Nebula Awards Weekend

The 2011 Nebula awards were presented on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at the Nebula Awards Weekend in Arlington, Virginia. By now, you’ve probably read a list of the winners, but I’ll do a quick recap at the bottom of this post, in case you haven’t.

The convention ran from Thursday until Sunday, but because of other commitments, I was unable to attend the entire convention. This was only my second writers’ convention. I attended my first (World Horror in Salt Lake City, Utah) earlier this year.

I was very nervous about attending WHC, but surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous this weekend. I suspect it’s because I was too excited to finally meet in person several people I’ve known for a while online, namely Jaym Gates, Jake Kerr, and Jamie Todd Rubin. It’s funny. When you talk to people frequently (even if those conversations happen via Twitter, email, or what have you), critique each other’s work and such, you feel like friends already. Meeting in person is simply a formality.

When you’re relatively new to the business, meeting people who are already firmly established is daunting. And more than a bit frightening, to be honest. I did my best to keep my fear firmly tucked inside, but I felt tongue-tied more than once.

At the banquet, I sat next to Jack McDevitt. I may have consumed a glass of wine very rapidly to keep from running away shouting, “I am not worthy to sit at the same table with you, let alone next to you.” And if that wasn’t intimidating enough, I was also seated with Joe and Gay Haldeman, Myke Cole, and editor extraordinaire, Ginjer Buchanan. I may have regaled them with a clever tale regarding my first name, or I may have simply mumbled incoherently. If it was the latter, I hope they will forgive me.

The acceptance speeches of Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis were amazing, as was Astronaut Michael Fincke’s keynote speech. Talk about feeling small and insignificant.

Fear and rambling aside, I had a wonderful time and regret not being able to attend the entire convention, but there’s always next year.

2011 Nebula Award Winners:

Novel: “Among Others”, Jo Walton (Tor)

Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 10-11/11)

Novelette: ”What We Found”, Geoff Ryman (F&SF 9-10/11)

Short Story: “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife”

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book: “The Freedom Maze”, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House)

Solstice Award: Octavia Butler and John Clute

SFWA Service Award: Bud Webster received the

2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Connie Willis

For a full list of all the nominees, please visit  SFWA.

On Community

The image of a writer clad in unkempt clothing, hunched over a keyboard for hours on end is as familiar a cliché as it is truthful. The art of creation is a solitary one. Whether you call your source the muse or the word machine, the stories are created by your time and effort while the world rushes by outside.

Yet humans have a need to belong. A need for community. Writers are no different. In fact, I’d argue the fact that writers have an even greater need for community because of the isolation of the profession. Certainly, many of us are introverts, but, contrary to popular belief, introverts are not antisocial. At least, not always.

Having just returned from my first convention I can say unequivocally that if you can attend one, you should. Being in a room of like-minded individuals provides a sense of belonging and camaraderie, but you can also sit in on panels and learn from industry professionals. Hearing their experiences and advice is invaluable, and never underestimate the power of making connections, no matter if you have one book published, none, or dozens.

I will be honest. Introducing myself to strangers and making small talk are not among my strengths. I fight self-doubt and fear the entire time. (What if I sound like an idiot? What if I can’t remember their name later?) But I found myself doing both more than once at the convention. I can’t say it got any easier, but no one laughed in my face and called me a hack, so that’s something.

Which brings me to my next point: We are all on the same side. Writing is not a competition. Writers are not pitted against each other for a single coveted spot on a bookstore shelf, and one writer’s success does not mean another writer’s failure. Meeting other industry pros helps drive this home. We all have strengths and weakness, we all have doubts, but at the end of the day, we are all part of something larger than just our desk and chair.

If you can’t attend something in person, social media’s greatest gift is the ability to step outside your locale and connect with others all over the world. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say hello on forums, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. If you are an established author, it will give your fans a way of connecting with you. If you are a new writer, it will help other industry folks put a face to your name.

Writing may indeed be a solitary profession, but gone are the days of isolation. With that being said, you can remain a silent figure behind a curtain if you wish, but if you choose to take a step outside, the community you’ll find is one of genuine support and friendship.