I Attended: Nebulas 2019

nebulas 2019

I had returned from the Nebulas 2019 alight with the glory of friendship and my creative well so full, I’m a little worried about dipping into it. I attended 7 panels, met 53 people (yes, I kept track), and returned with a newfound sense of “maybe this writing thing will be okay, actually.”

It has taken me about two months to recover from traveling, but in the same vein, I also needed to reflect a bit on my experience. It was very positive (minus that bit where I booked the wrong red-eye), and I am very excited to attend next year as soon as registration opens.

This conference was my first of its kind and my first time in Los Angeles. The city didn’t really matter because most of my time was spent in the hotel with a dozens of other writers. There was so much to do and people to meet and conversations to have, sight-seeing wasn’t really an option. I had booked myself in the hotel and honestly, it was the best choice for me. All the meetings were in one place and it was kind of nice to simply take an elevator and be close to bed. Granted, the excitement woke me up at the ripe hour of 6:00AM most days, and I was so busy, I almost laughed at myself thinking I’d get any writing done.

Here are some activities I did over those four days:

Standout Panels

  • Writing on the Side with Mark Tompkins, Caitlin Starling, K.A. Door, and A.T. Greenblatt
    • Really insightful about the different strategies of managing writing combined with other life responsibilities, like child care and day job. Examples include working in a NaNoWriMo cycle of short bursts followed by long breaks, setting deadlines, and finding terminology that works for you.
  • Burnout: How to recognize it and maybe how to avoid it next time with Lauren Anne Gilman, Tina Connolly, Rachel Hartman, R.R. Virdi, and Jeffe Kennedy
    • This one hit me right in the anxiety-ridden place. I felt simultaneously seen and attacked because it was so relatable. One of the main takeaways was that breaks were ok, and sometimes a short pause can prevent quitting later.
  • Diversifying Story Form, Themes and Aesthetics with Henry Lien, Rebecca Kuang, Xia Jia, and Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
    • An eye-opening panel about how much of what gets taught to early writers are very Western ideas (Save the Cat and the Hero’s Journey, as examples). Exploring other values like community and working through the consequences of the big event are examples of themes present in other forms of story-telling, including the notion that the hero is often just the protagonist, not someone of pure morality.
  • Science Fiction is Setting, Romance is Structure with A.J. Hackwith, C.L. Polk, Jeffe Kennedy, and Mary Robinette Kowal
    • This panel was so much fun and really eye-opening to the notion that science fiction and fantasy might not even have a structure, but serves more as a vehicle for delivering other kinds of stories. Definitely food for thought for a few of my other works in progress.


  • The Awards Ceremony
    • Like any award ceremony, the Nebulas did not skimp on outfits. Cheering on fellow members of the sci-fi/fantasy community with everyone was fun. I sat at a table with a new friend in Shannon Eichorn and got some good writing-as-a-career advice from Tobias Buckell.
  • Game of Thrones Season Finale
    • This is a once only experience, but I specifically booked a red-eye that Sunday in case there was a chance I could catch the last episode of the last season of a show I’ve watched for 6 years (I tuned in live starting with Season 3). It was so worth missing sleep for it because it truly was something special.

Tips for Next Year

I’ve compiled a list of things that worked that I really need to capitalize on next year so that I’m not quite as tired upon returning to my real life.

  • Pack the Switch again. Find someone who wants to be anti-socially social (i.e. if they just want to read and you just want to game, you can sit in the same vicinity in each other’s energy).
  • If there is a break of longer than an hour or two, take a nap. Most of the folks you’ll want to hang out with will either be barconning or otherwise around for hanging out later.
  • Book the correct return flight. There is a story here. No, I’m not sharing it.
  • Leave the laptop at home, especially if you’re someone who handwrites their notes like I do. I barely checked it and it was just backpack space which took away from books.
  • Print enough business cards.

Is there anything you would have liked me to include?
Let me know in the comments below!

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