Saturday, August 16, 2014

When Words Collide Festival, 2014

Once again, I really enjoyed When Words Collide writers/readers convention. I always love the convention itself, but this year I also took in the pre-conference workshops. The first day-long workshop was presented by Adrienne Kerr (Senior Editor at Penguin Canada) followed the next day by two half-day workshops by Mark Leslie Lefebvre (Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo). Both sets of workshops were insider looks at the publishing industry. What I absolutely could not believe was that the workshops were only $40 a day, for speakers that could easily command ten times that much. Randy McCharles and the WWC Board are committed to keeping things affordable for writers, so only charged enough to cover the costs of the conference space for the workshops and the hotel expenses for the speakers; both speakers donated their workshops for free. Hats off to everyone concerned!

At a break in Adrienne Kerr's (Senior Acquisition Editor, Commercial Fiction, Penguin Canada) day-long workshop at When Words Collide Festival, Calgary, Aug, 2014. L to R: Ron Freidman, Calgary SF author; Connie Penner, Lethbridge author who recently signed with Five Rivers; editor and author Elizabeth McLachlan; Robert Runté; Five Rivers author Susan Forest; Canadian SF author Robert Sawyer; and WWC convention chair, Randy McCharles.

The actual convention was similarly affordable and wonderful. I was on a bunch of panels, ran a blue pencil workshop, a Five Rivers pitch session (the convention is one of the few places we look at submissions outside our Feb reading period), was one of four judges for the Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest; and Five Rivers held a seven-book launch Sunday afternoon. So a full working weekend for me, but a very rewarding one.

One sign of how productive WWC has been for me over the years is that one of the books launched at the Five Rivers launch session this year was "My Life as a Troll", first pitched to me at the very first WWC.

I also enjoyed the keynote speakers and their various presentations. Most impressive was Brandon Sanderson. I frankly had no idea who he was prior to WWC, but I sat with him on the first panel of the convention and I thought, "Hey, this guy is really good! I'm going to have to look up this guy's books." Well, he just seemed like a regular guy; if anything, a bit nicer than usual, the sort of guy you'd really like as a neighbour. No pretensions at all. And then I heard him talk, and well, he'd be a totally awesome neighbour. Am definitely going to have to pay more attention to his books, if his public speaking is any indication of his talent.

I also had opportunity to hang with some of the Five River authors, author/editor friends from across the West, and so on. What makes WWC better than most other similar conventions is the cross-genre nature of the programming. I met so many other interesting writers, including for example, Sarah Kades, a romance writer who I would never have encountered in my normal work week since Romance is one of the genres neither Five Rivers nor I take on. What a positive, upbeat person: she actually convinced me to take a copy of her novel. And similarly, I connected with a bunch of mystery writers (great for Five Rivers new mystery line) and a couple of CanLit people...just marvelous networking opportunities at every turn.

I've already registered for next year, though the dates may conflict with a family obligation that would take priority. Well, the $45 advance membership is worth the risk because the convention sold out well ahead this year, and is likely to again next year in spite of its again moving to a larger venue. I will certainly go if I have any opportunity to do so.

Next up: I'm planning on going to V-Con (Vancouver) in October, the gods willing.

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