Sunday, August 23, 2015

When Words Collide 2015

So apparently I haven't blogged since early January, which is sort of shocking. But when you consider in that time I've graduated from university with a double major, successfully orchestrated a conference, turned CAFE's (the Calgary Association of Freelance Editors) social media into a vibrant internet presence, gotten a summer job, and done a million other things as well, it's not that surprising that SOMEthing had to give, and this blog was it.

Photo by Teresa Rehmann Photography

But now that school is over (for now...), the youth conference is in the past (although I still have a lot of paperwork to sort out), and this past weekend was the fifth annual WWC (When Words Collide) conference here in Calgary, it's time to blog again. I've been going every year since it started, and it's grown to 600 people, which makes me both happy and sad. Happy that it's so popular and such a quality event, but sad that there are so many people! It's an introvert thing. :)

WWC is five this year, and my business is almost there! In my first blog post about the conference, I mention working on starting up my business. How far we've come! In 2012, the second year, I was ambitious enough to do a post each for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 2013 was a good year, and in 2014 I was sick, but still got a lot out of it.

Registration felt more scattered than it usually does. Something had gone wrong with my registration, and I wasn't on the list, even though I'm on the list of members on the website. So I had to fill out some paperwork and they had to make me a name tag, and I kept getting lost in the shuffle because I'm too polite to be pushy. Sigh. #Canadianproblems

My traditional first panel at WWC is the Early Bird Live Action Slush, which is a mixture of genres. I always pick up lots of interesting tips from the panellists. Basically what happens is that writers submit, anonymously, the first page of their manuscript, and a reader reads the page. The panellists put up their hands when they want the reader to stop, and when there are three hands up, the reader stops and the panellists give their feedback about what they liked or didn't. Occasionally the reader will get through the entire submission without being stopped, which is actually happening more frequently as the years go by, so clearly the writers are becoming more practiced at their craft, which is really cool to see.

As our second panel we went to Subtext in Foreshadowing, which was interesting, but even though we were there early, there weren't any seats left, so we had to sit on the floor. I've gotten too old to sit on the floor, and my bum went numb. I managed to make a few notes, though. :) Our third panel was in the same room, so we managed to snag chairs, which helped! The panel was called Crafting Magical Worlds with Extra Credits' Mario Theory. The idea is that the game design logic applied to creating Mario can be applied to creating fantasy worlds in fiction. Really interesting, and based on this video:

At 4pm on Friday there were a few things that were interesting, but I ended up going to a workshop by ZEDS Comic Communication about public speaking and using a microphone. I was moderating a panel on Saturday, and what with applying to grad school and probably needing to teach in the future, public speaking is something I'm becoming more interested in learning about. The session was really good, super useful, and had some tips I did successfully apply to the panel the next day.

Next up we went to a panel on research, which was good - I love research, so I enjoy hearing about it from people who geek out about it as much as I do. At 6pm was the event I'd been waiting for all day - an hour with Diana Gabaldon. Although, really, it was only 50 minutes, and only a fan would be counting. :) She read an excerpt from Outlander book 9, which she's currently writing, and took some questions. So awesome.

Friday evening at 7pm is always the WWC keynote speaker addresses, which I enjoy. I knew Diana would be great, but I didn't know any of the other authors. I was totally taken by Faith Hunter and Brandon Mull. She looks a little scary/intense in her author photo, and I'd seen one of Brandon's book covers, which looked really dark, and it hadn't done anything for me. But the were both so funny and enjoyable, and such great speakers, that's I'll definitely be checking out Brandon's books. I got started on Brandon Sanderson's books that way last year, and I haven't regretted it. I'd check out Faith's, too, but I just can't do urban fantasy. But as Gwen Hunter she writes mysteries, so I'll add those to my list.

Our first panel of the day was actually a panel of one: Brandon Mull. And we were late, because we'd gotten there early to do some book shopping in the vendors' room, and then got talking to people. We got there just as he was talking about this race he'd invented who had a seed in each of their brain stems that allowed them to re-grow after they died, so they were basically immortal. Apparently that really made an impression on me, because that night I dreamed about a whalers hunting whales for their brain seeds, like rhinos are hunted for their horns, or something. It was a very vivid dream - he's a very articulate and creative speaker. He was inspired as a child by Narnia, and as an adult by Harry Potter. I REALLY LIKE HIM.

At 11am my friend went to eco-fiction, which looked interesting, but I really wanted to go to the Editing Tricks panel to get a feel for what writers were asking about editing as research for my CAFE panel later in the afternoon. One of the panellists brought up CAFE, which was really great. But again I had to sit on the floor, so it was hard to see who said it. But it was interesting to sit in as an editor, and I appreciated it. At noon there were a whole bunch of interesting things, but we ended up going to YA and the Tough Stuff, which was interesting, but maybe not very enlightening. I'd love to see some actual young adults on these panels, rather than just 30+ adults who write what they think they YA audience wants/needs. Sigh. I've been frustrated with the YA panels for a couple of years now, so next year I might just skip them.

