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Taken Out of Context

September 30th, 2014

Context 27 LogoContext always ends too soon. Three amazing days of panels, readings, special events, and networking — and suddenly it’s over for another year. Alas!

I’ve been attending since 2007, and in that time Context has become one of my favorite regional SF cons. It’s a small affair with big ambitions, and it always manages to attract some of the top names in the field (this year’s GoHs included Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell) as well as a healthy contingent of readers, fans, and aspiring writers.

It’s been said that the people make a great convention . . . and that certainly applies to Context.

My first event was a panel on MFA writing programs where I expected to be joined by my good friends Lucy A. Snyder and Tom Waggoner.

Upon arriving, I learned that Tim couldn’t make the panel, so Lucy and I convinced Chris Phillips, one of our Seton Hill MFA students (who also happens to be managing editor of Flash Fiction Online), to take his place. It was Chris’s first panel, and he proved to be a knowledgeable conversationalist. It was good having him onboard.

Greg Hall and MauriceOther highlights included a live podcast of Gregory Hall’s The Funky Werepig Show, where I joined guests Maurice Broaddus, Michael West, Matt Betts, Gerry Gordon, and others talking about writing, publishing, and pork donuts (not necessarily in that order). An archive edition of the podcast will soon be available at the TMV Cafe. Watch this blog for a link as soon as one is available.

photo (14)I also got the change to join some amazing storytellers at The Beatnik Cafe, where the event’s host Gery L. Deer awarded me with a button that made me an honorary member of The Western Ohio Writers Association — a button that I wore with pride for the rest of the convention.

I understand that WOWA holds readings all over the Western Ohio area. If you ever get a chance to catch one of them, be sure to do so.

Performing at Context (2)My final event was performing some songs at a party hosted by R. Scott McCoy and Stygian Publications. The highlight of the event was backing up Gregory Hall in a resounding vocal performance of “Tequila.” He assured me before we started that he knew all the words, and he did.

The next morning, it was all over. Or so I thought. I walked to my car, preparing for a lonely drive back home, and there — resting on my windshield — was an autographed photo of the Funky Werepig himself. The inscription read: “You are my very best friend, Greg Hall.” I took that baby off my windshield, put it in the passenger seat, and sang “Tequila” all the way.

Greg HallYeah — you can take the scop out of Context, but you can’t take Context out of the scop.

Until next time . . . scop on!

Photos:
The Context 27 logo.
Gregory Hall interviews Maurice Broaddus on The Funky Werepig Show.
The only credentials a man needs.
The 21st-Century Scop at the Stygian Publications party.
A one-of-a-kind autographed portrait of The Funky Werepig.

Werepigs, Beatniks, & Panels @ Context 27

September 25th, 2014

context 27The Context SF Convention in Worthington, Ohio, continues to impress me as one of the best regional cons in the country. With a strong writing track and lively panel discussions.

I go whenever I can, and this weekend I’ll be on hand for a number of events.

First up will be the panel “What is an MFA and (Why) Do I Want One?” (Friday @ 7:00 pm). Here I’ll be joining Lucy Snyder and Tim Waggoner — fellow residency faculty from Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. It should be a lively discussion.

Saturday will be a busy day, staring with “Wellness For Authors and Readers” at 10:00 am and continuing until a grand finale at 7:00 pm, where I’m scheduled to give a reading at The Beatnik Cafe before rushing off at 7:30 to join Greg Hall on a special podcast of The Funkey Werepig Show.

Funky Werepig

Here’s a summary of my schedule as it stands now:

Friday:
7:00 pm – What is an MFA and Do I Want One?

Saturday:
10:00 am – Wellness for Authors
11:00 am  – Skewering the Tough-Guy Trope
3:00 pm – Getting the Science Right
4:00 pm – Book Signing: 4pm Saturday
7:00 pm – The Beatnik Cafe
7:30 pm – The Funky Werepig Show

 

Among the publishers and organizations attending Context this year will be Alliteration InkApex BooksLoconeal PublishingSeventh Star Press, and Blackwyrm Publishing.

Attending pros will include Brady AllenJarod K. AndersonLeslie AndersonMatt Betts,Diana BotsfordGary A. BraunbeckMaurice BroaddusCarrie CuinnNicole CushingDavid L. DayGeoffrey GirardSarah HansJanet Harriett,Rosemary LaureyLaura ResnickLinda RobertsonDaniel RobichaudSteven Saus,Sharon ShortJason SizemoreLucy A. SnyderFerrett SteinmetzMichael West, and Tim Waggoner.

Hope to see you there!

Have Stories: Will Travel

October 27th, 2013

The Scop Road to BrightonContinuing the tradition of the traveling bard, the 21st Century Scop will be hitting the road this week, heading off to England to give readings at the University of Brighton on Wednesday, October 30 (5:30 PM), and then at the World Fantasy Convention’s Reading Café on Saturday, November 2 (12:30 PM). If you’re going to be in the area, I’ll hope to see you there.

