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This evening was the farewell party at Dreamhaven Books, a local fantasy/science fiction/comic store that has been in business for 35 years. It's not disappearing entirely: the owner, Greg Ketter, will continue to sell via mail and will attend conventions; he'll also open the store occasionally, though it will no longer have regular hours. Lots of folks, food, music. A nice sendoff, in other words, but it's so sad to see yet another bookstore essentially put out of business by online sellers. I discovered so many books and writers there, thanks to the wonderful staff, and heard a quite a few authors read there as well. It will be missed.

SOPA/PIPA

Jan. 18th, 2012 11:06 am
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I thought it important to post today, since Dreamwidth doesn't have a banner or any information about opposing SOPA/PIPA. I encourage you to contact your legislators to ask them to oppose this legislation, which is a serious danger to free speech of all sorts. You can go to the Wikipedia site and enter your zip code to get contact information (Wikipedia itself is down, of course). Good information also available here: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/01/how-pipa-and-sopa-violate-white-house-principles-supporting-free-speech. I told the lucky person answering the phone in the office of my two senators that I would not vote for them (or donate money to them) in the future unless they change their stance. Happily, my representative in Congress, the amazing and wonderful Keith Ellison, opposes the bills. I called to thank him.
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The best twelfth night gift arrived Wednesday evening: daughter Jane home for a short visit--she leaves very early next Tuesday morning. Jane, Jonah, Molly, and I went to the "1968" exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society yesterday; they found it interesting, I found it hard to relive (but I'm very glad I went). Then home to meet up with Bob, and off to Namaste for a late lunch/early dinner. In the evening, Bob, Jane, and I went to the Bryant-Lake Bowl for Raucous Caucus II--seven ten-minute plays on political themes; great fun. This morning, Bob and Jane went to LA Fitness (where Bob's a member), while I took a long walk, stopping at Rustica on the way back to get some "real bread," as Jane calls it: one Rustic loaf, one olive (yum). No other big plans for the visit; Jane's off to lunch with a friend now, and has some others lined up to see over the next few days. I'm certainly enjoying taking the extra days off work; I'll head back on Tuesday, when we'll be doing interviews for a "communication specialist" position. We also learned earlier this week that one of the members of the advising staff has taken a new position that begins very soon, which means we'll be dealing with another search soon. (And, of course, the students all arrive back on January 17; well, we won't be bored!)
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In art and dream may you proceed with abandon
In life may you proceed with balance and stealth

