Recap: Retreat, When Words Collide, Gen Con!

a hawk feather lying in the grass

So you might have noticed I’ve been off the blog. I was doing writerly things, I promise! (Well, most of the time.) In short, I signed up back-to-back for a writers retreat, the When Words Collide literary festival, and Gen Con.

Writers Retreat


First I headed off to the Writers Academy retreat in Minnesota, where I spent three days thinking about revisions for Shard & Shield and hanging out with other writers. At the end, I learned I’d won third place in the annual Writers Academy contest, which was nice!


The retreat was small — there were just 12 of us total — but that made it cozy. And the site, the Mount Olivet Conference and Retreat Center, was about perfect. I did lots of walks in the woods or meadow or wetlands during the day and writing in the evening. And of course we had discussion and classes and writer stuff during the day as well. Oh, and I gave an impromptu hour-long Evernote tutorial, because I’m an Evernote evangelist and I think all writers should be using it to keep track of all those crazy research notes! (If anyone wants a free Premium trial, let me know and I’ll gladly send you the invite. I’m seriously addicted to Evernote.)

I was flying out of Minneapolis a few days later, so I stayed with a couple of my favorite beta readers Erica and Kelly and did ridiculously urban things like walk from the apartment to restaurants for lunch. (This is not something I can do at home, at least not efficiently.) And we met my cousin Amy for a ridiculously tasty Cuban dinner.

When Words Collide Literary Festival

hotel room door with the room number 666
Well, this will certainly teach me to complain to the desk clerk. An old Indian burial ground, you say?

Then I headed north to visit When Words Collide for the first time.

I’ve done four different writers’ conferences at least once. It’s hard to pick a favorite as they often have their own flavor and purpose and it’s hard to compare. But I have to say that When Words Collide was pretty fantastic and I’m going to try hard to be there again next year.

squared cookie, iced and with lettering "Eat Me"
Our FAE reading had brownies and super-cute Wonderland-themed cookies. Not many remained.

Not only did I get to meet in person my lovely editor Rhonda Parrish of Fae fame, plus talented Fae-partner Adria Laycraft — and completely sell out all the copies of Fae — but I found a whole bunch of new writing friends. (One of the best things about conferences is the networking.) And our reading for Fae went really well, especially considering how much I hate reading my own work aloud.

I was able to attend a number of interesting sessions, everything from short stories markets to character motivation to trying to nail down a definition for “speculative fiction”. WWC was kind enough to put me on several panels myself, which was fun! as while I do a lot of public speaking, I haven’t done any at writers’ conferences before.

I even got to speak on a romance panel, which is a little bit funny when you consider that I’m not in that genre — but the moderator said they got good feedback on me from the attendees, so that’s nice to hear! I was talking about behavior stuff, specifically alpha and beta males as opposed to their depiction in fiction, so I wasn’t totally out of my depth. /grin/

So, much good feedback at WWC, and my Japanese Folklore & Mythology seminar filled the room, which was quite nice.


Rhonda and I had dinner in a place called Ranchman’s, which I guess is a local thing in Calgary. All I know is that they gave me some free shredded brisket (yum) with my meal and they had a disco saddle. DISCO SADDLE.

absinthe fountain and glasses
No, the airship was not listing; I just snapped the photo one-handed through a crowd.

We attended a steampunk party hosted by Tyche Books (interestingly, the archaeologist who spoke at our writers’ retreat talked about an important Tyche statue he’d found, so I was up on all my Tyche lore but got no opportunity to show it off) and I had absinthe for the first time. It was fascinating, mostly in the explanation of how it was made, why it worked the way it did, and where the Green Fairy comes from (little curls of color between the naturally separating layers, when prepared properly). It took me most of the night to finish it, because I rarely drink alcohol and I’m a slow drinker at the best of times, but I enjoyed it.

And finally I learned to play Magic: The Gathering, and I promptly got my butt kicked by Brandon Sanderson. The second photo captures the only moment I was able to damage him, exiling a prime card — and then he rolled over me like a steamroller down Lombard Street. It was a very short game.

Lombard Street, in San Francisco
Lombard Street, in San Francisco

And then I returned home to pack up for…

Gen Con

collections of colored multi-sided gamer dice
Dice, dice, baby. I’m prepped for Pathfinder.

If you’re not familiar with it, Gen Con is the largest gaming convention in North America, possibly the world, with a healthy dollop of fantasy, sci-fi, film, books, costumes, and a lot of other not-strictly-gaming content. It’s nearly 60,000 people gathered to play and enthuse together. It’s simultaneously the biggest event our convention-destination city regularly hosts (second only to the Super Bowl) and its safest/smoothest, in terms of police calls, etc.

The menu from Scottys Brewhouse

And we do Gen Con hard. The entire downtown area is transformed into a gamer-friendly zone, with many of the restaurants redecorating or printing new themed menus. Hotels book out all around the city, running shuttles into town. And we run some events there.

In a typical Gen Con year, I’ll teach some people how to dance to “Thriller,” run a bunch of costuming workshops, compete in the costume contest, present on Japanese Folklore & Mythology, and maybe play some games if I have time. (This last has become more important since my husband lured me into Pathfinder.) We’ve done as many as 26 hours of programming in the weekend, but that’s a bit much and we don’t get to see much else, so this year I cut back to 16, plus all the events I want to attend or do myself.

Pathfinder game markers for -2 con damage, Blinded, and Fatigued
My bloodrager half-orc had an exciting night at the season premier. (She came out okay.)
Laura at a Geek Chic gaming table with Mindy, black lab puppy in green service dog vest, sprawls beside her
I check out the latest from Geek Chic, while Mindy takes a break.

This year had some extra excitement and responsibility as I had Mindy (service dog in training) with me for three of the five days (it’s technically a four-day con, but everyone knows it’s really five; you just don’t need a badge for many events on the first day). She was a total rock star and I bragged all about her over here.

So all in all, you can see why I was a little busy. Three events in three weeks, and of course hanging out with friends I see only at such events. So the blog got neglected. But I’m back! And I’m working on a story.

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