September 02, 2003

Torcon Report

I won! I won! I won! Oh yes, I suppose I should back up to the beginning. I was nominated for the John Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer for the second year (and last.) I flew up to Canada for the World SF convention -- Torcon 3 -- in Toronto.

I must start by saying sometime before taking off I had hurt my back. I
wasn't alone at Torcon3 - I had a Vile Evil Gnome latched too my back
occasionally driving a spike into my spine. So instead of GEV (Julie
Czerneda's Great Editor Voice), I had VEG.

I got to Toronto Wednesday afternoon, checked into the Crowne Plaza and was
stunned and amazed to find it under construction. This threw all my plans
of meeting people in the Crowne Plaza bar into complete disarray. I looked
for Ann Cecil who would be running the green room - she's my first reader
and best friend from Pittsburgh. I run into Sue Wheeler, chair of Balticon,
who is looking for food. VEG and I hobbled down to the Royal York with Sue
for a late lunch in the Epic Bar. Afterwards, I went upstairs to register
and ran into Kristin Britain.

It was great to see Kristin. We went up her room to wait for Mike (Uriel).
Boy, the Royal York was nice hotel with tall fluffy beds. Mike arrived and
did a one minute "oh, there's someone I don't know here with Kristin" before
it clicked. "ooooooh, WEN!" J Jana showed up shortly afterwards and we
went down to the Epic for dinner.

Thursday morning I got up early and hurried down to the green room to meet
with Ann. She was asked to run green room only late July and up to
mid-August had been told that it would be in the convention center and
catered. Now in the Crown Plaza, the corkage had been waived and she needed
to arrange for all food and drink. Failures in communication had her
running about trying to provide said food and drink. She filled me in on
everything I would need to play "Substitute Ann" and flashed off. By the
time my reading rolled around at 3:00, I had spent nearly six hours in the
green room trying to keep that running smoothly. The con chair Terry Fong
popped over at one point and made me laugh with a very puzzled "Buuuuuuut,
you're the Campbell finalist" when I told him that I was the "Substitute

The TINKER drawing worked well; I had nearly twenty people attending the
reading despite the early time. Ross Ashley (Red Loin), Ruth Stuart and I
stopped for my first meal of the day. Ross dashed off for Julie's panel
while I had a yummy tuna fish sandwich. On to my signing with MM. Several
people came by with complete sets of books to sign, so I was kept busy,
although the flow was light enough that I actually got to talk and use my
rubber stamps. On the way out I tried to quietly point out Gordon Van
Gelder to MM, but he stabbed a finger in Gordon's direction and said loudly
"HIM? IN THE PINK SHIRT?" That's how I introduced MM to the editor of
F&SF - hmmm, perhaps this directness works.

I went back to the Green Room and helped Ann close up for the day. We then
went off to Ta Ke Sushi for our favorite food. VERY good sushi. We walked
back to the Royal York (VEG: Stab stab stab) and did a party crawl. I ran
into Rob Gates and had a short chat - he's a great guy -- and met Chris
Moriarty, who was way cool. Ann packed me into a taxi (because of my back)
at midnight, reminding me that I had a very hectic schedule Friday.

Diane Turnshek was rooming with me and had gotten a late start out of
Pittsburgh, so she arrived sometime around 4:00 a.m. She came with a closet
full of clothes, two laptops and a telescope. Wow, now I wish I had drove
instead of flew. We chatted the next morning while we both got ready for
our busy day. She loaned me suitcase on wheels to cart around flash books,
buttons, and postcards, and off I went for Julie's NG breakfast.

But I went to the wrong Movenpick.. Yes, I know, they said gather at the
York and then walk, but I assumed they were all sleeping at the York and
walking to the Movenpick across from the convention center. Unfortunately
while the staff could confirm that there was another Movenpick in town, none
of them could tell me where. Oh well. I ran into several old friends:
Heather Bruton and Tina (whose last name I never can remember) and others
who were working in the artshow. We had a nice breakfast and got caught up
since it been years since I last saw any of them. I gave the freebie stuff
to Heather to take upstairs and went back to the green room to help out. My
first panel was at 1:00 and after that I had back to back panels all day.
The 2:00 panel was ROC presents, but my back was hurting me so bad that I
slipped out to find a more comfy chair until the 3:00 panel of Baen
presents. That too I only sat in for a part time. By now I was out of
Tylenol and really just wanted to go back to bed.