--Patti Smith, "To The Reader," introduction to Early Work

It's 7:58 pm on the eve of 2012. What will the new year bring? The end of all things, according to some--but I'm not among them. What am I looking forward to? Continued work with Theatre Pro Rata, serving as dramaturg for Theatre Unbound's all-female Julius Caesar, the on-going pleasure of reading good books (and sharing at least some of them with my wonderful reading group), my weekly volunteer gig at Washburn Library, and the mostly good days working with students in my role as an academic advisor. Special events coming up: a week-long visit from daughter Jane who arrives on January 4; amazing writer Jo Walton making an appearance at Uncle Hugo's bookstore on January 8; the 4th Street Fantasy Conversation in June; the Dunnett Siege of Istanbul in September. It's raining out right now; I hope it turns to snow soon, rather than sleet/ice. I'm glad we're not headed out anywhere. Tomorrow we hope to see Martin Scorsese's Hugo: it will be my first new-fangled 3D film, and the reviews seem to think Scorsese uses the technique well (not too surprising). Best wishes for a wonderful 2012 to all my friends.
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Bob and I drove to the Milwaukee area on Friday to spend a few days at my sister and brother-in-law's place near Saukville. My brother and sister-in-law and our cousin joined us on Saturday for a Christmas eve gathering; much good food was consumed and good conversation shared. On Sunday, we followed our tradition of seeing a movie: this year the consensus was Mission Impossible since we knew it would be silly but entertaining (it was). We drove back to Minneapolis on Monday. Our company on the journey was the audio book of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint, which was terrific--and which timed out perfectly: we listened to part one on the way down and part two on the way back; it finished just as we turned into our condo parking lot. I really liked the actor who played Richard, and Kushner herself was the superb narrator of the largest portion of the book (some of the scenes were staged with others, and that was a lot of fun). Today we went to the Edo exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, along with son Jonah and daughter-in-law Molly, then came back to our place, opened presents, and went to dinner at the MyBurger place across the street. After dinner, we returned, chatted some more, and lit the last set of Hanuka candles for the year. Back to work tomorrow, but five day weekends are pretty terrific.
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Each year in December the Riverview Theater here hosts a Lord of the Rings marathon, and I've attended several times. Today was the day. Initially I thought I would skip it this year, but then I was reminded that this is the 10th anniversary of the release of the first film and decided to see at least that one. It continues to be my favorite of the three, especially in the extended version. I found it more moving this time around in places I didn't expect. The introduction and then the development of the characters is really beautifully done, and the arc of this particular book is a rather remarkable one. I remember when we first saw it (with my siblings and their spouses over the Christmas holidays); my brother (who apparently had never read the books and hadn't been following the production of the films) was totally shocked by the non-ending. I don't think he ever saw the other two films. I, of course, have seen all of them multiple times and expect to continue doing so. What was wonderful, as it always is, was seeing the film on a full screen; it's just much more powerful.
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Wow! Four-day weekends are quite wonderful. We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner with Jonah and Molly and our friend Lois; delicious food and wonderful conversation. Our friends David and Mary joined us for dessert--more tasty treats (Jonah made apple and pumpkin pies) and more good conversation. In the morning, I walked around the lake--the temperature was in the 50s and I took off my sweatshirt about two-thirds of the way around.

Friday, I took another long walk with my friend Bev around northeast Minneapolis, and we stopped for coffee at her local coffee shop. It's always such a pleasure to spend time with her, and find out what she's been up to. We try to meet weekly, but that doesn't always happen, so this was a more extended walk/conversation than our usual noon-hour version on Fridays when she meets me at the U. We'll miss this coming Friday because I have my final "encore transitions" class.

Saturday I spent about four hours doing volunteer work at the library, then got my hair trimmed. Last night we went to see Frank Theatre's production of _The Santaland Diaries_ with the fabulous Joe Leary. This afternoon we're seeing _I Am My Own Wife_ at the Jungle, with Bradley Greenwald (directed by Joel Sass). We saw it when it was first produced five years ago, and it was amazing then so we wanted to pay a return visit.

We also have David Tennant's _Hamlet_ from Netflix, so I need to figure out when I can watch that! Not to mention keeping up on my reading. And, of course, it is Sunday, so there are two large newspapers to read. Maybe I need another day or two!
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The third session of the class (which was held on a Friday, which meant I didn't have to go to work, but also didn't have to use a vacation day per my supervisor: hurrah) focused on issues of money and money management, and then on the multiple ways to volunteer. Mark Fischer, a financial planner spoke in the morning and provided lots of useful information; the keynote in the afternoon was Jim Scheibel, former state legislator and mayor of St. Paul. He has contributed a lot in the public sphere on both the local and national levels. Good conversations once again with tablemates during the session and with a different group of folks over lunch. One more session to go, also on a Friday. So in addition to the four-day Thanksgiving weekend this week, I will have had two additional four-day work weeks before and after. That's quite pleasant.

Things I didn't do over the weekend: I had planned to see a play (Richard II) on Saturday night and attend an informal Pro Rata play reading on Sunday night. But after the snowfall on Saturday, I decided I'd rather not go out (it was a bit icy and given that this was the first snow of winter, the drivers are always a little wacky). Bob was using the car on Sunday, and I could have taken the bus--the reading was at Common Roots--but I bailed and stayed in. I did get quite a bit of reading done: two chapters in _Master and Commander_ for this week's group read, a book chapter for the "Literature, History, and Memory" discussion group, and I finished the Patrick Ness/Siobahn Dowd YA novel _A Monster Calls_, which was very moving.
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I've seen three plays in less than a week, which is pretty unusual even for a dedicated theatre goer like myself. The first was Frank Theatre's production of Ellen McLaughlin's Ajax in Iraq; I'd seen another play of McLaughlin's in the last year--her take on Helen of Troy, and I didn't like that one at all. I found this one much more compelling: the contemporary story line, about a female soldier in Iraq raised lots of critical contemporary issues. I thought the parallel story line--which was based on Sophocles' Ajax also worked well over all. The cast was terrific. Bob was with me for this one and we had diametrically opposite reactions--he didn't like it at all; in particular, he didn't like the amount of direct address to the audience. That's not something I usually like, but I thought it was perfect for this play.

