I meant to write a nice, long, detailed post about this year’s When Words Collide when I got home from it with a nice, long, detailed section about Live Action Slush. But then I got home and there were deadlines growling and snapping at me, and summer days to enjoy, and people to follow up with and, well, basically life totally got in the way and now I’ve had to accept the fact that nice, long, detailed post which totally existed in my imagination is just not going to happen.
Which is kinda sad because my imaginary blog post was pretty epic. Almost as epic as When Words Collide, in fact.
Anyway, even though that amazing blog post isn’t going to happen I do want talk really briefly about Live Action Slush. No really, this is going to be pretty short, I promise.
Live Action Slush, for those who aren’t familiar, is a panel where people anonymously submit the first pages of their manuscripts to be read out loud to a room full of strangers. Oh, and also? Four of those strangers are editor-types sitting at a table with microphones. When an editor hears something that would make them stop reading if the story were submitted to them they raise their hand. Once three of the four editors have put their hands up the reader stops and the editor-types discuss what they heard and offer feedback.
Live Action Slush panels are awesome, I love them and I hope my feedback on them is helpful, but they are not like reading slush. When I’m actually reading slush I’m reading it rather than listening to it, I don’t have three other editors reading it with me, or an audience, or the awareness that the writer is in the room watching me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to be helpful at LAS, and if not helpful at least not hurtful.
That being said there are two points I want to make about Live Action Slush.
One — It takes a lot of guts to subject yourself to that. For realz. I have been writing and submitting my work for a long time now and I feel like I have a pretty thick skin and a healthy sense of separation between my work and myself, and I would still have a tough freaking time sitting in a room while four people discussed my story. A very tough time. If I wore a hat I would tip it to every single person who ever submits their work to a live action slush. You rock.
Hopefully the feedback you hear about your story is helpful but the value of LAS goes beyond that because other people can learn things from listening to the discussion about your work too. So even more than (hopefully) getting some feedback to help yourself, you are also helping other people as well.
Did I mention that you rock? You do.
Two — With very few exceptions when I put up my hand during a LAS panel is not where I’d stop reading, it’s when I would start making notes or start skim reading. I did three Live Action Slush panels at WWC this year and heard a total of three stories that I actually would have stopped reading completely before the first page was done. And for one of those three manuscripts the reason I would have stopped was because it was a sub-genre I don’t deal with. I mention this each time I do a panel but I’m not sure that I emphasize it enough.
Putting up my hand when I’d start taking notes or skimming rather than when I would actually stop reading means it coincides with when I have the first constructive feedback to offer the author and also marks the shift when I turn from ‘Reader’ into ‘Editor’ (you want to keep me fully engaged with your story as a reader for as long as you possibly can).
Given how much bravery goes into submitting your work to be read, I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. It must really really suck to sit in the audience listening to your work get read and watch an editor’s hand go up.
Moving forward I’m going to make two changes. First, if I have the pleasure of sitting on any more Live Action Slush panels, I’m going to be slower to put my hand up. I don’t think I can promise to put it up only when I would actually stop reading but I can definitely allow for a larger margin for error than I had been. Second, I’m going to start submitting my work to be read at Live Action Slush panels. It only seems fair, really, that I sit on both sides of the microphone.
One other quick note? I mentioned this on social media but in case you didn’t see it–if your work was read at a Live Action Slush panel I was on and I put up my hand, I am willing to take a look at your revised first page and offer feedback on it. I can only look at first pages but if you’d like send it my way firstname.lastname@example.org
I also welcome your comments about Live Action Slush. Have you attended them? Been on the panels? Have they mostly been a positive experience for you or not so much?