I recently had the good fortune of attending the Potlatch convention, held this year in Seattle. Connected to Clarion West, this convention offers sci-fi and fantasy writers the chance to participate in a workshop/critique session, discussion panels on various topics, and the opportunity to meet both published authors and other beginners in the genre. They also hold an auction to support the Clarion West summer workshop (where, amongst other cool treasures, attendees could vie for hand-knitted goods made by Vonda McIntyre). This is an excellent gathering, falling (stylistically) in between fan-centric conventions like DragonCon and more academically-themed conventions like Writing the Rockies. While it features the fun of a genre-specific dealer’s room and trivia contests, it also offers the chance to interact with novelists, short story authors, and even publishers.
Conference participants are also welcome to sign up as panelists and lend a hand with Potlatch programming. I joined the “Historical Cycles” panel with some other attendees, including author G.D. Nordley. I was also chosen to moderate the “Author as Reader” panel, where I met short story author Michael Alexander, Tod McCoy (publisher of Hydra House), and Campbell Award-winning novelist Amy Thomson.
I was also lucky enough to join four other writers in a critique workshop handled by Vylar Kaftan. Besides getting expert feedback, it was the best way to start the weekend because it meant starting out getting to know five other people before programming even started. (Anyone planning to go next year, I highly recommend taking part in the critique session if you can get in.)
The convention alternates between California and the Pacific Northwest from year to year, so you have to keep an eye on the scheduling to see where it’ll be next time. It’s a big enough con to bring out known authors, but still small enough that you can take part without getting lost in the crowd – an excellent gathering, by all counts.