Monday seemed like old home week--lot of theatre friends at the Sandbox production, The Mad Trapper of Rat River. Sandbox does interesting work, though it's not something I enjoy especially. It tends to be more abstract, more movement based. They often find fascinating stories to explore--this one based on a true story about a Canadian trapper who managed to evade Canadian authorities who were pursuing him--and I was engaged at least initially by the starkness of the design, and the opening narrative. After a while, though, it felt repetitive. I had a similar response to their show about the Wandrei brothers--somewhere there was an amazing story, but their mode of presentation is (deliberately, I think) fairly disjointed. I'm always intrigued by their shows, but they don't engage my emotions--and for me that's a big deal.

Last night, I went to the opening of After Miss Julie with Pro Rata pals Amber, Lydia, and Scott. Though I'm not a big Strindberg fan, I though Patrick Marber did a good job of re-imagining the story--he set it in an English country house just after the second World War. The script seemed close to Strindberg's (at least as I remember it from long ago); the three actors were absolutely top notch.

I hope to see Richard II this weekend or next, and a number of other interesting shows have opened that I'd also like to see. But this weekend is already pretty full, so we shall see.
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Yesterday was the second day-long session of the "encore transitions" course; the focus was on issues related to health: physical, mental, spiritual as we get older and have made or will make a major life change as we leave full-time work behind. The presenters were all terrific and the information useful. It does feel strange to be "in school" again--I'm even taking notes. What's even more interesting is that as far as I can tell, no one there brought a lap top! I think even though many of the folks use computers on a regular basis--often both at work and at home--this series of events hasn't elicited the need to record things electronically. Rather interesting, especially since I strolled over to my local coffee shop this afternoon and it seemed like nearly every person there was busy with a lap top. I think the most significant moment for me in yesterday's class was when we were doing an exercise about "things that will lead to fulfillment in your post-career life," and I found myself wondering about whether moving abroad will make sense--not just financially, but in terms of starting over to develop friendships, etc. Not that my current friendships would vanish--but it's not the same when you're communicating over thousands of miles rather than seeing each other on a regular basis. For me at least, it's not the same, though I am certainly capable of getting involved in multiple ways and creating new friendships in a new place (as well as maintaining friendships over a distance, as I've done with a number of friends over time). This is definitely worth thinking further about, though the lure of living abroad is still very strong--especially in terms of easier access to travel to other nearby countries.
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Yesterday I attended the first of four day-long seminars called "Encore Transitions," which is an opportunity to plan for the day when I no longer work full-time (ideally that will occur sometime in May 2013). This is a structured way to look at issues related to this major life change. One of the speakers was travel writer Catherine Watson, who urged all the participants to look at the process as a journey and to document it with a journal. This will be my attempt to do so, with the subject also serving as a tag, so anyone who isn't curious can ignore the entries.

Yesterday's session was an opportunity to look at the past, the present, and the future and to explore the kinds of things we look forward to, what we might miss, and what we will be happy to leave when the moment comes. A surprising number of people were scare of the transition, a few weren't certain about what life after full-time work/career would hold for them. Happily I'm not in either group. While I will certainly miss my one-on-one contact with bright undergraduates, as well as regular time on campus--even when I can't get to most of the events I read/hear about--I foresee wonderful opportunities to be more actively involved in the theater community, to expand my volunteer activities, and to have more time to read (there's never enough!) and even to write, should the spirit move me.
I certainly won't miss University politics (there's enough of that in the rest of the world to keep me on my toes).

