The first annual When Words Collide, a reader con, happened in Calgary last summer. I only blogged about it briefly, but it was a life-changing experience! It really solidified my desire to go back to school, as well as my desire to get involved in the publishing industry in a capacity other than a wanna-be writer, and propelled me in to getting started on launching my freelance copyediting business.
This year I'm in a completely different position; I'm totally self-employed with business cards to hand out, I'm LOVING being a full-time student, and my first major copyediting project has been published. I was really excited for this year's WWC, and it did not disappoint! My friend Brittni, who I went with last year, came down again, and we had a couple of days of adventure before the con started (cheap ribs, Firefly, Shakespeare in the Park...) but Friday noon found us checking in at registration as early as we could.
The very first thing we did (well, after scoping out all the books for sale in the dealer's room!) was go to a 'live action slush' panel. This is kind of like America's Got Talent - the Writer Version. Writers anonymously submit the first page of their novel or short story, a reader reads them out loud, and a panel of editors/publishers judge them. As soon as one of the judges hears something they don't like, they put up a hand, and as soon as the majority have their hands up, the reader stops, and the panel gives feedback about the writing. It's VERY educational. Since I read slush for a local publisher, I'm interested to hear what other people judge it on. The reader for that particular one was Jack Whyte, who could read the stock report and make it sound amazing, which gave those submissions something of an unfair advantage. :)
Next we went to "The Role of the Academic Library in Relation to Genre Fiction" which was about the Gibson Collection held by the University of Calgary, where I'm a student. I'm interested in doing a research project on it, so I talked to the librarian after, and she offered me a tour! I'm really excited about that.
After that we crammed into a tiny hotel suite to hear two editors talk about "Building Enduring Characters: Playing in the Victorian Sandbox". They've edited three anthologies of Sherlock Holmes stories together, and Brittni and I noticed later that they actually reminded us quite a bit of Holmes and Watson in their character and interactions, which was fascinating. Were they drawn to the Holmes genre because of an already existing dynamic, or did the dynamic develop over years of working together? Very interesting! :)
Robert J. Sawyer gave a presentation on "Mastering Point of View", which was great, as pretty much everything he does is. The man is a genius. And he wins ALL THE AWARDS. But by that point I was tired and hungry, so I don't remember much about it! :P There weren't any panels at 5pm that we wanted to go to, so we found a bench and ate our lunch, and then I felt better.
The next panel was on "Humour in Fiction" and I remember laughing tons. It was moderated by a writer who used to do stand up comedy, and it included an archaeologist who writes romances, a fantasy writer, and Dave Duncan, who writes science fiction and fantasy, and who's most recent sci fi work I just copyedited. They told funny stories and talked about funny situations they put characters in, and how you can use humour as a tool to accomplish various things in a story. It was highly entertaining.
Finally there were the keynote addresses by four authors, an editor for a big publishing house, and a local filk writer. One of the authors, Rebecca Moesta, talked about a subject near and dear to my heart, which is how errors manage to make it into published books despite the gauntlet of professionals they go through on the way to print. There were a lot of different people speaking on a lot of different topics, and by the time they were done, I was fading in and out and was ready for bed. But we went home and did a little work so that we would have some things polished for the live action slush panel first thing on Saturday morning....