What sets the annual Armadillo Con in Austin, Texas apart from most genre conventions? Well, it is a literary convention, targeted toward writers looking to learn and share their experiences. You won’t find very many people in costumes (other than tacky Hawaiian shirts, of course!) and there are no odd-ball beauty contests, like for the Best Rendition of a Storm Trooper in a Leather Bikini. No, it’s all about improving your craft and meeting the professionals.
One of the most important aspects for me, was the annual Writer’s Workshop. Here, a group of novice writers are exposed to seasoned professionals who share their experiences and techniques. I want to publicly acknowledge this year’s coordinators, Stina Leicht and Melissa Tyler. They did a marvelous job of running the workshop and procuring a really top-flight panel of judges, including Jim Frenkel (a Senior Editor with Tor Books), majorly talented authors like Scott Lynch (“The Lies of Lock Lamora”), Patrice Sarath (“Gordath Woods”), Sharon Shinn (“Samaria” and “Twelve Houses” series), and other notables like Matthew Bey (local Austin writer and editor of the print magazine “Space Squid”) and Nancy Hightower, who is not only an author (“Devouring Winter” ), but also teaches college courses about writing. There were many more, so here is a link to the total list of instructors.
After a morning session of discussion, Scott Lynch held a great game where people would be picked out to construct a story based upon statements from a previous contestant. The stories built up nicely, until some editorial comments were thrown in like “add a talking beagle to your plot”. It was hilarious!
After lunch, we all broke up into separate groups to critique stories we had brought to the Workshop. There were five or six novices and two professional writers in each group. Our group had Sharon Shinn and Patrice Sarath. There were some amazing stories in our group! (Mine will be amazing once I get that pesky Point of View thing sorted out!) The critiques themselves were excellent and very beneficial. The workshop alone was worth the cost of the whole Con.
After the Workshop, the convention officially opened. Kim Antell gave a great talk on what to expect at the Con, and Scott Bobo mixed some really mad martini’s.
The panels at the Con were an amazing mix. Everything from City Building and Using Softer Sciences in Genre Fiction, to Why Do They Keep Canceling My Shows? One of the best panels was an explanation of Texas as both a place and an idea; Elizabeth Moon, Joe Landsdale, Howard Waldrop, Scott Cupp, Neil Barrett Jr. and Lou Antonelli took us deep into what we call Texas Weird.
There were also lots of author readings. My favorites were Rob Rodgers reading from his newest endeavor, Fort Dire and James P Hogan, reading from his new novel coming out next year.
Speaking of James P. Hogan, I spent a delightful time talking to him and his wife Sheryl. I have been reading his works since the early seventies, and have them on my list as perennial re-reads. He told some great stories about his life and the publishing industry. We also shared funny stories from our respective careers in the computer industry. His reading was especially enjoyable; his dry wit, humor and delivery dovetailed nicely with the segments he read.
I was also able to spend a little bit of time with Guest of Honor Scott Lynch. He is such an open and engaging individual, with lots of energy. Expect great things from this guy!
One of the great things about this Con is the ability to just sit and chat with authors from near and far. Exchanging ideas, funny stories and getting lots of advice from people who have been through it all adds a special zest to your evening!
I want to thank the Con Committee for a wonderful job. See you next year!