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When Words Collide Writing Convention

 

writing, conventions, When Words Collide, Chizine, publishers

Chizine’s table at the room party.

When Words Collide is a writing convention in Calgary, Alberta, organized by Randy McCharles and a host of helpers. This was its second year in the making and it’s growing too big for the Best Western it was held at. There were a host of panels and a moderate sized dealers room for various publishers to sell their wares. While there was a heavy accent on the speculative in the panels there were also mystery and romance panels. The romance writers had their own party and IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) of Calgary was present.

There are cons that are professional track and some that have fan tracks. WWC is a professional track, with some readings, panels about writing and publishing and parties held by publishers. I combined a trip to Alberta to visit family and friends, and to meet some of the writers I knew through email but had not met in person. I could spend time with friends, participate in writing related fun, and yes, the Aurora Awards were held at this event.

I’m actually a bad convention goer. I go to conventions and talk and drink with

Brett Savory, writer, publsher, CZP, Chizine, When Words Collide, writing conventions

Brett Savory, writer, and publisher of CZP at one of the happy room parties.

people, visit the parties and maybe get to a panel or two. This time I was on a good size of panels so felt less inclined to go to other ones. I had intentions of going to a reading or sitting in on a panel discussion but I only made to part of one reading. I did do a combined reading with Bob Stallworthy who read some really excellent poetry, and Susan Forest, who read part of a story that is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She was also up for a short story Aurora. I read two poems and part of a story, and not too good a reading since I was a little foggy from the parties the night before.

I also did a  live-action slush reading which involved people handing in the first page of a story. Guest of honor Jack Whyte would read the page in his lovely deep, accented baritone. When we as editors would have stopped reading a submission we put up our hands and said why. In truth I have a habit of trying to read through a full submission because sometimes a writer will hit their stride after a while and just needs some editing. The writing might be sucky but they idea might be great and it might be worth salvaging. The panel also had Susan Mac Gregor and Hayden Trenholm.

wriiter, When Words Collide, editor, Susan MacGregor

Writer and editor, Susan MacGregor

The panel I sat on about poetry and how not to make it boring turned out way better than I thought it would. Poetry has a bad rep of being inaccessible. Sandra Kasturi is a great moderator and there were enough people in the audience so it went well with input from the audience and the panel. The panelists meshed well and the audience seemed interested.

The last panel was on sex in fiction; should you put it in, how much when. We had a publisher of erotic fiction, a writer who writes young adult fiction, another who writes male to male erotica and I write short mostly hetero erotica. Many points were covered but I don’t think the panel flowed as well as the poetry panel. It felt a bit like we were trying to get across individual crusades as opposed to looking at how erotic and explicit scenes can be fit in all types of fiction if warranted. Still, the panel was intelligent and well-versed so the audience got their money’s worth. This panel was set against the publisher parties, but didn’t harm it too much.

The parties and the liquids were plentiful, and Bundoran, Tyche, Edge and ChiZine were some

Aurora Awards, nominee, Derryl Murphy, writer, writing convention

Derryl Murphy was one of the nominees in the Aurora novel category.

of the publishers throwing parties. Jack Whyte had to leave early Saturday morning due to an emergency but he was the hub of a scotch party, which involved four bottles of scotch and a lot of pretty interesting talk about sex and writing and all sorts of things. There wasn’t a drop left by the end of the night but there were a few green faces in the morning.

In all the convention was very enjoyable and I met many authors who I had only chatted with

Aurora Awards, writing convention, When Words Collide

The Aurora Awards were presented at the convention and the list can be found on their website.

in the past. This is a great convention for the new or established writer, and for fans who want to take in a few readings and the parties. Next year’s convention will be August 9-11, in Calgary.

The Aurora Awards ceremony was held Saturday night after the banquet. The list of winners can be found on the site. While I was nominated in poetry I didn’t win, but Helen Marshall won for Skeleton Leaves. Her poetry is excellent and anyone should pick up this gem published by Kelp Queen Press. It was worthy of winning.  Oh, and Randy McCharles won for his organization of the When Words Collide in 2011.

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Writing: The Convention Circuit

This last weekend I took the journey to Portland for Orycon, Oregon’s science fiction and fantasy convention. I traveled down with writer Donna McMahon, Clint Budd, the Aurora Awards administrator and their friend Heidi. The drive from Vancouver can take 5-7 hours so it’s much more fun to travel with others and gave me a chance to catch and talk shop.

Like many fan oriented conventions (there are professional conventions that don’t always have fan tracks) there are panels and workshops in the area of gaming (from live action, roleplaying, to board and card games), costuming, writing/publishing and media. Some cons focus more on one area over another. There can be a Star Trek con or a Star Gate, which would have a heavy media track.

Orycon’s theme this year was dark fantasy. They usually invite pros, giving them a free membership in exchange for serving on several panels. I had a midnight horror reading, where I read “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” newly out by Cutting Block Press and in Horror Library Vol. 4. At one point I think there was supposed to be three readers but one never showed. Instead S.D. Perry read from her novel, as yet unpublished. She is the author of many Resident Evil and Star Trek books. As is the case with a horror reading her piece was visceral and horrific, in the sense of the crimes of the people and what they are driven to. Of course, a writer must describe the scene enough that we can see it and S.D.’s excerpt did that very well. We had a small audience, but one of the con’s few foibles was to not include the readings in the lists of the panels. There were about five or six panels on at any time from about 10am to midnight. The readings were on  a separate page, which meant many people missed them.

