Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Orange Book Festival 2013 Recap

Bruce McAllister, Garrett Calcaterra,
Terri Nolan, and James Scott Bell
Book festivals, conferences, and conventions are always a great time, especially when they're in your backyard, and especially-especially when you get to participate in one of the panels. That was the case for me this year at the Big Orange Book Festival. I had the honor of moderating a panel on "Making a Career in Writing" and it was a wonderful experience. The three authors I got to work with were all insightful, informative, and a pleasure to hang out with. They included:

Bruce McAllister, a critically acclaimed science fiction, fantasy and literary author. His books include Dream Baby (an amazing book about a combat nurse with ESP during the Vietnam War, which I highly recommend), The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories (his career spanning short story collection), and The Village Sang to the Sea (his brand new novel from Aeon Press). In addition, Bruce is a writing coach and consultant for authors and film and television screenwriters.

Terri Nolan, who began her career as a newspaper and radio journalist and continues to work as a freelance crime journalist. She is author of Burden of Truth, a gritty crime thriller that delves into the world of police corruption, substance abuse, and self discovery—a book that is not for the faint of heart. The next book in her Birdie Keane Series, Glass Houses, is scheduled to be released in February of 2014.

James Scott Bell, a past fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine, who has written numerous books on the craft of writing, including the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure. In addition, he is author of numerous thriller novels, including Don’t Leave Me and Try Dying, not to mention a very fun zombie legal thriller series under the pen name of K. Bennett.

Our panel was well attended and the three panelists did a great job of illuminating what it takes to really make a successful career as a writer, everything from honing your craft, to maintaining a body of work, navigating contracts, and reaching out to readers.

In addition to the panel I moderated, I also attended the "I Spy Sci-Fi" panel, moderated by James P. Blaylock and comprised of SFF authors Raymond Feist, Tim Powers, Michael Cassutt, and Austin Grossman. They had a lively and informative discussion on the differences between SF and fantasy, how creating magic in fantasy is more about "intuition" on the part of the writer than establishing clear cut rules in the text, and how the genres have evolved since the Golden Age of SF.

I've met Powers and Cassutt before, but never Feist, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and thank him for being the first author to introduce me to sex in a fantasy novel back when I was in junior high (an important moment in all nerds' lives, since we clearly have no chance of having real sex in our teen years). I haven't read much of Feist's epic fantasy work since my high school days, but I remember enjoying his novels, and to this day, his contemporary fantasy, Faerie Tale, is one of my all time favorite fantasy books.

I did not get a chance to talk to the last author, Austin Grossman, but his work sounded intriguing and he had no problem hanging with the authors on the panel who were all a good deal older and more experienced.

All in all, it was a great weekend. The general attendance to the outdoor portion of the festival wasn't great, and far from festive (that's Orange County for you, I suppose), but the panels were great and well attended. My only personal regret is that I didn't get to see Kim Stanley Robinson speak. Due to a hiccup in his travel plans, his event got bumped to later in the day on Sunday and I couldn't make it. I did pass by him and say hi in the green room, though, so that's something. The whole experience reconfirmed for me that I need to follow through with my goal of attending festivals, conferences, and conventions more regularly. If you have any good ones to recommend that are on the west coast and not brutally expensive, please let me know!

-G. Calcaterra

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