neither had I. I'm so glad I had someone hold my hand through that process.

And Charlie in #69 gives the other reason: the next book. If he says it sounds good, I run with it.

#80 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Serge, I wish you wouldn't ask me. I don't know if any ever would. (Which was probably the point.)

#81 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:38 PM:

#78 Serge, ooo, caber-tossing. Now that's a pitch session I can get behind ('cause I wouldn't want to be in front of it).

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Janni (45), I went out of my way to ask a romance editor about the success rate of pitch sessions at RWA gatherings. That's where I heard about Harlequin buying a book or two a long time ago. Aside from that, it's the same set of results: a lot of "Good luck with that," and an occasional "Yeah, go ahead and send me the manuscript."

BRT (53), that's a good list except for #10.

Laurence (56), editorial time is limited, and until you've worked with an author, you don't know how they'll take to editing. It's a costly mistake. Every editor will sooner or later wind up having to quietly rewrite a book on their own time. It's not something you tend to do twice.

Then you get into imponderables: how good will it be with some editing? If you edit this author's first book, will he or she learn to do the same with less of your help on subsequent books, or will you have to do the same amount of work on all subsequent titles? Does the book require a kind of editing you can do well?

On that last question: structural editing usually works out well. Surface editing -- spelling, small punctuation, change all the dipthongs in the names -- is likewise feasible, and can sometimes be done by talented freelancers who don't charge much. Fixing the fabric of the book, the sentences and paragraphs, descriptions and conversations, is a huge pain in the wazoo, and generally doesn't work well. It also can't be bounced back to the author with a set of instructions on how to fix it, the way you can with structural editing. If the author knew how to write better sentences, paragraphs, descriptions, conversations, etc., he or she would already be doing it.

Kimiko (63), if we send back our rejects too soon, a percentage of the authors will send them right back, on the grounds that we couldn't possibly have made a proper decision in that little time, and therefore must have returned their work in error.

Mags (64), I served my time in the Tor booth at the most recent NYC comics convention, and I had people try to pitch me there. I pointed out that Tor has an open submission policy. "You don't need a request; just send us the manuscript," I told them (several times apiece). I'm not sure why, but they were oddly crestfallen after I got that across to them.

#83 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 04:11 PM:

#77 #78

I see on second take that it was the winning freshman team, not grad students. Toss was 580 feet. (It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the guy using nips to cut the "safety wire" from around the trigger retention mechanism is now known as "Stumpy.")

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Tully @ 83... Yeah. I thought that was a rather dangerous way to release the pumpkin. (Probably because my father sliced some fingertips off when a fence wire sudenly sprang back into position.)

#85 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Teresa #82: I served my time in the Tor booth at the most recent NYC comics convention, and I had people try to pitch me there. I pointed out that Tor has an open submission policy. "You don't need a request; just send us the manuscript," I told them (several times apiece). I'm not sure why, but they were oddly crestfallen after I got that across to them.

I think people like to feel they are being proactive (or at least to be perceived as being proactive) on their own behalf. The problem is that publishing doesn't respond to the same strategies in quite the same way as other things and it takes a certain amount of clue to pick up on that.

#86 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Thanks, Teresa. It sounds like even after a ms. has been accepted, there's still a certain risk involved, from the editor/publisher's point of view.

. . . until you've worked with an author, you don't know how they'll take to editing.

If I was ever lucky enough to sell anything, I don't think I'd look that horse in the mouth. Not until I was a Rich and Famous Author, anyway, and entitled to as much artistic temperament as I wanted. And of course, if an editor wanted to make major changes, I'd wonder why they bought my version of the story in the first place.

#87 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Yes, I still have that bit about the Ho-Ho's tacked up next to my workstation. I'd forgotten about it until today. Thank you, oh so much, for reminding me...

#88 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Teresa (82):
I served my time in the Tor booth at the most recent NYC comics convention, and I had people try to pitch me there. I pointed out that Tor has an open submission policy. "You don't need a request; just send us the manuscript," I told them (several times apiece). I'm not sure why, but they were oddly crestfallen after I got that across to them.

I think they didn't want to be "just like anybody else" they wanted their brilliant networking ploy to get them special consideration. And you dashed their hopes. Cruel, cruel, Teresa.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Teresa @ 82... I served my time in the Tor booth

Serving time? This takes me back to the days of Joe Bob Briggs reviewing the latest women-in-prison movie. Except that it's editors-in-prison.

#90 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:07 PM:

Teresa wrote:
Kimiko (63), if we send back our rejects too soon, a percentage of the authors will send them right back, on the grounds that we couldn't possibly have made a proper decision in that little time, and therefore must have returned their work in error.

The mind boggles.
I almost said to myself "how can some people be so stupid/selfish/stubborn..." before I realized that the word I was probably looking for was "monomaniacal."
Still! Always someone ruining it for everybody else!

#91 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:25 PM:

TNH #82: Drat! And here I was thinking of pitching my great novel to you. It's about a solitary mongoose who falls in love with a chicken, but can't overcome the suspicion of the farmer or hope to dodge being shot forever. The sfnal element: It's set in the 27th century....

#92 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Kimiko @90: many successful (and unsuccessful) writers -- especially of novel-length fiction -- are obsessive to the point of monomania. (Outs self.) It's what sustains them through years or decades of failure. Sane individuals would give up trying after a couple of years or a couple of novels.

Sadly, there is no correlation between monomania and literary quality.

#93 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Laurence #86 writes: If I was ever lucky enough to sell anything, I don't think I'd look that horse in the mouth. Not until I was a Rich and Famous Author, anyway, and entitled to as much artistic temperament as I wanted.

This progresion is sometimes labelled as an attack of the Brain Eater. Early work is taut and focussed, later work is rambling, vague and verging on the pointless. Who ate the author's brain? No-one: they just stopped caring what their editor might say.

#94 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 07:20 PM:

#92 Charlie Stross "Sadly, there is no correlation between monomania and literary quality."

Damnit, been working on the wrong thing, then.

#95 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 07:47 PM:

that should be
Damnit, *I've* been working on the wrong thing, then.

#96 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Charlie Stross @92

Kimiko @90: many successful (and unsuccessful) writers -- especially of novel-length fiction -- are obsessive to the point of monomania. (Outs self.) It's what sustains them through years or decades of failure. Sane individuals would give up trying after a couple of years or a couple of ia and literary quality.

Aww, but you're such a nice monomaniac*, not like those people!

*Seriously, you're a friendly, sensible, and brilliant person online and in writing**. And no slander against writers in general was intended.***
**I'm not flirting - my orientation is not compatible with yours, sorry.
***And if I'm triple footnoting, I guess that makes me, uh...

#97 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:22 PM:

Teresa @ 82: "You don't need a request; just send us the manuscript," I told them (several times apiece). I'm not sure why, but they were oddly crestfallen after I got that across to them. My take is that they want you to be requesting the MSs; that makes them solicited submissions, rather than something they're just sending in cold. The MSs won't end up in the usual slush pile, because the cover letters will state that you asked for them, and they'll go straight to your attention.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Lowell 41: Some blind people can drive (with hi-tech experimental cars), and I have a black t-shirt printed in black letters. It says "None. We just sit in the dark and scream."

#99 ::: Shalanna Collins ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2007, 11:03 PM:

Teresa, Patrick, Janni, and anyone else who is a pro and is interested in knowing why these things might seem legit to us--I have an observation.

One reason that we the striving unpublished turn to such events as the Pitch Session conference is that we see "pitch" emphasized so much by agents who are trying to help us online. At least that's what the trend is lately. Miss Snark has the CrapOMeter and Rachel Vater (lj ID rvater31) has the pitch analysis posts. They take people's "pitches" (the one/two paragraph blurbs meant to go in the query letter) and analyze them as to whether they'd request a partial. They turn down stuff entirely on pitch. This makes us feel that "pitching" is now the way that queries are weeded out. If we can't get in the door via a query, we're out of luck, after all.

That's why writers are studying those pitch/query paragraphs so closely these days, I think.

