Convention treasures.

Convention treasures.

What is it like to be a writer of fantasy whose family isn’t into fantasy? Here’s how I do it.

I sometimes envy the couples and families I meet at cons. When I go to cons, I go solitary. I meet my friends and fellow fans of course, so it’s not like I “wander lonely as a cloud” or anything, but cons are very definitely part of my writing life that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of my life. In my case, my conventions are one aspect of my identity as a writer that is separate from the other parts of my life. I am compartmentalized, and I’m not sure if that’s good, bad, or just is.


“How was the con?”

Generally my husband asks this on Sunday afternoon in August, when I’ve come back from Austin’s ArmadilloCon. I am usually dragging, weary, yet buzzing from the contact with friends and fandom, loaded down with books and art, and excited over bar conversations, book sales, exciting panels, great art, and the whole atmosphere of my tribe. If you came into my house, you would see very few examples of my participation in sf fandom. Some art in small spaces is pretty much all. I share a house with three other individuals, so the house has to speak to all of us. I don’t hide away my shiny, pretty things but they are part and parcel with the clocks, the upright bass, the saddle on the arm of the rocking chair (okay, that’s mine too), and once upon a time, the hockey gear.

I try to explain how the con was, but for my husband, it’s a foreign land. He came once to go out to get dessert with a bunch of people one time, because he’s a good sport, but for the most part, cons are my thing, not his.


“So what are you working on?”

My coworkers are amazing. My day job doesn’t look askance at my fiction writing, possibly because my day job is writing (business and industry analysis). My immediate coworkers know what it’s like to be creative people. So many of them are musicians and artists too, so they get it. When my first novel debuted, they came out and supported me at my first book signing.

I am often asked when my next book is coming out, which is a bit uncomfortable because of the pressure, but the question itself is unwitting. I think a lot of people don’t know how long it takes to write a book, and publishing news is doled out in small, irregular doses.


We’re entering a new phase here. The oldest is launched, the youngest goes off to college. The days of being a mom (Aidan’s mom, Kim’s mom) as my sole identity to teachers, pediatricians, and other parents, are slowly fading into the sunset. We’ve shared birthday parties, babysitting, school events — I’ve known some of these parents for nearly 20 years. And just like I know only vaguely what some of them do, they don’t really know what I do. That’s okay, I hasten to add — parenthood is a different kind of fellowship.

(Side note: Despite having a full life of work, writing, friends, and hobbies, this whole “empty nest” phase is killing me. I don’t want to cry when we drop off the freshman, and I will try to hold it til we get back into the car, but damn, I know it’s going to get me. The good news is I have friends who will totally let me be a blubbering idiot about it and pat my hair and say “there there” and ply me with alcohol.)

I never really thought of how compartmentalized all my writing aspects are. I’m used to it — I’ve been doing this for a long time. But I get a little bit envious when I see families and couples at cons and realize they have a closeness that I don’t. They don’t have to be asked, “How was the con” because their family already knows.

So, to my friends who go to cons by themselves: are you the only fan in your house? How does that work out for you?

And to my friends who go with their significant other and their kids: What’s that like? Am I romanticizing it?

How do you structure your lives?



A3 · August 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Going to cons with the family, upsides: you can go to see different panels/events and then have great conversations and share notes. Or even the same panel and then discuss what you heard. I won’t deny it: this is pretty cool.

Going to cons with the family, neutral: you’ve got a built in friend group. So you’ve always got someone to hang out with, but you’re less likely to make new acquaintances, especially if you’re naturally introverted.

Going to cons with the family, downsides: you’ve got to take school schedules into account (so I won’t be at WorldCon until late Friday). Also, if you have young children, one adult needs to stay with them, so sometimes that adult may have to miss something they’d rather do.

Patrice Sarath · August 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Do they have childcare at WorldCon? That was one of the things that I always thought was the best thing about conventions — except that I wasn’t sure I would trust the babysitters. It was never an issue. I only ever had to bring a child once to a convention and that was for a few hours.

I am a bit wistful imagining your family discussing all the things you got to see and experience on the ride home.

And I am looking forward to seeing you in San Antonio.

A3 · August 18, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I think WorldCon does have childcare. Mine are past that age.

However, mine are at the age where I feel the need to stay near my teenage daughter to keep away ConCreeps. Since mine is into anime/art/cosplay, I imagine we will be attending some of those panels instead of some of the writing ones. We’ve gotten good at negotiating!

There’s an upside: I’ve learned some interesting things from going to panels I wouldn’t have chosen myself.

Patrice Sarath · August 19, 2013 at 5:15 am

That’s a really good point — about going to panels you otherwise wouldn’t have enjoyed.

Interesting comment about ConCreeps — there’s a panel on harassment at cons that I intend to go to.

A3 · August 19, 2013 at 5:47 am

When is the panel on harassment? I’d be interested in that one, too.

Patrice Sarath · August 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm

This is it, snagged from Jessice Reisman’s LJ. It looks great; it has some heavyweights on it, especially SFWA president Steve Gould.

Stop Calling It a Kerfuffle

Saturday 6:00 – 7:00

It’s harassment and it isn’t cute. Bad behavior isn’t new, but why are we still putting up with it?
Caroline Spector (M), Eileen Gunn, Steven Gould, Pat Murphy, Jessica Reisman

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