Sunday, November 1, 2015

Can*Con 2015

I flew out to Ottawa for first time in a decade to take in Can*Con 2015 (The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature) which is Ontario's version of Calgary's When Words Collide. Can*Con had very much the same vibe as WWC, but was considerably smaller and therefore more intimate. I loved every minute of it.

I started the convention off with a bang by presenting Joe Mahoney with a Five Rivers contract for his book, A Time and A Place. That was scary for both of us, because I hadn't actually finished reading the manuscript, and Joe wasn't sure he didn't want to go with one of the big five.... But I liked what I had read so far, and my editorial assistant at Five Rivers, Kathyrn Shalley, had read it all the way through and recommended we buy it, and there is no point in having an editorial assistant if you don't trust her judgement and let her assist you. (And knowing Joe was either the producer or the story editor on the best SF ever to come out of the CBC didn't hurt either!) For Joe's part, he found himself taken aside by a couple of writers in the consuite who told him, 'if you find an editor who 'gets' your writing, take your book there!" Apparently he thought that good advice!

Joe Mahoney signs with Five Rivers

Considering that these days almost every stage of book publishing, including the negotiations over the contract, are conducted via email, it was a unique pleasure to actually meet and sign in person. An actual paper contract, not a scanned PDF....

Joe and I hung for most of Friday and Saturday, joined by various interesting folk. I met so many authors and editors, some of whom I knew virtually, but many of whom were completely new to me. Of course, that was the point of going out: to show the flag for and Five Rivers; and to spy out the lay of the land.... Some very interesting small press publishers out there. I already knew Bundoran, Dragon Moon and Tyche, of course, though this was the first time I've met Dragon Moon's managing editor, Gabrielle Harbowy. But it was a blast meeting Kristin Hirst (and her Dad) from Pop Seagull, for instance. And so many writers...Sorry CZP had to miss due to illness.

I did a couple of panels (How to Pitch Your Novel, and one on the History of Canadian SF with Jean-Louis Trudel and Allan Weiss; I did three rounds of Five Rivers Pitch sessions; a couple of Blue Pencil Cafés and a reading as part of the mini-launch of Playground of Lost Toys (from Exile Editions). Must confess I was a bit intimidated by readings by Kate Story, Claude Lalumiere, and Mellisa Yuan-Innes whose stories were all completely fabulous, and Derek Newman-Stille's introduction....Had to miss David Hartwell's panel on history of Science Fiction; readings by some other authors I really wanted to hear, but there was just something interesting every hour and I couldn't do it all. I did get to a panel with Ed Willett, Ryan MacFadden, Gabrielle Harbowy based on CBC's "Adults read things they wrote as Kids". It was a pretty awesome time — though Ed Willett's voice can make anything sound fabulous...

The con was very well organized. Trains all ran on time. I really liked the design of the Blue Pencil Workshops / Publisher's Pitch sessions which were set up in an area where one volunteer (three cheers for Kerri Elizabeth Gerrow) was able to run all four sessions simultaneously. And registration was not just hyper efficient (e.g., tracking me down to correct the error printed on my panel schedule so I could be where I was supposed to be...), they were also totally enthusiastic — all smiles all the time.

The Sheraton as the venue worked well for me. I heard some grumbling over the cost of the restaurant, the lack of alternative places to eat nearby, but I personally really liked the hotel restaurant. I guess the food was bit pricey, but worth it. I don't mind paying when the quality is there: best steak sandwich in a long time.

Did lots of work for Five Rivers, got a couple of potential customers for, and totally enjoyed myself.

I'll try to get back next year. Highly recommend the Can*Con to any writer/editor/etc out there.

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