Pitch Wars 2018 Wish List

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Welcome, Pitch Wars peeps, to my 2018 Wish List! I’m over the moon to be back mentoring again, and can’t wait to see what lands in my inbox this year!

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Requisite biographical information:

My name is Lyndsay Ely (that’s eel-ee, like an eel), and I am the author of GUNSLINGER GIRL, a YA Western SFF dystopian genre burrito that came out in January 2018 from Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown. In 2015, I entered GG (under a different title) into Pitch Wars, and was lucky enough to be mentored by the incomparable Elizabeth Briggs. I am now represented by Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary, agent and co-host of the Print Run podcast. By day, I’m a marketing graphic designer at a Boston publishing house (which means my life feels like publishing 24/7 sometimes) and organizer of a local speculative fiction writing/critique group. 

When I’m not working, writing, or reading, I love searching for antiques and vintage collectibles, finding a great new craft cocktail bar or brewery, playing Pokemon Go!, geeking out at cons, and…other stuff.

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Hey, that’s nice and all, but what kinds of manuscripts are you looking for?

Okay, okay—this is supposed to be a wish list.

Once again, I’m just a young adult mentor asking you, the prospective young adult mentees, to send me all of your fantasy, light scifi, historical fiction (especially if it’s SFF), and genre-bent fiction that defies easy categorization. Gimme your complex, morally complicated characters, your worlds saturated with baroque levels of detail, and plots that will twist and turn more than a pair of headphones buried at the bottom of my oversized and rarely cleaned purse.

Got a YA fantasy reminiscent of Marjorie Liu’s MONSTRESS? I want to see it.

An unusual, razor-edged take on familiar elements like THE CRUEL PRINCE? Yes, please!

Lush worldbuilding like THE BELLES or a historical setting with a healthy dash of dark fantasy like GRAVE MERCY? *points at my inbox* It goes in there!

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More about what I’m looking for:
  • Diverse casts, relationships, and settings of all kinds (including, but not limited to, LGBTIQA+, neurodiversity, and #ownvoices)
  • Feminism, badass ladies
  • FANTASY—high fantasy, low fantasy, historical fantasy, diet fantasy, extra spicy fantasy, cold brew fantasy—all of them!
  • SCIFI—hard, ultra-sciency science fiction isn’t my thing, but an adventure story that utilizes science (for example, like A WRINKLE IN TIME) might catch my eye
  • HISTORICAL—Got something like a young adult HARLOTS, GODS OF GOTHAM, or SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN? I have a weakness for period pieces, SFF or not
  • GENRE-BENDERS—I love to be surprised!
  • Unlikeable or anti-heroes, vigilantes, and redeemable villains
  • Unusual magic systems (though this doesn’t mean I don’t like the usual ones too)
  • Adventures! Heists! Treasure hunts!
  • Dark! Gritty! Grim dark!
  • Positive fat representation (of any gender)
  • Departure from traditional gender roles (for all genders)
  • A CITY OF BRASS-esque YA
  • Twisted stuff, like a YA version of PREACHER or PENNY DREADFUL
  • Retellings aren’t my favorite, but if you have an unfamiliar or rarely traveled one, especially with lavish prose like in UPROOTED, I’d be interested in seeing it
  • Graphic novels? YES, PLEASE. I cut my storytelling teeth on comic books, so I am here for GNs.

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Okay, what do you NOT want?

This is always tricky to answer, because just when you think there’s something you couldn’t possibly enjoy—like a space book about singing—an author comes along and upends that. (*glances at SPACE OPERA by Cat Valente*)

But, in general, I’m not looking for:

  • Mermaids, werewolves, or angels vs. demons (Note: If these exist as elements in your story or world, that’s 100% fine; If they are the main focus of your story, it’s less likely to entice me.)
  • Love interests whose biggest selling point is smouldering hottiness, or Insta-love™
  • Contemporary (unless you have a reallllly dark Gillian Flynn-esque practically-a-murder-ballad YA contemporary)
  • Epistolary novels, novels told in text message, verse etc. (Just not my thing.)
  • Rape as a character motivation, or excessive use or threat of sexual assault as a device to create danger (Again, it’s okay if these elements exist in your world, as long as they are not used excessively or as a main motivator.) I’ll also note here that no trigger warnings are necessary in my case, but please be aware of any noted on other mentors’ wish lists.
  • White saviour stories, or narratives about discrimination that center the experiences of the privileged class
  • Any plot that leans on “MC overcomes challenge despite the fact that / even though she’s a girl.” (Girl MCs who have to pretend to be boys is gonna be a tough sell to me too, though I won’t say it’s 100% out.)