Some of us might feel that perhaps novelists are now just like screenwriters in that the product is not the ONLY thing any more, because first we must sell the idea of sending the manuscript in at all. Screenwriters rely on charm and a pitch. That has started to sound plausible to novelists.

The reason I think novelists like to have pitch sessions with agents (usually no such thing happens with editors, unless you win a contest) is that you have a chance of being allowed to write "SOLICITED SUBMISSION" on the front of the envelope. That seems like a quantum leap to some of us, because we are so far away from everything. When you're on a raft in the middle of the ocean, any boat looks pretty good.

I don't think that people expect their stuff to be bought on the pitch. I think they just want to have the chance to send the partial in. It's really tough to get agents to even let me send a partial any more, because the market has tightened up. (Or they've found out about me, which is a distinct possibility.) A year ago I would get six requests for a partial when I sent out twelve queries. Now I'm just getting the "didn't love it enough" or "it didn't engage me the way I hoped it would" rejections. And this is the same query letter as last year. That's why we grasp at straws.

Is there any merit in going to a writers' conference at all, other than getting pepped up by hearing all the panel discussions? I can't really tell you. I write things other than just SF/fantasy, so I think the general writers' conferences are inspirational. And some agents will say, "Because you were here at my panel discussion, you may send me a partial and write on the outside DINGBATS CONVENTION ATTENDEE, which will get you out of the slushpile." This can be a big motivator, because many agents now say they are not even taking queries.

And we tend to lose hope when a book as good as S. K. S. Perry’s novel _Darkside_ doesn't sell and goes out on the 'net as a free download, even for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Week. *sigh*

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 03:28 AM:

BRT, #53: a couple of thoughts...

1) I think people who want to write science fiction have a serious edge over people whose interest is in other genres. We can indeed go to conventions -- primarily-social events -- where we can get to know Real Live Authors And Editors as people, and where (as you note) programming frequently includes items on the commercial aspects of writing. Mystery fandom has started to do something similar, but not yet nearly to the level at which it happens in SF fandom; and AFAIK, there is no other genre that has these kinds of gatherings.

2) Even in the world of the SF fan, there are an amazing number of people who are long-time readers but who either don't know that conventions exist, or have been taught to equate fan-run conventions with CreationCons crap. These people are in the same position as people who want to write in other genres; the method by which they could gather real, valuable information just isn't there for them.

I should note also that there's a certain amount of snowball effect. I've met Writer X, and at some point we're chatting when Writer Y comes up, so now I've met hir as well; then sie introduces me to Writer Z and Editor A; and eventually it reaches the point where even someone like me, who is not a writer and has no significant interest in that direction, ends up with 18 writers and editors on their LJ friendslist. Which is sometimes mind-boggling to contemplate, but it all happens thru the networking that occurs at cons.

#101 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 04:45 AM:

Re braille driving maps, what about aerial navigation charts?
Blind pilot to head for Darwin as part of quest: "Miles Hilton-Barber has flown more than 230 hours on his journey from London to Sydney so far..." (Sunday, April 22, 2007) and also, earlier, Blind pilot makes outback odyssey (October 10, 2004)

#102 ::: Andy brazil ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 05:44 AM:

Tangentially connected:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6582955.stm

Check out the comments thread!

#103 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 06:26 AM:

Charlie Stross at #92 wrote:

> Sane individuals would give up trying after a couple of years or a couple of novels.

A friend of mine sold the first novel he wrote - but *not* until after he'd written eight or nine more.

As for sanity - well, he was a furry, so no further comment needed.

#104 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 07:05 AM:

Niall McAuley at #93 wrote:

> This progresion is sometimes labelled as an attack of the Brain Eater. Early work is taut and focussed, later work is rambling, vague and verging on the pointless. Who ate the author's brain? No-one: they just stopped caring what their editor might say.

Generally yes, but in the case of Larry Niven I've always suspected that Jerry Pournelle ate his brain.

#105 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 07:30 AM:

Steve Taylor @ #104

Generally yes, but in the case of Larry Niven I've always suspected that Jerry Pournelle ate his brain

I haven't yet been inspired to read any of their collaborations, but I've read all of Niven's known space stuff and I thought Ringworld's Children (the latest one) was terrific--on-point and snappy.

#106 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Mary #105: If you are tempted to read any of their collaborations, make it The Mote in God's Eye which is far and away their best. Oh, and There Was No Sequel.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Steve Taylor @ 104... in the case of Larry Niven I've always suspected that Jerry Pournelle ate his brain

Meanwhile in the most recent issue of Asimov's, the intro to Turtledove's story quotes Larry Niven as saying it is very foolish to determine an author's politics from his stories. Sure, Larry. Does that mean that your buddy Jerry really is one of those awful wicked liberals who hate America?

#108 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 09:34 AM:

many successful (and unsuccessful) writers -- especially of novel-length fiction -- are obsessive to the point of monomania. (Outs self.) It's what sustains them through years or decades of failure.

There's an established link between bipolar disorder and creativity - see "Strong Imagination", Daniel Nettle, 2002.

#109 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Steve Taylor #104: So, you're saying that Jerry Pournelle is a zombie?

#110 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 11:56 AM:

#107: Maybe it depends on the author. A *good* author might make it difficult to tell their politics from their stories because they don't have rock-jawed Mary Sues overcoming all obstacles by their steely individualistic determination, or monarchs that are infallible, incorruptible paragons of virtue, or anything like that. In short, a good author doesn't write their personal politics into their books, and therefore it can't be pulled back out of them again.

Obvious political hackery like Empire is, well, obvious. But it's not always that clear-cut. If an author writes several series of books where people/societies are thrown into desperate circumstances and accept uncomfortable (to readers from wealthy high-tech societies) levels of authoritarianism to survive, does that imply that the author is endorsing that reaction, or merely describing it? And what, if any, relevance does that have to the author's opinions of present-day fearmongering?

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Chris @ 110... a good author doesn't write their personal politics into their books

On the other hand, there are people like Kim Stanley Robinson and his recent global-warming trilogy, which I still have to read. He gave an interview in a recent issue of Locus and the views he expressed in there do match with what reviews lead me to believe are the trilogy's politics. And the mag's cover showed him holding an "Inconvenient Truth" coffee mug.

#112 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Regarding politics in SF....

I think it's impossible for a good SF author to not inject their politics into their work. KSR's recent books certainly qualify, and KSR is one of our contemporary best in hard SF. John Varley certainly injects politics into novels like "Steel Beach", Heinlein's work still stands as the bedrock of all conservative/libertarian SF, and Ursula LeGuin carries water for Socialism/Anarchism with books like "The Dispossessed".

Since its inception I think SF has been the playground of most frustrated social engineers. It's part of what attracts us to the genre, I think. We see our own political ideas about society writ large, through eutopianism, dystopianism, cautionary tales, etc, etc.

"1984", perhaps the most famous SF book of all time, has been held up by Right and Left both as the king of cautionary tales, where statist totalitarianism is concerned.

I think any SF writer will always be tempted to tell these kinds of stories, and to tell them well requires having passion about the subject, either from a Leftist or Rightist perspective, and an ability to show compelling individual characters and how they struggle against the larger wrongs imposed upon them by the overarching machinations of whichever political Bad Guy a given author choses to target.

Regarding #100 (Lee),

It's remarkable to me how accessible even the big-name SF writers are to their fan base, purely because of the Cons. I'm not sure you can go anywhere else in professional fiction and find the same sort of egalitarianism as you'll find at the Cons, where authors have a seat of honor, true, but they also get to be fans again, and interact with the other fans and the wannabe-writers and the whole milieu without putting on airs or being above-it-all.

It's a shame that too many people have the wrong idea about Cons. Especially new writers. Yes, Cons have their geek quotient. No getting around that. But for a serious SF or F writer who wants to learn and doesn't want to shell out hundreds or thousands of bucks, buying a pass to a Con in their area can be money well spent. Most regional Cons (like NorwesCon or CONduit) try to set up a lot of panels specifically devoted to successful authors and editors discussing both the craft and the business. A new writer can get invaluable insight and information, even from a single hour of this kind of discourse, and it's mostly because panels tend to be intimate affairs and anyone can ask questions and get honest answers from several reliable sources.

