Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Realm Makers: the Aftermath

On Sunday morning, I rose with just enough time to consolidate my belongings and meet the last of the gang downstairs. I shared the back of Becky's van with Teddi on the way to the airport, where we left Teddi, Randy and Steve, and then it was just Becky and me.

Can I just say how wonderfully helpful Becky has been through this whole thing. She had a million things to be thinking about and yet she was always ready to help any of us out with whatever need that we had. In my case, I couldn't fly out till the next day, so she offered me Sunday with her family and a place to sleep. I view this as a huge privilege, and not one to be taken for granted in the aftermath of the biggest event of her year (and probably in most of ours, too!).

It was just really cool to hang out and be a little bit in on the backstage debrief. And thank you Becky and Scott and Riley for all the work you guys poured into this.



And now, where to from here? It's hard to communicate the energy of a conference like Realm Makers, because I don't think there's ever been anything like it in the history of the universe. There is nothing else like finding your tribe, the people who like the weird stuff, the people who understand and accept your fandom without prompting.

These people are my friends. And those who aren't yet, well, we're working on it, I think, and maybe we'll make that connection next year or online.

No conference is perfect. Maybe the little bugaboos get annoying, or the faculty isn't quite what you personally hoped for, but overall? Seriously, this one takes the prize.

There are so many little moments that made it what it was for me. Lots of squeeing over friends, of course. Emma winning the Hobbit backpack (and ensuing excitement). The impromptu photo session in the scary railway tunnel on the way back from the costume banquet. The "girl time" as we all dressed up before the party. The many discussions over meals or appointments. Describing something about writing and watching the other person's eyes light up. Being the Captain for a night or two. My excitement at sharing the kind of books I like the best, and that others actually get it!

I can't describe it all. It's beyond me. Just...do yourself a favour and be there next time, okay>

Monday, 9 June 2014

Realm Makers: The Saturday

A good night's sleep for once - wow. I promptly responded to the gaps in my schedule by tapping shoulders and telling people they should come and see me today. Most did, which was wonderful, getting to meet and talk with folks I'd only seen peripherally before now. Of course there isn't time to spend with everyone, but I was determined to do my best.

I did manage to catch a couple of lectures - I'm all mixed up as to which day they were on! There was Lisa's on steampunk, Travis's on combat, and Kat's on YA. All very good and so completely different, a good showcase of the enormous variety of people we had on hand.

Classes ended for the day and people milled around before going to dinner. It was early yet, so I elected to head back to the dorm and change into Janeway again - because honestly, where else can I wear it?

I returned to the refectory and ordered a sandwich from two Trekkies at the wrap bar, who knew all about it. Some folks from another conference also gave me a wave. I tell you, putting on the Captain's clothes really gave me a remarkable sense of authority which I kinda liked a lot!



Back in the auditorium for the booksigning. This was a very relaxed affair where we mostly just hung out and chatted and took yet more photos. Nobody wanted it to end, but eventually the venue wranglers had to throw us out.

We walked slowly over to the dorms. I spent a pleasant hour (?) chatting in Kat and Teddi's apartment with Lisa visiting as well. Didn't want to leave - very nearly cried - then went and joined the remnants in the lobby for more strange conversations. Needless to say, it was LATE when I got done.

Loads more pics at http://bit.ly/gb-rm2014 if you haven't seen them yet...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Saga of the Shoes

When I left home I decided to bring my newer sandals. Big mistake. They gave me about three blisters just walking from the airport to the train station in San Francisco.

So the next day, Kathleen kindly took me by a shoe place and I grabbed some sandals that seemed to fit really well. Memory foam sole! Backless, so no chance of heel blisters!

I wore those for most of a week, all around campus at Realm Makers except for when I was being Captain Janeway and had to wear the boots. Turns out walking from the dorm to the conference centre and back in those boots - twice - gave me heel blisters.

So fine. I switched back to the Californian sandals. And they were fine until Tuesday, when I went for a long walk on the back roads of Winston Salem. Somehow after a week they decided to give me blisters: I think about five of them in different forward-facing places, though admittedly none on the heel.

That evening Zane kindly took me to a shoe place where I snagged what I thought would be good walking shoes. But when I walked around the block in them next day - no go. Heel blisters, though the toes were okay.

On Friday I paced around the house so much that I got in a fair bit of my mileage. Then with Ann's encouragement I took back the new blister-causing pair and swapped them for some sneakers just like the ones I have at home. Yeah. Hoping for much better luck from here on out, because how am I supposed to do my 10,000 steps if my feet hurt?

Blister count: Six on the left and three on the right, not counting one on each heel from the original sandals on day 1, which have subsided by now. Dear Asics, please be good to me now!


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Realm Makers: The Friday

After a coffee-induced night of too little sleep for the third night out of four, I arose and met Kat and Teddi downstairs for the walk to breakfast. I'm sure we must have chatted, but the content slips my mind... It was just awesome to be in the presence of people like these.

It was time for the refectory to introduce itself to us. And what an offering. That may be the best conference food I've ever had. Enough said? I don't usually do breakfast but for this I made an exception.

Back over to our auditorium for the opening of the grand event. I was a little nervous as I needed to address the crowd right before Tosca's keynote, but it wasn't half so bad as all that. And then Tosca wowed us with a crowd-pleasing fandom-raving pep talk. Uh huh. We have the best stories.