At 1 we couldn't actually find anything we wanted to go to, so we took a nice, quiet lunch break in one of the seating areas. We were actually having a really intense conversation about YA books and how they portray families when one of the panellists came and sat near us, so my friend asked her about it, and we had a good conversation. That's one of my favourite things about WWC - the unscripted, unplanned things that just happen.

Our next panel was On Writing with Gwen Hunter and David B. Coe, which was really good. I really wish I'd taken notes, but I was distracted by the fact that Diana Gabaldon was sitting at the other end of the row, and the fact that I was getting nervous about moderating my first panel in an hour! They are each good conference guests on their own, but when you put them together, it's magic. I'm really kicking myself for not paying more attention.

At 3pm I was in charge of moderating the Editing Explained panel, and four of my fellow CAFE members. By the time I got there I wasn't nervous anymore, and I think it went REALLY well. It was a lot of fun, and the panellists were great, and so was the audience. There were TWO other editing-related panels at the same time, which was really too bad - it would have been nice to have more people there. Immediately after we hosted writer/editor "speed dating", which was a chance for writers to talk one-on-one for a few minutes, and I met a bunch of interesting people who are excited about writing, which was fun. While I was doing that my friend went to Your 20 Second Opportunity, about honing your elevator pitch, and she said it was really good.

WWC was at a new venue this year. The bathrooms were REALLY nice, and the chairs were the comfiest hotel conference chairs I've ever sat in. There were also lots of seating areas with armchairs and couches. The dash back and forth across the street between buildings, or else up three or four floors, across the walkway, and then down three floors, was a bit much, but at least I got my exercise and it was nice to be forced to get some fresh air. The hotel staff were really friendly, but the service in the Atrium for dinner was SO. SLOW. It took us three hours to have dinner on Saturday, and while the fish was good, the chips were bland, and the dessert was really disappointing. Oh, and it was freezing in the restaurant. They gave us the dessert for free because of the slowness of dinner in arriving, but I wasn't impressed by the gesture or the lacklustre dessert. The conference also keeps moving further away from where I live, meaning that I don't stay as late, which is kind of saddening. But it could also just be that I'm getting old...

We started off Sunday morning going to the historical live action slush panel, which was one of the best slushes I've ever been to. Diana Gabaldon was one of the panellists, and the other three were all good, too. There were lots of great submissions and lots of great feedback. And so much laughter and humour - I really enjoyed it.

At 11am we went to "Science Fiction and the Future", which was interesting, but it was SO HOT in the room, and we were near the middle of a row. There was a guy sitting next to me who really suffered from 'manspreading' to the point where he actually stepped on my foot once. He also elbowed me and crowded me with his shoulders to the point where I was either going to have to leave or have a panic attack. Thankfully the panel ended before I had a total meltdown, and we were able to move to the end of the row for the next panel. It was still hot but at least I wasn't putting up with unwanted physical contact. Even if they'd spaced the chairs a bit further apart, it would have been better. Anyway, the noon panel was on historical license, and it was phenomenal. Great mix of panellists and discussion, and so interesting. I love historical fiction, and so wish I'd taken more notes. Note to self for next year: take more notes!

After that panel my friend left to head home, and I went to 'Murder - Ancient and Contemporary", but I was tired and hungry, and it was going over a lot of the same ground as the panel I'd just been at, so I snuck out and went to eat my lunch. At 2pm was one of my favourites; pus on by a woman who used to work for Scholastic and who now works for Chapters, it's 50 minutes of suggestions about which YA books to check out. Not that I really need to add anything to my reading list - but it's fun. And this year there was a teenage girl who came and made suggestions too, to that was awesome.

At 3pm there were a couple of things I wanted to go to, but I ended up going to the YA live action slush, mostly because Brandon Mull was on the panel. :) There was a wide range of submissions, and some interesting discussion and it was a good choice for where my attention span was at by that point in the weekend.

4pm was the last hour of panels, and there were a bunch of interesting-looking things. I went to the EDGE book launch, but just couldn't focus any more, so I ended up heading home before the conference even finished. I spent Monday seriously introverting. :)

Things for the future:
Next year I'd love to see a presentation about Scrivener. I've heard the name in passing a few times, and I'm under the impression that it's a piece of software that you buy to help structure your book, but I'd like to see someone with a computer and a projector actually showing us what it is and what it can do. I'd also like to see more sessions for readers - I feel like this year was pretty writer-focused, but writers are readers too (or should be), and it would be fun to see some panels on things like what readers think about their favourite books being made into movies or tv shows, and a discussion of how some things HAVE to be changed for the screen (maybe bring in a screenwriter?). Another fun discussion would be classic authors' influence in modern works, like Shakespeare's Star Wars, or the series of cozy mysteries about a Jane Austen scholar. Or even a panel of authors talking about what they like to read for fun, and which authors inspired them when they were kids.