And like you said, even for one who is not a writer, Con attendance invariably leads to networking among a range of artists, editors, writers, etc. Attend your local Con every year, and pretty soon you will know people, and they will know you, and this can lead to all kinds of unexpected avenues.

#113 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 02:38 PM:

Getting invited by an editor, in a face to face meeting, to send in a proposal does not necessarily move one out of slush into "solicited." Sometimes editors will tell someone "send it" because they are having a moment of weakness, because they zoned out on the pitch halfway through and are feeling guilty, and for other reasons, including getting the pitcher out of their hair. In formal pitch sessions, I make notes; when mss. or proposals come in, I know which ones I really want to see and which are still slush (though they might get a newly-generated formlike rejection rather than a photocopied form letter).

Pitch can be useful when the parameters of what a specific editor is looking for are fairly narrow. As I've begun wandering around at romance conferences, I've had lots of people pitch me lots of things that are not the sort of story I'm looking for (for instance, I have often been pitched erotica, Celtic historical, and Regency). So I tell them no. I feel that it's better for the wrter to hear No after 10 minutes and not have to wait 4 months for the same answer.

SF conventions and romance conferences (which is where a huge amount of pitch is done) work differently. At SF cons, editors, writers, and readers mingle freely; there is an ongoing exchange of ideas and people can shift from one role to another, depending on the context and the conversation. Editors are routinely invited to participate in panels on writing and publishing business. At romance conferences, editors are somewhat isolated from writers. They are rarely invited to speak on panels or participate in workshops. Editorial participation at many romance conference is limited to the "what are you looking for" panel, the "what are you publishing this year" panel, and pitch. That's no way to find new writers and it's not really a productive use of an editor.

The flipside to this at romance conferences is that writers are sent the message (sometimes directly, but often indirectly) that they are not to pitch to editors outside of the formally organized pitch sessions. In other words, if a writer bumps into you at the bar, you can chat, but it's a violation of protocol for her to pitch to you.

Which just seems weird to me.

#114 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 02:39 PM:

Regarding #105, 106, 107...

I am lukewarm on the Niven/Pournelle collabs. I adore virtually everything Niven has done solo, but the Motie books sorta left me flat. Not sure why. Intellectually I could recognize why the first Motie book was considered a classic, but there just was not a lot of emotional oomph there for me to latch onto. Maybe it's just personal taste?

On the other hand, the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaborations for the Grendel books are outstanding. Great stuff, great world-building, good characters, and a terrific alien menace. I loved both of those.

And I think Niven is partially correct. It is not a guarantee that a writer who appears to write praisingly about, say, constitutional monarchy, in fact favors constitutional monarchy as a viable form of government. Niven covers this in regards to the Motie books and Pournelle's whole interstellar monarchy backdrop. Allan Cole and Chris Bunch certainly fooled everyone with the STEN series. For most of that series they worked up their empire as this terrific place with a terrific, though not infallible reader. It was almost impossible not to be sold on the idea. Then they ripped it all apart through the last three books; showed you the horror of fascism when an ostensibly benevolent and wise autocrat turns bad, and sews ruin for all.

The lesson? If you'd only read the first four books in the STEN series, you might think Bunch and Cole were in love with Empire the same way Pournelle and Niven are often accused of being in love with Empire. But you'd be wrong, because in the final book and its afterword Bunch and Cole essentially explain that the whole series is one huge lesson in autocracy; its appeal, and its single greatest weakness.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 03:06 PM:

BRT @ 114... Point taken. The thing though is that Niven said it was foolish to make any assumption about an author's politics from his/her stories. My own opinion is that it is a reasonable assumption. Heck, I'm married to a writer. Still, who am I to argue with Niven? Well, just because he's smarter doesn't mean he's always right.

#116 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 03:13 PM:

My favorite Carl Sagan quote of all time:

"Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong."

=^)

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 03:17 PM:

BRT @ 116... Indeed.

#118 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Mez @

Re braille driving maps, what about aerial navigation charts?

Why not? With decent navigational aids and a singing compass* the only real problem is going to be the landing. And that's an anti-climax, right? Sort of like worrying about parking after driving through Manhattan blind.

* the singing sword's in the shop

#119 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Why not? With decent navigational aids and a singing compass* the only real problem is going to be the landing. And that's an anti-climax, right? Sort of like worrying about parking after driving through Manhattan blind.

Actual flying isn't the hard part. Takeoff and landing are the hard parts.

Think of it this way: The rest of the time you have several thousand feet between you and anything else.

(My mom had a mug that said "flying is the second greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first.")

#120 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 07:59 PM:

Sandy B,

Sorry, should have put a smiley there. I was being sarcastic, but somehow the tone just fell right off the electrons along the way.

Actually, if you're willing to spend a lot of money, and only land at commercial airports, there's always ALS; just sit back and let the computer do the work. I guess the point is that flying a plane IFR would be fairly simple for a blind person with the right mods to the instruments.

#121 ::: Jack Kincaid ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 08:12 PM:

Re: #108 (bipolarity -- creativity)

Rather like madness and genius: though they may coexist in a person, one does not denote the other.

#122 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 09:23 PM:

Re #100: even in the world of the SF fan who knows that conventions exist and that they are awesome, there are lots of people who are shy and fearful about introducing themvelves to Real Live Pros or even fans we know online... of course, these are not the people who are likely to be suckered by pitch sessions.

Because "Nnnnnng, aaaaack, eeeeeep" is not much of a pitch.

#123 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Actually, if you're willing to spend a lot of money, and only land at commercial airports, there's always ALS; just sit back and let the computer do the work. I guess the point is that flying a plane IFR would be fairly simple for a blind person with the right mods to the instruments.


having flown both fixed wing and helicopters and having worked as an engineer for a period of time on the fly-by-wire computers for one airliner and some avionics for a couple of military aircraft, can I just say:

(shudder)

oh, my head

(shudder)

#124 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 12:57 AM:

MikeB (11), I neglected to tell you how much I liked that, though the second-to-last stanza puzzles me.

Why, thank you!

Since blog technology does not permit me to throw away the penultimate stanza and pretend that I never wrote it, I will explain the joke to death instead: It was an attempt to turn this profoundly alliterative line from the original poem:

A chorister whose c preceded the choir

into a joke about bad spelling. Perhaps it wasn't as obvious as I thought.

(I had originally written "preseded", but it didn't sound right, so I stuck in an "e", only to end up with "preseeded", which is an actual word with a different meaning, and is therefore not what I wanted. A rookie mistake, which I failed to notice at the time. Gosh, this writing stuff is harder than I thought.)

#125 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:52 AM:

Emily H #122: Re #100: even in the world of the SF fan who knows that conventions exist and that they are awesome, there are lots of people who are shy and fearful about introducing themvelves to Real Live Pros or even fans we know online...

I've never been to a convention, would love to, have no idea how to know which ones to go to, and would have no clue what to do when I got there. I'd probably just be terrified and run home. What I need is a Con Buddy, and I ain't got one.

#126 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:08 AM:

(Apologies if I cross-post this with anyone--occurs to me I last loaded the page about 5 hours ago.)

Sort of like worrying about parking after driving through Manhattan blind.

Er, not really. In flying small craft (probably any craft, actually), the risk of crashing between point A to point B is fairly low unless you're dodging mountaintops. You may get lost and end up at point C, but there's a lot less traffic per square foot to crash into. Landing, however, always involves impacting the ground. The difference between an unharmed plane and pilot, and a smashed up plane and pilot, is in how that impact is accomplished: with what speed, at what angle, at what speed now that you've corrected for angle, whether the combination gets you touching down early enough on the runway to have enough roll-out space, how high up you are before you pitch up just enough to allow yourself to lose lift and drop onto the runway from a height of less than 10 feet unless you misjudged it and you thump down from 20, whether your main wheels touch first (good) or your nose wheel (bad) (adjust terminology as required for taildraggers), whether your approach was controlled enough that you don't bounce back up into the air, and if you do, whether you correct for it before you do a beach-ball imitation down the runway, and then can you keep that center line under your nosewheel as you roll out and then slow down gracefully enough not to squeal and jerk everywhere but still soon enough to get off at the desired exit taxiway...

