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Category: conventions

The One Where Elizabeth Wins

I’m honored to share that I’ve been awarded an AWP Community Scholarship to attend the 2024 conference in Kansas City.

I was lucky to attend last year’s conference in Seattle, and I absolutely loved it. AWP is one hell of a conference, with about 25 panels per hour aimed for writers and writing programs. It’s got a heavy literary bent, but there is also programming for commercial and genre writers and a LOT for the teaching of writing. And unlike the very white-cis-male spaces we find in publishing, AWP has more diversity in all forms than just about any other space I’ve seen.

A few of the panels I’ve got my eye on:

  • Social justice on the page: How writing and activism feed each other
  • Writing practices for neurodiverse and disabled writers
  • Mapping the creative and pedagogical terrain of community colleges
  • Breaking the rules on chapbooks: New approaches to an old form
  • Women of new fabulism and speculative literature
  • Be Shameless: Everything you need to know to nail promotion
  • Writing life post-MFA: Unearthing the realities
  • A turn of the page: From journalism to creative writing
  • Greater than the sum of its parts: Writing and structuring essay collections
  • The fine art of the craft talk
  • Writing the literary sex scene: Dethroning the male gaze
  • Show (Me) Don’t Tell: Missouri writers grappling with the state of their state
  • Ableism off and on the page
  • How do you eat? Writers talk plainly about funding their writing lives

And about two dozen others among the hundreds available. In addition to the daytime panels, AWP really comes alive at the evening off-site events. Readings are constant, wine-and-cheese receptions and gatherings in dozens of locations every night until the wee hours. I made the grave mistake in Seattle of skipping the nighttime events for the first couple of days, thinking it was like a con room party: fun but skippable. It was only on the third day that I realized it’s where so much of the creative energy of the convention comes from. 

In fact, I wrote a column on ten tips for attending AWP, which you can read here. Tip No. 3 was “The real beauty is in the offsite events.” 

I strongly recommend AWP for beginning writers, established writers, poets, librarians, students, editors, publishers, creative writing teachers, memoirists… basically if you put pen to paper or teach others to do the same, there’s something for you here, particularly in academic and literary circles. 

Having graduated out of student rates, I was very afraid I could not afford to return even though it’s so close to me this year: Kansas City is a mere four hours according to Google Maps, which always means five hours for me. The scholarship makes a huge difference, and I’m incredibly grateful to AWP for its generosity and those of the donors who kick in to help underserved, disabled and low-income writers join in the fray.

If you’re interested, check out the website at And let me know if you’ll be there! All adventures are more fun with a fellowship. Didn’t Tolkein teach us that?


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Fall Deathmarch (a.k.a. tour)

Excuse me, meme. We prefer the term “geeks.”

Semantics aside (and I’m always up for semantics!) I’m off to sunny Atlanta for Dragoncon! It’s great to be returning after many years away – I think my last DC was 2015? 

My reading is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Hyatt Marietta, and I hope you’ll come. I’ll be giving out a free chapbook to all attendees and will have books for sale. Likewise at my signing, which is at 2:30 p.m. Friday (with Timothy Zahn!) in Westin Overlook and I will sign (almost) anything you put in front of me.

Travelogue will post on Patreon as usual, along with any fun costume pics I get. I’m really looking forward to the annual crazy, and hope my poor bod is up to the abuse. 

Beyond that, the Fall Deathmarch is batshit this year. 

The weekend following Dragoncon, I’m signing at the Martin (Tenn.) Public Library before my 30th (!!) high school reunion.

Sept. 11 I’m speaking to the Plethora of Pens group at the Glen Carbon Library. Topic, er, to be determined.

