Convention, writing

LTUE AAR: Day 2 and 3

My friend and fellow troub…. er, author, James Young, challenged me a bit to finish this up in his look back at LTUE. It’s been, in my defense, a very busy couple of weeks. And in many ways I am still digesting everything I crammed into my head over the course of three short but very packed days. Still, it’s not too late, and by writing it out, it helps me remember and process more things!

Friday morning, like all my mornings at the con, started out by breaking my fast with friends. The gentleman who writes as Kris Keldaran, JL Curtis (otherwise known as the Old NFO), myself, and Lawdog are all, as it turns out, morning people. In a convention full of writers, this made us the oddballs. But it was delightful to get an hour every morning over coffee to listen to the military gentleman tell tall tales, and talk about the panels we’d been on or had upcoming. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this unstructured, human interaction in and around the symposium itself. It’s the networking – we weren’t trying to sell each other anything, we were forming, or strengthening, bonds and connections. Trading information that would be useful to us as writers, or businesspeople.

At 9 am, however, I found myself in the audience for a panel called “Making a Living Through Art” with Bobbie Berendson Wilcox, Dr. Travis Lee Clark, Renae Kingsley, Brett Helquist, and McKelle George. The discussion was primarily on making your way as an artist through the beginning part of a career, until a living as an artist, and techniques to make your income more stable and sustainable. Diversification of products and offerings: put your art on everything. Putting your portfolio out there persistently, until someone wants art, and they have seen yours and liked it. Brett Helquist spoke of spending years putting his portfolio in front of everyone and anyone who might be interested. Using social media, as for authors, is a mixed blessing. Having the platform is essential, but you don’t want to spend all your time on it.

The next panel I made it into (there were some conversations in between there, and here, and the dealer’s room…) was Rules of Engagement. This was an excellent military panel, made up of Kal Spriggs (captain in the USArmy last I looked), JL Curtis (retired Navy and long-time consultant in the realm), a gentleman known as Dee (also a veteran) and surprise panelist Dr. James Young, former military and military historian. They began with what rules of engagement are, what they were historically, and how they can both be a necessary thing, but also tie the hands of the military when engaged in battle. An example of the ROE from Vietnam was circulated through the audience. They also talked about cyber warfare, and how it is ‘the wild, wild west’ in terms of ROE. There are none, really. Fascinating topic, and one that I want to keep in mind as I write.

Friday evening I showed up for my only panel of the day, and discovered that I was the only panelist! Triumphs and Limitations of DNA Forensics was quite well attended, as many folks want to get it right in writing. The moderator, Steve Setzer, was very helpful in getting me talking (not that it’s hard, on this topic!) and as he was also a lawyer, very knowledgeable as we talked about the law and how it influences what can and cannot be done with DNA at trials. I will likely blog about this if there’s interest, as it generated a lot of questions from the audience and was a good overview, but there is certainly room to expand on it.

I wound up my Friday night with a couple of hours at the mass signing. LTUE sets up tables – similar to the dealer room, but writ much larger – for their authors in attendance. The sales are handled outside the room, largely, due to taxes, but the authors make themselves available to chat with fans, sign books, and generally be available. I found it an interesting approach, even though I had no books due to flying in. I did bring postcards and bookmarks, and in quiet moments I sketched in my new journal which also attracted conversation about my art. And I chatted with fellow authors Kal Spriggs and Jay Barnson. You should check out their books.

Saturday was the last day of the con, so it was a bit of a swirl of last conversations before parting, as well as more panels, and in my case, a 90 minute break where I fled to the hills – literally. I also missed my first planned panel (or two) due to breakfast running long with conversations about suicidal emus… you had to be there. So when I looked outside, not having a panel I really wanted to see, and glimpsed bright sunshine for the first time since I had arrived in Provo in a snowstorm, I went to my room, grabbed the camera, and headed for the hills. That was amazing, beautiful, and dang, I miss mountains. I haven’t lived in their shadow in more than 20 years now, but they left a mark on my soul and I needed to do that hike. I want to go back and do more. I moved slow, aware that I was higher than my body is used to, and it was colder than my gear was ready to handle. I took a lot of photos. The sky was so blue, the snow so white, I haven’t got the poetry in my soul to express it in words.

Returning to the con, I met back up with friends, and went into the Kaffeeklatsch with Dr. Nik Rao. I was amused to discover that in concession to the largely Mormon population of the con and environs, cocoa and juice were provided rather than coffee. It was very nice. The talk he gave revolved around his work as a psychiatrist, how he came to work with very ill children, especially adolescents, and how his own disability and rough childhood helped him develop a special connection. The authors present asked cogent questions about how to capture the pain and also humor of his approach in their writing, and he answered generously.

Immediately following this panel, I went to the solo presentation by Dr Travis Lee Clark on How Cultural Tradition Shapes Art and Architecture. My only sadness was this room was packed, and I was behind tall people, so I missed some of the slides of amazing art. Still, he’s an excellent, witty lecturer so it was well worth my time.

Speaking of time, it was slipping through my fingers. I dashed out with friends to Osaka, a lovely Japanese place round the corner from the con, and grabbed a little late lunch, before my final panel where I was a panelist, this time fortunately with a full complement of other panelists. Bryce Beattie ably moderated this one, ‘Working with a cover artist’, and Brett Helquist represented pure artists, Jason King is a publisher, and myself as odd hybrid of author and cover designer. As you can imagine, the conversation got a little spirited at times!

The final panel for me at LTUE was going to support my friend Scott Bascom as he appeared on Medieval Courts and Trial Law along with Dan Jeffrey, Micheal Boudreaux, and BA Simmons. It turned into a very interesting discussion of law in a time that formed much of the coda we use today. Forensics, per se, were not a thing yet. And trial by combat, movies notwithstanding, was unusual.

I ended the con at a house party, which I will not speak much of, other than to say I chose to stay as long as possible knowing I’d get at most two hours sleep. And multiple of my friends were riotously amused to ‘pop my cherry’ at playing Cards Against Humanity. Which was the most fun I’ve had out of bed in a very long time. Also, in the right group and setting, a highly effective therapy session.

So when I finally checked out of the con hotel at 3 am Sunday, my heart and head were full. As happy as I was to be going home, I was also missing new friends and old. Until LibertyCon!




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