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I’m still not entirely sure what you like. Do you have a list of favorites that can better help me understand?

You bet your backside I do!

Favorite books/comics: The Count of Monte Cristo, the Young Wizards series, Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom, The Cruel Prince, Gods of Gotham, A Darker Shade of Magic series, The End of Mr. Y, The Stand, Strangers in Paradise, Monstress, Saga, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Fables.

Favorite authors: Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, Diane Duane,  Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Scarlett Thomas, R.L. LaFevers, Lyndsay Faye, Warren Ellis, Terry Moore

Favorite TV/movies: Battlestar Galactica, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Archer, Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, Venture Bros, Harlots, Dangerous Liaisons, Titus, Deadpool, Heathers, Muppet Treasure Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Favorite characters: Holland (from A Darker Shade of Magic series), Katniss (from THE HUNGER GAMES), Nina (from SIX OF CROWS), Amethyst (from Steven Universe), Starbuck (from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Maeve (from WESTWORLD), Zuko (from ATLA), Leia (from STAR WARS), Katchoo (from STRANGERS IN PARADISE)

Favorite Pokémon: Sandshrew

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So what can I expect from you as a mentor?

To start, doing what it takes to get you the materials you need to revise in a timely manner. This will include an edit letter, feedback on revisions, help on your query, synopsis, and pitch, as well as assistance in finding sensitivity readers, if applicable. (Plus, a hand with anything else that might come up.) 

And if you need some words of wisdom, one of the wisest mentors out there once said: “There’s no different angle, no clever solution, no trickity-trick that’s going to move that rock. You’ve got to face it head on.”

The rock is your manuscript. And we’re gonna face it head on.

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What are you looking for in a mentee?

Someone passionate about their writing and the amazing opportunity that is Pitch Wars. Someone who can take criticism, and search for the kernel of truth within it even when it doesn’t entirely make sense to them. Someone who won’t just kill their darlings, but turn their back on them as they are dragged kicking and screaming into the underworld.

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And, most importantly, someone who will do the hard work and hit the deadlines, no excuses.
(Barring unforeseeable events, of course.) I am a very deadline-oriented person, and I’d like a mentee that is too. Revisions can be intense, even with the extended timeline this year. But if you’re willing to to put in the effort, so am I!

Are you ready?

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Return to the Pitch Wars 2018 Mentor Blog Hop main page or continue browsing the YA mentors’ blogs via the links below!

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Stranger in Paradise

This is the blog post I’ve been meaning to write for ages. The one about one of my great writing influences, and how it walked back into my life after I thought it was gone forever.

Once upon a time, in the neon flannel decade known as the nineties, a teenage girl went on her weekly visit to the comic book shop and saw a cover. She knew nothing about the story or author/artist, and, at that time, had barely ever read outside the Marvel or Image lines. All she knew was that the cover featured a grungy-looking artist who looked she had exactly zero fracks to give for your nonsense, aka pretty much everything the girl wanted to be when she grew up. So she dropped $2.75 and instantly fell in love.

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~where it all started for me~

Strangers in Paradise, for anyone unfamiliar, was a comic series written and drawn by Terry Moore, which ran from 1993 until 2007. Its story followed a cast of characters– mainly Katchoo, Francine, and David–and their day-to-day lives, various romantic entanglements, and involvement with organized crime syndicates and a prostitution ring. (Sounded really cute and fluffy there for a second, didn’t it?)