Landing is one of the most dangerous parts of flying. The other is take-off. Cruising in empty air doesn't even rate.

Whereas driving across Manhattan is probably more like flying in formation. With lots and lots and lots of other aircraft all within 20 feet of their neighbors.

If you want a flying analogy to parking the car, I think what you want is taxing up to the tie-down points and, well, parking the plane.

#127 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:12 AM:

Ah. See, not only did I cross-post, I missed the bit where Bruce turned out to have been exercising sarcasm. Don't I feel like a pedantic twit.

Still, I imagine that ALS landings aren't trivial either. There's probably a reason that IFR training is such a beast to complete.

#128 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 03:00 AM:

Greg, Nicole

Disclaimer first: I'm not a pilot, though I've known a few, and read a lot about it*. My guess is that Greg's headache is related to Nicole's statement about IFR training by the fact that computers are quite good at dealing with routine situations as long as nothing changes quickly or goes wrong. And that means that no pilot with any experience is going to be able to just relax and let the metal brain do the work, especially on landing. You have to be watching to see if anything starts to go wrong, and ready to take over as soon as it does.

Nicole, don't feel bad about not getting my tone. It was late when I wrote that, and I really didn't say it very well. And I'm still a little annoyed at the way I threw away the singing sword line. Got to work that in a little better next time.


* It's the avocational hazard of an sf reader, I think, to always be interested in far more things than you can actually do, and many of them will be things you won't be able to do for decades or centuries. My eyes weren't good enough for me to even bother applying to be an astronaut, and though I did think about going to Antarctica for a year, the timing wasn't right. So I'm betting on extended longevity and rejuvenation techniques to get me through to when Mars colonies start opening up.

#129 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 04:18 AM:

I've never been to a convention, would love to, have no idea how to know which ones to go to, and would have no clue what to do when I got there. I'd probably just be terrified and run home.

You'll enjoy your first con*.

I've written requests for help here on topics much less important than this that've resulted in new threads, terrifying and satisfying in their size and helpfulness.

Wow, with a request like this?
Will it be a MacDonaldian "If you find yourself trapped between Mieville and E.S.Raymond at a Convention, How To Survive a matter-antimatter memespace explosion"?

or a TNHian: "10 point guide to enjoying youself at your first con- updated with another 4 points, updated again with Old Smofhead's distilled thoughts, as summarized by Fragano in a sonnet"?

or the one perfect link ala PNH?

----
* I was a very shy and reserved person when I went to my first con, and yet I was able to talk to authors -they seemed so big and powerful, then- and get into arguments and have fine discussions (and vice versa). Now I'll even volunteer to be on panels (at my first con, I could never have imagined myself being one of those people up front. Within a few years I might almost be able to imagine myself as a panel moderator.)

#130 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 06:44 AM:

Regarding #125 (ethan),

If memory serves, this blog has several great posts on Cons, so much of what I am about to write is redundant.....

Before choosing and attending a Con, you need to identify four things:

1) Your home address.
2) How much money you are willing to spend.
3) How far you are willing to travel for the Con.
4) What will your "purpose" be at the Con.

Most large metropolitan areas in the U.S. host at least one sizeable science fiction and fantasy convention every year. For people who live within an hour or less of the Con site, this bodes well because you can save money and hit the Con during the main hours while sleeping and eating at home; a real luxury! If the Con site is over an hour away, you will want to think about lodging and food expenses. Since 95% of Cons are held at hotels, you might find a package through the Con, or strike your own deal with the hosting hotel, or a motel/hotel near to the hosting hotel. The earlier the better, as the days of the event will probably find things packed, with rooms scarce and prices exhorbitant.

Having a Con Buddy is nice, but only if this person is not going to whine halfway through each day and demand to leave for some reason or another. Be sure you're both committed to the same general hours, and be sure one or both of you is committed to staying sober for the same period. Also, once at the con, don't necessarily think you are joined at the hip. Once you get over the initial shock of the thing (and there is shock, for all first-timers, absolutely) it's a good idea to get out and do some solo exploring; see a few panels, do a little mixing at the dealer or game rooms, etc.

Which brings me to one of the most important parts: why are you there in the first place?

Identifying your interest and motivation will make a huge difference in whether or not the Con turns out to be worthwhile for you. Just aimlessly going and wandering silently through the halls and past all the other people is probably going to get old pretty fast, and soon you're feeling like maybe you've ripped yourself off. Before attending the Con, get your hands on a daily schedule (if possible) and look at all the events, hour to hour, and highlight the ones that look interesting to you. Hit them as they happen, either with your Con Buddy or separately; allowing for food and snack and bathroom breaks. If you are staying at the hotel, or somewhere nearby, also allow for nap/unwind breaks in the room.

For some people (like me) Cons are "professional" events, in that I focus almost entirely on attending panels where established writers and/or editors will be speaking. Doesn't necessarily matter what about, as tangential conversation can take you anywhere during a one-hour panel. I just make sure I am in the room when the door is closed at the top of the hour, and I only break for a bite to eat or a bathroom trip. I skip the gaming, I skip the filk and the movie room and the dealer room, and pay only peripheral attention to the costumes and the masquerade.

Now, the masquerade at a sizeable convention can be a heck of a lot of fun, if you are into spectacles, so if you are a budding writer and decide you've hit one too many panels and need a relaxing breather, go spock out the costumes and the people in the costumes for a few minutes, and marvel at the time and effort spent on the more fantastic and outrageous ones. If you yourself always wanted a venue in which to prance about in your own particular SF or F-themed costume, there is no place like a Con, because not only will you NOT be made fun for being silly, the more ultra-geeky your outfit, the more people are going to ooooo and ahhhhh over it for its imaginativeness, its authenticity, its attention to detail, its audacity, etc.

One caveat on costumes: most writer-focused panels are going to be intimate rooms with everyone in plainclothes, so if you intend to get dressed up in a really intricate or outrageous manner, do it after you're done with panels for the day, and can go haunt the halls and hit the masquerade ball along with everyone else who is "in character".

As always, exercise courtesy in everything you do and in all your interactions. Smile and acknowledge people as you walk by them. Say hello a lot. If it's your first Con you may often wish you could melt into the floor, on account of the strangeness of it all. Just remember that everyone at the Con has a day job and a real life and is just like you. Nobody is going to bite your head off, even if they're dressed like they might bite your head off. Or blast you with a laser cannon. Or impregnate you with their alien spoor.

Gawking is acceptable, if done on the sly. This gets somewhat tough at times if you're a hetero male and the convention is replete with handsome females strutting about in scanty costume. Probably the best thing to do is go up and tell someone what a terrific outfit they have; ask them how they made it, and if you don't recognize the universe the costume is from, where they got the idea, etc. Some conventioneers will take exception to this, but the vast majority will gladly receive this attention and take it for the compliment that it is. Again, the whole purpose of the masquerade is to SHOW OFF. I happen to think people who show off in-character and then act rude to questions and comments, are jerks. So if you meet one of these, pay them no mind.

And of course, not all Cons are heavy on the costume element, so much of what I have written above might not apply.

Above all else, know that everyone is there to HAVE FUN. Even the people staffing and running the event. Treat those people with deference and humble respect; they are putting in outrageous hours for virtually no compensation so that everybody else can party and have a blast and not have to worry about what's happening next, because the events have been staged in such a way as to bleed into each other, etc.

A final word about partying: remember who you are and behave like a responsible adult. Watch out for excessive liquor consumption. Hell, even watch out for illegal mind-altering-substance consumption. Cons can sometimes bring out the worst in people, especially at the much-ballyhooed room parties. If you suddenly find yourself in a truly uncomfortable situation, excuse yourself and go find another room, or another event, or go back to your own room, or just call it a night and head home for some quiet time and a familiar bed. If you see a situation that is getting out of hand or if one or more rules of the convention or the hotel are being violated, don't be afraid to tell the convention staff or the hotel staff. This is not tattling. This is ensuring that small problems don't degenerate into big problems, and shame on anyone who says otherwise, because conventions are only fun for everybody when everybody abides by the rules.