On Sept. 23 it’s the Spine Book Fair in St. Louis! Note to self: we need a new festival tent…

Then it’s off to Las Vegas for the SPJ National Conference Sept. 28-Oct. 1, where I am a presenter (on freelance journalism) and doing a book signing. No, none of my books have jack to do with journalism unless you count the Dana Franks character in Nocturne Infernum, but they said that doesn’t matter…

Yes, that conflicts with Archon, so I will not be there (sadface) but Jim, Sela Carsen, Nikki Lanahan and Mary Koppenhofer will run the Literary Underworld in my absence. This is the first Archon I will miss since 2007, and I only missed that one because my dad was getting married. (Technically, a family unity ceremony.) While LitUnd will be there in force, we won’t be holding the Traveling Bar. So expect us back with both barrels in 2024!

After that:

• The Melting Pot in Granite City, Ill. on Oct. 7

• Writers of the Riverbend in Alton, Ill. on Oct. 14

• RWA/St. Louis Writers Guild conference at the St. Louis Central Library on Oct. 21 (speaking and signing)

• ContraKC in Kansas City on Nov. 10-12 (full LitUnd booth and traveling bar.)


Every fall I say, “Why do I do this to myself?” But seeing all of you makes up for the exhaustion and nonsense. If you’re in the vicinity of any of these events, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. It’ll be good to see you again. 

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Dragoncon Schedule

I’m delighted to be returning to Dragoncon after a long time away! Below is my schedule, where I get to meet up with some old friends and new faces as well. It’s a fairly light schedule, so I may have free time (!) to meet up and chat!

I will have a limited quantity of in-print books for sale at my reading and signing. If you want a book, you might message me in advance to reserve it. As I am flying, I can only bring so many. 

See you in Atlanta!



2:30 p.m. Signing with Timothy Zahn (Overlook, Westin) 


11:30 a.m. Vampire variety in urban fantasy (Chastain 1-2, Westin)

3:30 p.m. Reading (Marietta, Hyatt)

10 p.m. 101 Interesting ways to kill off a character (Embassy EF, Hyatt)


10 a.m. Writing effective short horror fiction (Peachtree 1-2, Westin)


2:30 p.m. Forecasting the future of fantastic fiction (Embassy EF, Hyatt) 

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Imaginarium ahoy!

I’m delighted to return to Imaginarium on its 10th anniversary, having attended nearly every Imaginarium since the first one (give or take a little pandemic.)

I’ll be giving my two-hour “business of writing” seminar on Friday afternoon, with several other panels in between running the Literary Underworld booth. LitUnd authors Jim Gillentine, Steven Shrewsbury, Sela Carsen, and Jennifer Mulvihill will be part of the fun!

Below is my schedule:

• Friday: 1:15 p.m. Business of Writing (two-hour workshop)

• Saturday: 11:30 a.m. Space operas

• Sunday: 10 a.m. Employment options for writers.

Saturday, of course, will be the Imadjinn Awards ceremony and banquet. I am a finalist for the Imadjinn film festival award for unproduced screenplay, and a nominee for the Knost Award, so cross your fingers for me!

We will also be opening the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar in our room on Friday and Saturday nights. Because of course we are.

If you’re in the Louisville area, please come by and join us! Imaginarium is always a lot of fun, and one of the conventions I enjoy attending to learn a little something more and talk with my fellow writers. If all that isn’t enough for you, the GOH is Terry Brooks!

See you in Louisville!
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It’s an honor to be…

… and that’s not sarcasm. It really is an honor just to be nominated.

In all the flurry of my travels this month, I neglected to blog about being named a finalist for the Michael Knost Wings Award. Locus has a write-up about the shortlist, which is the second part of this I didn’t expect.

The Knost Award focuses on up-and-coming new writers and writers who’ve been around a while but aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. I presume I’m in the latter category in their estimation, since 20 years is a long time to be up-and-coming. As they say, it takes 20 years to become an overnight sensation.

