WWC 2014, Day 1: Evening keynotes

Here we are at the end of day 1 (for me–I know others partied into the wee hours). At other conferences and conventions, guest of honour keynotes are generally spread throughout the event, often at or after a meal.

The When Words Collide organizers chose to do something different.

Prior to the literary festival, there were several master classes offered by the keynote speakers, and the night before, they all delivered their presentations at a branch of the public library.

Between the extra days of leave I would have had to sacrifice, the cost of the master classes, and the expense of a longer stay, I had to opt out of the pre-conference program.

On the first night (formally speaking) of WWC, then, all of the keynote speakers were well into conference mode and had an opportunity to work out the bugs.

The keynotes were presented as a panel, with all of the speakers up on the stage, seated at tables.

Randy McCharles offered a few opening words, and then introduced the first of the speakers.

  1. Jacqueline Guest, author of 18 published novels, spoke about her adventures as aJacqueline Guest touring author. She has been all over the world, in the arctic, and had some very interesting tales to share. The old advice to writers is to write what you know. Travelling and experiencing all the world has to offer is a valuable way of gathering experience that can translate into your writing.
  2. Mark Leslie, of Kobo Writing Life, chose the subject of the mark-lesliehistory of story. From our earliest gatherings to share news around a fire, through the oral traditions of Greece and Rome, the invention of the printing press, and the advent of the novel, to today’s proliferation of traditionally published and independently published novels, novellas, short stories, anthologies, and all other manner of written storytelling, Mark spoke eloquently of the purpose and value of story in our lives. He ended his keynote with this: when words collide, magic happens.
  3. Dorothy (DJ) MacIntosh, author of the (in progress) Mesopotamian trilogy, spoke
    DJ McIntosh

    photo by Robert Rafton

    about passion and how to keep that precious flame burning. She related the experiences, hers and those of other renowned authors, with rejection, and various reactions to rejection letters. How can we keep our passion alive amidst the darkness that can assail us?

  4. Brandon Sanderson, author of—oh, I’ll just say it—a shit load of bestselling fantasy novels including the
    Photo by Nazrilof

    Photo by Nazrilof

    posthumous conclusion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, addressed the problem of telling a compelling lie. He started with a grade school experience in which he realized that the story of Columbus and his discovery of the new world was all propaganda. In short, it was a lie, but it’s a lie that has been perpetuated over the years by quality storytelling. You could say that’s when the seed of his desire to become a professional liar was planted. He spoke of Sturgeon’s Law: that ninety percent of everything is crap. He wanted to test that hypothesis and started with Roger Ebert’s movie review site, which revealed between sixty and seventy percent good movies (two thumbs up). He then went to Rotten Tomatoes, a review site contributed to by the movie-going public. He found roughly the same results. There were exceptions, of course. He found one reviewer who didn’t like Return of the King, for example. Reviews are one of the most power tools in any author’s service. Word of mouth is what really translates into sales and a groundswell of support. The bad reviews can be damaging in all kinds of ways. We have to be able to distinguish between someone expressing a personal opinion, e.g. I didn’t like this book, and someone who’s going for the hurt, e.g. this is crap. They are two completely different judgements.

  5. Jack Whyte. I’d seen him last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference jack-whyteand knew the power of his presence, but, when Jack took the stage, I put my pen down and sat back. I knew I was about to be entertained. Jack basically extemporized (or, he made is sound like he was), drawing in elements of each of the previous speakers, adding colour with a touch of personal humour, and wrapping up the evening in style.

Next week: We enter day 2 with the Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel.

WWC 2014, Day 1: Doctor your book with Randy McCharles

randymccharlesRandy McCharles is active in Calgary, Alberta’s writing community with a focus on speculative fiction, usually of the wickedly humorous variety, with short stories and novellas available from Edge SF&F Publishing, House of Anansi, and Reality Skimming Press. He is the recipient of several Aurora Awards (Canada’s most prestigious award for speculative fiction) and is short-listed in three categories for the upcoming 2014 Awards. In 2013, his short story Ghost-B-Gone Incorporated won the House of Anansi 7-day Ghost Story Contest. Randy’s first Tyche Books publication, Much Ado About Macbeth, will be available in August 2015.

In addition to writing, Randy chairs the award-winning When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers as well as organizing various reading and craft events for writers.


 

As writers, we love our literary children. We are also our own worst critics. We need to find a middle ground, an objective perspective. A peer review or critique groups can be of great value in this respect.

When we write, we see the story in our heads so clearly we may forget to put it all down on paper. We need to learn how to doctor our work.