I think that covers the gist of it. Again, nothing really original to say, as anyone who has attended Cons can (and has) said the same things somewhere else; probably with better brevity.

=^)

#131 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 07:25 AM:

#93, #104, et al.: Victor Pelevin ate their brains. Read his books and tell me I'm wrong.

(Best place to start: A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia)

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 07:55 AM:

ethan... Cons can be fun. For the shy type who doesn't easily get into conversations with strangers, I'd recommend the worldcon. They have so much going on that you won't have time to feel lonely.

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:10 AM:

(cont'd from 132)

...As for going around cons in what's called a hall costume... It depends on the costume. Last year, I finally got over my own shyness and had someone make me what I call a Victorian Time Traveller's outfit. It was something that I could have worn outside the con (and did when I went for a bite) without looking weird. Well, not too weird anyway. It got me praise from the likes of writer Sean Williams and editor Jim Frenkel. And, without it, Susan, who'd been trying to find where the heck I was, wouldn't have spotted me so that she could hit me on the head for not checking the con's billboard for messages.

#134 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:16 AM:

I'd advise going to a smaller con than Worldcon at first, somewhere you know a few people, if only from the Internet. It's less intimidating and easier to find people again at a smaller con.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:30 AM:

True, Diatryma, true.

#136 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 09:26 AM:

ethan: If you tell us which con you're going to, you'll probably find that one or more of us will also be there. Or you can go to a con, look at namebadges, and find a Fluorospheridianite--introduce yourself and see what happens. (I had some lovely conversations at Potlatch that way.)

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 09:34 AM:

TexAnne @ 136.. find a Fluorospheridianite

Heck, we don't fluoresce, we're downright incandescent.

#138 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Does anyone here go to Windycon? I've never been, but I'm thinking of going this year.

#139 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 09:55 AM:

There's an inevitable connection between sf and politics. If you're doing any society-building to speak of, you're going to imply quite a bit about the effects various social and political arrangements.

Heinlein wasn't just conservative (for some weird value of conservative)/libertarian--his earlier works include one with a utopia of abundance with a centrally controlled economy and more than one with benevolent world governments. He had a wider range of political set-ups in his novels than any other sf author I'm sure of. To be fair, I'm not an expert on Cherryh or Reynolds.

A couple of minor points for ethan: Dressing for conventions isn't limited to costumes. In fandom, you never have to say "but where would I wear that?". Wearing ordinary clothes is ok, too.

If possible, you might want to budget some extra money--conventions have huckster rooms (people rent tables to sell books and odd stuff) and art shows.

#140 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Since people are talking about cons and fear of going to your first SF con, I'm wondering -- what can con organizers can do to encourage new people to come to a con? I've been to cons where people have lamented that there aren't any new faces, but I've never heard any suggestions as to how to get new people in the doors.

#141 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Dressing for conventions ... David Hartwell is in a class all by himself.

#142 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Ethan @ #125:
I've never been to a convention, would love to, have no idea how to know which ones to go to, and would have no clue what to do when I got there. I'd probably just be terrified and run home. What I need is a Con Buddy, and I ain't got one.

Want to go to Readercon? I could be convinced to drive through Providence on my way there. Readercon is Not Like Other Cons (flashback: Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video), so you'd have to decide if it's one you want to go to. I've never been before, so I can't tell you much about it, and people may or may not talk to me outside my room, which I plan to fill with cheap and interesting people.

My approach to cons like Readercon where I feel shy/insecure/less than welcome is to Get A Job, preferably one involving food, so I volunteered to do Food Things at Readercon, which at the very least means people will say things like "we're out of soda." Properly handled, this could expand to breathlessly exciting lines like "let me write down my recipe for strawberry bread."

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Susan @ 142... my room, which I plan to fill with cheap and interesting people

Hm...

#144 ::: Alex von Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:16 AM:

I've seen pitch sessions with editors and agents at other conferences (notably mystery conferences). For people who are isolated from the business of publishing and editing, a short meeting with an editor or agent can provide some useful handholding to help correct a wannabe author's errors and invalid assumptions about writing and selling fiction. Some people benefit from having their questions about "how do I do this?" and "who do I talk to?" For people who know how to write, but not how to sell, these sessions can be helpful.

This isn't much of an issue in SF, because science fiction conventions are so widespread and provide so much information and business contacts that a dedicated pitch session would for most people be redundant and not an effective use of people's time.

I have heard this explained to me by editors that they actually want to find new authors worth publishing, and the pitch sessions are a way of finding authors who are clueless about the business of publishing. While the number of immediately publishable authors may be quite small, the number of eventually-publishable authors is high enough to justify the editors' time and effort, or so I was told. It does depend greatly on the credibility of the people involved.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 139... Wearing ordinary clothes is ok, too.

My normal con attire is the Gap look. More than once, I've seen people furtively glance at my badge, probably because they thought I was an Author. Or an Editor. Although you couldn't confuse me for David Hartwell. As Faren said, he is in a class of his own.

#146 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Serge #145:

Well, Hartwell is the only guy I've seen (either in Real Con Life or in Locus Pictures) wearing a tie except at the Hugos. The real problem, of course, is *what* ties ...

I know what you mean about one's normal look. Every year around ArmadilloCon I try to find something dressed down enough. (I hate wearing trousers when I'm doing a lot of sitting, because I never can figure out what to do with my legs.)

#147 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:54 AM:

#142: Susan sets a good example.

In my experience, finding friendly people to converse with is THE key to enjoying one's first SF convention.

I am nowhere near Providence, but I propose that if Ethan states a con he plans to attend, we could sign up volunteers who will each share one breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack with him. That way, he will be certain to have a few social contacts at the con.

It goes without saying that the volunteers could introduce him to other possibly-interesting conversationalists, or determine his enthusiasms and recommend possibly-interesting events around the con.

This would not be a great burden on anyone's time, but it might make Ethan less reluctant to attend.

Any other con-shy correspondents out there? Especially any near Chicago?

In #137 Serge writes:

Heck, we don't fluoresce, we're downright incandescent.

I prefer to think of myself as glowing serenely.

#148 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Mary Dell, 138: I used to go to Windycon fairly regularly, but I haven't attended often in the past few years (personal reasons; nothing to do with the con). My experience with past Windycons is that it matters heavily who the goh is: the con tends to have a "theme," and if you are interested in that, you will find the programming interesting. This year's theme (High Fantasy) looks intriguing to me, so I'm considering trying to get involved again. Though if the con is well run (which, according to report, it has been recently) it should several different tracks of programming in general--at least, that's the way the organizers have done it in the past.

Windycon also used to have a reputation as one of the best partycons around. I've no idea if that is still true either--my memories go back to 1979 and only forward to about 1999, so it might not be. Have you ever attended the other Chicago-area cons, such as Capricon (February) or Duckon (early June)? You'd probably run into some of the same people at Windycon.

#149 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 12:04 PM:

Joann @ 146: FilKONtario always opens with a "Tie and Tails" reception, with prizes given for the most creative interpretations of "tie and tails". This year, for example, I dressed as Dilbert, complete with an appropriate stand-up tie.

#150 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Just spotted Mary Dell writing in #138:

Does anyone here go to Windycon? I've never been, but I'm thinking of going this year.

I've been to thirty-one Windycons. I would enjoy meeting you during the con, if you like. Get in touch.

#151 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Worldcongoing (assorted semi-random bits of advice for writers attending their first SF convention) from August 3, 2004 and Partythrowing (aka 'How to throw a large room party at a science fiction convention', August 20, 2006)
are both long & delightful threads with much information and amusement in them, much related to Cons. There are probably others I've forgotten or missed.

There's also mention of a rule that you should "eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any 24-hour period" (don't get that backwards), and that "layering is excellent advice, because hotels don't have the most sensitive [temperature] controls"

Australia has rather less sf conventions, but then we are merely 20 megahumans, not 300.