Reading SiP as a teen, it hit so many personal notes for me. Katchoo was a talented artist, assertive, and tough as nails (while at the same time able to be vulnerable). Basically, everything teen me wanted to be. Francine, on the other hand, was insecure, struggled with body image issues, and wanted nothing more than to be loved. (I…uh..I’m sure I don’t have to explain how that would resonate with a teen.) And finally there was David, who was handsome, sweet, intensely loyal, and just the right amount of broken.

I got the SiP story in pieces. The #1 issue I bought wasn’t a true #1; SiP had had two short 3-issue storylines prior to it. And, being that this was before you could go on the internet and find anything you wanted, this meant combing through boxes and piles in literally every comic shop I came across for back issues. I spent YEARS doing this, and can still remember the thrill of finding an issue I didn’t have, the missing connector between one chunk of story and another. (That being said, it’s not something I recommend; thank goodness for the internet, trade paperbacks, etc etc.)

There are a lot of emotional levels to SiP. Sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes it’s a drama, sometimes it’s something else entirely. (Is there an entire issue where Francine and Katchoo are Xena and Gabrielle? Yes, yes there is.) It’s also one of the first things I ever read with any significant representation of queer characters.

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~mmm…evil on a stick~

But at its core, SiP is a story about friendship and love. Katchoo loves Francine, and has a complicated relationship with David. David loves Katchoo, but has a complicated relationship with…well, a lot of things. And Francine wants to be loved, but struggles with how the fairytale version of it she’s always been fed never quite seems to materialize.

Are you using that heart beating in your chest? Would be a problem if it got ripped out repeatedly? Then maybe SiP is not the read for you.

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~even out of context, this moment is just…ouch~

But beyond the stab-you-with-the-feels-knife-and-twist-it storylines, Terry Moore also has a gift for drawing people. Like, REAL people, not the miniature-waisted, beach ball-breasted, occasionally feet-less superhero characters I was mostly seeing at the time. One of my favorite panels of all time is of Francine getting dressed, wearing normal underwear and nylons, and actually looking like a human woman would look in those items. I didn’t know terms like body-positivity at the time, but Francine is now one of my favorite examples of it; even when she’s voluptuous (curvaceous, ample-bodied, even kind of *gasp* FAT) the other characters in the story always find her attractive.

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~this panel tho~

Given that it ran for like, fifteen years, there’s obviously so much story I’m not touching on. Like how Katchoo was a sex worker for a powerful, dangerous madame named Darcy who tasked her girls with gathering compromising information, including at the highest level of politics. (At one point, Darcy even implies that a certain First Lady is a deep cover Parker Girl, and, geez, do I wish that had been real life and not fiction.)

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~still would have voted for her~

And here’s where I get into the personal stuff. A while back, Terry Moore announced that Strangers in Paradise was returning. Not just returning, but beginning it’s new run in January 2018, which would be the same month that my debut novel, Gunslinger Girl came out.

It was a feels-knife stabbing all over again. Like, the kind of feels that I tend to keep private because I’m easily embarrassed and Katchoo was always tough in public and, and, and…well, yeah. It’s impossible to pick apart Gunslinger Girl and not find the SiP influences in it. One GG character (no spoilers) is basically an overt homage to an SiP character. There are clear shades of David in Max, my main character’s love interest. And on and on and on…Strangers in Paradise was simply such a formative read that there will likely always be hints of it in whatever work I produce.

Today, I arrived home after being on tour for Gunslinger Girl, something that I never dreamed would happen as a smol baby creative waaaaaay back in the nineties. I am utterly wrecked, running on adrenaline fumes, sugar, and whatever residual chemicals are coursing through my body following almost a week of restaurant meals. But an envelope was waiting for me in the mail, with a logo that took my extra crispy brain several seconds to register.

It was the first issue of Strangers in Paradise XXV.

It’s been at least two decades, but I still remember so clearly the feeling of seeing that initial #1 issue of SiP on the shelves. If there are points in a person’s life where their future creative fires spark, for me that moment was a full on flare up.

So, I am many years older now than when I first met Katchoo, Francine, & Co, but that’s okay, because so are they. I have no illusions about revisiting these characters; I may love the new stories, I may not. I know that if (when) I go back and re-read the original runs, I will be reading them through different eyes, in a world where some once accepted things are not longer acceptable, and where the conversations have evolved. But none of this stops me from being incredibly excited to dive back into the lives of old ink and paper friends.