As always, the WWC committee put on a great, affordable, and accessible weekend of learning and networking. I'm already looking forward to next year, and the dates are in my calendar!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Top Movies of 2014

2014 wasn't really a great year for movies, until December came along with more movies than I had time to see!

When I did my 2013 movie post, there were a few I was still hoping to watch; Saving Mr. Banks, August: Osage County, the new Jack Ryan one, Philomena, Frozen, Austenland, Lone Ranger, and Pacific Rim. I did see Saving Mr. Banks (which was very good), Jack Ryan (which was good, but had a lot of unfulfilled potential), and Austenland (which was silly and good for a bit of a giggle - the second book in the series was actually better anyway). For some reason I just don't get around to watching things on DVD - it's not as much of an event as going to the theatre, I suppose.

This year I only managed to get to 10 movies in-theater, and a special mention goes to Belle, which came out in 2013, but I didn't get to see it until 2014. It's a beautiful movie - very British, with a fabulous cast and a moving story.

Another special mention goes to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, which I didn't get to see in 2014, but which I liked more than book. I'm really looking forward to Part 2!

My least favourite movie of 2014 was one I thankfully took out of the library rather than paying to see it in the theatre - A Million Ways to Die in the West, despite its star-studded cast, is terrifically terrible. Crude, gross, and full of plot holes, it was a total train wreck. If anyone asks you to watch it with them, run away run away!

So, for the 9 movies I did see in theatre in their proper release year:

9. How to Train Your Dragon 2
This deserves its spot at the bottom of the list. I felt totally and utterly betrayed by this movie. It's up (or down?) there with Bambi and The Lion King, but the betrayal was compounded by how much I was enjoying the whimsy of the animation and the excitement of a family reunited. At least in The Lion King the dad died right away so you didn't have time to get attached...this was a TERRIBLE movie.

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
I really enjoyed this for the most part - it was fun and whimsical. I just couldn't get over how little the adult Zero looked like the adolescent Zero. It's probably the kind of movie you have to be in just the right sense of humor to enjoy, so I cautiously recommend it - but only if you enjoy absurdity and farce.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy
GotG is a fun movie - lots of laughs. I've seen it twice now, and while I do like it, I don't see what all the fuss is about. The character development is really weak, and I had to see it the second time to really figure out the politics of the thing. The soundtrack is great though!

6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
I was a wee bit disappointed with this last Hobbit movie - I shouldn't have been surprised that with a title like Battle of the Five Armies it was basically one giant battle scene, but I was. I don't enjoy battles, so I felt a bit numb from all the senseless killing by the time the movie was done, although I did have the urge to throttle Thorin myself. Bard and Bilbo get the best bits of the movie, and I enjoyed them. I was SUPER disappointed by the way Tauriel's character ended up - if you're going to totally create a new character - a woman who's supposed to kick butt - HAVE HER KICK SOME BUTT, not sit there in tears while someone else does all the work. Argh. In the end, I do wish Jackson had done it in just two movies, rather than three. The third one is lacking the charm of the first two, although I realize all of the deaths that shook me were written in by Tolkien. Sigh.

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
This movie confused me, and I think it's because I'm not familiar with the abilities of a lot of the secondary characters who were popped in rather than developed. I really enjoyed having all of the actors in the one movie, although the level of violence, particularly that which Magneto inflicted on Mystique, and that which was inflicted on Wolverine (although it was nothing new for him, I suppose) left me a bit cold. There were some really fun scenes and interactions, but First Class remains my favourite of the X-Men reboot.

4. The Monuments Men
This is really charming, underrated, gentler kind of war movie that inspired my history research paper for the semester. It only brushes the surface of the work the real Monuments Men did, but it tells a super important story, and I highly recommend it.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is a great movie. So, so good. I love the friendship of equals, without any sexual tension, that Steve and Natasha develop. It's my favourite friendship in the Avengers universe, I think. It's just a really good, solid, entertaining movie about relationships and saving the world.

2. Penguins of Madagascar
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. It was everything I hoped for from the penguins, and I ADORED every second of it. I laughed, I cried. It's lovely, silly, and is also about friendship. It's a gem in a violent movie world. It was going to be my top movie of 2014, until I saw The Imitation Game...

1. The Imitation Game
This movie blew my socks off. I was going to get around to seeing it at some point, mostly for the cast...and then I scored free passes to a special screening, so that bumped it up the priority list. It's a brilliant movie. Well-acted, historically accurate, and so, so funny. Even knowing how tragically Alan Turing's story ended, it was still funny. After the screening I listened to the movie's PR person asking people what they thought of the movie, and so many people said they'd never heard of Enigma and Bletchley and Turing, which made me sad, but I'm very glad that the movie, like The Monuments Men, is shedding light on a little-known and important historical event. The Military Museums here in Calgary actually has an Enigma machine in their collection, which is awesome. I definitely recommend it. I know a bunch of people who've seen it, and I've only heard good things about it. If you only watch one movie this year, make it The Imitation Game.

