Tuesday, April 08, 2008



This below is essentially a convention report. Reading Sunday's blog entry, you'll note that Linnea Sinclair has been on the road, also. It's a seasonal thing, as she said. I think she's nailed all the right answers to the questions she's being asked, but I could hold forth for hours on "What is Voice."

I learned what "voice" is when I was about 10 years old and my Dad bought a manual typewriter to teach me to type. After I learned the keyboard, I copy-typed two novels for practice (he wanted me to copy newspapers; I rebelled). The novels were Andre Norton's STAR RANGERS and A. E. Van Vogt's SLAN. Two more different "voices" you won't find anywhere. But I don't think anyone can learn what "voice" is by just reading. You have to do what Marion Zimmer Bradley used to call "running the words through your fingers" -- just typing them as fast as you can with your brain out of gear. I recommend this method both to learn to keyboard and to learn what "voice" really is. After you've got this concept deep into the non-verbal part of your brain, you can then proceed to develope a "voice" of your own. No two writers have the same "voice." (I have a story in an anthology meant to demonstrate this. SPECULATIONS edited by Isaac Asimov and Alice Laurence. The table of contents does not give the author's name. You have to read the story and GUESS who wrote it. Answers are in the back.)

Denvention (World Science Fiction Convention for 2008) has posted my bio at http://www.denvention3.org/programming/bios2.php#lichtenberg

The last weekend in March, I was a guest at Ecumenicon http://www.ecumenicon.org where I taught an eight session "intensive" series of advanced classes using Tarot, Astrology and the Bible to explore propositions about the nature of life, reality, and the purpose of life.

To get academic credit, the class had to pass the following test (we went over the answers in the last session so everyone could pass even if they weren't listening during the presentation):

1. Name 4 points in TIME where the Creator changed the laws of reality.
2. Is a Jewish soul magically superior to a non-Jewish soul? Why?
3. How did the Creator create the world? With what tool? What does that Creator do now? 4. What is Time?
5. What has Time to do with Karma?
6. What is the difference between Good and Evil?
7. What is the purpose of life?
8. What is the physical world phenomenon most analogous to the Soul?

If you're sorry you missed the class, the substance of what I was presenting is discussed in my January to June 2007 SF/F Review columns at:

Also see my January 2008 Review column.

In addition, I made a number of printouts for the class which we discussed in a rapid fire, bullet-point, stay-on-your-talking-points style, skipping over hundreds of really deep supporting issues. The chairman of the convention sat in on this class and kept reminding me to stay on topic -- or I might not have.

So the group (limited to 12 students) worked hard, kept coming back for the next session, read the handouts for homework between sessions, and brought in many interesting questions and observations from many traditions to widen the discussion.

It was very hard work for me, too, taking many hours to organize and prepare the material.

Because of the scheduling and the exhaustion component, I didn't attend any of the other program tracks, and only saw the dealer's tables (fabulous stuff!) because they were set up in the broad hallway outside the classrooms. But that was fine because the convention paid me and was therefore entitled to all my time.

But around that core of committed hours, I had a number of really wonderful experiences.

I was astonished by how smoothly the trip from Phoenix to Baltimore went -- considering that this was the weekend when several airlines took hundreds of planes out of service for inspection, leaving passengers to crowd onto all the other flights. My flight left on time and arrived on time -- (totally astonishing considering my recent travel experiences).

The Phoenix airport was jammed to capacity when I left, and Baltimore was busy if not at capacity when I arrived.

I had a group of friends meeting me, friends I had not seen for years since I'd moved West. And despite the years, I recognized them!

Then the odds tilted sharply in my favor -- my checked luggage actually arrived, and intact. (I'd had broken suitcase issues the last few times I traveled.)

I can't tell you how thankful I am for these friends in my life, and how much effort they put into meeting me. They're shy or I'd throw names around. My bag was heavy with material for the class, and I needed some help though it could have been worse if the flight hadn't gone so smoothly. I came home much lighter and was able to manage.

At the hotel, I put in an appearance at the first evening's banquet event, and then met with the friends who had picked me up.

To my utter and complete surprise, they threw a little birthday party for me. I don't even remember how many years it's been since anyone put a candle on a cake for my birthday -- I wished mightily and blew hard! -- and they even gave me a present, and some room-food to eat during the con laden with an abundance of love in every molecule.

The next morning, at 9AM, the con's opening ceremonies went without a hitch (I think maybe because the con-suite had the coffee ready and a good breakfast to grab and go), and before you knew it, there we all were gathered for the first class.

As usually happens, I tended to just sit in the function room (or take a quick bio-break) and continue talking to individuals during the formal breaks in the schedule.

I remember it being 10:30 AM -- then about fifteen minutes later, it was 4PM. That happens all the time when I'm writing a novel or book. All I can say is, I think that means I had fun.

Friday night, I did the usual and went to sleep early. And I slept in. Luckily I remembered I was meeting the class at 10:30 AM to discuss their personal natal charts and how to apply the theory presented the previous day to an individual's personal life.

About half an hour later, it was 7PM. We got kicked out of the classroom on schedule, before 4PM -- but our discussion adjourned to a hotel room and was still going strong at 7PM. I don't exactly know what happened to all those hours. Miraculously, I didn't get laryngitis, as I usually do at talk-fests.

I collapsed, slept well, woke early, and did the last of the class sessions on Sunday.

One of the students in the class had never read any of my novels but mentioned a brand new interest in learning screenwriting and was bemused when she discovered I'd been diverted into screenwriting recently. She signed up for the Worldcrafters Guild (simegen.com writing school) even before classes were over for the weekend.

Then, before the closing ceremonies, I got a fabulous thank-you gift from one of the class members. There was a professional offering soft-tissue massages among the dealers, and my student bought me a great massage that wiped out most of the fatigue collected that weekend.

Considering that people paid convention membership plus an additional fee for my classes, that extra was totally unexpected.

After closing ceremonies, my friends who had met me at the airport took me out to dinner.

One more shock, and the convention was finished -- at dinner, they had the waitress sneak a candle onto my desert cake and sang me a great big public Happy Birthday. I can't recall that ever happened to me before. It was really kewl.

Monday, I had breakfast with my friends where we discussed the "real" world we were about to rejoin, and then the trip home was likewise uneventful, as travel should be and hasn't been in recent memory.

I felt that Baltimore's BWI airport was not filled to capacity. The plane took off on time. It landed on time. It was great to be home! My bag arrived (undamaged). And I had the shortest wait for my ride home that I ever have had at PHX.

It was a charmed weekend, a weekend outside of time, a weekend of beating the odds, and of truly appreciating friends. When a friend is involved, "out of sight" is not "out of mind."

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Happy birthday!

    One can't really learn 'voice,' can they? It seems to me it's something a writer develops over time. I certainly know 'voice' can be *unlearned,* however.

  2. Kimber An:

    Oh, you can CHANGE your "voice" as a writer. In fact, some writers have several -- and use pen names for that reason.

    It's an ART. But you can learn it by the drill I described.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg