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Nebula Princess

The Prez & The Princess

Juggling is a precious talent. It’s so much fun to see so many things flying in the air over your head. You feel so giddy when they’re up there, so proud of yourself that you have come so far and are able to do so much. In that moment, you’re on top of the world.

God have mercy on your soul if you ever fall behind.

What with pushing myself to the edge and trying to be everything (and almost succeeding) I needed some time to recover that didn’t include new jobs and sick children and dusty to-do lists…but I don’t get to choose that part. Instead, I write notes to myself on the iPhone while I’m half-blind on the elliptical machine in the morning and I keep everyone hydrated and full of vitamins and I wash my new apron and stay until midnight to unload the truck if that’s what needs to be done. And if I don’t get to write about this past Nebula Awards weekend until Thursday (while I’m supposed to be recording another Fairy Tale Theatre podcast), that doesn’t make what happened there any less special.

I have this saying — I don’t remember when I came up with it, or to whom I said it first, but I’ve been saying it for a few months now: Strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet. I do, in my heart, honestly believe that each one of us is special. Optimistic and crazy, oh yes, I am fully aware. But as a princess, that’s my prerogative.

It’s so easy to turn away from the stranger on the train, so easy to scream at the idiot driver in the car that just cut you off. We know fully well that inside each sack of flesh we encounter is a living, breathing soul full of life and love and complex beauty…and yet we do it anyway. It’s so much easier ignoring all that. It’s so much easier not to know. It’s so much easier managing a small group of friends. It’s so much easier to juggle fewer flaming batons. It’s so much more forgiving for someone with a lengthy, never-ending to-do list.

But I made a choice when Andre Norton died. When I got home Sunday night, I pulled Beauty & Dynamite off the shelf and read that essay again in the twilight to remind myself of the exact words.  I love having friends. I want as many as my heart can hold. I want them all. Even if it means that eventually and painfully I’ll have to lose every single one. The minutes and hours and years on the roller coaster of happiness and sadness with them are worth every second of gray numbness.’Cause when I get to heaven, I want there to be a heck of a lot more than five people waiting.

Friends are worth all the additional balls you have to juggle, and every bullet point on a never-ending to-do list.

Nebula nominee Barry Deutsch appropriately summed up the Nebula Weekend by saying that the convention was a very small group of people with a much higher ratio of really cool folks to the socially awkward off-putting variety. With that in mind, I took the opportunity to step way out of my box and introduce myself to people I didn’t know. I roomed the first night with a friend and a stranger. I threw myself into the one workshop I signed up for and the two that I audited. I sat down next to people I didn’t know and chatted with them until we stood up as friends. I was sure to gush compliments when compliments were due and asked to lend a hand if one was needed. I stayed up until way past my bedtime and I was babbling and incoherent. I took pictures whenever I remembered that I had a camera. And I wore the tiara, because Mary Rodgers reminded me that I wouldn’t be the same without it. She was right.

I would list all the new and wonderful friends I met this weekend, but I won’t — first, out of fear of forgetting someone, and second, because I need to email them all or add them on Twitter or tag them on Facebook, and I’ve spent far too much time on this blog post already. Suffice it to say that I have no idea why Kate Baker and I hadn’t met before, but I’m awfully glad we finally did. Michael Whelan is a fabulously nice guy, and far more approachable than I ever imagined. MK Hobson can seriously rock a dress, and Rachel Swirsky’s gorgeous jewelry brings out my dragonlike tendencies. Amal El-Mohtar can bring the shiny with me any day. Walter Cuirle needs to host his own radio show. Mike Zipser asks great questions. Bud Sparhawk tells great stories. Myke Cole is very good for my ego. Emily Whitten is a godsend from Geek Heaven. John Grace has great taste in comics, Eric Fullilove has great taste in t-shirts, and Shannon Rampe and Trodayne Northern have  impeccable taste in hats. Janice Shoults is a woman after my own heart. Kathy Morrow has great patience. Peggy Rae Sapienza and Bill Lawhorn can do anything, I am sure of it.