Self-publishing is another reason. Learning to edit your work can help save costs.

The less work an editor has to do, the better. Also, cheaper. (Mel’s note: even if you think that your work is well-edited, a professional editor will always be able to identify further corrections, whether substantive, copy, or line editing. Also, many freelance editors charge by page or words, so you won’t necessarily save any money if you have 75k well-edited words, or 75k poorly edited ones. With an editor who charges by hour, you might do better.)

Theme will help you keep on track.

Then ensued much discussion regarding the relative merits of David Brin’s The Postman and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, both books and movies.

Many inexperienced writers choose the wrong place to start the story. Too soon and unimportant events won’t capture your reader’s attention. Too late and the reader won’t be engaged by your character, or you’ll find yourself explaining—telling—events that have just happened. That’s a tell-tale sign you’ve started too late.

Aim for in media res, but don’t misunderstand the technique. Too much action can confuse the reader. Give the reader a reason to care.

Try not to be “married to the line,” that is, if you think you have to start in a particular place because you’ve come up with the “perfect” line, that line may be one of the darlings you have to kill. You have to be willing to set it aside to find the true beginning of your novel.

Other issues are genre-specific. In fantasy or science fiction, you may spend too much time on worldbuilding or on backstory. Sometimes chapter one is just a distraction and your real story starts in chapter two or even three.

Some opening scenes are missing the hook, that story question that will propel the reader through the novel. New York Times Bestselling Authors (NYTBSAs) can get away with this, but not the first time author.

You may also be missing scenes. This comes from writing “in your head” too much.

Unnecessary scenes may be a sign of too much thinking on the page, on the other hand.

We talk about wearing your writer’s hat and your editor’s hat, but what’s missing from the equation is the reader’s hat.

WWC2014 Day 1: The Perfect Pitch Package with Jacqueline Guest

Before we begin, some context

Jacqueline publishes, and always has published, in the Canadian market. As such, she doesn’t have, nor does she need, an agent. Jacqueline pitches her publisher directly. This is a little different that pitching an agent, or querying an agent.

It’s more like a book proposal. Many of Jacqueline’s tips can be amended slightly for agent queries.


First, you have to make sure your manuscript is perfect. Edit it. Print it out. Read it aloud. Don’t edit on the computer screen. You’ll miss too much on the screen.

There’s an editor’s checklist for writers in the package. This document covers the basics that every editor looks for.

Mel’s note: Jacqueline’s package included a sample query letter, tips on submitting to a publisher, the editor’s checklist for writer’s, a tip sheet from Frank L. Visco called “How to Write Good,” and a page of resources about free and purchased writing software, and recommended writing craft books.

Know your audience.

Do you need an agent? In the American market, yes, but not in the Canadian one. You can pitch directly to a Canadian publisher. Best to make sure that the publisher has American distribution, however.

Contracts are tricky. Check out the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) site for assistance.

Everything is electronically generated these days.

Start with the Writer’s Market. It’s published in print annually, but there is also a web site that you can access that is continually updated.

Do your homework. Identify the publishers that publish the kinds of novels you write.

If you use the print version of the Writer’s Market, go to the publisher’s web site to make sure there have been no changes to the editors since the publication date. I’d recommend that you call the publisher to confirm.

What goes in your package:

  • Your query letter.
  • A 1-2 page synopsis.
  • 3 chapters, or the number of chapters/pages/words the publisher specifies.

Format:

  • Double spaced
  • Single sided
  • 1” margins
  • Header: On the left, type the title of the novel and beneath it, your name. On the right insert the page number.
  • Use clips for synopsis and sample pages. Use an elastic when sending a whole manuscript.

There are lots of “How-To” books out there on how to write a query or proposal. Get them from your public library and read them.

I use what I call the two-sentence sell.

In the first sentence, you identify your audience, the word count of your novel, and the story line (Mel’s note: Think tag line).

In the second sentence, identify your novel’s unique qualities, and any marketing points (Mel’s note: For example, if you write middle grade fiction, mention if you’ve prepared teaching guides, or activity guides for librarians. If your book is for adults, you may consider mentioning, or suggesting, book club notes.)

These two sentences must be succinct and on target.

Jacqueline then set us the assignment of writing our 2 sentence pitch.

If you need to include a chapter outline, write no more than 1 or 2 sentences on each chapter.

Everything needs to work together. Print it out and read it aloud. You’ll find more errors and awkward phrasing that way.

If you want to write and learn to write better, you must read.

Jacqueline brought out several resource books that she recommends, including Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.