Tomorrow I'm going to see Into the Woods - when I was a kid, I loved the Broadway version with Bernadette Peters as the witch, so I'm looking forward to it. And I still want to see Night at the Museum 3 - the first two highly entertained me, and this one's set in my beloved London - so seeing it before I get sucked into the new semester of school is a priority. Paddington and Kingsman both look excellent - I have passes to a screening of Kingsman later this week. I also want to see The Judge, which came out at a very inconvenient point in the school year!

In 2015 I'm looking forward to the new Star Wars, the final instalment of The Hunger Games, Tomorrowland, the new Avengers, and Mortdecai, although I'm sure there will be others as well...I really do enjoy movies - can you tell? :) Maybe in addition to the degrees in English and history I should go for one in film studies as well! :P

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Post-Colonial Cookies

Today I had the privilege of being a part of the best group presentation I've ever been associated with, and I don't say that lightly. I'm taking a post-colonial lit class that has a focus on India, and the text our group is working on throughout the semester is called Early Christians of 21st Century, by Anto Akkara, an Indian journalist. We polled 40 people as part of our project, and only one of them had heard of the situation reported in the book, so don't be surprised if you're unfamiliar with it.

The book is an account of the vicious persecution of a religious minority in a remote part of India, and we're focusing on a section that recounts the gang-rape of a young Hindu girl, by Hindu extremists, because her uncle is a Christian and will not convert to Hinduism. It's very disturbing; you can read a brief news article on the situation here, in the Guardian.

In our presentation we used several tactics to engage our fellow students in our literary activism. We created a 10-minute mini-documentary in which we discuss the situation with other students who agreed to be interviewed. Our documentary isn't available for public viewing, but we also used this video of photos of Kandhamal as a background visual while we introduced our project to the class, and the images are stunning, although I do suggest muting the music that plays in the background. :) We asked the interviewees questions about journalistic objectivity, religious persecution, what kind of challenges might a child face in a situation like this, and what, if anything, Canadians/students could do to help subaltnerized groups in other places.

We have a Twitter account, where we use the hashtag #491voices, and where we've engaged with other students, as well as Akkara, the author of our text. As our project focuses on a voiceless group, the subaltern children, using Twitter as a 'voice' seemed very appropriate. We also created a brochure for our classmates to take away with them, so that they can research the topic further if they so choose.

Our project isn't over yet - we still have to collaborate on writing a paper, but the presentation was the more stressful part! Now that we've spent so much time talking and thinking about the issues surrounding our text, I feel like I could just sit down and start writing. Hopefully I didn't just use up all my inspiration on this blog post... :)

And, last but not least, we provided a bit of fusion comfort food to go along with this heavy topic. I had a couple of requests for the recipe, so I thought I'd post it here. Nan Khatai seems to be a recipe that varies depending on who's making it; I used nutmeg, vanilla, and almonds in ours, but I also saw versions with cardamom and pistachios instead.

Nan Khatai or “Indian Shortbread”
Makes 20-25 cookies
Preheat oven to 325º

2 cups flour
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp baking soda
4 tblsp finely chopped almonds

1 cup melted butter
1 cup icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Almonds for garnishing


With a fork or whisk mix flour, nutmeg, baking soda, and almonds in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate, deep bowl mix melted butter and icing sugar together and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes. Add vanilla and stir.

Slowly add wet ingredients to dry, mixing constantly, then add milk by tablespoons until the dough is of a shortbread consistency. *

Cover dough and let stand for half an hour.

Shape tablespoons of dough into round, flat cookies and garnish with an almond.

Bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are just golden.

The flavour seems to improve over several days, if they last that long!

* In dry, high-altitude Calgary I added about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of milk
Inspired by:

Thursday, September 04, 2014

When Words Collide 2014

I first went to When Words Collide in 2011, which was its first year, and I've gone every year since then. In 2012 I was inspired enough to blog each day: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Last year I covered the whole weekend in just one post, and I think that's what I'll do again this year. Every year I come home with notes and handouts and a dog-eared program, and add a whole bunch of books to my to-read list. It's so much fun! If you're an editor or writer in Alberta, I definitely recommend checking it out in 2015.

Unfortunately this year I had a cold. The event's official photographer got this shot of me late on Friday night, and yes, I am as tired as I look, although I wasn't actually asleep...