My Codex Homies

Possibly even more fun than making new friends was seeing the old ones–most especially, the Codex Writers. Every year that goes by I am so happy that the handful of us little kids with big ideas came up with that place. They are the family that gets reunited whenever there’s an event like this…even when we’ve never met in person. We still know each other. We have that much more in common. We can cheer like hell when one of us walks away with an award…and then stand up and do it all over again when one of us walks away with the next one, too.

Eric, I am so freaking proud of you. I’m still busting at the seams. When you shared your precious bag of Reese’s Sticks with me while my left leg was going numb in that hard plastic chair at Orson Scott Card’s boot camp–even after I’d threatened to slap your characters–who knew that we would be here right now? Who knew how far we would go? Who knows how far yet we still can? I hope that every time you see that shiny award you remember what it felt like…but right on the heels I hope is the memory of sitting at that lunch table with me and Scott Roberts while we each confessed to the fact that we were still freaking out inside at random intervals to the theme of “Holy crap, that’s Orson Scott Card right there!”

For me, watching Eric walk on stage and accept the Nebula Award this weekend was second only to watching Mary Robinette Kowal accept the John W. Campbell Award. It is so hard to believe that these people I love so dearly were strangers to me once. I can hardly remember a time before the Reese’s Sticks and the keys locked in the car running in my driveway (that was Mary). I know it’s true, though. We might have passed in an airport sometime in those first couple of decades, or waited in the same line at the World’s Fair. Back in those days, we were just best friends that hadn’t met yet.

Imagine what life would be like if we’d realized it then.

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Nebula Weekend Mass Booksigning

Not counting last weekend’s mass WRW signing at Turn the Page in Maryland (because I wasn’t officially on the list), next weekend will be my very first booksigning in the DC area. Hooray!

It’s a giant mass booksigning that the SFWA hosts every year during the Nebula Awards Weekend, wherever that happens to be. This year it’s:

Friday, May 20, 2011
5:30 – 7:00pm

Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, District of Columbia
USA 20009
Tel: 202-483-3000

I’ve never done the Nebulas before, so I have no idea how it works. Like all signings, I’m guessing it’s best if you have your own books and bring them with you. I’ll have a hard enough time hoofing my suitcase through the Metro and down the streets of DC, which means I won’t have any books to sell you. But I will probably bring bookmarks and a few buttons, so you won’t leave *too* empty-handed.

Other authors/editors at the signing will be:

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Christopher Barzak
  • J. Kathleen Cheney
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Tom Doyle
  • Scott Edelman
  • Timons Esaias
  • Cynthia Felice
  • Andrew Fox
  • Kerry Frey
  • Laura Anne Gilman
  • Anne Groell
  • Joe Haldeman
  • Peter Heck
  • Vylar Kaftan
  • JohnKessel
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Geoffrey A.Landis
  • Allen Lewis
  • Tom Lewis
  • Lee Martindale
  • James Morrow
  • Catherine Petrini
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Lawrence Schoen
  • Lansing Sexton
  • Bud Sparhawk
  • Allen Steele
  • Eric James Stone
  • Michael Sullivan
  • Robin Sullivan
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Brandie Tarvin
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Michael Whelan
  • Alexander Whitaker
  • Connie Willis

If you’re in the DC area that day, please drop by and say hello!

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Blossoms & BBQ

We had a great time with Dickie & Mandy last night. The arrived around 3pm, thus forcing me to stop cleaning and have fun. (Hooray!) We chatted for a while with refreshment, discussing what to do before our 9pm reservations at Hill Country (and the sekrit Adam Ezra performance). Nobody seened to care, so when Joe asked for my vote I didn’t hesitate in recommending Georgetown.

