I can’t state enough how much I love in-person conferences and the huge dose of energy infusions that I get from attending them. My most recent adventure was the Nebulas Conference in Anaheim, CA.

Now that I’m easing into the process of volunteering for conference programming, it’s a good feeling to get to take part in discussions that both help me and the other people on the panel, but also help those who are listening to us out in the audience. I got to participate in a panel called Increasing Your Productivity Without Sacrificing Your Well-Being and there was this beautiful moment in which we each shared the why behind what made this such an important priority for us. Two of us were parents to young children. One of us had a brain injury that only allowed that author to work for two hours a day.

Me and Beth

The photo above is me and Beth. We’ve both got littles at home and it requires a big adjustment to how we get our writing done!

I shared how I felt bound to the idea that any method that promised maximum efficiency (the least amount of time spent on the production of the desired result) the better. But I’ve begun to realize that the pleasure I take in certain creative processes or the particular way that I love to put words on the page (longhand writing!) will make a difference in the long run. If I love my processes, I shouldn’t always alter them or force them into a different box, all in the name of efficiency. 

I really believe that happy people make better art, and if that means taking a break from your work to do the things that make your heart shine, it means you’re making better stories, even if that means you got a smaller word count at the end of the week. This ties back into taking care of our mental health, which often means slowing down and setting boundaries that may make us feel less productive. Because that overall big picture actually really matters in the end.

I was surprised by the number of people who sought me out to say that they’d enjoyed that particular panel. 

Another huge highlight of the Nebulas was the people I got to see. I met Peter Behravesh several years ago at my very first professional con and was immediately touched by how kind and welcoming he was to me. We got to have lunch and catch up on life.

Lunch with Peter!

I volunteered to be a VIP liaison for the Nebulas award ceremony, which was a fabulous experience. I helped answer questions and be the point person for this year’s lovely and talented toastmaster, Cheryl Platz. This also meant I got to be present at tech rehearsals and help make sure things flowed smoothly backstage.

Me and some of the Nebulas ceremony team!

Which meant, to my utter delight and surprise, that during the award ceremony itself, I got to wear a headset and direct traffic backstage on stage right! I realize that not everyone freaks out and gets excited about this kind of “being in charge” stuff, but this was totally my jam. 

This is my “I’m being serious and hardcore” face.

I also had the joy of seeing Tim Powers, a friend and mentor who I’ve known since 2019 when we met during my week in Los Angeles for Writers of the Future. 

Me and Tim

Tim introduced me to a few of his friends, who in turn welcomed me into their circle. Some of them turned out to be Nebulas finalists. (Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly, Elise)

And you know what I’m learning, as I make introductions and share drinks and talk shop with all of these people – many of whom are a very big deal in my SFF world – it’s best to treat people with kindness, respect, and warmth, regardless of how famous or not famous they are. Let them be people. Aspiring authors shouldn’t just run up to an agent they recognize and start pitching their novel at them. At least, I wouldn’t recommend it. Because we’re all people, and we like to be treated as such. Not as if we are the gatekeepers to a goal, a means to an end.

Me and Rob

This particular idea of “how do I network at big events” or “how do I market myself” has been one that’s bugged me for years. I think I had to try following all of the marketing advice that I was given at the time, then learn how crummy and hollow much of it made me feel, before I was able to reconcile the kind of person I wanted to be online and at events.

I want to be the person who welcomes the newcomer into the circle, who seeks ways to help if it’s something I know about, who listens rather than accuses or argues, who sees writing as a career pursued alongside other people who love doing the same things as me—not as a competition.

I’m feeling grateful and full-hearted as I look back on this con! A big shout out to Kate, Colin, Marshall, Beth, and other SFWA folks who made it such a good and rich time! 

Oh, and thank you to the wonderful man who made me feel like a million bucks by tossing a red silk rose at me (stolen from a centerpiece) while I was singing “I Will Always Love You” at the karaoke party. That was awesome.

Red carpet photo shoot!
Group photos are the best

If you want to learn more about the Nebula Awards, you can check out their website here: The Nebula Awards.


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