Friday, 1 pm: Early Bird Live Action Slush
Live Action Slushes are usually my favourite panels of the weekend. It's a chance to hear from publishers/editors about what they're looking for (or NOT looking for...) in a manuscript, which helps me when I'm editing for clients who are going to be submitting their manuscript to publishers. "Watch for wandering body parts" was a great piece of advice from this panel, in reference to a character's "eyes roaming over the deserted city", or something to that effect. The quality of manuscripts submitted seems to get better every year, and I think this year had a new record for number of submissions that were read to the end.
I think it would be useful if the organizers posted the rules on the website and on the door of the room so that first-timers would know important things like, only submit one page. Someone submitted two pages, but they weren't stapled together, so the second page ended up being read rather than the first, and everyone was very confused. Also, a manuscript that was criticized in one slush session was re-submitted, un-changed, to another session which had one of the same judges on the panel, and he was not amused (neither was I - at least make the suggested changes first!). Posting some FAQs about slush etiquette would help eliminate that kind of situation in the future.
Friday, 2 pm: Writing a Good Pitch/Query Letter
I doubt I'll need to write a pitch or query myself, but I might be retained to edit one, and this was a solid panel with lots of good discussion. It wasn't long enough for all the questions people had though, so this would be a good panel to offer again next year. It would have been really helpful to have a handout for this one, or a list of online resources for good templates and that sort of thing.
Friday, 3 pm: Social Dimension of Reading
I actually can't recall this one at all. I saw several of the people on this panel on other ones during the weekend, and they're all blurring together a bit...ooops!
Friday, 4 pm: I had a change of plans
I started out in one session that just was not doing it for me, so I moved to Shawn Bird's session on plot models, which was a good choice. It was a really interesting look at the structure of story, and gave me some ideas of things to watch for in my clients' writing. She had handouts and slides on the screen, which was really great.
Friday, 5 pm: Short Stories
Lots of interesting tidbits of information from this session about characteristics of a short story as opposed to a novel.
Friday, 6 pm: Criminal Heroes
In hindsight I probably should have gone to 'Ask an Editor', because while the panel had a good mix of panellists and discussions, it was very similar to a panel from last year and I didn't really pick up anything new.
Friday, 7 pm: Kill the Parents
This was a panel about parents in YA fiction, and it was totally slanted toward those who thought that parents need to be removed from the equation, either by death or other absence, in order to allow the teen to overcome obstacles on his or her own. None of them thought that parents could be anything other than an hindrance to personal development, and when I suggested otherwise, it was suggested that if that's what I wanted to read, that's what I should write. Sigh. There have got to be good, supportive, understanding parents out there, both in real life and fiction, right?!
Friday, 8 pm: Keynote Speakers
The keynotes actually started at 7, so I came in late, which is one of the reasons I ended up sitting on the floor. I didn't see any empty end chairs, and I didn't want to disturb people to get into a middle seat. Plus, being hemmed in by people makes me feel claustrophobic.
ANYway, I got there in time to hear Brandon Sanderson, who I didn't know at all except in an abstract way as one of those writers of epic fantasy that I don't really enjoy. I quite liked his style, so I am going to give his writing a chance, if I can find something that's not too epic. :)
But my highlight was Jack Whyte, as it usually is. I'd seriously listen to him talk about anything. What a voice!
Friday, 9 pm: Laughing at Love
This was about using humour in storytelling, and they started it off by playing my favourite Moxy Früvous song:

I did take a few good notes at the panel, which still make sense even almost a month later, so it was definitely worthwhile staying for, but by that point I was so tired I was getting worried about driving home, so I snuck out early and didn't even bother with the parties, which was unfortunate, because they're the best chance for networking.  