Whether or not we will pursue our dream of moving abroad, I know that I will have lots of activities to fill my days, lots of friends with whom to connect, lots of interests to continue to pursue. The people I met all were actively engaged in the day's events, which was a lot of fun. We shared most directly with folks with whom we shared a table, but there were opportunities to mix things up at lunch, during breaks, and during some of the activities. The participants included both University people and folks from the larger community--some coming a fair distance for the program. I look forward to the next three sessions.
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The weekend is winding down, and it's been quite full--even though I didn't do all that I'd planned (perhaps because I planned too much, and sometimes I can't do it all!). Bob and I went to hear Stephan Pastis (creator of the comic strip Pearls before Swine) on Friday night at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. His delightful and very funny presentation was followed by a panel discussion that included five other cartoonists/graphic artists about the future of their field in the 21st century; that was also very interesting.

Saturday, as part of the International Dorothy Dunnett Day celebration, a group of five of us gathered for lunch and a toast to Lady D at True Thai in Minneapolis. Four of us knew each other, but the fifth joined us from Rochester, Minnesota where she is a graduate student at the Mayo Clinic. She learned about the event via Facebook and followed up with an email to Simon Hedges, who put her in touch with me. She's quite delightful, and it was wonderful to meet yet another younger Dunnett enthusiast. A good time was had by all.

I wanted to see a play Saturday evening, but after doing my weekly volunteer work at the library after our lunch, I just didn't have the energy, which means I will probably be missing a few of the shows I had hoped to see, since most of them close next weekend and I only have one or two evenings available. But so it goes. I just emailed my colleagues at Theatre Pro Rata about seeing two productions in November being produced by other local companies, so those may be "on the books" for sure. In lieu of a play, I watched the first two episodes of the British TV series Jekyll last night: I don't remember why I added it to the Netflix queue (I'm sure some friend recommended it), but it's quite good. I'll watch episode three tonight and then will have to wait for the next disc with the final three episodes.

Today I had our monthly brunch with two good friends, and took a walk around the lake since it's a perfect fall day. The week ahead looks pretty busy (well, work does take up a bit of time), but the non-work related evenings should be fun. I have my second lute lesson of the season on Wednesday, and Thursday evening is the monthly "Lute Cafe," which is always a pleasure--it's inspiring to hear some of the excellent local lutenists. And sometime over the weekend, I hope to see the gender-reversed Hamlet that a group is doing at the University, and maybe squeeze in one of those other plays that I'd like to see.
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Goodness, the days just keep flying away this fall (but it certainly
has been a long and lovely one so far). Classes began, of course,
and I've already been meeting with lots of students. This week I'll
also be doing two workshops about the honors thesis; I noticed on
the list of registered students that about half are in engineering--
not exactly my forte, although since the workshop is open to all
honors students, it is fairly general in outline. I always explain
that their next step should be chatting with faculty honors representatives
in their respective departments for more specific information. It's
always fun to learn what students are thinking about doing.

We returned from our trek to the east coast on Saturday, Oct. 1,
so we're back to our usual routines (well, mine is pretty regular;
since Bob is working as a contractor/consultant on several software
development projects--as well as working on his own apps for the
various Mac devices--his schedule isn't quite as structured as mine).
We had a wonderful time at the wedding of our friends John and
Nancy (Bob was the best man) in New Jersey. While we were in
the vicinity we visited the house where Walt Whitman lived and
died in Camden, as well as visiting Haverford College, outside of
Philadelphia, where two children of friends are freshmen this
year. Then it was on to Boston to visit our friends Robin and Paul,
a trip that included the kickoff of the New England Conservatory's
"Mahler Unleased" season. We heard a lecture my Mahler expert
Gilbert Kaplan, then (after a short dinner break) listened to the
NEC orchestra play the original version of the 1st symphony (as
well as Richard Strauss's Don Juan). I enjoyed both events very
much. We also met up with our son Jonah's best friend Ethan, who
is in the PhD program in Geology and Planetary Sciences at
Harvard and he showed us around the campus. We also made a
trip to MIT, visited their bookstore (where I wrote down the names
of about a half-dozen recent books that explore math and science
for a general audience), and then their museum, where Bob was
delighted to discover an exhibit of slide rules!