The full announcement is here, and the winner will be announced at Imaginarium this July. I’ll be present at the convention with the usual suspects in tow, and whether they call my name or it goes to one of the eminently deserving candidates on the list with me, it’s a huge honor just to be considered. One never really knows what impact you’ve had on the profession or the genre or the industry, beyond the occasional thank-you note from a student or another author you’ve mentored. That isn’t why we do it, of course, nor do we do it for awards (and certainly not for fame and fortune, cue laugh track). But it’s immensely gratifying to see that others perceive value in your work.

So thank you very much to the nominating committee and to Mr. Knost himself, and I’ll see you all in Louisville in July!

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Con Report: ConCarolinas 2023

There’s something wonderfully invigorating about con, the freewheeling friendly atmosphere and hobnobbing with one’s fellow wizards, surrounded by people who get the crazy fun stuff that fascinates you even when the mundane world says, “Huh?”

Who knew this many people can fit in a hotel room?

ConCarolinas is very much a writers’ con. There’s also a film festival, paranormal circuit and gaming track, among others, but since I didn’t interact with those, I couldn’t say how valuable they are. The writers’ track, however, has some truly useful and interesting panels, and hot and cold running writers everywhere.

I shared my table with Rachel Brune, my editor at Crone Girls Press and newly minted acquisitions editor for Falstaff Books’ new horror imprint, Falstaff Dread. Rachel and I go waaaaaay back to the early 2000s and our mutual membership in the Sarah Connor Charm School, and it’s always a delight to see her.


There was plenty of discussion of representation in horror, of A.I. and its implications for creatives, of the surge in book banning, the implications of the WGA strike, of various esoteric topics from cryptobiology to warding off evil spirits that could be useful for speculative fiction research. As usual, I only got to attend a fraction of the panels that interested me, as I was working.
My first round was a 9 a.m. panel (because obviously I have angered someone) on trunk novels and other work that will never see daylight. My buddy Jeff Strand and I were on this one. We talked about those early (and not-so-early) works that were, shall we say, learning experiences.
Naturally, I talked about Sanctuary, as an example of a trunk novel that stays in the trunk because of an internal factor – i.e. I believe it’s not good enough to be released. At the time, I trunked it because I knew I was not a good enough writer to tell that story in the manner it deserved. And I think this was the first time I have talked about the sequel, which I wrote sometime around 2001-02 exploring my idea of an interstellar Underground Railroad. This was a very ambitious novel attempted by a twentysomething baby writer who had no idea what she was doing, and had the audacity to think this was her story to tell. I am so glad Amazon KDP did not exist back then.
I still love that universe, and a couple of short stories have made their way to publication based in it. I sometimes wonder if now I am a good enough writer to do those novels justice, and the novels I have outlined to follow them. But for now, it’s trunked.
That’s an example of a novel trunked for an internal reason. External reasons, for example, might be a novel that you feel is strong and powerful, but others have told you it sucks, or now is not the right time for it, or it’s been rejected too many times, etc. There are times when those external factors might be overcome with tenacity, better timing, or reevaluating your approach.
Next up was “what to do after finishing your book,” which I was delighted to discuss with Gabino Iglesias, Gail Z. Martin and others. Some of you know I have a whole two-hour workshop about what you do after you write The End, so naturally I had plenty of things to say. In fact, I think I’m doing that workshop solo at Imaginarium next month, if you’re planning to join us in Louisville.
I really enjoyed some of Gabino’s anecdotes, and so I picked up his Coyote Songs – alas, too late to snag his autograph. Next time!
This was followed by “body shape as the last frontier,” which allowed me to discuss with a friendly audience some of the prejudices we see particularly as women of size. I’ve written before that I see a significant difference in how I am treated in various professional capacities as I grew older and rounder and became disabled. The conversation was very honest, discussing not only weight but male-gaze objectification, disability, race, gender presentation and the body image issues faced by men as well. We could have talked for another two hours on these issues.
This also allowed me to put on my Media Studies Masters hat and talk about cultivation theory for why this issue is important beyond making us feel better about ourselves: what we see in our media tends to impact our impressions of real life. If we see umpteen images of a fat person obsessed with food and gobbling sweets every time she passes the buffet, we will assume that every person of size is that way because they can’t control their eating. (And I delete a rant, but there’s a column in my future on this topic.)
Finally, I got to put on my MFA hat for “Vaguely Based on the Title of the Novel,” a discussion of film adaptations both good and nauseating. Having just finished an entire semester studying adaptation theory, I was the Annoying Academic of the panel. Unlike several of my fellow panelists (Jeff again!) I have never had a work optioned for the screen and while I have written a screenplay for a short film, it’s never been considered by anyone. Thus I presume my academic studies and my work as a film critic were the reasons for putting me on the panel.
Other panels I had to miss included writing morally gray characters, misogyny in romance, avoiding scams in publishing, writing an alternate history, developing a magic system, the author/editor relationship and much, much more. For beginning writers, I can strongly recommend the programming at ConCarolinas for an excellent three-day tutorial.
Because I flew to Charlotte for the con, Rachel collected booze, and so the Literary Underworld (Mini)Bar was open both nights to a full house. Not too shabby a collection for castoffs! Perhaps next year I’ll be able to drive, and Jim and I can bring the full Traveling Bar.
I had a wonderful time in Charlotte (though unfortunately did not get to see anything of the city itself), and learned a great deal as well as connecting with old friends and new. I was delighted to clap for Nancy Knight, writing track director for Dragoncon; and author Nicole Givens Kurtz, who each received lifetime achievement awards from the convention.

