Lisa Mason, October 6, 2014
The Manhattan Penthouse, SFWA Author-Editor Reception
Photo 2014 by Kate Baker
The Reception was held on October 6, 2014 at The Manhattan Penthouse (“MP”) at 80 Fifth Avenue. We enjoyed a two-block stroll from Little Town where I’d dined with Gordon Van Gelder, Matthew Blackburn, and four other writers. We set out at 7:20 p.m., twenty minutes after the start of the event.
The MP has a capacity of 300 people. The guest list had totally filled a good week before the event. When we arrived, people were streaming in, but most guests had already arrived. The place was jumping! People had congregated into groups deep in conversation. Everyone in these groups seemed to know the other participants.
The MP is a suite of two rooms on the 17th floor. The spacious front room has tall, arched windows overlooking Manhattan. The adjoining room is outfitted with tables and chairs where people can sit down.
As I admired the spectacular view through an arched window, a full moon sailed above the New York City skyline. I also admired the abundant hors d’oeuvres heaped on a round table in the front room and on a banquet in the adjoining room. A full bar in the front room sold drinks. According to The SFWA Forum (October/November 2014), an appetizer, momos, from the forthcoming SFWA Cookbook, as well as a drink, The Honey Badger, were offered. I hadn’t heard about this so didn’t try them.
I was very glad I’d arrived with a group of people I’d already met and conversed with. Unless you’re a freewheeling party animal, it can be a little intimidating to walk into a room where three hundred strangers have already paired off and are deep in high-decibel conversation. I hung out for a while with Matthew and Leo, but I had work to do. I’d jetted six hours at my own expense to be here and I intended to meet people.
SFWA had thoughtfully provided a guest list online. I’d studied the list at home and picked out twenty people—magazine editors, book editors, literary agents, and writers—whom I wanted to meet. Some of them I’d met before, but not for some years. I googled people I’d never met before and downloaded their online photos so I’d recognize them.
I’d had a terrific business card made before the trip (FedEx.com provides this excellent service online). My wonderful husband, the artist and jeweler Tom Robinson, had urged me to “work the room.” We had a lot invested in this whirlwind trip.
I overcame my natural shyness and worked the room, approaching strangers whom I thought I recognized, introducing myself, and offering my business card. Some turned out to be who I thought they were; some didn’t but knew the person I was seeking. So in turn, other people introduced me to the person I was seeking to meet. As I circulated around the two rooms, I ran into people I wanted to meet by sheer luck. I met several people who hadn’t been on my list—another author who had published a story in the premier issue of Unique Magazine, as had I, and a literary agent and her assistant who were already familiar with some of my best work.
I just couldn’t find two of the book editors I wanted to connect with, as well as an out-of-town literary agent who only reads queries from authors she’s met in person and an author who’s active in SFWA. Just goes to show you how difficult it may be to find people you’re looking for in a crowd of three hundred!
By 10:30 p.m. the event was winding down. I’d spoken with three magazine editors, three literary agents who are at the top of my query list, two book editors, several editorial assistants, and a handful of authors. I walked back to the Wyndham Garden Hotel, reasonably satisfied and packed my luggage for my departure at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
So there you have it, my friends. SFWA has always called this event the Author-Editor Reception. When I attended some years ago, the emphasis seemed to be more on the attending authors. Now SFWA is transitioning to calling the event “the Annual Reception for Industry Professionals.” In fact, I just found the online survey, which strikes me as very much aimed at industry professionals. A question asks, “After meeting an author, are you inclined to read his/her work?” (I’m paraphrasing.) I suppose the question is applicable to an author like me, though I generally read an author’s work because I’m interested in the subject matter or have read a review. Not because I’ve met the person.
I certainly get the vibe that this event is now more geared toward industry professionals, rather than authors. That’s not a criticism of SFWA, just an observation.
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