Jacqueline GuestAbout Jacqueline:

Jacqueline is a Metis writer who lives in a log cabin nestled in the pinewoods of the Rocky Mountain foothills of Alberta.

Her award-winning books are unique in that many of the main characters come from different ethnic backgrounds including First Nations, Inuit or Metis. Her well-drawn characters face issues common to every child such as bullying, blended families and physical challenges and are strong role models for today’s youth. Jacqueline’s historical novels for young readers’ present Canada ’s vibrant past as an exciting read every child will enjoy. Her young adult mysteries address teenage problems in a sensitive way while still providing a great page-turner.

Jacqueline’s interactive curriculum-based History & Literacy Presentations appeal to students in all grade levels and are of interest as they incorporate her own background as she shows how the Metis people are a strong part of the fabric of Canada ’s past. Her Easy Key Writing Workshops provides the EasyKey Method to facing a language arts exam and passing! She also teaches writing how-to’s and encourages children to follow their own literary dreams.

Jacqueline has participated in Mamawenig, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Gathering, where she helped shape the direction of Native literacy in Saskatchewan . She has performed pro-bono workshops at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre, presented for the Cultural Diversity Institute, University of Calgary , Batoche Historical Site and participated in Back to Batoche Days, and Fort Calgary ‘s Metis Cultural Festival. Jacqueline has also presented at the Manitoba Association of Teachers of English, the Alberta Association of Library Technicians as well as numerous Writers’ Conferences.

She is the current Writer-In-Residence for the Marigold Library System and a member of Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society.

Jacqueline has been nominated for a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the prestigious Esquao Award for outstanding achievement by an Aboriginal woman. She has travelled extensively and as far away as Nunavut to spread the good word on literacy.

A strong advocate of reading, Jacqueline believes the key to the future is through better literacy today.

WWC2014 Day 1: Successful self-publishing with Jodi MacIsaac

Jodi MacIsaacAbout Jodi MacIsaac:

She grew up in New Brunswick, Canada. After stints as a short-track speed skater, a speechwriter, and fundraising and marketing executive in the non-profit sector, she started a boutique copywriting agency and began writing novels in the wee hours of the morning. She currently lives with her husband and two feisty daughters in Calgary, Alberta.

Find out about her books.


 

 

The current state of the publishing industry is both fascinating and depressing.

The first thing you should do is research. Victoria Strauss’s Writer Beware is a great resource. You’ll be kept aware of all the scams and less-than-reputable publishing services.

The debate about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing is polarized and getting more so every day. The big self-publishing success stories are flukes and outriders, but it is possible to make a living publishing your novels independently.

Indie or self-published books make up:

  • 31% of daily ebook sales;
  • 40% of ebook royalties (greater than Big 5 authors’ ebook royalties);
  • 30% of ebook revenue.

Most self-published books sell fewer than 200 copies.

You have to be professional, patient, and treat your self-publishing as a business—because it is.

Regarding patience, Hugh Howey’s Wool was his eighth book.

Backlist sales are important, but in order to have backlist sales, you have to have a backlist.

You have to be talented, hard working, and obsessive.

If that’s you, self-publishing may be for you.

The pros:

  • 70% royalties;
  • Complete control; and
  • Greater speed to market.

The cons:

  • Little/no bookstore presence;
  • No advance;
  • Up front costs; and
  • No support.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you enjoy learning?
  2. Are you proactive?
  3. Can you multi-task?
  4. Are you entrepreneurial?
  5. Are you willing to develop a business and marketing plan?
  6. Can you organize and work with a team?
  7. Are you willing to work HARD?

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.

Roles of the self-publisher:

  • Author;
  • Editor;
  • Copyeditor;
  • Proofreader;
  • Cover designer;
  • Layout and formatting;
  • Scheduling;
  • Marketing;
  • Public relations;
  • Webmaster;
  • Distribution; and
  • Bookkeeper.

These roles can be farmed out, but you have to be able to afford to pay other people to fill them. If you don’t have a lot of money, this may be a problem.

If nothing else, you need to pay for the “big three.”

  1. Editing—substantive, copyediting, and line editing. Yes, you may have to pay three people, or one person three times.
  2. Cover design.
  3. Formatting.

Costs:

  • Substantive edit               $2,000 to $10,000
  • Copyediting                      $1,000 to $5,000
  • Proofreading                    $500 to $1,000
  • Cover design                    $150 to $3,500
  • Formatting                        $100 to $500
  • ISBN                                 Free in Canada/$125 in the US
  • Net Galley                         $399
  • Audiobook narrator           $1200 (or royalty share)
  • Marketing                          $100 to $5,000 (or ??? more)
  • Website                            $100 (hosting and domain registration)

Where to sell

Digital

  • Amazon
  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s exclusive ebook service.)
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • iBookstore
  • Smashwords (distribution to everyone but Amazon until you reach $5,000 in sales)
  • Draft 2 Digital, Bookbaby, etc.

