Putting it on paper

Writers, artists, and fans gather next weekend in Redmond for Foolscap X — a literary convention devoted to “flat stuff; funny hats.” The “flat stuff” is written and/or illustrated science fiction, fantasy and related-genre works.

Small and focused, Foolscap is an excellent way to check out the thriving and complex Northwest science fiction community and meet out-of-state guests of honor like author Esther Friesner and illustrator Michael Kaluta.

While more structured than an “unconference,” Foolscap is very much a participants’ event; come prepared to meet people and get involved in lively discussions, impromptu dining adventures, and an auction of one-of-a-kind original artworks and genre collectibles.

The conference’s new location (the Marriott in the midst of the pedestrian-friendly Redmond Town Center) is likely to attract public interest. While most of the activities require conference membership ($45), there are two open-to-the-public panels:

“About Science Fiction Cons,” in the hotel lobby, 5-6 p.m. Friday
“Why Science Fiction & Fantasy,” in the hotel lobby, 4:30-6 p.m. Saturday

High recommended attendees-only panels include:

“Urban Fantasy” (2:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday)
“Stories that Shouldn’t Be Written” (4-5 p.m. Friday)

I’m scheduled to be on a late-night panel discussion of “Vampire Romances: Jumped the shark?” If you plan to attend, please get all the “teeth” jokes out of your system first.

Do you dare try Browsershots?

One of the reasons I try to get my budget clients to use “canned” templates on their brochure websites is that the templates are generally coded to look good on a variety of browsers. They don’t break, even if the person viewing them is using an old version of Internet Explorer or the latest version of Safari for the Mac.

And I’m astonished by the number of times I’ve been writing content for the site of corporate client and have discovered that their professionally done custom-designed websites break in a standard browser — usually because their designer didn’t bother to test the code.

Browsershots is an online web development tool that lets you submit a web address and get back screenshots that show how your page renders in a variety of browsers and browser versions.

And you don’t need to be a developer to do this — you can use Browsershots to check out your own existing website. But be prepared for the ugly truth. I wasn’t, and was appalled by the way the typefaces on my iWeb-created web pages appeared in some of the Windows browsers. Back to the drawing board…

The 11 deadly sins of web design

“Don’t annoy users,” the Internet Marketing Blog reminds us, and goes on to list 11 frustrating website behaviors.

My vote goes to #2, “Sound or music when the page loads.” For every instance in which I’ve enjoyed unsolicited music on a web page, there are 99 others when I’ve simply clicked away from the offending site.

Nothing on the list would surprise most web users, but apparently it would be news to many expensive web designers — since they keep designing sites that actively drive user traffic away from their customers’ businesses.

Back from vacation

The Writer Way blog enjoyed a vacation but I didn’t; I was busy…writing. And soon I’m going to be busy putting together a presentation for an upcoming Seattle blogging conference. More on that later.

Meanwhile, check out these insights from the Samurai Radiologist on “Jazz and the Art of Medical Presentations.” They apply nicely to non-medical presentations as well.

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