And so, because we should always try to tell creatives when we love their work (so they keep creating, dang it!) I’m going to wrap up by saying thank you thank you thank you to Terry Moore for reviving this series, and that I’ll be eagerly checking my mail for new issues in the months to come. (>ahem< And also that the entire run of SiP is available in trade paperback, along with Moore’s more recent series.)

Can’t wait to read! ❤

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P.S. All panels, art, the copy within them, etc etc included in this blog post are copyright Abstract Studios, and are the gosh darn best.

I’m here, I’m here

Ages ago, I resolved to blog more. That, as it turns out, has been a resounding failure. The truth is, I never really know what to write about. I mean, I can think of a million different topics but I never feel like I have the right words to talk about them, so I don’t.

Why would the interwebs need one more blog post about a topic that’s probably been written about a thousand times before?, she reasons, tossing away idea after idea, because there’s always something else that needs to be done, and the threat of burnout has been lingering like a vaguely bad smell she can’t find the source of for most of recent memory.

So that’s where I am right now. Not at BURNOUT burnout, but wondering exactly how many breaking news stories or obligations I should have declined might get me there.

Pure 2017, basically.

A lot of creatives have been talking about how hard it is to create lately, constantly surrounded by what I will simply call “the unpleasantness.” And yes, that’s been hard. In the first half the year, I put in oodles of time finishing up GUNSLINGER GIRL, half-wondering if we’d be mired in a nuclear war before it ever came out. (And at least than three months from pub date, I suppose there’s still time, laugh/cry.)

But full-blown destruction by full-blown idiots aside, the creative process chugs along. Unfortunately, it has not been nearly as productive as I’d like. Today, for example, I planned to get a whoooooole ton of writing work done, only to fall asleep this afternoon on the couch, where I was quickly joined by my cat, who snuggled up with an enthusiasm  that seems to say “I don’t get why you don’t nap every afternoon, stupid human.”

Naps are a pretty rare thing for me (I’ve never been a good sleeper, and sleeping at night presents enough of a challenge) so when I manage to take one, I know it’s probably needed. (Given that I spent a lot of this week helping to prep for a Halloween party thrown last night by by one of my social groups, and didn’t get to bed until early this morning, I suppose it was understandable.) Still, I hate the feeling of *having* time, and then not putting it to as good a use as I could, because I’m too mentally or physically tired to do much more than binge watch Netflix and rationalize that dry cereal is a perfectly acceptable non-breakfast meal.

Like I said, I’m not at BURNOUT. But if I’m being honest I wouldn’t mind a two week vacation away from everything right about now. (Well, maybe…I took a week-long vacation earlier this year only to return to a large layoff at my day job, which has played no small part in the continuing Burnout-Lite™. So maybe I don’t want to tempt fate a second time, haha.)

On the plus side, NaNoWriMo is coming up. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been able to complete the challenge (for various reasons) but this year I’m really committed to adding a big chunk of words to my WIP. And the annual writing retreat with my writing group is coming up in a few weeks, so I have that to look forward to. (Full disclosure, the planning for that is on me too. Oh yes, I do this to myself.)

Where am I going with this? I don’t know…which is probably why I don’t blog much.

What I do know is 2018 is continuing as scheduled, and that I get to kick it off with the publication of my first novel. Which is a great motivation to begin a new year, as I certainly don’t intend it to be the last.

Part 2, Electric Boogaloo: Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List

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Since I’ve had some repeated questions about what I’m looking for, here are a few clarifications:

• I like all the fantasies. High fantasy, low fantasy, historical fantasy, diet fantasy, extra crispy fantasy—ALL OF THEM.

• Most sci-fi is good too. (When I say hard sci-fi isn’t really my thing, I mainly mean I’m not looking for heavily science-y sci-fi.)

• Dystopia = yes, please.

• Mermaids/angels/demons/ghosts/etc: While I’m not looking for these things to be the main focus of the plot, it’s totally fine if these things exist in your story or universe.

