I attended DemiCon 28 last weekend. It’s a science fiction convention in the DesMoines, IA area (technically, Urbandale), where they had an art show, masquerade, panel discussions, parties–the full gamut of things I have learned to anticipate at sf conventions in my decades-long career of attending them.
And they had author readings.
In my experience, author readings at large conventions by “big name” authors can be standing-room-only events. Author readings by mid-list or relatively unknown authors tend to be the orphan stepchildren of convention programming. If anyone shows up for one, that counts as “wildly successful.”
Some promoting, arm-twisting, and recruitment of friends and family to fill the audience may be required, for newbie writers. We may have loved listening to people read us stories in grade school, or be passionately attached to our audio books and podcasts as adults, but somehow getting people to attend readings at sf conventions continues to be kind of a heavy lift.
As some of my more persistent blog-readers may have noticed, I’m a writer who’s poised on the brink of having a novel to release into the wild. It’s gone through multiple drafts, been professionally edited, and I’ve done all I can to make it the best novel it can be. The time has come to start making people aware it’s coming.
I asked for a reading at DemiCon. Better yet, I got one–although I wasn’t scheduled for many other programming events where I could promote it. I made fliers (with advice from my son about copy writing), and invited everyone I could.
I also was able to connect with a couple of other authors, who also had readings. One of them was P.C. Haring, who’d been scheduled for a reading that morning at 9:00 a.m.
Now, in the normal world, 9:00 a.m., even on a Saturday, is a fairly reasonable hour. At a science fiction convention–especially one with as many lively room parties as DemiCon 28 has, a 9:00 a.m. panel on Saturday might count as cruel and unusual punishment.
I’d noticed this scheduling earlier, and commiserated with him. Then, on an impulse, I offered him the second half of my scheduled hour from 4-5:00 p.m. This was not entirely altruistic on my part: my voice tends to give out after half an hour or so of reading. In any case, he accepted the opportunity. We had a nice attendance–the room was about half-full. I read my first chapter, then he read excerpts from his book. Before we knew it, the hour was over and we’d all had a pleasant listen.
Then wegathered up as many of the audience up as possible, and trooped across the hall to listen toLettie Prellread from two of her short works. The first, “Emergency Protocol,” is a flash fiction (very short) piece that will be published by Analog Science Fiction and Fact at a future date. It is wonderful: watch for it.
Did I gain anything by encouraging my audience to also listen to P.C. and Lettie?
Could/should I have filled my entire hour, all by myself? Well, certainly I had enough material to read (assuming my voice held up). And from comments I got later, the audience would have been game for listening to me. So maybe I made the wrong call. If you look at it from the point of view that all authors are in competition with each other, then I definitely did. Nice guys finish last, and all that.
But I don’t see the world as a zero-sum game, and I especially don’t look at writing that way. I cannot possibly write fast enough to be the only author someone reads (unless they read ver-r-r-r-r-ry slo-o-o-o-o-o-owly, indeed!). Even much more prolific authors ultimately can’t. Everyone’s readers are also going to read other authors’ work.
Therefore, I’d rather be a resource, a connector, a person who introduces people to others they may also like, in any given network. I fundamentally do not believe that any given group of writers (or artists) are competing, so much as conducting parallel enterprises. If we conduct our careers in friendly, cooperative ways, as far as I’m concerned, we all gain, and actually might expand our own networks a bit in the process.
IMAGES: Many thanks to the Balticon Podcast, for the photo of author Mark Van Name giving a reading from his novel No Going Back. There aren’t very many photos of that particular activity (author readings at sf cons), so I was relieved to find a good one! The promo card for my novel, Going to the XK9s, is a combination of my copywriting and design, much improved by comments from my son Tyrell Gephardt, and an illustration I commissioned for promotional purposes, by Jeff Porter. The cover art for P. C. Haring’s novel Slipspace: Harbinger is from his website. The illustration for The Three Lives of Sonata James is by Kevin Hong. It is posted here courtesy of Goodreads. Many thanks to all!
Today’s images show an increasingly frequent literacy strategy for helping children learn to read with greater fluency and confidence: using reading therapy dogs.
As you’ll see if you take time to watch this video, reading to dogs can help children with difficulties grow into stronger readers–but also gain confidence, and improve in all sorts of other areas you might not expect, from better math skills to improved hygiene!
Are the dogs magic? No, it’s just a natural outcome. People have taken comfort and strength–not just help, food and utility–from animals.
During August, I celebrated the traditional back-to-school season with a return to the “roots” of this blog (which used to be called Artdog Educator) and a focus on education, which has been well received. I thought the photos and video of dogs at work to help children read was an appropriate way to close out this theme (for the moment) and segue into my September “Creative Approaches to Work” series.
Keep checking back, for more working dogs in September.
IMAGES: Many thanks to FirstBook’s article Sit, Stay, Read about a program in the Chicago Schools, for the photo of the girl reading to the dog in her classroom, and to the Stamford Advocate, for the photo of two girls on a couch in Stamford, CT reading to a dog, and article about a local literacy program that uses dogs in schools. Thanks also to YouTube and Intermountain Therapy Animals of Salt Lake City, UT, for the video about their Reading Education Assistance Dogs.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely think of education as a weapon. My general concept of education has always been that it is more of a path through a tool shop, although I suppose some of those tools could be considered sharp-edged weapons . . . especially those in the Critical Thinking Department.
And yet two of my earlier Quotes of the Week this month have looked at education as a way to fight poverty and terrorism, both of which are well worth trying to combat.
I think this “education is a weapon” concept is why folks at the more authoritarian end of the political spectrum so often seek to subvert, control, or de-fund universal education. They may come out openly against it (as does the Taliban).
Others may give lip service to the importance of education, but follow a more hyper-individualist and/or fundamental religious philosophy that can produce varying degrees of destruction as a side-effect (as do the extreme tax cuts in Kansas that were supposed to “free” businesses to create jobs but didn’t, or the push to use public education money for vouchers to fund parochial schools).
However we think of education, we must always remember that it is a powerful force, a sharp-bladed tool. It can improve lives all over our country and our planet–or it can be subverted in ways that stunt and warp and destroy. As thinking adults, we must keep our wits, look at outcomes, and make our choices about education as wisely as we can, lest that weapon fall into the wrong hands.
Elders and elementary kids, reading together: bridge-building between generations helps all parties.
The “loneliness epidemic” in our society is well-documented–we may have instant communication, but “proximity, as city dwellers know, does not necessarily mean intimacy,” Olivia Laing noted in her article, “The Future of Loneliness,” in The Guardian. And loneliness hits older people hardest of all.
But I would argue that the divide hurts the younger generation, too. Divorce and separation of families to far parts of the country can disconnect grandparent-child relationships, robbing the younger generation of chances for unconditional love and a healthy perspective on aging. People deprived of experiences with stable, loving elders may grow up without empathy or compassion for the lives and value of older people, and they also may live in needless terror of aging.