Still, I hurried upstairs, got my SPACE INC book signed by Sean Fedora and
went downstairs for my 4:00 panel. By the end of my 5:00 panel I was fading
and stumbled through the Broad Universe Rapid Reading. I really wasn't
doing well, and went back to my room to beg the last of Diane's Tylenol and
eat. Food, painkiller, and a nap later, and I was feeling good enough to
make my 9:00 panel.

The panel's official title was "Big Girls with Boy's Toys" but we called it
"Grrrls with Guns!" The other participants were Elizabeth Moon, Kristine
Smith and Chris Moriarty. I had brought a squirt gun, and we did a cute
late entrance as a commando team. As a late night panel, we were the last
one in that room so we went over by about twenty minutes and people said
later that this was one of the best panels of the convention.

Being that I just started doing panels at Balticon 2001, to be able to hold
my own with Elizabeth Moon in August 2003 really pleases me to no end. I
started very frightened by the idea of doing a panel. I was very quiet and
had problems of putting two intelligent sentences together without tripping
over my tongue. Doing panels and actually answering people's questions on
newsgroups (common writing questions and such) really helped me during
panels as I had basically 'pre-thought' what I had to say. I encourage all
new writers to get experience of talking in front of an audience.

After the 9:00 panel, I went back to my room and was in bed by 11:00.

Saturday - HUGO DAY!!! They had moved my "Meet the Campbell Finalist"
forward to 10:00, so I got up and went down to the green room. Ann was just
arriving with bagels and muffins and such, so I helped set up and had a
bagel for breakfast. The other finalists were even more impressive in
personal. Charles Finley is very nice, well-spoken and his short stories
had received lots of exposure. Ken Wharton looks like a California surfer
but with a doctorate in Physics. I really, really didn't think I was going
to win against these people.

Afterwards I had lunch with Patricia Bray, author of Devlin's Luck and
Devlin's Honor. I dropped off my suitcase of flash books but my back was
really killing me and I was now totally out of drugs. At my 2:00 panel with
Josepha Sherman, she did a call for drugs from the audience and got me some
Tylenol but it was getting clear I NEEDED to find a drug store. But duty
called. I was supposed to go to the Hugo Rehearsal. I hobbled to the other
end of the convention center and discovered I gotten the time wrong. At
this point, all stress and pain .and an impending period. cracked my
control. I started cry and couldn't stop. I cried through Mark's telling
me how to get up onto stage and back off (having handled the awards, he knew
that I needed to know) I cried through voting for site selection before it
closed (unfortunately, KC lost) and I cried as I tried to explain to Ginger
Buchanan (editor of ACE) that I really wasn't that upset, I just couldn't
STOP. Finally I got to the artshow and my many friends there and collapsed.
They got me painkillers (Codeine is legal in Canada!), ice water to drink,
ice pack for my head and a comfy place to sit. Twenty minutes later I was
good to go for my "Chicks in Chainmail" panel with Esther. Yes, hell and
high water wouldn't keep me from that panel, since it probably would be
packed - and it was. Ginger showed up half way through the panel with back
medicine. (Thank you, thank you thank you - I existed the rest of the con
on this.)

This panel had been at another time and they moved it to 4:00, which meant
that it fell at the same time as my pre-arranged meeting with my agent at
the Crowne Plaza bar (which was closed.) I had tried to track him down to
change the time, but neither voodoo board or asking the pros such as Ginger
generated any way to contact him. Packed panel or agent? Packed panel or
agent? Panel won out, but when I found him later, he said I had chosen

I considered skipping the Hugos as I wasn't feeling good and wouldn't have
time to eat dinner, but I decided to buckle in and do it. (Luckily, the
pre-Hugo reception was very nice with lots and lots of yummy food.)

Now everyone tells me that when I won they roared .but I didn't hear it.
When they called my name, it was like someone turned on a white noise
generator. I remember the stairs up to the stage - I was focused on not
falling. I remember the podium - I was focused on talking into the
microphones so people could hear me. And yes, my acceptance speech was "For
the last two days, I've been thinking 'I'm not going to win, I'm not going
to win' so I don't have an speech prepared. THANKS!" (Later people
complained that I stood at the podium for such a short period of time that
they had no hope of getting a photo of me accepting the award.)

