Nebula Conference Recap

5/18/2016 11:15:00 AM Lexie Dunne 4 Comments

A blurry shot of me laughing at the mass signing on Friday night.

Two updates to this blog in a month? Some planets might be in retrograde (like four of them, actually). Actually, I finished up a rough draft, so until I get edits, I’m free to do what I want.1 So, guess where I was this weekend! That’s right, a professional writer’s conference, aka the Nebulas, aka SFWA (I am not actually a member) at the Palmer House hotel for 4 days of panels and programs that spanned everything from one-on-one meetings with subject matter experts to walking tours of the Loop. When I talked to Mary Robinette Kowal at C2E2, she recommended it, as most days I still feel like a baby author poking my way around. And Mary Robinette Kowal2? I can now say “Good call” and “thank you.” One day I hope to actually make it through an entire conversation with her without being awkward, but this was not that day.

I threw Vicki into this parking garage in Supervillains.
On Thursday, I took the train up from St. Louis. I spent most of the ride doing research on the subject of my next series, but Illinois is pretty this time of year, so in spite of the overcast day, I spent a great deal of the train ride watching the scenery. In Chicago, I bought a pass to save myself some sanity since I was going to be relying entirely on public transportation and apart from an hour walking around the Union Station area because I didn’t understand that two versions of #151 could go to the same stop, I didn’t have any travel issues. 3

Anyway, the conference! A panel on how to do BarCon proved useful for me since I don’t drink or socialize in bars much (my hearing isn’t great, which makes it difficult in loud situations). Mary Robinette Kowal and K. Tempest Bradford had an enlightening panel on How to Fail Gracefully, a topic MRK covered in the Writing Excuses podcast When Fail Happens in Your Career. It’s something I worry about constantly because I’ve seen it happen to many authors. The third panel was about building an author website, so expect to see some changes around here. Thursday night was a meet and greet, so even though I wanted to hide in my hotel room, I DID NOT. My biggest fear was that I would wind up in a corner staring awkwardly. My strategy to avoid this involved parking myself at a table in the middle. People wandered by for a few minutes to talk, meaning I met far more people than I expected to. Overall, I’m calling Thursday a giant success.

Friday was the main programming day, so I made sure to sleep and avoid comparisons to the average shuffling zombie. The day kicked off with a walking tour of the Loop that included the start of Route 664, Millennium Park, the Bean, and all those important things you see at the end of Source Code. The tour went over, which meant I made it to one panel that morning with my new friend Jessi, but the best part was that thanks to my other new friend Shane, I got folded into a giant group going to lunch together. I happily gave up the panel I’d been looking forward to attending the most to eat a Cuban sandwich and horrify everybody with poi. In the afternoon, I attended Beyond Bitches and Badasses, which was a conversation about Race, Gender, and Power in SFF and honestly one of the best panels I attended all weekend. The cast of Gail is pretty white, which is not realistic for something set in New York and Chicago, and I want to change that for future projects. Which is a daunting task, but I’m glad these panels exist because it’s a good place to scope out where some of the pitfalls are so I can get a read of the terrain. Hopefully I can avoid as many of those pitfalls as possible (though I know this is unrealistic).

Friday was the day my mentor Sam J. Miller and my friend Beth Cato arrived, so I could breathe a little easier. Beth was one of the nominees for her novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE, so she got a fancy pin on her badge and that secret glowy sheen of success that you had to be at the Nebulas to witness5. She’s also a devious schemer who dragged me into a group picture for her writing group—that we met up with for dinner across the street—to ensure that I would join once the Nebulas were over. And yes, to everybody who’s poked at me to join, I have. Soon I shall be invincible. After dinner, we headed to the mass signing, which I didn’t do much advertising for, but I’m pleased to say that they sold out of every copy of my work that they brought with them. I caught up with friends, wandered over to get a book or two signed by Scalzi (and to thank him for letting me be on his blog with The Big Idea), and ran into Ann, somebody I usually only get to see at C2E2.

Plus, Beth made chewy honey maple cookies and I’m not even exaggerating when I say every cookie I eat forever and ever will pale in comparison.

Saturday was a light day on programming since the SFWA business meeting took place, so I took the advice of Twitter friends and hit up the Shedd Aquarium for a few hours. PENGUINS. OTTERS. FISH.

I dropped in for one panel—Promotional Bootcamp—which I’m glad I made it back for, since it was some information I feel like I needed to have. A little shopping to take care of some things later, I tossed on a dress and prettied up for the Nebula banquet, which was a marvelous time. John Hodgman was precisely the kind of toastmaster I expected him to be and it was just neat to see all of these cool books and stories win. Having the winner of the Nebula for best novel mention that she was busy writing fanfiction instead of her acceptance speech made me grin so hard. Beth didn’t win her category, which means the Tumblr I set up for pictures and gifs of her fainting at winning will just have to wait until next year.

Long lines at O’Hare on Sunday made me skip out on any of the panels I wanted to attend, so I took an easy morning hanging out in the hotel room and doing some reading for an upcoming project. O’Hare wasn’t too terrible and I ran into Jessi in line, which meant we had time to get lunch and chat for a bit before we headed to our gates. A few days later, I’m hearing that everybody at the Nebulas is possibly playing chess with death over the giant colds that spread. I’ve had the sniffles and Monday I felt terrible enough to stay home from work, but so far I seem to be fighting off the virus that destroyed the SFF Community in May of 2016. Granted, now that I’ve said that, I’ve doomed myself.

My haul!
Here’s to my fallen bros. May Nyquil lead you to excellent slumber. Overall, if you’re a seriously aspiring writer or a published SFF writer and want to know if the Nebula Conference is worth it: definitely. Go for it. I had a blast this weekend, but it also gave me a lot to chew on, and I came away revitalized and amped for what’s coming in the future.6

Stay sexy!

1 Whatever the hell I want appears to be “research.” The terrible student that I was in school is JUDGING ME SO HARD RIGHT NOW.
2She has such a great name. It seems a crime not to use all three of them.
3 The station was next to the Sears/Willis Tower and Gail spends a lot of time in this area in Supervillains and World. So it worked out, really.
4 My high school is on Route 66 and I was on the soccer team there for one year, so I really have gotten my kicks on Route 66.
5 She may try to deny this. I believe the sheen was invisible to the nominees themselves.
6 Which is HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD, on e-shelves September 20.


  1. Aww, new BFFs forever! Sorry I made you miss your panel. You'll love Codex (or at least *I* love Codex); it's like the Nebula weekend except ALL THE TIME

    1. I'm sending the friendship bracelets I made to you and Jessi and Amanda ASAP. They've got little nebula charms and will be super fancy. And I'm really, really okay missing the panel, that sandwich was almost as life-changing as Beth's cookies. I'm trying to figure out if Codex is a cult or not because everybody I talk to about it is like ZOMG IT IS AMAZING JOIN NOW.

  2. I'm glad you had a wonderful time and learned some stuff. Jealous about the aquarium though. NOW what is this about your hearing?

    1. You're my mother and you had no idea? :-P My hearing's pretty awful. I have a hard time understanding what a lot of people are saying, especially in bar-type situations. It's one of the reasons I don't hang out in bars much. There's a lot of smiling and nodding.


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.