Saturday, August 18, 2012

When Words Collide 2012 - Saturday

Me at WWC. Photo courtesy of Brittni Carey.

It's hard to believe that at this time last week I was hanging out with a bunch of people in a hot and crowded hotel bathroom, on the edge of a very large jacuzzi filled with ice and booze.

(Please note: I did not start this post with a reference to waking up, or to the weather.)

Saturday of WWC got off with a bang. At least for Brittni and me...the first panel we went to was a live action slush, where we both submitted pages to be read. We got there early, so I was second in the pile, and she was third. We'd stayed up late polishing and crafting, and I'd taken the previous day's slush criticisms to heart, and made my sample as short and punchy as possible. No wasted words - just action and pathos. It was a series of three vignettes showing action on three different planets in my invented galaxy, and I'm quite attached to them, which is risky when entering a live action slush. The panel was anxious to move along quickly (and every second the reader was reading my writing felt like years, and my heart was pounding so hard I thought everyone in the room could hear it!), so they only got part-way through the second one, but I got good comments about the atmosphere and setting. However, one of the publishers said that there was just a bit too much action and not enough development, which I found very ironic!

Brittni's page was next up, and not a single person on the panel stopped the reader, and then the reader ran out of words to read. And then...the panel agreed that it was excellent and that they wanted to meet the writer after the session. Which is pretty much the reader con equivalent of winning a jackpot in Vegas...every aspiring author dreams of being plucked out of obscurity by some chance of catching a publisher's undivided attention. She went up to talk to them after, and Big Publishing House Editor wants to see the rest of her now she has to finish it! This doesn't necessarily mean they'll publish it, but it gives her a leg up over the rest of the people in the slush pile. It's INCREDIBLY exciting. I think she was a bit in shock...and I was flailing a bit with excitement. We weren't really sure what to do next, so we just stayed where we were for the next panel in the same room.

It was on conflict and tension, and how to use it to move along plot and develop characters. After all the excitement of the slush panel though, it was a bit of a blur. I also slipped out at one point, when one of the authors talked about all of the nasty letters he got when, in a murder mystery series, he killed off a couple of pet dogs, and people got more worked up about that then the murders of people, and went to meet Kevin J. Anderson and get my copy of Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina signed. I also got it signed by Rebecca Moesta, since she has a story in it. That was fun - Anderson's Jedi trilogy were one of my early and defining Star Wars moments, and his writing/characters have had a HUGE influence on the extended universe. They weren't busy so I was able to chat for a minute while they signed, but my highly conscientious student brain felt like I was skipping class. :)

Next up was the Psychology of Criminals and Villains, which was a bit disappointing. For one, the room was so full we had to sit on the floor at the back, which was a nice change from sitting on uncomfortable chairs, but we couldn't see the people on the panel, so it felt a bit disconnected. Also, all of the great literary villains out there, and they mostly talked about current tv show criminals, which I'm not up on, so I didn't get much out of it, except to note that generally the most interesting bad guys are the ones who actually think what they're doing is right.

Murder and Mayhem Canadian Style was was a lot of discussion on what makes a novel 'Canadian' - is it the setting, or the writer living in Canada? I think it's mostly something undefinable, but the topic seems to get a lot of mileage.

100 Years of Planetary Romance was a panel with Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta where they talked about the 'boy-meets-planet' trope of the genre. It was smaller and a bit more intimate than some of the others, which was fun.

I swear, in every class, at every con...there's that ONE person who doesn't seem to know where the line is between asking a question of the prof or panelist and getting on one's soap box. Drives me nuts...this next panel was on pitch and query - a pitch is where you verbally tell an editor or publisher about your work, and a query is a written submission summarizing your work (although I had to ask someone for that clarification later in the day, since that wasn't actually explained at the panel!). Mostly it was about the do's and don'ts of writing a query - basically, use your common sense, and check the publisher's submission guidelines. So near the end of this panel, 'know-it-all-grumpy-middle-aged-man' rambles on about something, gets up, literally chucks his business card at each member of the panel like he's throwing frisbees, and then goes and stands beside the door for the last five or ten minutes of the session. Weird, hey? Good way to get your card noticed - bad way to actually get a contact!

The last panel we went to on Saturday afternoon was Kevin J. Anderson's popcorn theory of success, which is basically to not pop one kernel at a time, but put a whole bunch out in the pot at once and eventually, odds are, something will start popping and the whole batch will take off. He talked about how he was writing something like six projects all at once back when his writing career first took off, and now he has 115 published novels, and 50 of those were best-sellers. Can't argue with those kind of numbers!

Finally we  had a break for supper, so we went to Boston Pizza with Trevor, and it was nice to have some downtime and sit on something other than an uncomfortable hotel chair! Then we headed back for the Aurora Award ceremony - Canadian science fiction awards. The chair of the conference won an award for the con, and the publisher I do some slush reading for had an author of a short story in one of his anthologies win an award. Robert J. Sawyer won the big one for his most recent novel, which was sort of a given, because that man WINS ALL THE AWARDS! :)

Then we went to a panel called 'Im A Writier', the title of which physically made me twitch when I first read it on the schedule. It took me a minute to realize that it was a deliberate typo. Whew... The topic was essentially how to get kids interested in reading and good grammar without scaring them off because of all of the 'rules'. There were a wide range of opinions and backgrounds on the panel, so it was really interesting.

The last panel of the night for us was Wilderness Survival for Writers, hosted by two sisters. They're both writers - one fiction and one non-fiction, and the one who writes non-fiction is also a very experienced outdoors-woman, including being a park ranger and mountain hiker and survivalist. Unfortunately it was after 9 pm by this point, after a very long and packed day, so I did drift in and out, but she had some fascinating stories.

Then it was party time. We were only going to go for a little bit, but I think it was 1 am before we finally got home... :)

Anything worth doing is worth doing again. Support alternate history.
Photo courtesy of Brittni Carey.

First we went to the EDGE Publishing party, since that's where we have the most connections. They had a suite on the top floor of the hotel, and it was packed. We went in to the bathroom for the 'bar' and ended up staying in there for ages, talking to all kinds of interesting people. I had a panicked moment when I realized I'd lost all of my business cards, but thankfully they were just sitting on the chair where I'd been earlier...whew! After a while there we went to the Calgary Steampunk Assemblage party down the hall, where they offered us absinthe. I was quite disappointed that I was driving and had to decline, because chasing the green fairy is one of those things that great literary characters should do. :) Brittni tried it though, but couldn't finish one serving because it was so strongly flavoured. We hung out for a while and admired the costumes and art, and talked to more interesting people, and then wandered back to EDGE, just to say goodbye and then go.

And then we were there for another couple of hours after that before we finally left, after making sure to leave our mark by writing on the post-it notes on the walls. There were three topical prompts and lots of space for writing - it was a really fun party game for a group of word people.

hehe...what a party! :)

I had such a blast...I'm usually quite a bit of an introvert, but either I'm growing out of that, or else people who love books as much as I do are much easier to talk to than co-workers or clients at a law firm, because I loved every minute of chatting and meeting new people. Interesting.... :) Sunday was just as much fun...

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