Stanley Schmidt presented my award and then escorted me through the dark
backstage. As we started down the temporary steps in the back, I realized
that this was a perfect opportunity to introduce myself to the famous
editor. Unfortunate, as the steps SHIFTED as I stepped down it was "So,
you're Stanley SCHMIDT!" We froze, waiting to see if the whole staircase
was going to collapse. Nothing happened. We took another step and he said
"Yes, I am."

Unfortunately, the painkillers wore off during the rest of the ceremony and
while I was quite happy, I was also very uncomfortable. It became a "I won,
ouch, I won, ooowww, I won, oooh."

After Robert Sawyer got "THE BIG ONE" I needed to go back up on stage for
pictures. 15 minutes of agony while smiling. Elaine (thank god) got me
some water and I took more pills before the pictures but unfortunately they
didn't kick in until later.

The newsgroup gathered around me after the pictures to congratulate me.
Then, I wobbled off to drop off the award, change clothes, and call home "I
WON I WON I WON!" My husband was very happy "Oh, great! Now I don't have
to do a 'these awards don't really matter peptalk!" Laura Anne (my ROC
editor) had sent BEATIFUL flowers and a get-well card to cheer me up.
(Thank you, Laura Anne)

I made an appearance at the after Hugo's party known as the Hugo Loser's
Party but is for everyone that was nominated - winner's and loser's alike.
(They used to hold two parties, but the Winner Party was tiny and the Loser
Party was a lot more fun.) Then I went to the Ace Anniversary Party and
then stopped in the lobby to talk with Dan Zlotnikov, Sarah Jane Elliot and
other people. Once again I bribed the taxi driver to go the three blocks to
the Crowne Plaza instead of hobbling back.

Sunday (I won I won I won) and I had told Sean Fedora that I would meet him
for breakfast so I crawled out of bed at a early hour and made my way to the
Royal York again. Afterwards I sat in on Toni Weisskopf's kaffeeklatch and
then had brunch with her and Catherine Asaro. I had a 1:00 panel -
Believable Evil - with Catherine that competes with the 'Grrls with Guns'
panel for my best panel of the con. I went back to the York again to meet
with Baen's Bar fans and then meet with Steven Seagal, managing editor of
Pittsburgh Magazine. He interviewed me for the November issue. YEAH!

Dinner then with Mike, Kim and Kristen. We went to the Armodillo, a Texas
food place and I had steak. When we got back to the York, I ran into
Elizabeth Moon. Mike, Elizabeth and I went to the Epic for drinks and were
joined with Liz Williams. (okay, so often there are other people joining me
at the above mentioned functions but the convention is already a blur in my
memory and names have been lost.)

The Baen Bar was Sunday night at 10:00. I spent about an hour there,
stopped at the Noreascon party for like ten minutes and was back at my room
to collapse by 12:00. Monday I packed up, checked out, had lunch with my
room mate Diane and flew home.

Wen -- resting a lot

Posted by wen at September 2, 2003 03:31 PM

Congratulations on the well-deserved Campbell!
Looks like you had a very busy con (which
explains why I didn't see much of you -- being
in the art show the entire time, I didn't get
to a single panel).

I hope your VEG gets off your back soon. ;-]


Posted by: Blade at September 3, 2003 09:28 PM

Congratulations! That's two years in a row that I've actually cared about the outcome and had the author I was rooting for, win.

Posted by: Kate Nepveu at September 5, 2003 07:54 AM

Go you! I just got sucked (pooldrain-like) into the chapters of Tinker that are up on the Webscriptions at Baen, and I just wanted you to know how freakin' cool (not just cool, FREAKIN' cool) I think it is. As soon as I have money--within the next 70 years or so--I'm going to start buying your books. =)
Go you! Gooooooo you!
Kat (aka wasurera)

(PS: Manga? Anime? Damn you're cool. ^____^)

Posted by: Kathryn Valliant at September 5, 2003 02:39 PM

Congratulations! I saw your posts on Forward Motion, followed them here, then got interested in your novels. I bought them and was immediately hooked! I'm almost finished with Tainted Trail now and only regret that there's only one more Ukiah Oregon book left for me to read. I read too damn fast!

Anyway, just wanted to say gratz on the award, and that I LOVE the Ukiah Oregon books. Thanks for the fun reads!

Posted by: Heather at September 24, 2003 05:17 PM