After Boston, we took a train to New London, CT, then a ferry to
Long Island to visit another friend. We spent a couple of days
there just enjoying her company (and wine tasting at one of the
many local wineries) before heading into Manhattan for just a
day, where we touched base with two other friends (Bob's best
friend since junior high, Arthur Hass--who teaches harpsichord
at SUNY-Stony Brook--and his wife Martha, who teaches ESL
and freshman writing and is a viola da gamba player; they are
in an ensemble together. Since I didn't want to spend a lot of
time running around in Manhattan, we strolled to the closest
museum to their house, the Cloisters, which just happens to
be my favorite museum in the country.

We had a successful production of Cat's Paw at Theatre Pro Rata
in September, although the audiences weren't as big as we would
have liked (lots and lots of theatre opening around the same time,
so we had lots of competition). I helped organize a post-show
discussion following one of the matinees that included the cast,
the director, and two local experts--one a Hennepin County water
and soil commissioner and the other a teacher at the U who offers
a freshman seminar about critical issues related to water (the
focus of the eco-activist/terrorist who is the central character in
the play).

Pro Rata's next play is another contemporary show and I'll be
working on some sort of study guide related to that. I'll also be
serving as dramaturg on an all-female production of Julius Caesar
that Theatre Unbound is doing in spring (my friend Carin Bratlie,
the Pro Rata artistic director, is directing the show--hence my
involvement); we just finished doing a first version of the script,
and Carin will be holding auditions next week. I imagine I'll be
putting together a study guide for that as well.
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Labor Day has passed, and classes have begun again at the University: many emails and visits from students with issues, concerns, problems. I've stepped right back into the swing of things. The weekend was pleasant and included a State Fair excursion on Sunday, where the weather was perfect (the high was around 65). Other activities: getting ready for the opening of Theatre Pro Rata's production of Cat's Paw, the first show of the 2011-12 season. Saturday night is the night, and I'm coordinating the post-show party and also preparing for the panel discussion we're having after the Sunday matinee. My talented daughter is participating in a semester-long Land Arts Program at the University of New Mexico, where she's pursuing an MFA in ceramics: you can see the work of the group as they go along at: http://unmlandarts.blogspot.com/. I've also been monitoring the progress of my friend and amazing creative force Elise Matthesen at Mayo in Rochester, where we all hope she will find some answers to on-going and recent health issues. She is a wonder, and the world needs to keep her around for a long, long time.

And here's a special treat for friends who enjoy slash (and Shakespeare); this was written by Sarah Monette and posted to her Live Journal in 2009, but she reposted the link after reading a review of a new book (Hamlet's Father) by everyone's favorite homophobe, Orson Scott Card. Enjoy!

http://truepenny.livejournal.com/621802.html

Fringed!

Aug. 15th, 2011 12:05 pm
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The Minnesota Fringe Festival began on Thursday, August 4, and ended yesterday, August 14. In those ten days I saw fifteen shows; all but two were definitely worth seeing, and several were simply outstanding. It's always hard to choose when you have 168 choices; in the past Bob and I have purchased Ultra Passes, which allow you to see as many shows as you can squeeze in (I have one friend who did over 50 this year). That can be fun, but also exhausing, especially if you're not taking vacation time. But fifteen seems like a reasonable number, and even though I didn't get to every show I would have liked to see, I am happy with the ones I did. Special kudos to Red Resurrected, The Friar and the Nurse, Lots o'Shakespeare, Tempests, 7(x1) Samurai, and Hamluke. Now the big project for the week is getting ready for Theatre Pro Rata's tenth birthday celebration, which happens next Saturday (a scavenger hunt/puzzle solving event in the afternoon, followed by a birthday party in the evening). Should be fun.

