I just got back from Dreamspinner’s annual retreat. I had a fantastic time there with a bunch of QSFers, including but not limited to Angel Martinez, Jon Keys, Jamie Fessenden, Lloyd Meeker, Andrew Q. Gordon, Brandon Witt, Elizabeth Noble, Z. Allora, Shira Anthony, Skylar M. Cates, Wade Kelly, Gus Li, Clare London, Pearl Love, and Erika Orrick. If I left you out, I apologize in advance – it was a whirlwind! There were so many of us there, and I also met a bunch of fantastic non-QSFers at the retreat (or maybe future ones?) 🙂
Anyhow, I thought I’d distill what I learned there for y’all (see? Now I say y’all. I blame the South), in my usual whimsical style:
1) Check The Schedule in Advance: It’s important to know what you want to see, and when your free time will be. These events are fairly tightly scheduled, but there may be some sessions that don’t appeal for you and will give you a little more networking time outside of the formal retreat. I skipped the forensics one (which by all accounts was fascinating, BTW) and managed to snag half an hour chatting with Z Allora, one of the folks I was hoping to hook up with at the retreat.
2) Choose Your Conversations: I chose the attendees whom I wanted to be sure I spent some time with near the start, and these conversations were one of the best parts of the retreat for me: the aforementioned chat with Z Allora where we discussed twitter lists and FTL space travel, the talk with Lex Chase where I got the chance to clear the air for a past indiscretion, hanging out with BG Thomas, Jamie Fessenden and Michael Murphy, the guys in the “A More Perfect Union” antho with e, lunch by the pool with Gus Li and Brandon Witt, the guys in the “Faery” antho with me, and many more. I love getting to know my FB friends one on one. And I also made some great connections with the DSP staff, including but not limited to Elizabeth North, Lynn West, Naomi Grant, Anne Regan, Erika Orrick, and Lyric Apted.
3) Don’t Miss the Alligator Feeding: Okay, so this may not apply to every retreat. But if the hotel where you are staying has any special events, find out when they are and plan to see them in advance. Hey, it’s free, and it’s a story you can take back home. And this was definitely worth it.
4) Take Copious Notes: The DSP retreat has some great sessions – from the amazing Damon Suede’s “Scene and Sequel” presentation on how to write stories your readers simply can’t put down, to Elizabeth North’s opener on the state of DSP and LGBTIQA publishing. And Naomi Grant gave an absolutely fantastic social media presentation. But only a few of these came with handouts. The older I get, the less details I tend to remember, so I took detailed notes that I can refer back to later to jog that memory. And I can then pull out action items to put those ideas into use once I get home.
5) Buy Your Friends Animal Crackers: OK, so it doesn’t have to be Animal Crackers. That’s just what I picked – they looked SOOO good in the shop window next to the conference room. But show up at your table for the next session with something yummy and share wildly. Your old and new friends will appreciate it, and remember you forever as “that Animal Crackers guy”.
6) Everyone Loves Mad Libs: At the QSF gathering, one of the things we did, in addition to playing a wildly inappropriate music on a cheap bluetooth speaker that no one could hear and giving a speech that was literally written 15 minutes before, was to do a mad lib. We chose Angel’s “Potato Surprise” (which became “Banana Surprise”, and my favorite creation of the night was “Platypus horns”. Somewhere in the depths of Australia, Toni Griffin is groaning in her sleep.
By the way, you can get the original, “Potato Surprise”, for free here. It’s a great introduction to Angel’s Brimstone series.
7) You Get Out What You Put In: It’s a cliche, but it’s really true. It’s easy to go to one of these things and just sit in the corner like a wallflower. We’re writers – it’s our stand-by state. But don’t – put yourself out there. Meet some new people and reconnect with others – it’s so much fun. It’s why I was constantly “networking” with Anne Marie James (firstbump!) and with Marieke van Es (and her entourage), who I am now cyberstalking on Facebook (love you, Marieke!). So have fun. Go to everything that interests you, and make a bunch of new friends.
8) Do Not Blow Up Angel Martinez: Seriously, just don’t. And if you do, DO NOT make like a vampire and lick up the remains, Lloyd. I’m just sayin’.
Now, for your reading pleasure:
Banana Surprise, by Angel Martinez
This wasn’t how a ship should treat a demon magister. Frankly, it wasn’t how a ship should treat anyone. Shax clutched the lake between his fingers, trying flexibly to prevent the cats from slipping out of order again.
“tree … magnet … syrup … hat storage… That’s absurdly specific. toe transport? What in blazes?”
A huge soda blocked half the quiet light from the Orlando floor runners. “What the fuck are you doing now?”
I don’t have time for this. “I’m reading The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Sulfur-laden steam accompanied Verin’s next snorted breath, his moist feet scraping the deck plates. “I see that, shit. Why aren’t you in the muddy pilot’s pod?”
“Ver, I’m not doing this for my table.” Shax glanced up, then was sorry he had. Verin’s broad frame, head topped with his curled platypus horns lit from below by the floor runners, was a bit too brown for comfort. “When I tried to page through Frankenstein in the pod, the burger froze and the console spit out reams of bone. The lights flickered out, so down here on the Arizona is the only place I can see any damn thing at all.”
“You’re figuring out the nav calc since you, aroused, screwed the jump out?”
“A prince has no choice but to screw up royally,” Shax cried.
You can get the original, “Potato Surprise”, for free here. It’s a great introduction to Angel’s Brimstone series.