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wiscon

Little Miss and I had a great time at Wiscon. Even though she played her DS all through the first panel and then declared it "boring" without having listened to a single word of it. She spent most of her time in children's programming. Next year is the last year I'll take her with me if she's still not interested in going to any of the panels. I can justify spending $20 to let her be babysat in children's programming while I go to the con, but I'm not willing to spend $45 for the same after she turns 13. Not when I can leave her at home with ChiaPet for free! I figure $20 is a reasonable price to pay so that ChiaPet can have a day or two to himself though.

We went to the grammar panel first. I suppose that only word-nerds would find panels of grammar interesting, so maybe I shouldn't hold it against her that she didn't listen to a single word of it. My notes from the grammar panel are a bit sketchy. I'm not even sure who said some of the things I wrote down, so if anybody does know who they came from, please feel free to say so.

I think Delia Sherman mentioned the book Transitive Vampires which has grammar examples that "you can't forget if your life depended on it." (I think I may have misunderstood the book title though. It may actually be The Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.)

There was some talk about personal pronouns. For example, that in Edwardian literature, children were referred to as "it" and originally "they" was both singular and plural.

In Elizabethan prose, there were no rules for grammar or spelling. The literature is "incomprehensible to the modern ear" because of this. Someone also mentioned that seeing what happens when there are no rules helps you see that grammar serves a purpose.

Grammatical taboos were also brought up. Such as the split infinitive, and the fact that this taboo can be blamed on grammarians of the 18th century who believed that all languages must be like Latin. Someone mentioned that rules of Latin don't apply very well to English, which is why some grammar rules are broke over and over again.

Deb Taber said that "if you feel distanced from the action, it's probably a passive voice problem." Delia Sherman added that it may also be a problem with overgeneralizing.

Ridley Walker by Russell Hoban was brought up because its spelling, word usage, and sentence structure are non-standard but have such a "strong internal consistency" that it is "a book that is teaching you to read it as you read." Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange was also brought up, I think as another novel that uses some non-standard English.

The next panel I went to was about balancing creativity and the day job. I missed part of the beginning of this one. When I arrived, the panelists and audience were talking about practicing yoga to quiet the mind, break through fear, and be able to pay attention to your thoughts.

There was also talk of people feeling like they weren't a "real writer." One of the panelists mentioned that Janni Lee Simner has a certificate on her web site that you can print out to prove that you are, in fact, a real writer.

Another panelist mentioned finding someone to emulate and give yourself permission to be imperfect. For me, that happened when I read a blog from lilithsaintcrow where she mentioned the dirty dishes in her sink. I've read other writers' personal blogs about their children and everyday lives. I've read other writers, one in particular who I admire, expressing the same kinds of doubts that I have about having anything left to write. But this silly little thing about having dirty dishes in the sink is what finally gave me permission to be imperfect.

There was talk about finding your "sweet spot" -- which wasn't just a place to write, but also the time when writing works for you. I'm reading Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period. and one of the first things the book talks about is honoring your creativity and making space for it.

Someone said "Thank God we have day jobs!" and another panelists chimed in that she "likes to live indoors and eat every day." Another panelist also suggested that "if you have a long-term plan to be full-time creative, put in the slave work now."

One of the audience members suggested that full-time writers' day jobs seem to usually be either in the publishing world, or in the service industry. Someone else (don't recall whether or not it was a panelist) said that her full-time job involves another part of her brain. I've heard something similar from another writer before, but that it was important for him to have a job that didn't require him to write. I believe he was a technical editor or technical writer, and his day job wrung him out so much that he didn't have anything left for himself at the end of the day.

One of the panelists did mention that it's important to find a full-time job that you like though because "you'll be spending the majority of your time there." I've found that to be particularly true for myself. After working several jobs that wrung me out emotionally and mentally, I simply couldn't get in touch with anything creative at the end of the day.

Someone asked "to what extent do our jobs feed creativity?" One response to that was that some people channel their frustration into their stories. This never worked for me. I tried it once, but I didn't feel any more creative from it; I still just felt frustrated. Someone mentioned that it's good to "surround yourself with people who fire you creativity." I've found this both useful and harmful for me though. When I am feeling creative, these people do help spark my creativity; but when I'm in the creative dumps, I tend to spend too much energy comparing myself to them and coming up short. Another person mentioned that "I need detox time from work before I can write." This has been absolutely vital for me -- only for me, this "detox" is my Morning Pages. Which I don't even do in the morning -- I do them at night before I go to bed. If I don't clear all the crud out of my head before going to sleep, my brain just doesn't stop and I can't get to sleep.

Another panelist mentioned having weekly goals. At the end of the week, she reviews (I'm assuming it was a she, only because almost all of the panelists on almost all of the panels I attended, were women -- the only exception that comes immediately to mind is Tom LaFarge on the grammar panel) what she did last week, "what wackiness ensued" and what she wants to get done this week. Someone talked about getting on track when they slip from the writing habit. Caroline said she uses gold stars and specifically that it has to be shiny and it has to be gold. I've heard and tried something similar before. "Don't break the chain" -- althought I can't remember who said it and where I heard it. I kept track of how many days in a row I kept up with any particular habit I wanted to make. Any time I skipped a day, I started over from one. The highest I ever got was thirteen. I believe that whoever said "Don't break the chain" had a goal of one hundred days straight. I would love to get that many gold stars all in a row!

Jennifer Pelland made a great statement too. She said "I'm a Nebula loser." Another panelist told her "Think big! Try to be a Hugo loser next time!"

I went to a few more panels, but I have to stop here for the night. Coming soon: The first part of the Magical Realism panel and the second part of the Curious Boundaries of YA Fantasy panel, YA Villains, and Making Ends Meet.

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