Here are some highlights from my first ever Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Nebula Conference, which took place May 17-20, 2018, in Pittsburgh, PA, as well as some lessons learned, inspiration, and my (revised) writing plans for the future.
First of all – the conference was a BLAST! If you write science fiction, fantasy, horror, or any other type of speculative fiction, and can attend, I highly recommend it. You don’t have to be a SFWA member, by the way (I am not eligible myself yet, although I’m working on it). SFWA is wonderfully open, supportive, and generous toward all new writers, no matter your level of experience or publication track.
My favorite thing about the conference, hands down, was meeting other writers, learning about their writing journeys and their current projects, and talking shop! Cheers to all my new writer friends!
Here is a session I had the honor & pleasure of being a panelist on!
- “We Are New Here: How to Navigate Being an Emerging Author” – moderated by Fonda Lee, with panelists Peng Shepherd, Rebecca Thorne, Tracy Townsend, and Vera Brook (me)
Are here are some other sessions I attended, enjoyed, and learned a great deal from:
- “Making Hopeful Art in Hopeless Times” (aka Hopepunk) – moderated by J.R. Dawson, with panelists Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Lettie Prell, Michael R. Underwood, and Alexandra Rowland (who coined the term hopepunk, but sadly couldn’t make it)
- “How to Decolonize Your Fiction” – moderated by DongWon Song, with panelists Fonda Lee, Rebecca Roanhorse, JY Yang, and Bill Campbell
- “Considering Gender While Worldbuilding” – moderated by K.M. Szpara, with panelists Vanessa Rose Phin, Merc Rustad, JY Yang
- “SFWA Services: What SFWA Can Do for You” – an expert panel of SFWA officials and organizers led by President Cat Rambo
- “SFWA Self-Publishing Committee: Plans, Projects, and Q&A” – moderated by Daniel Potter, with panelists Jeffe Kennedy, Nathan Lowell, Craig Martelle, Terry Mixon
- “What Teens are Looking for in YA Literature” – moderated by Ana Maria Curtis, with (teenage!) panelists Ophelia Goss, Isaac Payne, Alina Sichevaya, and George Stewart-Walkling
- “Skynet, Matrix, Other: Where Will AI Lead Us?” – moderated by Martha Wells, with panelists PJ Manney, David D. Levine, Matthew Kressel, and Ken Chiacchia
- “Structuring A Series” – moderated by Laura Anne Gilman, with panelists Martha Wells, Susan Forest, Mark Tompkins, and Kevin McLaughlin
- “The Money is in Your Backlist” – moderated by Margot Atwell, with panelists Cat Rambo, DongWon Song, Michael Anderle, and Jonathan Brazee
- “Self-Publishing an Audiobook” – moderated by Mary Robinette Kowal (I’m a huge fan of the Writing Excuses podcast!), with panelists Kate Baker (a writer & the wonderful narrator of Clarkesworld story podcast!), Jane Love, Colin Coyle, and Dave Robison
And, of course, the Nebulas Awards Banquet, which was great fun and very moving!
You can see the full list of the 2017 Nebulas nominees and winners here (by the way, the nominees are already winners in my book). Here are some photos from the event. And finally, you can watch the entire Nebulas Awards ceremony on SFWA YouTube channel–enjoy!
As a newcomer and an indie author to boot, I was hesitant to promote my books the first time I attended the Nebulas, and among so many authors and editors whose work I’ve read and admired for years.
The restraint wasn’t altogether a bad thing. I was already busy attending the sessions, absorbing the knowledge, meeting people, and just enjoying being part of the SFWA community. But there were a few simple things I could have done (and plan to do next time):
- Every attendee gets an amazing book bag full of books and magazines. The contents of every bag are different, and a long table is set up for people to swap at any point during the conference. If you have a book out, or an advance reader copy, you can bring copies of your book and put them on the swap table. There! An easy way to promote your writing to the most hardcore fans of the genre–your fellow writers and editors!
- Print some business cards ahead of time, bring them with you to the conference, and give them away freely. You will meet a lot of people, but some encounters may be brief.
- I was lucky to be on a panel, and it was a great experience. I also held “office hours” on neuroscience, psychology, and genetics. But there were definitely more opportunities to present (like the Ignite Talks), had I been more prepared and maybe a little braver.
- Finally, even writers who aren’t SFWA members yet can put their books in the conference bookstore, either via Ingram or on consignment, and sell them at the conference. There is even a mass autographing session!
Inspiration & Future Plans
I was already an avid reader of short fiction, including online story podcasts, before I attended the Nebulas, and I wrote a few short stories here and there. But my focus was on novels (or series, to be precise), and I was committed to braving the indie author publication path for all my writing.
Attending the Nebulas inspired me to revise and expand my writing plans! First, to write and publish more short fiction, in addition to my novels. And second, to be a hybrid author: sticking to the indie route for my novels (at least for now), but aiming at publication of my shorter fiction in traditional SFF magazines.
Other (More Expert) Write-Ups of the Nebulas Conference
- A blog by Cat Rambo, the current SFWA president: “The Merqueen’s Report: Nebula Awards Weekend, 2018“
Check out also Kate Baker’s article “Bragging Rights: A Comprehensive Look at SFWA Services.”
And if you are an indie author interested in becoming a SFWA member, here are the eligibility requirements.
Best of luck with your writing!