JordanCon 2015 Recap (Part 2)

On to day 2! (Otherwise known as the longest day of the con.)

I managed to get about 5 hours sleep, and after eating made it down sometime around 11. I actually can’t recall if I made it to the first writing panel of the day, but I definitely made it to the second, which was titled Writing in the Past. Michael Livingston was on this panel, unsurprisingly, as was Saladin Ahmed, this year’s Author Guest of Honor whose book, Throne of the Crescent Moon, has a setting heavily inspired by ancient Middle Eastern/Arabic culture. This panel was of particular interest to me both because I am currently working on a Master’s Degree in History, and because I intend to use the research I’m doing for my thesis (focused on Hungary from 1920-1944) to write some historical urban fantasy novels (a timeframe which I was informed may be termed dieselpunk) set there. There was some great discussion on different aspects of writing in a real historical setting (or in inspired settings) and some of the challenges that come along with it. I also got to talk to Dr. Livingston for a minute after the panel, which was nice as well.

Next we had Making the Map, a panel, surprise surprise, about the reasons for including a map in fantasy novels, and the various considerations that go into making and including one. This panel featured Saladin Ahmed as well, along with author guests A.R. Cook and Jeremy Hicks. This panel was a fun one, and the panelists got into the nitty-gritty on when maps are necessary, the use of city maps in addition to country maps, as well as what goes into making one (if I recall correctly it was Jeremy Hicks who has a background conducive to making his own detailed maps, and he brought some samples to show us.)

Then came the big one, a panel that’s become a highlight for me despite my extreme aversion to public speaking (more so when trying to think on the fly): The JordanCon Annual Pitch Critique. Of all the panels/lectures, etc, that I’ve listened to on writing and the writing business, this historically has proven the most helpful to me. For the uninitiated, it goes as follows: There is a panel of industry professionals (this year Harriet McDougal, Diana Pho, and Saladin Ahmed–2 editors and an author), who give feedback on people’s pitches. Pitches are given on a volunteer basis, and generally there’s time for everyone who wants to go. you give the pitch, and then the panel gives you feedback. Very simple, but tough for many of us. Even after doing it for a couple of years now I still get nervous (and this year due to that and trying to reword things on the fly I skipped a whole sentence by accident–fortunately they were fine with me restarting, after which it was very well received. The reason I say this has been so valuable for me is that it first forced me to learn to boil down my book into a few sentences (still working on perfecting that), and get critique by people who know what works, all without the pressure of pitching ‘for real’. Of course, that doesn’t mean that an editor won’t talk to you afterward and express interest in your project. It’s largely thanks to the pitch critique session that I’m still in touch with editor Paul Stevens, who attended JordanCon for several years, and now have a correspondence with Diana Pho, who was there this year. Nothing is guaranteed of course, but merely establishing relationships with editors puts one ahead of most people–especially if said editor sees that you are reasonable and someone who would be good to work with. These things matter in the publishing world, and having people recall you positively can only help. And getting feedback on a piece of writing from an editor is pretty great as well. (My pitch was for that historical urban fantasy set in 1920s Hungary idea that I mentioned in my last post, if you’re curious. And let’s just say that the day I finish my graduate thesis is the day I start writing that book.)

 

Alright, so that was the end of panels that day, for me anyway. I took some time to walk around, visit the gaming room and the art show/dealers hall again, and sat in for the end of Todd Lockwood’s (this year’s Artist Guest of Honor) retrospective, where he went through a slideshow of a number of his pieces of art and talked about them. It was also at about this time that it finally clicked in my head that he illustrates Magic: The Gathering cards (including some of my favorite arts in the game), among other things, but that’s a story more for day 3.

By 5:30, panels were done for the day because one of the highlights of every JordanCon was set to begin–the costume contest! Every year there are just so many amazing costumes, which I can’t do justice to here without pictures. Previous years’ costume contests are on YouTube, and I imagine this year’s will find it’s way online soon (I saw someone recording). It doesn’t last too long, and is worth a watch.

Once the contest was over, it was time for the dinner break. I retreated back upstairs (after accomplishing some research reading and getting another compliment on my earlier pitch), and once Shabbat was over came back downstairs, in my standard low-budget Asha’man outfit (it’s actually an Androl cosplay–I don’t get int costume often, but it’s fun to do one occasion.)  for the yearly Magic draft. There was a slight snag this year as there weren’t enough people for a third group, so the 4 of us did a sealed tournament instead of a draft (it cost a bit more and we got more packs. Also decks are built in a different manner. It also took a lot less time, and I was one of 2 winners of my group, which netted each of us a voucher with which we could use toward a Magic card alter at the Aradani Studios booth. (I also got pretty good pulls in my packs, which was nice too.)

By then it was already kind of late, and the last two nights were catching up. I stayed awake to play a little more Magic, and watched some of the still ongoing draft tournament, then headed up to get some more sleep.

That’s it for day 2! Apologies again for no pictures (at least I’ve figured out how to insert hyperlinks!) Here is a link to part 2 of Leigh Butler’s recap over on Tor.com, which includes several pictures of people in costume from the contest. As far as pics of me in costumes…I’m sure there are pictures of me in costume online somewhere. I’ve worn that costume on Purim and to the New York Renaissance Faire and posted pictures on twitter, I think. Part 3 to follow soon!

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