Me and Ari!

Also, the media guest of honor was Ari Lehman, the actor who played Jason Voorhees in the first Friday the 13th movie. He’s now a punk rocker (his band name is First Jason) and a big proponent of the Jason film series. My son was madly texting me during opening ceremonies because as a film nerd, he’s a big fan and asked me to tell Ari he really appreciated all that he’d done for the franchise even after he was finished with the role.
I happened to catch Ari right after opening ceremonies, and not only did he offer a selfie, he asked to record a brief video for my son, addressing him by name. I am now Mom of the Year, and Ian was delighted.


I share this because we hear so many stories about actors and other performers being selfish shitheels or egotists, and I think people deserve to get kudos when they take the extra step to thrill a fan. 

Now home, for the next leg of the summer travel: PARIS. I’ll be doing a daily travelogue from the City of Lights for

my Patreon

, so consider subscribing! 

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Con report: Conflation returns

I have to give the good folks of Conflation massive credit for the most creative way to keep a con alive during the pandemic: move the whole thing to the metaverse. 

And no, not that lame Meta-verse that the artist formerly/currently/whatever known as Facebook is attempting to pass off on us, but the original-ish metaverse of Second Life. Conflation’s organizers recreated the entire con, right down to the design of the Comfort Inn at Westport where it’s taken place for umpteen years, including the recalcitrant automatic doors and funky stairwell and not-actually-a-fireplace in the lobby. Only when you walk out the back door, instead of a shuttered pool and parking lot, you would see a vast playground of oceanfront walkways and hot tubs and dance floor with swirling lights and other fun things. For two successive Conflations, we partied in Second Life, and it was delightful – and introduced me to Second Life, about which I have written before.  

Conflation returned to meatspace last week, and it was glorious. As is the tradition for a relax-a-con that puts emphasis on socialization and relaxed schedules rather than panels and workshops, we sell out of our rooms and open/close as we see fit. I’ve vended at Conflation for umpteen years, running the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar and hawking the books in the same place, and I love it. 

Proof of life. Sorta.

This time I was solo, as my scheduled minion contracted the Voldevirus and had to quarantine. Fortunately I have many pals at Conflation and elsewhere who helped me unload the van, set up the tables, and watched the booth while I did my workshops. Special props go to the Branson-Koppenhofer-Rendleman family, author Elizabeth Lynn Blackson, and Conflationites David Szucs and Brad Hicks for doing extra duty helping me out

And that leads me to the unusual part: with so much success in Second Life during the pandemic, they opted to simulcast my reading in SL while I was speaking in real life at the con. My avatar looked smashing. (As I said at the time, she’s a lot prettier than I am and her dancing is a vast improvement.