#152 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:11 PM:

146: I hate wearing trousers when I'm doing a lot of sitting, because I never can figure out what to do with my legs.

Huh. That's actually one of the reasons I never wear skirts.

With any luck, I'll be attending my first con next year. It's not remotely local, but I do know several of the people involved and would likely be seeing them when I am next in that part of the world anyway. I'm already finding that a very comforting thought. I hate large groups of people (where "large" starts at around ten) to begin with, but knowing there will be some there I'm comfortable with is a big help.

#153 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:35 PM:

Windycon's best and most reliable party the last time I went was... the people sitting in the lobby and/or con suite. (The lobby was mostly smokers and people who tolerate the smoke; the con suite for those who don't/can't.)

Last time I attended was the last year at the old Hyatt, though. I've no clue what, if anything, the move to a new hotel has done to that sort of thing. But, quite seriously, the con suite and/or the smokers' congregation area, depending on one's tastes, tend to be a good place meeting people who are relaxing between Doing Things. Parties are also good but tend to be louder, though people still talk, of course.

#154 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Bill @ #147:
Susan sets a good example.

I just wanted to savor this moment. Usually people think I epitomize the Bad Example (or its close cousin, the Bad Influence.)

#155 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Jennifer Barber #152: [quoting me]146: I hate wearing trousers when I'm doing a lot of sitting, because I never can figure out what to do with my legs.

Huh. That's actually one of the reasons I never wear skirts.

Tastes obviously differ. In a long gathered skirt, your legs are covered to the point where they could be doing *any*thing and your thighs could be any shape. Mine are not a stylish configuration.

#156 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Susan #154:

Some of us treasure being a bad influence. I don't get to be one near often enough.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:53 PM:

What IS a Bad Influence, Susan?

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 147... I prefer to think of myself as glowing serenely

I am no match for you then.

#159 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 01:58 PM:

No NASFiC for me this year. But there's the worldcon in Denver next year? Who's planning to go?

#160 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Serge:
The time that comes immediately to mind is high school, when I took over the SF club and started bringing an entourage of a dozen or more teenagers to conventions. The parents of my VP thought I was a bad influence on her, having dragged her into cons, renfaires, weird music, gaming, comics, and costumes. My parents thought she was a bad influence on me, though I'm not clear why, since I was doing all those things before I met her. Maybe because she had a television? I thought her parents were abusive f**ks. Given how they're acting as she's on what's probably her deathbed unless things take a sudden turn for the better (among other things, they're shutting out her life-partner of the last 15 years), I think I was right.

#161 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Serge: Me!

#162 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:07 PM:

I do not fluoresce, I do not incandesce, I do not glow serenely. I blink on and off in rapid, multicolored sequences, like those fancy LEDs, except when I burn out and explode with a fizz and a pop into little smoke-stained glass shards.

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Susan... If I could find a way to do this without burning the stage down, I'd ask if you want to do a masquerade presentation of a supervillain duo, the Singeing Nun and the Fryar, aka the Creatures of Habit.

#164 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Susan #162: And here I was expecting you to say that you had a stroboscopic effect.

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Susan @ 160... Yes, it does sound like you were right. I'm sorry to hear she's not doing well and that her partner isn't allowed near her.

#166 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Susan #160: I hope she pulls through. Her parents are real clods.

#167 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:27 PM:

TexAnne @ 161... Glad to hear it. And if the Fluorosphere decides to have a gathering at the worldcon, I'll be driving there from New Mexico, which means a minivan to go pick stuff up for a room full of people who are cheap (*) and interesting.

(*) My wife might say I'm downright chintzy.

#168 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Fragano @ #166:
She only pulls through if she gets a lung transplant. She only gets a transplant if she gets on the list again and then gets really lucky. She only gets back on the list if they can kick the super-nasty everything-resistant infection she has. Otherwise, it's just a matter of time. Not much time. The odds are not good, and her parents are not even trying to get her to a major medical center that can possibly handle the infection and get her relisted. They've pretty much given up.

#169 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Susan @ 168

That's absolutely outrageous. You don't need a rant from me on the subject, I'm sure, so I'll just go curse at the parking lot for awhile. I wish I could think of something more helpful and comforting to say than "I really hope it works out for her." I can't, so I'll say that.

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 02:55 PM:

They're not just abusive fucks, then, Susan. They're murderers.

#171 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Xopher:
They may be murderers, but she signed the medical power of attorney or whatever it's called that lets them make these decisions. And lets them determine who can visit or call if she won't exert herself (hard to do in her physical condition) to overrule them. They have the psychological dominance that comes from years of emotional abuse. And they are not being physically weakened by all the side effects of chronic illness and now the acute illness involving drowning in one's own lungs, and they can now control her access to information and other people.

Moral of the story: don't sign legal papers unless you know the people you are signing yourself over to are in tune with what you really want to happen, lest you end up in either a Terri Schiavo or (in this case) a reverse Terri Schiavo situation.

I think I'm going to lock my office door and have another good ol' cry now. Excuse me if I abandon this topic entirely.

#172 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 03:36 PM:

Sorry about the duplicates - the first time I tried to post I got a screen telling me I was rejected for posting too often. I waited awhile, edited the post, and tried again, and presto, we have two posts.

#173 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Susan #168: That's really sad. She has my sympathy.

#174 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Serge #167: I'm overstuffed, as opposed to chintzy.

#175 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Fragano @ 175

Owww!

#176 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Me, I emulate the X-Files: I'm fringy.

#177 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Susan, I'm entirely sympathetic, but that conversation should be continued in the open thread. I the meantime, I'll go in and zap your duplicates.

#178 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Teresa:

Sorry about the off-topicness. My bad.

#179 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Returning, chastened, to relevance, inquiring minds want to know:

Why are respectable Hugo nominees like one G. Buchanan participating in this pitch-conference-scam thing?

(And what is the correct spelling of her first name? I see both Ginjer and Ginger in various places.)

#180 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Bruce: It was a good singing sword line. It made me snicker pleasantly.

Susan: Words fail. You and your friends are in my thoughts.

All: How did in only just come to my attention that WorldCon 08 will be in downtown Denver? I can take a hint. Who will I see upon my first worldcongoing?

Ob. on-topic content: Apparently the pitch sessions at World Horror Con 07 were well attended, multitudinous, and varied; and a workshop-mate of mine has pitched to editors at the Pikes Peak Convention thingie, and has had a full manuscript request on the basis thereof. I've never gone to one, mostly on the grounds of having nothing complete-and-revised enough to pitch. Now I doubt I shall ever be tempted. But I do see smart people of my acquaintance appearing to appreciate the experience.

#181 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Ginjer Buchanan.

Why participate? Because the conferences ask. Because you might find someone good.

I don't think pitch sessions at real workshops are scams. I think they're not terribly useful, but they're not dishonest.

I do think the NYC Pitch and Shop Conference is ... dodgy. A very dubious article. Hard to see as acting in good faith.

Why do real authors and editors participate? Because it's right there in NYC. Because you might find someone good. And because they pay you $500 plus lunch for a short morning's work.

Even so, not everyone they ask accepts.

#182 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 05:57 PM:

P J Evans #175: Thank you!

#183 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Bill Higgins - Beamjockey @ #150 - I've added you to my LJ friends list and will get in touch if I decide to go, thanks!

#184 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 06:53 PM:

I must confess I was hoping a pinate would show up to this thread. Three days and no pinate. Either that, or you guys got all the candy while I was out of the room.

(sigh)

#185 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Ethan, #125: As others have noted, you're probably better off NOT doing a Worldcon as your first con; they're huge and overwhelming even when you've got a few cons under your belt already. (Quoth she who attended Suncon in 1977 as her third con ever.) Also, don't pick a con that's advertising lots of TV stars as guests; that's going to be a media-con, and it's not the same kind of thing we're discussing here.

