A fun and varied afternoon

- by Elaine Isaak

Today, I travelled to fantasy realms, got to be a teenager again, saw a magic show, and saw footage of hauntings–oh, and talked about books.  All without leaving the comfort of the hotel.  You certainly can’t fault the program on variety!

I started my day with a small but avid group in Karen Young’s talk about her transition from traditional romance to Christian fiction.  While I don’t see myself going that direction, hearing how and why she made the change, and knowing that she’s landed well in a whole new genre is inspiring in itself!

Next was the moment I’d been waiting for:  my joint presentation with Sharon Shinn about world-building.  Sharon developed the outline and plan, and we riffed on various areas to consider when developing the setting of your novel.Whether you start from the ground up as we often do in fantasy (or from empty space as the SF writer might) or a real-world place or time, you need to think about how to bring out the unique aspects of that setting that will engage the reader and showcase the ideas and characters you have in mind.  We had a great audience & a great time.  I followed Sharon to her next event, the panel on what makes YA different from adult fiction, which certainly gave us some things to think about.  The most valuable advice was not to dumb down your work, but rather to pare it down–to really bring in the focus on a few characters and the most important subplots.

As our warmup for lunchtime, Tami Hoag and friends talked about writing and friendship across the years. (But we didn’t get to hear Eileen Dreyer sing Danny Boy.  Maybe if I catch her at happy hour. . .)

The afternoon brought magic and mystery together, with some of the local talent so appreciated at this event.  “Wizard” Dr. Michael Henry, who also hosts the nightly Ghost Tours, performed a magic show for us, where he amaszed and delighted with cards, Sharpies, and even fire.  He also came out with this fabulous quote, “Magic is the second oldest profession.  It arose in direct response to the oldest one because men realized that women had all the power.  So they invented religion.”  Something to think about.

And a nice segue to the return of Paranormal Task Force chief Greg Myers, who showed some fascinating footage of an area referred to as Zombie Road, and shared some of the research he and his team have done into the deaths and legends of the place.  He related his own investigations to writing, especially given the current popularity of paranormal themes, and offered tips for writers who wanted to pursue paranormal research.  Am I a believer? Probably not–but some of those images held stories of their own, and there’s always that line about truth and fiction.  Whether or not the stories are true, they’re a great start for stories of my own.

Alas, we’ve got only a few more hours of this wonderful conference.  Hope everyone is having as much fun as I am!

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