Sorry RJS, I'll try not to be sick next year! :( I found out later the steampunk social had a solve-the-murder-mystery theme going on, so I was really sorry to miss that. Hopefully they do it again! I heard that there were also problems on both nights with hotel security expecting the late night parties to be over by 11 pm, which is silly. Next year we're going to be a different, bigger hotel, and I have high hopes for the parties there!
Saturday, 10 am:  Blending SF and Fantasy
I only made one note from this panel: "When blending genres always be consistent with the rules of the universe." :)
Saturday, 11 am: Editing Explained
This panel featured editors from the Calgary Association of Freelance Editors (CAFE), which I'm a member of, so I went along both to be supportive and to hear what kinds of questions the audience had about editing. People had lots of questions about the editing process and various editing roles. One person was confused about editors who edit versus acquisitions editors who work for publishing houses and decide what manuscripts to acquire for publishing, so it's a good thing they did the panel. Hopefully they'll do something similar again next year.
Saturday, noon: Live Action Slush: Science Fiction Edition
I think this was the one where the one that had been criticized on Friday turned up again. Also, I think this was the panel where one of the editors was talking about the difficulty in writing believable dialogue, and for an example he used Star Wars Episode One, and I quote loosely; "That dialogue was so wooden I think I got splinters", which really spoke to me.
Not only that, at I think two of the slush sessions I went to - scifi and historical, and maybe a third one, but I can't remember for sure - a manuscript riffing off the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air introduction showed up. In the scifi version, there were robots, and in the historical version it was all old-fashioned language. It was highly amusing, and probably only someone who went to as many slushes as I did would have noticed. Although there was one panel, maybe the scifi one, where the reader was reading it out loud, and as soon as people realized it was Fresh Prince, they were laughing so hard the reader just stopped and went on with the next one. Kudos to whoever went to all that trouble for what I presume was meant to be a very amusing prank.
Saturday, 1 pm: Teaching Canadian Fiction
This was an interesting panel composed of education professionals who are also writers and editors. It didn't end up being anything particularly applicable to me, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Saturday, 2 pm: New in YA Fiction
This session was put on by a lady who's a manager at a Chapters, and she did a great job of drawing out a list of solid, current YA fiction that goes beyond vampires. I added a lot of books to my to read list! It would have been helpful to have a handout though, because I was trying to type everything into my iPod, and when I'm getting audio input only it's hard to tell the difference between 'night' and 'knight', for instance. It took most of Monday to translate the list into something that Goodreads would recognize. :)
Saturday, 3 pm: Live Action Slush, Historical Edition
This one was my favourite, because Jack Whyte was the reader. 'Nuff said.
Saturday, 4 pm: Plotting Your Novel
I had a hard time with this one. It just wasn't doing anything for me, and I was SO TIRED. I ended up sneaking out early and waiting in the lobby for my husband to come have dinner with me. In hindsight, I should have gone to Jack Whyte's session on writing action scenes - I don't know what I was thinking. I suppose my thought process was dulled by the cold medication...
Saturday evening:
The Saturday evening schedule was weird. Sessions all ended at 5, and then at 5:30 there was a banquet for those who wanted to pay for the expensive tickets for it. At 6:30 there was a variety show that went till 7:30, but there were more regular sessions starting at 7. So basically I kicked my heels around the hotel from 4:30 to 7. Then there was an autograph session from 8-9, and then the parties didn't start till 9. So if I had wanted to stay for the parties, I would have had to kick my heels some more from 8 till 9. It was very strange - I'm not sure why they laid it out like that - it would seem to make more sense to just not have panels that evening at all. I guess if Diana Gabaldon had actually come and not cancelled because of the tv show, I would have been hunting her autograph and filled in that hour, but as it was, I went home to bed after the 7:00 panel finished...
Saturday, 7 pm: Gripping [sic] About Grammar
This was a really fun panel. The room was way too crowded - they should have gotten a bigger one, and it was no where near long enough for all of the questions. I think next year they should have a few sessions dedicated to different grammar issues.  The highlight of the panel was a panelist and an audience member getting into a (mostly friendly) shouting match over whether or not the Oxford comma is necessary or not. I think it is, by the way. I'm not sure if it was worth waiting two and a half hours for though, since I didn't learn anything. But I did laugh an awful lot though, so that's something!
Sunday morning:
I skipped the first two sessions - I would have gone to the publishers' panel on novels at 10, and the one about the use of poisons in mysteries at 11 - but I wanted to go to church. Pastor preached a great sermon about faith and fantasy, which, other than the Bible, featured a lot of Doctor Who references. If you've got 20 minutes, it's definitely worth watching.  
Sunday, noon: Murder Most Fair
This panel was ok - there were definitely too many people on it for everyone to get a good chance to talk. But I did discover a great series of cozy mysteries set in Nova Scotia, so it was totally worth going to the panel just for that.
Sunday, 1 pm: Publishers' Panel on Short Fiction
Again, should have gone with the historical fiction one that Jack Whyte was on... The publishers' one was fine, but there were a lot of people on it, and it was kind of all over the place topic-wise, so I didn't really get a ton out of it, although I did take a few notes. I even tried asking a question to get it back on topic, and that totally didn't work. Although by that point in the weekend, everyone is so tired that maybe expecting everything and everyone to be totally sensible is honestly an unreasonable expectation. :)
Sunday, 2 pm:
There wasn't really anything during this time slot that caught my attention, and I was pretty tired. I popped into one about gender perspectives in mystery novels, but...meh. I ended up buying a couple of books in the vendors' room and then just hanging out till 3. It was the only slot where I couldn't find anything I wanted to go to, and ironically, in the next slot at 3 there were THREE things I wanted to go to!
Sunday, 3 pm: Live Action Slush, Mystery Edition
I don't remember anything particular about this one, although I feel like there weren't many submissions for it. Hopefully with WWC's increasing content for mysteries and mystery writers, more people will submit next year.
Sunday, 4 pm: How to Build a Consistent and Original Magic System
I was even more impressed by Brandon Sanderson after this. He's only five years older than me, and he's got massive writing credits as well as a large family, and he's a great speaker. I took a pile of notes at this one, and kind of wished I'd done one of the pre-weekend classes with him. It was a good session to end the weekend with.
General comments about panels:
Six people on a panel is WAY too many. Five people is a lot, but manageable with a good moderator. Four seems to be about the right number. Also, it's obvious when a moderator/panel guest has come prepared...or not. I know they're all volunteers, but audience members can tell when you're there because you care about the topic and have things to share that go beyond just the scope of your own books. Like the general social media rule, no more than 10% of your content should be flogging your own product.
When you have a panel of 4 or 5 well-prepared guests/moderator, it's a wonderful thing.  
Speaking of volunteers, everyone, except for two or three keynote author guests, is a volunteer, which is why the conference is so affordable. As I do a lot of conference planning, I thoroughly appreciate the smoothness with which WWC runs. I'm sure there are snags in the background that most of the attendees never notice, and there are always things that could be done differently, but all-in-all the volunteers who put this on do an amazing, amazing job of it.
Something interesting and unexpected that came out of the weekend is that I'm now the Social Media Project Leader for CAFE. I spent some time visiting with the president of CAFE, and after hearing of my love for Twitter, she asked if I would take that on. I've started out by taking an online course in social media through the library, and I'm developing a social media strategy and thinking of interesting things to do. I can always use more volunteer positions on my CV, right? :) You can find us on Twitter - we're @CalgaryEditors.
I'm looking forward to next year! Registration is already 5% full, which is a good sign... Check out the guest list, and if you're going to attend, register before the rates go up on April 1. It'll be the last year I'm eligible for the student rate, which is bittersweet. I'll be graduating in June, which means I'll be looking for more editing work in the spring, if you know of anyone looking for a nit-picky copyeditor...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hell on Wheels Twitter Roundup