Select a con that's reasonably local to you, and then do two things:

1) As soon as you get registered, sit down with your program book and look at the event listings. Pick out the 5 or 6 items that look most interesting and highlight or otherwise mark them. Oh, and walk around the site locating the rooms in which they're going to be happening, so that you won't be lost and late when the time comes.

2) Volunteer to do a 2-hour stint in the consuite. The duties normally aren't onerous -- mostly making sure that the snack and drink supplies are kept current, and picking up obvious trash -- and it's a sure-fire way to meet some people. Also, the concom will love you! Saturday midafternoon is a good time to do this, or Sunday around noon; those are times when the consuite is likely to be neither jammed nor echoingly empty.

Also as noted above, if you post here that you're going to be at Con X, people can be on the lookout for you.

Ceri, #140: A topic near and dear to the hearts of con organizers anywhere! If you'd care to e-mail me off-group, I'd be happy to chat with you about some of the things our local con is doing to try to bring in new people.

Susan, #168: That's awful, and as bad for you to be caught in the middle of it all. GoodThoughts going out for you, your friend, and her partner.

#186 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Wow, I wasn't expecting to derail this thread for so long...

Briefly: Y'all are too nice for words, unbearably nice, helpful beyond all reason, etc. Thank you! And Susan, I'm gonna tentatively say "Maybe!!" to Readercon. Thanks.

Maybe if I go, I can finally pitch that novel! That'll really get my foot in the door!

#187 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 08:31 PM:

ethan, #125, volunteer. You'll meet lots of people while you check badges or help in the con suite or any of a dozen other things. Then you can hang out with those people later. Plus, you'll learn about the con structure and that may make you want to get more involved.

#188 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 10:19 PM:

Ethan and Susan--I've been going to Readercon for three years now, usually with friends in tow.
If you are in the halls and see me, say hi.

Here's why I go to Readercon and what I do there:

Why I go:

1.) I like the smallness of Readercon. It's not very large, but it's very intense, in that it's a lot of people talking very excitedly and articulately about books, reading, and writing. I've been to other cons (SF and anime) in the past, and they've been interesting, but not as intimate as a whole.

2.) I like books a lot, both as conceptual objects and as physical objects. This makes the dealers' room at Readercon perfect (or, possibly, the perfect temptation).

3.) It's local to me. I'm in Boston, and so even when it's 1 am and my body has decided that it's finally tired enough to balance out my hyped-up-on-con brain, I can still get back home. This may or may not be the case for you, but it's a part of why I go.

4.) I really like the programming, and if I don't, I can go and people-watch in the hallway or the con suite.

What I do:
1.) Pore over the programming. I do this about a week before the con, and then the evening right before the con (checking any last-minute changes, new panels, etc.) This way I can coordinate with friends, and I can try to see most or at least some of what I want to see, even if I have to miss other interesting things.

2.) I talk to my friends about what programs they are going to. Sometimes their accounts of a panel are more interesting than actually being there. Sometimes they catch me up on that panel I just couldn't squeeze in. Sometimes we sit and chat and write together.

3.) I meet people. Sometimes I meet people whose work I'm interested in and get to talk to them. Sometimes I meet editors and talk to them about what it is that they are looking for for their particular magazine or press. Sometimes I talk to other fans and writers. It's really neat.

4.) I get a chance to learn about SF and SF-related organizations I might be interested in joining.

3.) I go to panels. They are sometimes funny, sometimes enlightening, sometimes brilliant. Mostly all three, at points in time.

4.) I go to readings, sometimes. What are other people writing and thinking, and how do they speak when they say their words? I'm interested in that question.

5.) I go out to eat with a bunch of local friends I know. Sometimes we stay up singing Scottish folk ballads at each other until 3 am.

6.) I buy books, often ones that are a little hard to find elsewhere.

7.) When they have it, I go to the Rhysling reading and awards ceremony for SF poetry.

8.) I go to the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. (My girlfriend, who is not particularly an SF fan, says that this alone would have been enough to make her go back this year.)

#189 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 10:26 PM:

ethan: I plan to be at Readercon, since it's semi-local (far enough out of town to be an annoying commute instead of a short subway ride) and great for anyone who, like me, is addicted to text.

I'd be quite happy to see other Making Light folks there.

#190 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Epacris @151:
Not only is the .au SF/Fantasy/Comic/Anime con scene rather thin on the ground, but if you're on the west coast (as I am) I think there's approximately one con per year. I missed this year's SwanCon (I think) so I'll have to try again next year. I've also missed the first OzDiscworldCon (through being on the wrong side of the continent), which was something of a nuisance.

Effectively, the big problem for Aussies is one of money - we're less people, spread out over an area as large as the Continental US, and as a result in order to get enough people together to hold a decent convention, you need to import them from other parts of the country, which costs. If you're one of the people who wants to be an import (*waves*), you have to find money for airfare, accommodation, and similar, or you have to be willing to drive multiple days (in my case at least) in order to get where you're going.

I'm waiting until I have enough money to be able to afford a couple of years rushing around the con circuit in the UK and the US. I figure I may as well get a good solid load of conventioneering in while I can.

#191 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 01:46 AM:

#146 ::: joann commented:
I know what you mean about one's normal look. Every year around ArmadilloCon I try to find something dressed down enough. (I hate wearing trousers when I'm doing a lot of sitting, because I never can figure out what to do with my legs.)

I'm not sure that I can suggest "It all depends on what you've got between your legs" with a straight face :)

#192 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:01 AM:

BRT @114:[..] the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaborations for the Grendel books are outstanding. Great stuff, great world-building, good characters, and a terrific alien menace. I loved both of those.

I wouldn't argue with those points, but I found the climax in the first book disappointing (and in my opinion an egregious cheat).

Vavgvnyyl gur teraqryf jrer rfgnoyvfurq nf fbyvgnel perngherf, arvgure fbpvny be gevony. Gur ceboyrz guvf cbfrq, jnf gung gur rssbeg gb 'genva' n cnegvphyne teraqry gung uhznaf fubhyq or nibvqrq, jbhyq abg or pbairlrq gb nal bgure teraqry. Gur pbfgyl 'genvavat' unq gb or qbar ba n teraqry-ol-teraqry onfvf.

Va gur pyvzngvp onggyr, jurer gur pbybal qrsraqf vgfrys ntnvafg n znff nggnpx bs teraqryf; ng gur cbvag jurer gur onggyr frrzf zbfg ubcryrff... gur teraqryf oernx bss gurve nggnpx. Fbzrubj, raznff (naq va n znaare fhttrfgvir bs gur Arj Ntr zrzr bs gur Uhaqerqgu Zbaxrl Rssrpg), gurl ernyvmrq uhznaf jrer gur arj hore-cerqngbef, naq fubhyq or nibvqrq.

Niall McAuley @106: If you are tempted to read any of their collaborations, make it The Mote in God's Eye which is far and away their best. Oh, and There Was No Sequel.

Wouldn't argue with that either. My memory of the second book was that at least the last fifth was comprised of a tedious (IMO) space battle, with ships rushing to-and-fro for no reason that I found interesting.

As far as their collaborations, I liked Inferno.

Vg qbrf unir n zrffntr bs ubcr sbe gur evtug jvat: va gur raq, gur cebgbglcvpny snpvfg (Oravgb Zhffbyvav) vf serrq sebz Uryy.

#193 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 09:24 AM:

I meant to add, that I thought the authors took an unfair swipe at Vonnegut in their story, but it was in the tradition of the original book; showing that your 'enemies' would end up in hell, and how they would be punished for their sins (after you've outlined what those sins were).

Don't infer anything about my politics from the last line of my previous post, either.

#194 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 192

I tried hard to take Inferno at face value, and enjoyed it that way. If I looked too hard at who the various inmates of Hell were supposed to represent, I kept getting annoyed, because a lot of them were really cheap shots.

On the other hand, introducing Mussolini to the words of George Orwell was inspired.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Niall McAuley @ 106... The Mote in God's Eye which is far and away their best. Oh, and There Was No Sequel.

Is this the same situation as with Highlander? Some people have said here that this movie had no sequel. I wish they were right. As for Mote's sequel, it's one of the first books where I got bored early on, and skipped to the end.

