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!