Before I regretfully canceled my appearance at this year’s Necronomicon due to my mother’s health, I was scheduled for a “coffee klatch,” a tradition at some genre conventions where an author meets with a smaller group of fans and shoots the shit with them for an hour.
Assuming anybody came to mine (by no means guaranteed), I was planning to discuss my top five writing career regrets and my top five accidental good ideas. So as not to leave all of you hanging, here they are. Get your own coffee.
Top Five Writing Career Regrets (Not Ranked)
- Not writing every day or starting on novels much sooner.
- Majoring in English where I learned to write turgid prose ABOUT fiction instead of the fiction itself.
- Worrying so much about back-up plans and careers (English professor, lawyer, teacher, programmer) instead of diving headlong into writing and not caring much about how a job made me feel or what class it made me.
- Approaching the genre through fandom where I was too eager to bend my work toward whatever would make me part of a community instead of pursuing the weird things I liked that didn’t quite fit.
- Working so hard to make writing easy and foolproof instead of training myself to keep working under any circumstances.
Top Five Things I Accidentally Did Right
- Stopped (after the first year or so) submitting to shitty magazines that nobody reads , opting instead for the ones that I enjoyed and that were noticed by readers and awards. (Not always a 100% correlation to quality, but better than a listing in Writer’s Market).
- Went to Clarion. The specific advice I got there wasn’t too helpful, but the rededication to the work — Am I going to really do this or keep fucking around? — was a turning point for me.
- Carefully considered what I did well in my work (voice) and what I didn’t (plot, description), and then decided what I would fix or hide in my work going forward.
- Plumbed my past and the things I’d experienced to tinge lightly with the supernatural instead of trying to write about shit like spaceships and dragons that I could never quite believe in.
- Lightened the fuck up and gave up on being important or famous, at least on purpose.
That’s what I would have said at my Caughieeklotsch, and then I would have opened it to questions like, “Who are you?” and “Is this the world’s most boring LARP?” and “Where can I find your work for free?”
Back in June, my mother turned 70 and this post on Facebook was fucking hilarious:
Even she thought so.
Less than a month later, she had a seizure and entered the hospital for a brain tumor that doctors now suspect spread from her lungs or tonsils. She’s now had two surgeries and radiation treatment, and we learned yesterday that the tumor is growing too quickly to stop. Another surgery would severely compromise her motor functions, chemotherapy can’t breach the blood-brain barrier, and the tumor seems to actually enjoy the radiation.
She chose yesterday to ride it out with steroids and other palliative measures, and her doctors estimate she has about three months to fulfill her life’s dream of watching Donald Trump removed from office under the 25th amendment.
[Jesus, I can’t help it. My family faces awfulness two ways: getting angry or getting funny.]
What my mother would likely want from all of you instead of sadness is this:
Right now, you are doing something in your life that is killing you. Maybe you’re smoking or not taking your meds or not going to the doctor. Maybe you’re being viciously mean to yourself for the life you should be living according to someone else. Maybe you’re working a job you despise. Maybe you’re dwelling on some hurt that you caused or endured. Maybe you’re spending too much time on Twitter. Maybe you’re ignoring a symptom because you fear the cause.
You know what it is, and you know it’s killing you.
My mother would like you to knock it the fuck off. That’s all.
This morning, I was heartened in our continued pageant of living woe by this photograph of comfort dogs waiting to visit victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
“Well, some of these missions can be pretty touch-and-go, but we’re trained for all contingencies and have a full arsenal of tools from nuzzling to a gentle hand lick to resting our head on a knee.”
“Well, I’ll wear their religious iconography, but I have to admit I have some serious questions about the divine origins of the Bible and its moral message in regard to women and gay people, not to mention animals.”
Questions I would ask a comfort dog if I could:
- What do you do to get in the comforting mindset?
- Are you ever nervous that you will not, in fact, provide enough comfort?
- Was the comforting training rigorous and how can I sign up for it?
These dogs happen to be from Lutheran Church Charities, and I’m guessing they accept donations that are a whole lot more useful than the thoughts and prayers of Congress.
Ah, October: temperatures plummeting to the 90s, yellowed leaves adrift in the wind…and also Necronomicon in Tampa from October 20 – 22!
I have a busy schedule this year so there are plenty of opportunities to see/assassinate me.
Friday, October 20th
- 4pm: Story Craft: Are You Overthinking the Story?
Saturday, October 21st
- 10am: Time Travel Tales: How to Do Them Right
- 12pm: Being Funny is Serious Business (also known as the Will and Richard Byers Show)
- 2pm: Kaffeeklatsch with Will Ludwigsen
- 6pm: Turning Tropes Upside Down
That Kaffeeklatsch thing will be interesting: you show up and we chat for an hour about various things. The theme I have in mind for mine is “Five Things I Did Right for My Career and Five I Did Wrong,” sort of a cautionary tale.
As always, I’m looking forward to my home convention and I hope to see you there!