Later, I gave a two-hour writing workshop that is essentially a condensed version of the workshop I developed this year in the MFA program, and I will conduct that workshop again in Second Life on April 1.

It was a first for me, plus an international audience I’ve rarely had, and I thought it was a great success. It’s a little disconcerting to read to a roomful of avatars, as I never quite realized how much I key off body language when reading – are they bored? Excited? Distraught? Checking their phones? Surprised? Making eye contact? Avatars aren’t stone still; they have scripts that make them move or shift, but it’s automatic and subtle, and it’s impossible to read their reactions.

I read “Sisyphus,” which I’ve probably read too often, but it’s always well-received and kind of my default reading. I wasn’t sure of the audience, and I wasn’t sure they would be ready for something more obscure like “The Train” or, god save us, the popobawa excerpt. I made the mistake of reading that one once and it freaked out several members of the audience. No, wait! Buy the book! Fortunately the majority of listeners in real life and SL had never heard “Sisyphus” before, so the ending comes as a surprise.

I made good on my personal vow to always attend at least one panel I’m not on, and I got to spend time with some of my favorite humans and enjoy the festivities we once enjoyed before the world ended. It was a wonderful kick-start to the convention season, and a blessed return to a little bit of the World That Was.


Note: I took several photos of awesome costumes with permission, but I did not explicitly ask if I could post said pictures, therefore I have omitted them. Darn ethics.

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Archon 45 is a smash!

We had so. much. fun. at Archon last weekend – so much fun, indeed, that it’s taken me six days to write it up because I’ve been recovering.

Archon is always one of the highlights of our year, and it’s our home con, so it’s also a family reunion. Literary Underworld authors were out in force, including Sela Carsen, T.W. Fendley, Nikki Lanahan and Michales Joy. At any given time you might have seen any of us at the booth, or our Minions, Cole and Ian – who have actual minion badges now. We’re very proud of that. Our good friends from Pro Se Publishing and Yard Dog Press were also there, and it was great to catch up with them in meatspace. We also launched preorders for A Woman Unbecoming, a charity anthology from our friends at Crone Girls Press to benefit reproductive healthcare advocacy. Click here to preorder your copy.

And, of course, there was the Traveling Bar. As is our custom, we opened our doors both nights to serve drinks and talk shop. Jim served as bouncer with backup from our good friend Scott Cousins, and Sela was our Social Butterfly keeping the conversation light and friendly and alerting either of us if there was a potential problem. At this point, we’ve got it down to a science.

On Friday, we opened the doors at 9 p.m. and I started serving drinks about 90 seconds later. My arm literally did not stop moving until I yelled union break at 11:45 so I could hide in the bathroom and stretch my poor arms for five minutes. Then I was back behind the bar until we yelled last call at 1:30 a.m. Saturday was almost as crazy – there were a couple of five-minute spells where I didn’t have anyone asking for a drink, which did not occur on Friday.

Oh, was I tired. I’m still tired just thinking about it, and I’ve slept since then. But everyone had a fantastic time, and that’s the important part. Well, that and making a living, of which Archon is always a major part. But there’s something really fun about being the bartender at a con party, and that’s the people. Most people are happy when they come in and happier with the drink in their hand, but some people are so happy, so grateful, and greet me so cheerfully, it creates this lovely positive energy that I absolutely love. It really felt like the vibe at Archon was back to normal, or as close to normal as we can get with the spectre of the Voldevirus still looming over us.

And around the corner were our friends at SausageFest, raising money once again for cancer research. Sadly I did not get over there to try this year’s snausages, but fortunately everyone else at the con did, or so it seemed. If you want to kick in a little toward their fundraising, click here. They are the bestest neighbors.