Naturally, I also plan to spend time networking with colleagues at both the University and World Fantasy, taking part in the oldest form of social media – face to face contact.  We are creatures of nuance, and much of what we have to teach to and learn from one another comes across best in real conversation.

It’s the same with story performance, during which skilled readers pick up queues from their listeners and adjust their deliveries accordingly. Therein lies the quality that sets live readings apart from any other story deliver system. When storyteller and audience share the same physical space, magic happens.

Raw Dog Book Route: (A) Michael Arnzen at CMU. (B) Stephanie Wytovich at Big Idea. (C) Matt Betts at Muse Stand. (D) Heidi Ruby Miller at Bradley Books. E) Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s.

I had a chance to watch this in action last weekend, when Raw Dog Screaming Press unleashed five of their top writers on Pittsburgh, sending them out to present a series of readings at five different bookstores: Michael A. Arnzen at the CMU Bookstore, Stephanie Wytovich at The Big Idea Bookstore, Matt Betts at The Muse Stand, Heidi Ruby Miller at Station Square, and Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s Used Books. The readings started at 1:00 and continued until 6:00, following a course of some dozen miles.

I caught the last session at Eljay’s, where I settled into the front row while rain hammered the storefront window. Outside it was gray and cold, traffic racing by in a haze on West Liberty Avenue. But inside it was warm and cozy. The perfect atmosphere for a reading.

Jason Jack MillerJason shared a couple of excerpts from the Revelations of Preston Black, engaging the audience with his folksy just-friends-shooting-the-breeze style. It’s a voice that comes across in the writing, but hearing it live really enhances the story’s tone. And the rain tapping the wall of glass behind him added a nice rhythm to the narrative.

Of course, live performance is always an adventure. I’m sure there must have been times when an Old-English scop found himself upstages by distractions in or around the mead-hall. That’s more or less what happened to Heidi Ruby Miller at Bradley Books when a train decided to ruble past Station Square during her scheduled reading slot. No matter. Heidi scopped on, bringing her presentation to Eljay’s and delivering it after Jason concluded his reading, making for a terrific conclusion to the day-long event.

Heidi Rubi MillerHeidi read from her novel Greenshift, which is available through Dog Star books, Raw Dog’s science-fiction imprint.

Other people sighted at Eljay’s were Kevin Hayes, Laurie Mann, Diane Turnshek, and Karen Yun-Lutz – all members of Parsec, an organization devoted to the promotion of literary science-fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative fictions.

A nice contingent or Raw Dog and Dog Star authors were also there, including Michael A. Arnzen, Albert Wendland, K. Ceres Wright, and Stephanie Wytovich.

Of course, Raw Dog founders John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes were also on hand.

It was a great time, and I wish I could have stayed around for the dinner that followed. Instead, I headed out into the rain and made my way across town to do some scopping of my own at Riley’s Pour House.

Next up, we’ll revisit the topic of flash fiction with some questions submitted by the good people who attended my recent PAISTA presentation. Then I’ll be following the scop road to the University of Brighton and World Fantasy.

Scop on!

The Stars Align

October 19th, 2013

flotsam-wfcI’ve just heard from a good friend who has a membership to the  World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. The convention sold out over six months ago, and since then memberships to the international gathering of writers, editors, publishers and fans have been trading like stock futures. If you’re interested in fantastic literature, WFC is definitely the go-to event of the year. But my friend tells me that he thinks he might skip it, toss the membership, stay home and get some writing done. Crazy? Maybe, but I can sympathize. The pull of unfinished work is strong . . . but sometime you have to resist.

This fall season has been amazingly busy, with the Baltimore Book Festival a few weeks back, the PAISTA Conference earlier this week, a performance at Riley’s Pour House tonight, and events at the University of Brighton and World Fantasy’s Reading Café coming up later this month.

1383702_10151609605645426_1348373447_nAnd there’s more.

Today, some of my good friends at Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dog Star Books are holding a bookstore crawl in Pittsburgh, with events kicking off this afternoon at 1:00 with four-time Bram Stoker winner Michael A. Arnzen reading and signing at the Carnegie-Mellon Bookstore in Oakland. After that, Stephanie Wytovich appears a couple miles north at The Big Idea Bookstore on Liberty Avenue. Then it’s ten blocks west for Matt Betts at The Muse Stand at 3:00. After that, at 4:00, Bradley’s Books at Station Square will play host to Heidi Ruby Miller before the day wraps up with Jason Jack Miller at Eljay’s in Dormont.

An amazing day!

There’s no way I’m going to miss dropping in on the Raw Dog writers before heading to Riley’s for a sound check. Seriously, if you live anywhere near Pittsburgh (say within 100 miles or so), you owe it to yourself to make at least one of these appearances. Yes, I know, there are other things to do, but who knows when these stars will align again?

In the days to come, watch this space for a couple of follow-up reports. One from PAISTA (where the good people who attended my presentation on Flash Fiction provided some terrific questions that I’d like to respond to here) and another on today’s events. After that I hope to get to at least one WFC preview before crossing the pond to the UK.

Stop back soon. More to come.

Until then, scop on!