It's been a busy summer for the Hell on Wheels cast and crew! They're currently filming season 4 around Calgary, and I've JUST started watched season 3. It took forever for the library to stock it, then I had to get in the queue. It started off a bit slow, but it's picking up the pace by episode 4. My favourite thing about it is the Alberta scenery, I think. And Eva is my favourite character. It's fun to keep an eye on Twitter and see what they're up to, even if there are minor spoilers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Washington State 2014

For our holiday in 2012, we went to Seattle, and this year we decided to visit some other places in Washington, based totally on where KOAs are located. First up was Lynden, which has what's probably the most beautiful campground I've ever been to. The campsites are in a ring around a large pond, which makes it feel more open and spread out. The people of Lynden are some of the friendliest I've ever seen - if you go into a store, EVERYONE wants to help you, and you don't have to play 'hunt for an employee' the way you do in Calgary!

The best thing is that Lynden is only 30 minutes from the coast, a little community called Birch Bay, which has lots of public beach access as well as a state park. We got delicious sandwiches from the Lynden bakery, and spent a day at Birch Bay. It's really beautiful - it reminds me so much of my favourite beach, Rathtrevor Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. The view from Birch Bay, on a clear day, is of BC's Gulf Islands, that's how close it is to Canada.

Birch Bay at low tide

Birch Bay with the tide in

At Birch Bay

Birch Bay State Park

After a couple of nights in Lyden, we headed south, hitting our favourite outlet mall, Seattle Premium Outlets, on the way. I love it because you walk around outdoors, in shady breezeways, so I don't get a headache from florescent lights the way I do in regular malls. And I scored a pair of TARDIS earrings from Hot Topic, which was very exciting. We also took a slight detour for Krispy Kreme.

On the Kingston-Edmonds ferry from just north of Seattle over to the Olympic Peninsula

Taking the Kingston-Edmonds ferry cuts out having to drive all the way south of Seattle to connect to the Olympic Peninsula. It was only a 20-minute crossing, and unlike BC Ferries, it wasn't expensive at all, and saved on a lot of gas.

There's a KOA located half-way between Port Angeles and Sequim. It's under new management, and you can tell the old management was letting it get run down, but the new owners are working on fixing it up. First they assigned us a TERRIBLE site, but they were great about letting us move to a less-trafficked area of the campground. Putting a tent on a tiny site at the convergence of three roads, right beside the main office/bathrooms is not a quiet way to spend the better part of the week...but the second site was big, green, and most importantly, quiet.

Now I had, rather naively, as it turns out, thought that we would be surrounded by beaches, seeing as how we were surrounded by ocean, and based on how many beaches there had been around Seattle. That turned out to not be the case, and we spent three days pursing my dream of sitting quietly on a beach, reading.

Dungeness Spit, near Sequim, Washington

I had seen that Dungeness Spit was a long peninsula sticking out into the ocean, and that there was a wildlife sanctuary there, so we headed there after church on the Sunday, our first full day there. Alas, you had to pay a fee to hike what was an approximately 9K trail each way, with no beach. As you can see from the photo above, the Spit has sheer cliffs. So, no beach there, although very beautiful scenery. I ended up just reading at the campground that day.

