RavenCon Review

RavenCon is a small to medium-sized convention in Williamsburg, VA. Like many of the other cons that I’ve been to recently, it’s a fan-centric event focused on genre fiction, writing, cosplay, anime, and much more. I went primarily for the writing programming and, overall, I have to say I was pleased with most of the panels and workshops that I attended this past weekend.

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Developing Great Characters, a workshop led by Meriah L .Crawford, was two hours of discussion on building characters with depth, plus some short writing exercises. I’ve taken workshops with Mariah before and she’s always great at helping folks find the right questions to ask.

Most panels aiming to address diversity or indigenous cultures were overwhelmingly underwhelming, lacking diverse panelists and failing to ask the big questions. There was either problematic discussion or tip-toeing around issues. This is not an uncommon problem at genre fiction events – but that’s another post for another day.

The panel on Disabled Characters was a highlight for me. The panelists – Baine Kelly, Darin Kennedy, Shimmer, and J.T. Bock – were disabled themselves and/or allies and advocates for the disabled. There was a call for thorough research as well as trying to personally experience the struggle of the disabled as a way to write disabled characters.

There was a late-night group reading/enacting of the convention classic, The Eye of Argon. This story, as I understand, was once serialized in a fantasy zine and is widely considered to be one of the worst pieces of fiction ever created. Check out the first few lines:

The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of earth. The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense from overhead, half way through its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal lives. Dust sprayed over three heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome cargoes of their struggling overseers.

“Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of hell, barbarian”, gasped the first soldier.

“Only after you have kissed the fleeting stead of death, wretch!” returned Grignr.

 

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Another workshop, called Don’t Cry When You Get Rejected, turned out to be an even more helpful experience than I’d expected. Led by Baen Books’ Gray Reinhard, the 2-hour session was meant to be for writers to get feedback on their queries/first five pages/synopsis from the self-titled “slushmaster general” of Baen. It was listed as first-come, first-serve so I got to the small room early and raced for a seat up front; oddly, there only turned out to be three total people taking advantage of this great opportunity. Odder still, I was the only one who’d brought materials to be critiqued – and you’re darn right I was going to take full advantage of this fact!

In all honesty, I was hoping for him to tear my submission package a new asshole so I knew what to do and change when sending it out to my next wave of agents. The problem? He liked it. He read all five pages and told me he’d like to read more. Gray said that my series pitch sounded like it had a lot of potential and was written well.

Damn it all.

But if you think that I’m not about to personalize a query letter and send my submission package straight to him at Baen, you’d be crazy.
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