On Genre Diversity

I spent Saturday at the Ann Arbor Book Festival, where I presented a workshop on Research and Writing What You Know Knowing What You Write, talked briefly about social networking, ate good food, crashed a few other workshops, and participated in a sampler-style reading.

The reading was interesting. There were ten or so people who each read for five minutes. I was scheduled to go between two intense, passionate, powerful poets, at which point I got up on stage … and read a scene from my muppet werewolf story.

That moment summarizes my day pretty well. The two workshops I attended were poetry-oriented. Most of the guest authors were introduced with an impressive list of literary and poetry credits. And then there was me, who made his first professional sale with “Blade of the Bunny.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt insecure about my writing, or about reading one of my stories in front of people.

Many of these poets were reading performing incredibly personal, energizing works. Quite a few focused on race. Most of the poems blew my mind. And then there was me, reading a scene in which a muppet freaks out and blows away Tommy the Tuba.

For the record, my muppet werewolf story kicks ass … but in a totally different way than the poems from Angel Nafis or Roger Bonair-Agard or francine j. harris or Karrie Waarala.

When I posted on Facebook, a few people were quick to reassure me that they’d rather hear muppet werewolves than poetry any day. Which is nice, I guess … I mean, I’m glad my friends and fans prefer the kind of stuff I write, right?

Most of the events I do are with “my own kind,” things like SF/F conventions where we’re all there to celebrate the same genre. Or signings/readings where it’s just me and my fans. From a promotional standpoint, this makes sense — these are the people who are most likely to buy and enjoy my work, after all.

But having my fantasy-writing ass dropped into the intersection of Literary Ave and Poet St, Ann Arbor, was a damn good thing. Those workshops I mentioned? I wrote a half-page piece that’s somewhere between prose and poetry that almost made me cry to read. (Can’t share it here, because it’s about the kids.) I wrote a bit for Libriomancer that, if I can remember and repeat the lesson I learned, should help me accomplish exactly what I’ve been trying to do for six months now.

Was Saturday uncomfortable at times? Hell, yes. But it was powerful and eye-opening and awesome, too.

I’m told people enjoyed my reading, and my workshop went over quite well. (I totally packed that room!) What I didn’t expect was how much I’d get out of the day, and out of the diversity of writers and writing I got to experience. My thanks to Jeff Kass and Margaret Yang for letting me be a part of it, and to everyone else who participated and made it such a great day.