After that, it was time to split off. I didn't hear many of the lectures at all, because I was out meeting with people for appointments - whether for book pitches, critiquing or mentoring, or just to talk about publishing in general. That's what I came to do, so I was delighted to spend time with so many attendees.

When the sessions ended in the late afternoon, it was time to head back to the dorm and suit up for the evening costume banquet. Yay! I love this picture so much I have to post it again.


And I'm happy to say, I did it the Janeway.



Friday, 6 June 2014

Realm Makers: The Thursday

Yesterday I filled you in on just what it looks like to spend 17 hours flying in from New Zealand for a weekend conference. Now it's time to dive into the main event!

Becky drove us through Philadelphia, a trip that seemed to take forever but was probably a lot closer to a half hour. Remember I'd only slept about 2 hours that night, if that. We arrived at the Villanova campus and found our way to all the places we needed to be.

I tried to doze on Becky's dorm apartment couch, but it was somehow too cold for that, and I gave up about the time she came to tell me we were going to lunch. I joined in over at the university cafeteria and greeted several of the Splicketeers and others who had already arrived - I was however still spaced out and probably not fit for human company.

Soon after that, we were back at the dorms and helping stuff the registration packs. As soon as the dorm rooms were opened I ducked away and slept almost-properly for almost a couple of hours. When I emerged again, the lobby was full of Our People and there followed a kaleidoscopic whirl of meet and greet, new friends and old, whether met or unmet previously.

At some point there was Faculty Pizza and yet more greetings. Honestly, the greetings just become the most important thing at this point. Hugs were the order of the day. Milling around catching sight of familiar faces, running over to grab people, and so on.



The Splickety pre-party kicked off in the next room at seven. The icebreaker games were a lot of fun, however I slipped out after that to continue conversations with new arrivals. I had been sipping an espresso shot, not particularly smart at that time of night, but at least I was mostly awake for the duration. However, I was also awake long after I needed to be. I guess that meant I didn't miss anything...

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Realm Makers: the Odyssey

I am prepared to go to great lengths to get to Realm Makers. Here is the tale of such.

My journey started last Tuesday in New Zealand, where, after one more quick jaunt to the beach on a gorgeous winter day that made me sad to leave, I boarded the Boeing 777 at Auckland Airport after sundown.

Now, flying has become a necessary evil for me. I don't freak out about it like I used to, for which I am very grateful. It's not particularly fun to attempt sleep in a chair, but the meals are generally pretty good and mostly there are some good movies on. If nothing else, I can haul out my computer and work on a current project.

Eleven hours later, suppered, somewhat slept, and breakfasted, I arrived at San Francisco and inquired as to how to get to the Caltrain station in Millbrae. "Take the Bart train," everyone said, but I wanted to walk after being cramped up for so long. So I did, and it was pleasant there alongside the Bay.

I took the train to Mike and Kathleen's home and they gave me a warm welcome. There are times at home when I forget what it's like to have writer friends around the same table, and I guess that's why I travel so much. We are of the same kind.


That night I slept marvellously, and it's just as well, because that would be the last time for a while.

The next day after sleeping late, I took a walk, visited Mike and Kathleen's work, and shopped for sandals before heading to the airport for my next flight.

Sandals, you ask? This is about to become a recurring theme, believe me. At home while packing I had decided on a pair of walking sandals to bring. I chose the wrong ones, and from that first walk they began giving me blisters both underneath and at the back. So out we went and grabbed a new pair, backless and with memory foam soles. Gotta be better, right? Well, just keep reading.

So. Red-eye flight. Left San Jose at 11pm, got into Philadelphia at 9.30am after a transit in Atlanta. There was not much sleeping done. But the best thing of all, that made it all worthwhile? Becky, Ralene and Ivani were right there waiting for me when I walked out: Realm Makers had begun!




Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The non-recipe for soup

I've been cooking a lot of soup lately - it's getting on for winter, and it's a practical, warm meal that's also easy to freeze in portions for another time. I pondered the recipe, but there isn't really one to speak of.

Nevertheless, here is my attempt at instructions...

Melt some butter (or oil) in a very large pot. Brown up several chopped onions, a handful of chopped garlic, and a pound of beef mince or stir-fry (or any other meat really - or leave it out if you prefer).

When all that is cooked, you could put tomato sauce on it and serve over spaghetti if you like. But we're making soup here, so we'll add a kettleful of boiling water and a cup or so of barley (or lentils, etc.). Turn the heat down so that it is just bubbling gently.

While that boils, chop up your vegetables and add them in together with enough extra boiling water to cover them. I often use an orange one and a green one, such as carrot/silverbeet, or pumpkin/broccoli. Put in the harder one first as it takes longer to cook. No need to peel carrots or pumpkin as the skins do become very soft and edible when cooked. With broccoli, you can throw in the stalks and leaves and all, just take care to avoid the really woody bits that may be in the base of the main stem.

Oh, and the quantities don't matter. I just use whatever I have.

By the time you have your softer veg chopped and in the pot, the barley/lentils should be cooked through - test it out. Now you can turn the heat off and go do something else for a while.

When everything is soft and has cooled a bit from boiling, puree the lot. Salt your serving to taste, and add herbs if you like - oregano is very good with pumpkin.

I would have added a picture, but I ate it already! I'm sure you can picture it: smooth-ish, orange-greenish, thick and tasty... Might add a pic next time I have a bowl in front of me.