• Sexual assault/rape: Again, I won’t reject if these things exist in your story, so long as they are not gratuitous or your MC’s main motivations.

• Dead animals: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, again, this is okay if it’s a minor part of your story. (Just don’t you dare send me your updated fantasy version of Where the Red Fern Grows. Don’t. You. Dare.)

 

That’s it! And please, if you’re still wondering about anything, feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on the Twitters!

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Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List

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UPDATE: When you’re finished reading below, check out Part 2 of my Wish List, filled with all manner of of riveting clarifications!

Hello Pitch Wars peeps! As a brand-new-mint-in-box-first-time mentor, I’m super excited, honored, and more than a little nervous to be posting my wishlist!

First, a little about me: My name is Lyndsay Ely (that’s eel-ee, like an eel). By day, I am a mild-mannered graphic designer at a Boston publishing company, where I’ve spent eight years creeping around the inner workings of the industry and acquiring a staggering number of books for my TBR pile. When I’m not doing writerly stuff, you can find me digging through a thrift/antique shop, trying out a new cocktail bar, or geeking out to the max at a con.

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In 2015, I was lucky enough to be a Pitch Wars mentee, mentored by the incomparable Elizabeth Briggs. Today, I am represented by Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary, and my debut novel, GUNSLINGER GIRL, comes out in January 2018 from Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown.

What am I looking for?

As a young adult mentor, I humbly request that you send me your finest YA speculative, SFF, and historical fiction!

I like fantasy, light science fiction (hard sci-fi is a harder—but not impossible—sell), stories that* bend genre (Bend it! Bend it like you’re the avatar of genres!), adventures, dark, twisty stories, and well-detailed historicals. Give me a book like SIX OF CROWS or THE GOLDEN COMPASS or GRAVE MERCY. Send your young adult GODS OF GOTHAM , ANCILLARY JUSTICE, or SHARP OBJECTS. Give me complex, complicated characters (your Kara Thraces, Hollands, and Kaz Brekkers), worlds that vibrate with their intensity, and plots that will make my stomach ache to see how they’ll turn out. Not too hard, right?

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MOAR WANTS (both general and oddly specific):

  • Heists/treasure hunts (I’m a sucker for these!)
  • Badass ladies
  • Diverse casts, relationships, and settings of all kinds (including, but not limited to, LGBTIQA+ & #ownvoices)
  • Dark, gritty, or adventurous historical fiction
  • A historical Middle Eastern-based fantasy (See? Oddly specific. I HAVE A MIGHTY NEED!)
  • Twisted stuff, like a YA version of PREACHER
  • Geekiness.
  • Anti-heroes, vigilantes, and redeemable villains
  • A Gillian Flynn-esque YA contemporary
  • I’m not big on re-tellings, but if you have something along the lines of JANE STEELE, I might be interested
  • Feminism!!!

What do I not want?

Well, middle grade and adult entries to start. And I’m not the person to send your contemporary realism or romance manuscripts. I do like angst and romance, but I generally need some magic and explosions and such to go along with it.

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MOAR DO NOT WANT:

  • Mermaids
  • Angels vs. demons
  • Love interests whose biggest selling point is hottiness, or Insta-love™
  • Ghosts or paranormal (though this is a maybe if it’s a historical setting)
  • Contemporary (unless you have the aforementioned Gillian Flynn-esque contemporary)
  • Epistolary novels, novels told in text message, verse etc. (Just not my thing.)
  • Killing off of pets, familiars, or anything cute, loyal, and lovable. (Unless it’s absolutely necessary for your plot that you devastate the reader. Because it’s absolutely going to devastate me.)
  • Rape as a character motivation, or excessive use or threat of sexual assault as a device to create danger
  • Non-Western settings starring a Western MC. (White savior stories are a hard pass from me.)
  • Any plot that leans on the “MC overcomes challenge despite the fact that / even though she’s a girl” device. (Girl MCs who have to pretend to be boys is gonna be a tough sell to me too, though I won’t say it’s 100% out.)

Not sure if I’ll be into something? Ask me on Twitter!