I was also surprised by how small Port Angeles is. Since there's a large ferry that goes to and from Victoria, I was expecting to find a city of a similar size. Alas, PA doesn't even have a Target. So we did the historical walking tour. PA has a history similar to Seattle's in that they had to raise the city because of issues with tides and sewage. They don't have as extensive an underground as Seattle, but there were some bits of it in the tour. The guide was really great and knowledgeable. The other two couples on the same tour, all older Americans, were slightly entertaining. The couple from Jersey had never heard of Alberta ("Oh, it's in Canada! That's why I've never heard of it!") and the couple who had been to Banff exclaimed not over our pristine mountain scenery...but over the cleanliness of the public bathrooms.

Mural in downtown Port Angeles, a stop on the walking tour

This very cool mural is of a ferry called the Kalakala, built in the 1930s. The artist is Cory Ench, and he did several murals around PA. The mural has an optical illusion that makes it looks like the ferry is moving as you cross the parking lot, and it looks like an airship, so it was worth the stop.

The underground bits of the tour were interesting, including a massive two-walled mural in what used to be an underground mini golf, but there was no way I could get a decent shot of it. There's one wall here and one wall here, though. The tour wound up in what's now a shoe store, but used to be a brothel, and we got to go upstairs and check out all the vintage detritus lurking in the dusty corners. That was my favourite part. I love Old Stuff. :) This lady's got some really good photos on her blog, including of the old theatre which we didn't get to see because it's closed on Mondays.

Port Angeles' octopus

Port Angeles' real live octopus at the Feiro Marine Life Center

PA has a little aquarium called the Feiro, much smaller than Seattle's, but it had some interesting critters.

Nudibranchs, otherwise known as sea slugs, at the Feiro Marine Life Center

I've been fascinated by nudibranchs ever since National Geographic did a special on them a few years back, and I've never seen any in real life before. They're also known as sea slugs, for obvious reasons.

On Ediz Hook by Port Angeles

PA has a long spit you can drive out on, and at the very end there's a coast guard station. Unfortunately, it was far too open and windy to sit and read, but we did see an Osprey landing and taking off from the station. It's a very cool aircraft, because it can land and take off like a helicopter, but then once it's in the air it can re-position the propellers and fly like a plane.

An Osprey taking off from the Port Angeles coast guard station

On the Tuesday, we went into the national park to hike one of the trails from Crescent Lake. We chose the Marymere Falls trail, and it was beautiful. 

Marymere Falls

Then we were off to a beach - or so we thought. I had read about Salt Creek Recreation Area, which in addition to being on the waterfront, had some old military bunkers and a campground. I just assumed there was a beach there, but there wasn't, just more cliffs.

View from former Camp Hayden

We did drive by a beautiful long crescent-shaped white sand beach - but it was privately owned by an RV park and only guests could use it! I don't think you can own beaches in Canada? I was pretty disappointed! Not to mention the fact that our Garmin seems to have a thing for the scenic route rather than the straightforward one, so by this point it was getting late in the afternoon.

Finally we ended up at this boat launch, which had a tiny strip of beach on either side of it. It had some good beach combing, and later on we saw otters.

Otters at Freshwater Bay boat launch

On Wednesday, our final full day in the PA area, I finally found my favourite place in Washington. It's called Port Townsend, and it's by Fort Worden State Park. It was about an hour from where we were camping, so it was a trek for just a day, but oh my...

The mini castle at Fort Worden

The main feature of Fort Worden, beside the beach, is Artillery Hill, which is mazed with hiking trials that loop around the old artillery placements. There are also several small museums, and did I mention the beach? They have a campground, and many of the old homes and military dorms are now available as vacation rentals. We didn't even have time to get to the museums, or explore charming and historic downtown Port Townsend. Sign me up for a return trip!!!

Military decay at Fort Worden

Deer crossing

At the top of Artillery Hill

Mount Baker from the top of Fort Worden's Artillery Hill

The beach is everything a beach should be. Long and white, with great views, and lots of nice clean bathrooms. We had to pay $10 for parking, but I was totally ok with that.

Fort Worden State Park beach

At Fort Worden beach, you can see Mount Baker to the left...
...and Mount Rainier to the right!

We grabbed some lunch at the Chinese restaurant in Port Townsend, which is just so charming. In fact, the town and the state park remind me irresistably of a much smaller, more American version of Halifax and its Citadel Hill, which might be one of the reasons I feel so drawn to it.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

And that was the end of our adventures in Washington. Thursday morning we packed up and caught the Coho to Victoria. I lived in Victoria for years, and I was born on the island, so it was a nice feeling of going sort of home.

On the Coho, heading back to Canada

Eating Ivar's clam chowder on the Coho

Ivar's is a really excellent Seattle-area chain of fast seafood, which I highly recommend...

We won't be going back to the States next summer, but hopefully in 2016 I will get to spend more time in Port Townsend/Fort Worden!

That wasn't the end of my summer adventures though - last weekend I went to a local reader con, and this week I'm off to visit my family in NS, so hopefully there will be more adventures coming here soon!