It was the most beautiful day we had all year. 75 degrees with a breeze and fantastic. Traffic wasn’t even that bad. We walked down by the water, back up M street past the crazy line for DC Cupcakes, and then back down to the water again for more refreshment.

There aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, but some of the blossoms are blooming. The Potomac was filled with rowing teams and private crafts and port authority skiffs. The sunset was lovely, and the full moon rose big in the east. And right around 7:30, we headed into the city to find parking before the show. We found a huge garage only three blocks from the restaurant with no problem. There was a huge line at the restaurant…thank goodness for reservations! They let us in early, and gave us choice seating downstairs, right in front of the stage (and the speakers).

It was an amazing show. The food was finger-licking good. Sitting next to the speakers turned out to be a great thing, since many people still felt pressed to try and converse over the music. The band played in three sets with breaks in between, which was awesome, because then there was an opportunity to go check out the swag table and visit the restroom without feeling rude.

The room being what it was, the band just hopped off the stage and came out to mingle with the crowd. I coerced Joe into buying me a shirt (who denies a princess?). He gave me $20 and let me go check out the swag. So I’m looking at the t-shirts, deciding which one I want, and the guy next to me turns aorund and says, “Hey, how are you doing?” And it’s Adam.

“Hey! Thank you SO much for being here,” I started to say.

At which point he just gave me a huge hug. YES, I was a starry-eyes fan girl. Still am. Not ashamed one bit.

I explained to Adam that we’d tried to see him twice before when he came to the area and missed it for one reason or another. And we almost missed him THIS time, since he’s playing in Virginia tomorrow — which we found out about a week after we bought the Enter the Haggis tickets. (The show’s late, though, and close to the house, so we still might try and stop by.) I introduced him to Joe, bought my shirt and had it signed by everyone. All the guys are great. Mandy & Dickie got some CDs and had them signed too. It’s just really hard not to love this band. Especially since their songs are amazing.

For the very last song of the night, Adam and the boys went unplugged and came out into the almost-empty restaurant. Adam sat on a table with his guitar; Turtle grabbed a chair and used the table top like his bongos. And we all sang–of all songs–John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

Mom and Dad probably don’t realize I remember this, but back in Vermont, when I was about four or five, we went to some event where everyone was welcome to sing along. Mom passed around typed pages with all of the song lyrics (which I could read, of course). My favorite song was “Country Roads.” Apart from all those British baby songs my grandmother taught us, “Country Roads” was the very first song I learned how to sing. It still has a special place in my heart. And never before have I seen a band EVER play it live.

You couldn’t have written a more perfect day. It’s the first time Mandy’s ever been to the states, and I was so glad we could show her a great time. I didn’t even mind driving back home through downtown DC. (The princess is always the designated driver.)

I did mind, however, that the parking garage was closed.

We walked around the block until we found a call box, which Joe used to exchange harsh words with some guy who hung up on him twice before calling us a cab from Falls Church. (Cabbies in metro DC have no idea where Ashburn is.) The verdict? We wouldn’t be able to get the car until 7am, and we had no desire to hang out in downtown DC for six more hours. So we took the cab home. Ugh. (That offer to write a story for someone for $80 is still on the table…just drop me a line.)

It’s always an adventure with me. But it was still an amazing night. And now I’m going to take a nice, long, hot shower and get ready for another one.

What are you all doing this weekend?

(Click on the pictures to see the rest of the “DC with Dickie & Mandy” album. More pics from today & tonight forthcoming…)

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DC Sunset, post-Sanity

While FGB and I did not attend the Rally for Sanity today in DC (despite my hardcore optimism and support for sanity, I’m still not a huge fan of crowds), we did arrive in its aftermath to meet my dearest Leanna Renee Hieber and see some sights. I don’t make it into the city very much — I should really try to do it more often. Especially on nights like this. Only with a better camera than my iPhone.

Please enjoy these photos from our nation’s capitol.

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