Many thanks to all our friends who greeted us so warmly, to our customers who bought books, to our guests who drank the booze and partied with us, to the Underlords and member presses who were there or who supported us from afar, and especially to Minions Ian and Cole, who hauled all the books and booze back to the van and to LitUnd’s dungeon until the next time. (Okay, it’s a storage unit we like to call the warehouse when we’re feeling grandiose, but “dungeon” suits, don’t you think?)

And what would Archon be without the costumes?


On the road again…

This weekend I’m returning to Midsouthcon, one of the first cons I attended and where I was a GoH a few years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and to picking up some good Memphis barbecue while we’re in town. We always leap at an excuse to go to Memphis, my husband’s hometown and site of my college years. 

I’ll be simultaneously dialing in* to the national conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Next year it doesn’t seem that AWP will conflict with Midsouthcon, which will be an enormous relief for me. Fortunately we have at least four LitUnd authors and a henchman to help us work the booth this weekend.

My schedule is roughly as follows:

• Booth Babe, followed by the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar!
• Signing on Pro Row, noon, prefunction area.
• Reading, 2 p.m., Conf. Room 11
• Ghosts and Vampires and Ghouls, Oh My! 7 p.m., Conf. Room 6
• Literary Underworld Traveling Bar, Part Two!
• The Importance of the Subgenre, noon, Conf. Room 6
• Epic Women in Epic Stories, 2 p.m., Conf. Room 7

I’m also happy to announce that I’ll be at the Smithton (Ill.) Public Library on May 7 for a signing; and celebrating Independent Bookstore Day on April 30 at Afterwords Bookstore in Edwardsville, Ill. I already had Wichita on the schedule for the SPJ Regional Conference on April 8-9, and I hope you will catch up with us at one of these events. 

I’m so delighted that the cons are back, and we are learning to travel and meet people safely. I’ve missed you all.


Dialing in = Zoom, of course. Isn’t it funny how phrases like “dialing” or “taping” things stick around long after the technology has surpassed them?

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Virtual Con Report: Conflation 2022

For the second year in a row, Conflation had to go to an online format. They made the decision when Omicron was looming over us, and I certainly couldn’t argue with their logic. It’s perhaps frustrating that the virus is now down to fairly low levels and restrictions are loosening up just as the con took place, but once again the organizers of Conflation came up with wildly creative alternatives to the dry Zoom-panel format.

There were, in fact, Zoom panels and activities, including a stitch-n-bitch, fashion show, freestyle discussion groups and my writing workshop, which was the first time I’ve tried to incorporate my MFA training into a con panel. The good people of Conflation were kind enough to be my experimental subjects, and I was very happy with how it came out. I think in the future I might shorten it a bit to allow more interaction, to let the writers talk a little bit about their experiments and how they came out, to give time for a Q&A – it would be perfect as a two-hour workshop, and I may propose that for the next round.

But what is unique about Conflation’s solution to the Voldevirus is Second Life. If you’re not familiar with it, I wrote a column about it last year. It was last year’s Conflation that introduced me to Second Life, and much of the programming this year took place in that virtual environment. I gave my writing workshop sitting in a lovely coffeehouse deep in a fairytale wood (with a cow and the Wendigo watching from the door – what’s surreal about that?). It was simultaneously broadcast on Zoom and on a live stream, so I might have achieved peak social media at that point.

Everybody is sick of Zoom, though it certainly provides a decent alternative to canceling events altogether. However, Second Life programming allowed us to “see” each other, to dance to fantastic music, to float in a pool and wax philosophic about surviving the pandemic, all those social interaction moments that make the difference between an online convention that is a progression of Zoom presentations and a true meeting-place for the mind. 

I had a delightful time at Conflation, even though I missed getting to see the good folks at the con. As much fun as we had dancing up a storm into the wee hours, I hope that next year we will be able to hug each other in real life, as some things simply can’t be replaced.

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