Saving the best and most mind-blowing for last, I tried the Writer/Artist Combo this year. It's a small gathering of writers and artists where each exchanges a work and over the course of the weekend is expected to come up with a sketch based on their partner's work. Everyone of course meets back up to share the sketches on Sunday towards the end of the convention. It's a bit tough to do anything too elaborate, given the rest of the Con to see and hear and experience. This year, for instance, a couple of the artists ended up double-booked and it is understandable that everyone is busy during the Con.

For instance, I know it contributed to my sleep deprivation over the weekend as I felt nearly compelled to get up early each day (which I've hardly ever done at Cons) and spent three, maybe four, hours each morning starting at the crack of dawn, which is strange and bizarre for me. If I felt like I do that every day I'd get so much more writing done than I usually do. But I kind of felt like I had to, particularly when I realized how badly I "broke" the Writer/Artist Combo this year. I have to say that I felt rather guilty, but also extremely proud of course, at the reaction I received to my short story from the artist I was paired with.

Guilty because in some fashion I sort of "cheated" (if there is such a thing in such a friendly gathering of differently creative people): First, because I made sure I was paired up with the amazingly talented Melissa Gay from Nashville. She and her husband Brian (Veklam, mentioned above) have just been so much fun to chat and game with the last three ConGlomerations. So second, having chatted with Melissa about various and sundry geeky topics over several years, I already knew that I had one key short story I had to send to her to read, Princesses for Planetary Peace. This is one of very few "complete" (as in has a beginning, middle, and end) stories that I haven't posted here to this blog (or wasn't lost on a previous version of this blog). It's also the one that I've spent a couple of years now touching off and on. It's the one I've felt was most "publishable" in a real short story market, and the one I got rejected a few times in actually trying to do just that. I also got a bunch of great feedback on it when I workshopped it through Critters, although most of that feedback still hasn't been applied back into the story.

As I suspected, the story apparently set Melissa on fire and amongst the first words she has for me on seeing me after reading the story was about how she had to find paints to do the pink the justice it was due. In surprisingly few hours in between panels and while others often gamed or conversed around her she made an amazing painting (and definitely much more than just the expected sketch) that did indeed feel like it did so well with capturing much of the essence of the story. It was wonderfully and evocatively retro, if not full out "pulp", in a way I hadn't quite imagined myself in the story, but that in seeing her painting absolutely will be stuck in my head as the definitive image going forward. I'm still thinking that I should take the vanity press route, write a couple more chapters to expand it closer to novella length at least and then pay someone like Kirkus Editorial for copy and content editing. I do know that should I get around to do that I now have a great cover painting that I must buy the rights to.

I keep thinking that I want to publish the story largely because I do keep getting great, warming feedback on the story every time I share it with people and because I do think that it is absolutely worth a couple of bucks as an ebook. Not for fame or money, but to prove my faith in the story itself as the charmingly fun thing I wanted it to be, even if it was rejected a few times along the way. Also, because for some reason I still somewhat think that I should be a "professional" writer at some point; again at this point not because I see it as a career but I want some sort of official seal of recognition on a favorite hobby. I just want a State Fair blue ribbon in writing, I guess.

But Melissa's feedback and her painting were such a huge ego boost and it still amazes me to see someone actually run so far creatively with one of my stories. I can't help but think that my own story sketch in return might have been somehow inadequate by comparison. (I will probably post that in a week or two to my blog once I've given it a third, "fresh" edit.) As I said, I certainly felt guilty for everyone else in the Writer/Artist Combo amidst all of my other excitement and wonder.

I also have no idea if I could get anywhere near to trumping that experience at next year's ConGlomeration. Part of the writer in me almost feels as if he's hit the high note and that it is time to drop the mike and walk out. Of course, more of me is excitedly hoping I can figure out some magic way to find more time for writing, because this was an amazing experience and maybe I can finish a few more projects a little bit quicker...