#196 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 12:58 PM:

xeger #191: I'm not sure that I can suggest "It all depends on what you've got between your legs" with a straight face :)

I'm quite sure I can't read it with one.

#197 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Serge #195:

I found that the alleged sequel actually improved upon re-reading it last year. Which is not to say it's in my top-10 list or anywhere near it.

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 01:08 PM:

joann @ 197... You mean, you're one of those people who have time to re-read books? I am awed. I wish I had the time to do that with Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis.

#199 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Serge #198:

I don't have the time, but I tend to do it anyway. Sometimes (lots of times, actually) I just can't tackle a new book.

#200 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2007, 12:17 AM:

Meg @ 190: I too missed Swancon, my boss having sent me offshore. But forget ye not GenghisCon (lots of activities, a younger demographic due to the stunning $25-for-three-days price tag); Wai-Con (anime); TerraCon (a camp con); and usually one other convention a year, usually at the Emerald. For the past three years that's been Fandomedia; this year it's John Parker's Night's Edge (cyberpunk).

#201 ::: Elizabeth Brody ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2007, 12:23 PM:

I saw this link on google and decided to stop by and comment. I attended the NYC Pitch conference and came away satisfied. For me, compared to Maui and Yosemite it was less expensive, but I totally understand the SF writers reaction when they have so many more opportunities at a fraction of the price.

Two acquisition editors asked for my ms (mystery detective). I didn't think it was a scam and neither did anyone there. We were run through a gauntlet of fair and tough critique, and I never heard anyone mention or see this Kaley Noonan person. The faculty consisted of Tim Tomlinson, Sally Koslow, Michael Neff, and Charles Salzberg.

I can't help that this viewpoint doesn't go warm and fuzzy with the original post by Teresa.


#202 ::: anna louise ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:51 AM:

As Tor's romance editor, I did a lot of pitch sessions. A lot. My first year setting up the romance program, I went to an average of three conferences per month, where I sat an average of 15 pitches per conference, and that was for 15 months in a row. So I heard, what? Almost 700 pitches? Only about 3/4 of those pitches did I request, but that is still quite a bit.

I did not buy one thing from what I heard in pitch sessions, although four years after chatting with an author at a bar and begging her to send me something, I did buy something from her.

In the last year of my romance novel editing at Tor, I heard about 100 pitches... and did not buy anything.

But I went through every single pitch session and read (almost) everything I requested, because, damn it, I might have found something. And even one submission worth publishing would have made it all worth it.

Most of those pitch sessions were done at RWA-sponsored events. Sure they might have been a waste of time and money for all involved, but aside from meeting writers, editors, and agents, I was able to say things like, "If you're writing any kind of X, here's my card, send me three chapters and a synopsis. Pitch sessions are totally useless because they don't tell me anything but how you pitch your book, so you might as well send it and use these ten minutes to ask me questions about publishing that you might have that no one else will answer." It's how I got my reputation for being a stone bitch and how I got my reputation for being the one editor people in RWA could go to with any question at all, no matter how rude or stupid.

While some might think that's ridiculous because it doesn't cost any money, comparatively, to get on the internet and find answers, a lot of the people who attend pitch sessions wouldn't consider asking the internet for information and/or wouldn't trust the information on the internet, no matter if it seems to come from a reputable source. Plus, despite the crazy number of listservs romance writers have, they still somehow manage to circulate wrong info--not in bad faith, but perhaps accidentally misinterpreted or something. Which is why I took to posting information on my blog and asking that people link directly to it rather than cutting and pasting to reproduce somewhere else. It's always better, I've found, for the authors to hear information "face to face" with an editor, whether it's over a pitch table or at a blog or sitting at the feet of editors who are holding court with a glass of scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Of course, I've only been doing this for seven years, so I might be off the wall, but I'm also coming from a different (non-sf/f) perspective.

I'm not defending anything or coming down on anyone's side, especially since I have been known to bitch loudly about pitch sessions, especially when they take place at 0830 and the first two people scheduled don't show.... but, particularly on the romance side of things, I have found pitch sessions to helpful in meeting authors (and other editors and agents doing sessions, who I would probably not otherwise have met), and dispensing advice and information no one would have otherwise received, as well as to find people to whom I could say, "Hey, your book wouldn't fly at my imprint, but you could talk to Ms So And So at ChoppyChop Publishing House, and if you were serious about trading recipes for blueberry pie, let's have vodka gimlets at the bar tonight."

I'm just saying. And getting paid for something I do anyway doesn't hurt.

#203 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Foolscap is a nice little con... (Although I helped set it up and am somewhat biased.)

#204 ::: sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:41 PM:

Unpublished fiction writers are the largest and most reliably naive segment of the whole aspiring writer tribe.

I think we are just twitchingly desperate rather than incredibly naive.

#205 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Ah. And one "Pitch Grinch" has shown up to defend the NYC Pitch and Shop, on Absolute Write. Denies being Kaley, though, and calls anyone who thinks otherwise might be a conspiracy theorist...gosh. Can't be having people thinking that. Probably I should be censoring the cantankerous naysayers.

Bleh.

#206 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:18 AM:

Yes, a Grinch of a Pitch who did once sign herself with the curious initials of PB. (Is that a B for Brinch?)

She does appear quite slippery of answers about her identity, and free with condescension to those who disagree.

#207 ::: Cicily Janus ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 12:35 AM:

I had to stop by here and make a comment. I have attended algonkian workshop conferences. I have not attended the NYC pitch and shop conferences but I have known people who have attended these conferences and have done very well at them and have even walked away with requests for the full MS from editors from Penquin and the like. Including a friend who has his MS under final consideration at Penquin at the moment who attended the Pitch and shop conference last Dec.

Second, every agent I have met from the conferences and at other conferences has told me that they would be more than thrilled if every new writer or "old writer even half way understood the business or knew how to "pitch" their book or sell it, or even had a slight understanding as to the chances of marketability of their book. Which is something that these conferences offer.

What Mike Neff/Algonkian offers conference attendees is a wonderful service. He teaches the craft, gives concrete exercises to improve your skills at the conference as well as far after the conference has ended, solid contacts with well known agents and editors in an intimate settings in beautiful places around the country.

Case in Point: I was on an airplane this past Dec, stuck on the runway. I sat next to a gentleman who proceeded to strike up a conversation about nothing in particular. We started to talk about what we did for a living. He mentioned he was a writer. I said..oh yeah..so am I...next thing I knew I threw out the pitch to the book I was working on..He mentioned to me that his wife was a senior editor at a publishing house. He said..you have to mention this to her. You just have to. Now had I not known how to speak intelligently about the book or "pitch" it correctly and just rambled on and on about it, well he would have turned away and asked for more peanuts. Instead I have a senior editor who has expressed interest in the final draft. And when I sent her the "pitch" via email at his wishes not mine, she congrat. me at being able to get the pitch down. As this was one of the hardest things to do. Had it not been for Mike and his conference, I wouldn't have been able to do that. She read a partial of the first draft and then said she would be happy to see the final draft.

I think it is wrong of anyone, especially people who have never attended these conferences to bash or slander the names associated with these groups.

#208 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 12:45 AM:

Cicily @207,

If I have a couple of questions about your comment, are you going to be back here to continue the discussion?

[I won't ask yet, because it's late at night and questions are best asked under strong sunlight]

#209 ::: Cicily Janus ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 03:08 AM:

Will be here...to answer any questions.

#210 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:21 AM:

Alas, Kathryn from Sunnyvale never asked her questions so Cicily Janus never got a chance to answer them.

Coming late to the party:

These posts elsewhere from March 2012 may be interesting. They are on-topic.

#211 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2014, 01:24 AM:

spam

#212 ::: Cadbury Moose sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2014, 05:45 AM:

and maybe beats OtterB to this one.

#213 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2014, 05:45 AM:

spam

#214 ::: Cadbury Moose beats OtterB to the draw ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2014, 05:47 AM:

Hurrah! 3:O)>

#215 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2014, 06:55 PM:

Spam

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