This probably explains why, for my second reading, no one showed up. Also, I had questioned the con in putting me down for two readings, as I’m not a big name author and won’t reach even the minor notoriety of people wanting my autograph until I sell a book. My second reading was at 1pm and you would think that it would get more people but there are just too many panels to attend and people already have to pick and choose. The panel range did seem to be quite good, with everything from the usual fan and filk tracks to workshops (in writing, costuming and other aspects) and covering various sciences or how to write/publish.

Some cons are also great for meeting new people or reconnecting. I re-met Mike Drindenberg, a very good Portland artist who I had last seen at a World Fantasy con. I ran into old friend and writer Dave Smeds and met Steve Perry. I also got a chance to see a couple of friends who live in Portland. One is a fan and the other a fan and film student who wants to get into more writing.

I also did two panels, though some people do more. They were on urban fantasy and on gore vs. terror. Good panels have good moderators who keep the flow going and keep one or two people from monopolizing or getting off track. The moderators for these panels did a great job. They were different as suits the topic and the first had more audience participation than the second, but I think the audience enjoyed them. I find that these panels sometimes get my gears turning on old stories and how to rework them or on new stories to create. Also every writer needs to let the reading community know who they are and this is one way for people to become familiar with your name. In the era of tight financial constraints usually writers have to do some self promo even if the publishers are advertising.

The con had a dance and sometimes, like VCon’s tiny one, they’re very bad. This one had a large space with an okay blend of music from those classics like Rocky Horror songs, to German technopunk…something for everyone. I got a chance to dance with a lot of space to move, which I love doing. All in all the convention was a very pleasant experience and if the con can just fix their program guides to have a better font and include the readings in the main section, it will continue to be a popular convention.

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Orycon 31 Wrap-Up

I just got home from a weekend at Orycon, Portland’s Science Fiction convention. Since I didn’t really attend Vcon I can say that this is the first fan con I’ve been to probably since Worldcon in Toronto. Orycon is a midsized convention I think, neither as large or Dragon Con or Worldcon  but not as small as Vcon.

I can only speak to my experiences from being there as a pro, in writing and editing. My early experience was with the committee in charge of organizing the panels. First, they found me through this blog as my email had changed since the last time I was down (probably a dozen years ago), and sent me an invitation to attend. They then sent out a list of possible panels and asked which ones I might like to be on. This form allowed for submitting a bio and a bio picture at the same time.

A couple times I needed to contact the committee to clarify some things (such as was the reading at midnight Saturday meaning midnight Friday because that’s technically Saturday) and they got back to me promptly. Thanks to Kami Miller and Rick Lindsley for all their help and organizing the panels well.

I did notice on site that there were no bios at all except for the guest of honor so I’m wondering why we needed to submit it. A bit disappointing that but the panels were listed in the large program book and the little pocket booklet. It would have been better to put some bios in the program book and left the panels to the booklet but then they needed room for describing them. I had offered (beforehand) to fill in on a couple more panels if needed but I never heard back and I did notice several panels only had two people on them. However, there were panels offered on art, editing, writing, costuming and other fan-oriented activities so that there were about five panels or more on at all times.

The booklet listed panels by room or by time and basically you could cross reference any way you wished. The kept all the readings off of the main listing though and had them separate which means many people missed them because they weren’t listed in the regular schedules. And I guess they were several hundred programs short in the printing.

I went to the art show, which was so spread out in a very large room that it look kind of empty. It might have been better to put the art panels closer together. The show ranged from the professionals like Lubov (the artist GoH), Alan Clark and a few others to the amateurs. There were fewer pictures of characters from Star Trek and other shows but it almost seems as if the unspoken theme was that of dragons.

That theme of dragons carried over into the dealers room, which was quite large. From what I could see I’m predicting Steampunk is on a huge rise and it will be flowing into mainstream fashion soon. There were many steampunk items from hats and goggles to other mysterious items and corsetry. There were very few books at all in the dealers room and the only presses selling their publications were Apex Book Company, Bizarro Fiction from Eraserhead Press,  and Talebones/Fairwood Press. I meant to go back and by one of the Bizarro books but forgot (and Apex too).  Darn. But the dealer’s room had gadgets, toys, comics, books, clothes, jewellery and all the goodies that people love to buy.

I missed taking a gander at the dance or masquerade and though there were few room parties they were fun and casual. The Pirates of the Columbia hosted one and I think they just do it for fun, plus there was the Radcon party, the hospitality suite and IRoSF, which my brain is blanking on right now.The costumes I did see were quite fun, from women in baroque dresses (complete with ship on the hair) to steampunk farmers and the Joker.

The hotel itself seemed fairly nice, and new from the Jantzen Beach hotel of previous Orycons. It was an extremely cold hotel though and they could have done with turning up the temperature a couple of degrees. I didn’t eat much but the food seemed all right and the hotel very apologetic when they screwed up our reservation. The rooms were quite spacious and nice with small balconies.

I’m notorious for not getting to panels at cons. Because I arrived at 6 I don’t think I attended a panel Friday except to do a reading at midnight in conjunction with Darklady Reed, Kal Cobalt and Tami Lindsley (hopefully I have those names right). Saturday I moderated the “Drowning in Slush” panel and attended one on Steampunk and on neural interfaces.  That’s a better average than usual. The Steampunk panel was quite interesting and well balanced. The neural interface panel was in jeopardy of being dominated about people talking about their disabilities but was save by the other panelists extrapolating into what’s being done and where it might go. And I managed to chat with the physicist so that I can worked out the logistics of a virtual environment story I’m working on.

Overall, I enjoyed the con and would consider going again. I also lucked out on driving weather, which was perfect. With stopping to visit friends, it was a pleasant (if long) drive.

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