Before I begin this post, I want to offer my profound gratitude to Rhonda Parrish, editor of the A is for Apocalypse anthology in which my WSFA-shortlisted "N is for Nanomachine" appeared. Rhonda, you're one of the hardest working writers and editors I know, and I'm so grateful for your friendship and your confidence in my work.
It's actually quite difficult for me to write that I didn't win the 2015 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award, but not for the reasons you might expect. You see, I actually feel that in every way that mattered to my career right now, I did win simply by making the shortlist. I'm glad the WSFA liked my story and gave me the opportunity to sit on panels at Capclave. I'm also glad I had the opportunity to meet such thoughtful readers and writers at a convention designed to celebrate both. I needed what this experience afforded me; a boost to my writing morale, a platform for sharing what I know and the chance to meet other professionals in the industry. I'm a new professional, a neo-pro, so those things count for a lot. With that in mind, I thought I'd write an unabashedly neo-pro blog entry about my experience and give both WSFANS and Capclave some much-deserved love.
WSFANS and the WSFA Award
On Saturday evening, I had a conversation with a voting member of the WSFA, who told me about his personal voting process. He said that he prints out all of the shortlisted stories, puts them in a binder and only reads one per day. As he reads the stories, he asks several questions about them and rates each one accordingly. His thoughtfulness was striking to me, but it wasn't unique. In fact, each of the voting members I spoke with expressed an earnest commitment to choosing good stories for the award.
In other conversations with WSFANS, I learned that an important part of the reason the WSFA established its award was to encourage small press writers to keep writing. "That's why we do this," they would say to me when I told them how important my story's placement on the shortlist had been for my morale. In fact, I think that's an exact quote from every person I spoke to on the topic. "That's why we do this."
This means that WSFANS are people who have established a small press, short fiction award judged by a blind jury for the specific purpose of fostering good storytelling from all writers. They're thoughtful people who love to read, and it really shows.
Panels and the Writers on Them
I was privileged to sit on panels with some of the finest writers in the industry last weekend, where we discussed everything from quantum mechanics to Dune. Notably, Catherine Asaro and Fran Wilde were most gracious in their respective roles as panel mate and moderator, and I was delighted to have met them both. I also appreciated Bjorn Hesseler's thoughtful commentary, Jim Morrow's doggedly rational atheism and Kelly Szpara's focus on writing (not to mention his "Get thee to a bookery!" quip) during the Writing Deep Religion panel, which I moderated.
But beyond all of my lovely panel mates, I appreciated Capclave's effort to present a diverse selection of panels designed to address the many needs of SFF writers. There really was something for everyone. I also appreciated the opportunity Capclave afforded to me to sit on so many panels and to have my own reading slot, which put me in the path of many excellent people. Truly, my panel experiences were the highlight of my weekend.
I need to write a seriously neo-pro thing here, so I hope all you seasoned professionals will bear with me a moment. I've been selling my work to small presses for eleven years, struggling to break into SFWA-qualifying markets and never quite making it except with my poetry. I've also written a novel that hasn't yet sold but was highly praised by its mentor, a woman whose word is well-respected in the industry. So you must understand that when I learned "N is for Nanomachine" had been shortlisted for the WSFA Award, what I felt was not ego, but relief.
Moreover, because the Washington Science Fiction Association cares about stories, cares about writers and cares that it only honors those pieces it likes on their merit alone, the writers of WSFA-shortlisted stories like mine have a singular opportunity for much-needed support and encouragement. In my case, this experience has been a shot of espresso to my enthusiasm for writing and my determination to keep on keeping on. I needed that shot more than I care to say publicly, and Capclave forever has my friendship for it.
So, a hundred congratulations to Ursula Vernon's "Jackalope Wives!" What a kick-ass story that was. What kick-ass stories they all were, mine included. Now I'm going to write another story, and another, and another, and I hope all you writers out there will do the same. We have friends at Capclave waiting to read them.