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Some personal favorites to give an idea of what I like:

Some favorite books/comics: The Count of Monte Cristo, the Young Wizards series, Six of Crows, Gods of Gotham, A Darker Shade of Magic (and sequels), the Bloody Jack series, The End of Mr. Y, The Stand, Strangers in Paradise, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Fables.

Some favorite authors: Diane Duane, Scarlett Thomas, R. L. LaFevers, Lyndsay Faye, Warren Ellis, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and Terry Moore.

Some favorite TV/movies: Battlestar Galactica, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Archer, Dangerous Liasons, Titus, Deadpool, Heathers, Muppet Treasure Island

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What can you expect from me as a mentor?

Well, to start, doing what it takes to get you the materials you need to revise in a timely manner. This will include an edit letter, feedback on revisions, help on your query, synopsis, and pitch, as well as assistance in finding sensitivity readers, if applicable. (Plus, some other things I probably haven’t thought of yet.)

What am I looking for in a mentee?

Someone passionate about the amazingness that is Pitch Wars. Someone who can take criticism, and search for the kernel of truth in it even when it doesn’t entirely make sense to them. Someone who won’t just kill their darlings, but pop up in the back seat of the darling’s car, garotte them, then burn the car and walk away without looking back.

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And, most importantly, someone who will do the hard work and hit the deadlines, no excuses. (I mean, some things are obviously unforeseeable, but besides those.)

I am a very deadline-oriented person, and I’d like a mentee that is too. Two months for revisions sounds like a lot, but it runs out quick. However, if you’re willing to to put in the effort, so am I!

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*that is in blue

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Readercon Wrap Up

There’s nothing quite like the exhaustion following a weekend convention. My queendom for a pill that can erase three days of too little sleep and too much caffeine, booze, and unhealthy food. In lieu of that being available, blogging from the couch will have to do.

For anyone unfamiliar, Readercon is a Boston-area convention focused on science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres of speculative fiction. This was my second year attending (though it shares so many common guests, vendors, and themes with another local con, Boskone, that it doesn’t really feel like that) and, as usual, the line-up was great. This year’s guest were Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik. I was able to attend a number of excellently executed panels, including It’s Complicated: Improving Intersectionality and Representation in Speculative Fiction, #Ownvoices Without Limiting Diverse Creators, and Recommending Outside the Box: Countering Unconscious Bias in Book Recommendations for Teens. And the events…well, if you poke around the hashtag on Twitter you may find some very entertaining videos from the Miscellany show on Saturday evening.

Cons feel a little different these days, though. Last year at this time, I hadn’t yet sold GUNSLINGER GIRL, so when people asked me what I write (or read, those two questions being pretty common icebreakers), I’d say mostly YA and that was the end of it. Now, with GG well along in the publishing process, I can say “YA, and my debut novel is coming out next year.”

Which feels…weird. Especially at a con with such extensive roots in the SFF/spec fic world (a world that I have far less exposure to than most of the attendees), where you’re pretty much within twenty feet of a critically acclaimed and/or major award-winning author at all times. Long story short, I felt very aware of my n00b author status.

But putting that aside (because I’m pretty sure the insecurities never really go away, *nervous chuckle*) it was a pretty great con. My writing group did their first “official” reading. (Which I very lamely came late to, because that’s how good of an organizer I am.) I got to hear some really interesting writers speak, including a kaffeeklatche (round table discussion) with Maria Dahvana Headley. That was a particularly interesting hour, as she touched upon something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: Narratives, both in real life and in writing, the effects they have, and how to better control/break free of them. (But that’s a blog topic for another day.) Also, she had these amazing antique Italian gold earrings she let me paw at.

Today, I’m enjoying a day off from work, recovering and gearing up for the beginning of Pitch Wars as a first-time mentor. (Eek.) And as tired as I am, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Readercon. Someone asked me this weekend what my next con was going to be, and I realized that now begins the dry season, and I’ve got nothing solid in mind (toying with a day at Boston Comic Con) until Arisia next January. *sad emoji face*

So, if anyone has recommendations for great cons between now and January, especially in the Northeast, feel free to share!