hot

Jul. 19th, 2011 06:48 pm
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Really? Dewpoint of 83, heat index of 123? I'm not sure what the actual temperature is. All I can say is the sooner I move somewhere with a more moderate climate, the happier I'll be. I know some "summer people" are enjoying the heat: more power to them; I'm glad someone is. I, on the other hand, much prefer winter to summer if given the choice, though spring and fall are my favorite seasons. Hence my desire to retire somewhere with a temperature range of, say, 40-70F. Clouds okay, though I love the sun; rain okay too. Serious heat actually makes me physically ill, which is why I've done my best to stay indoors this week. In other news, the director of our program surprised all the academic advisors today by giving each of us an iPad 1. I haven't set mine up yet, but the one terrific benefit I can foresee is the ability to read ebooks on something a little larger than my iPod; that was fine while traveling, but if I'm reading an ebook at home, the iPad will be much nicer. I'm still reading mostly the old-fashioned type of book--which will probably remain my preference--but I did download George R.R. Martin's latest opus, since I don't really need a hardcover. I had the first (and maybe the second and third) in paperback, but I gave those away when we moved; the fourth I read from the library. And, of course, there are all the free copies out there as well, and some e-published only books, like Michael Merriam's Last Car to Annwyn Station and Linda Gillard's House of Silence, both of which I already have but have not yet read. So hurrah for unexpected bonuses (probably related to serious workloads and no raises at the University for the last two years; the program probably had some tech money that needed to be spent: I'll take it).
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Girl Friday's production of Elmer Rice's Street Scene (on which I was the dramaturg) opened to an enthusiastic audience on Thursday night, and even though it's only Saturday, we've already had four rave reviews in the local media! I hope that means that more wonderful audiences will follow. Last night, Theatre Pro Rata's production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot opened at the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis. The theater was a movie theatre from the 1930s until 1987, when it closed. It was named a historic site, but no one has had the interests/funds to buy and redevelop it, which is a shame. It's currently owned by the city, and they're letting the company use it for the show at least in part to bring in folks to see the space. The production is very good, actors outstanding and the use of the space by director Ryan Riply absolutely perfect. Too bad I still don't like the play; I've never been fond of Beckett's work, but for anyone who's curious this is certainly the production to see. I'll be helping out at both shows (box office, usher, survey distributor) until the end of the month, so even though some of my evenings will be a bit more open than they have been, I'll still be a pretty busy woman.

weather

Jun. 30th, 2011 03:46 pm
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Well, summer is here: it's about 94 degrees F outside with a nice dash (ha!) of humidity thrown in for good measure. I checked my favorite places in the UK: Penzance, Oban, Norwich. The temperatures ranged from 57 to 61 F. It is evening there now, but still . . . Tomorrow will be hot again, then the temperatures are supposed to drop to the 80s for the weekend. We'll be heading to Marine-on-St. Croix for an overnight on Sunday, which should be nice. The only drawback is that I was hoping we could take a hike/walk in William O'Brien State Park, but if the State shuts down tomorrow, which seems likely, the park will probably be closed. Oh, well, we can find other places to walk, I'm sure. This week at work has been very quiet: we still had some freshmen coming through for orientation Monday through Wednesday, but none of them were assigned to me since I have essentially made my quota. Rehearsals for Street Scene are going well--as they should, since we open a week from tonight!
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Another 4th Street has come and gone, though the amazing Janet and her team already have the site ready for 2012 registration; to all my friends who love fantasy and good conversation, please consider coming next year (http://www.4thstreetfantasy.com/2012/). If you're in danger of running out of reading material, you can see the list of books that was generated in various sessions over the course of the weekend here: https://sites.google.com/site/4thstreet2011/book-list. The panels and audience-panel conversations were stimulating, articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking. I'm not one who speaks up, but it's always great fun to listen; the conversations between panels, in the con suite, and at meals were equally fascinating. One of the reasons I enjoy this event is that the focus is on writing, and the participants are writers, aspiring writers, and dedicated readers. You learn a lot about the process of writing, the world of publishing (and how it's changing--though that wasn't a big focus this year). Today is a catch-up at home day before heading back to the University and all those delightful incoming freshmen tomorrow.
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