The day began with sitting around the lobby drinking coffee with Gardner Dozois, Susan Casper, Peter Heck, and various other people who came and went. The writing life was discussed, and Gardner made the trenchant observation that often "it isn't a series of ego strokes -- it's a series of kicks to the teeth." Not always -- but often. This observation did not distress everyone; on the contrary, it was cheering because if validated that in this tough publishing climate, a writer having difficulties (rejections, falling sales, falling advances, falling confidence) is not alone. Here are Susan, Peter, Alistair Mayer, Gardner, Brenda Cooper, and an unidentified head, being gloomy/cheerful:The publishing climate was also the topic of the one panel I was on today, "Art and Commerce -- Is There Tension Between Them?" Very lively, this panel featured various answers to the question from Tom Dougherty ("No"), me ("Yes, of course"), Gordon Van Gelder ("It's complicated"), and Ginjer Buchanan, courageously struggling to moderate an over-caffeinated and feisty panel. The final consensus: The only way writers can succeed is by writing what passionately moves them, but don't expect the marketplace to be moved by only your passion -- commercial forces also affect what is bought, and sold.
Clarion West held a cocktail party, at which various announcements were made, including the line-up of instructors for next year's Clarion West: Paul Park, Nancy Kress, Margo Lanagan, Minister Faust, L. Timmel Duchamp, and Charles Stross. Walter Jon Williams also announced that he and I will again teach the two-week Taos Toolbox workshop in July. Information on both of these workshops can be found on their websites.
Dinner with Sheila Williams, who reported that ASIMOV'S is doing well and has several exciting stories in train -- none of them, alas, mine.
Next came the usual WFC mass autographing, a melee in which collectors lug huge boxes of books around to be signed, fans get to talk to authors, and authors spend three hours, or as long as they can stand, seated in rows behind white-clothed tables with coffee, wine, and pens at the ready. The room was huge, and it's possible that the number of writers exceeded the number of fans. Eventually people moved from there into the bar, which quickly became a scramble for tables. I ended up with a group that included SFWA president John Scalzi. Since John needed a quorum for tomorrow's SFWA business meeting, he spent much of the time dragging promises out of people to attend. In return, he promised to bring in the SFWA meeting at under one hour. Can this actually be done?