Publish on demand (POD)

  • Lightning Source
  • CreateSpace
  • Lulu
  • Trafford
  • iUniverse
  • Xlibris
  • Author Solutions

Check Writer Beware and Editors & Preditors before you commit. I’ve listed all services here for thoroughness.

Pricing

  • $2.99-$9.99         author receives 70% of every unit sold.
  • Under $2.99        author receives 35% of every unit sold.
  • Over $9.99          author receives 35% of every unit sold.

The best way to sell backlist is to write more books.

Aim for 80% writing/20% business.

Q: What is metadata?

Metadata is data about data. Keywords, categories, etc. You have to be strategic.

Q: What are your best marketing and communications strategies?

Reviews are the number one way to generate sales and word of mouth.

FaceBook ads, in my experience, don’t translate to sales.

Giveaways on Goodreads are a good tactic, especially if you ask for an honest review.

Blog tours are not worth it. It’s a lot of work to generate content for all the blogs, and there’s no evidence that anyone will be encouraged to buy.


Next week: Jacqueline Guest on Preparing the Perfect Pitch Package.

WWC Day 1: Anthology Jam

Panelists: Ron S. Friedman, Randy McCharles, Charles V. Prepolec

RonFriedmanrandymccharlescharlesprepolec

 

 

 

 

Q: As a writer, how do you approach an anthology? How to you get in?

RM: There are two kinds of anthologies, open and closed. Open anthologies are exactly that. There will be an open submission period. Closed anthologies tend to be by invitation only and some are dedicated to a particular franchise or theme.

CP: Open anthologies are the only chance for newer writers to get published. They tend to be niche and specific. Pitching an anthology to a publisher is difficult these days. People aren’t reading them as much. You can check out the possibilities on ralan.com. Ralan’s good because it will list the rates as well as the contact information. Professional rates are like six cents a word or something like that. I think Innsmouth Free Press has an open call out for She Walks in Shadows, for Lovecraftian stories featuring a female protagonist or deity. Also check out Kickstarter (Mel’s note: I just did a quick search for anthologies and sorted by newest). It’s a way of guaging the market as well as raising funds. Some of them have open reading periods, for example, ChiZine Publications’ Fearful Symetries, which Ellen Datlow edited. Duotrope is another good place to go. It’s reasonable at $50 a year.

RM: Really, you have three options: magazine, open anthology, and collection. There’s no other way to get your short stories published.

Q: Do you write to a particular Anthology’s theme?

RM: Yes. I wrote to theme for Tesseracts: Parnassus Unbound.

CP: You can write to the market.

RF: If you write for a particular anthology and your story doesn’t make it, you can always submit it elsewhere.

RM: You write stories. Keep a “story drawer” and repurpose as required. I had five short stories that I cobbled together for Tesseracts 16. It was published in the anthology, the year’s best, and nominated for an Aurora. Sometimes it’s an issue of money vs. passion.

RF: You can also publish short fiction on Amazon. Kindle Singles.

Q: What rights go to the anthology?

CP: Usually for an anthology it’s first time print rights for about a year.

RM: Short fiction is a one time sale. There aren’t any royalties like for a novel.

RF: Rights are usually considered from date of publication, not date of sale.

RM: Anthologies love reprints because they feed back to sales for the originating anthology.

CP: Gaslight Grimoire had two stories picked up for other publications. You don’t want to be competing with yourself though. If you want to find out more about the market, you can check out The Market List, Writeaholics.net, Towse’s links to online submission guidelines.

RF: Check out the SFWA site as well.

Q: I’d recommend submission grinder.

CP: If you’re heading into this world for the first time, I’d also check things out on preditors and editors.

RM: Your goal isn’t just to sell, but you want to sell to a market that people read. Ask yourself, is this a market that people are reading? Send to the highest paying markets first. They usually have a larger readership.

RF: Bundoran Press will have an open submission period for Second Contact, September 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015.

CP: Small presses are more open to anthologies and collections. Prime Books – Sean Wallace. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing – Brian Hades.

Q: How much material do editors request? Do you ever oversubscribe?

RM: Content or contributors may be assigned. Choose between five or six of these authors. The editor may choose. There is going to be a total word limit you have to stay within.

CP: We oversubscribe by about 30%. There will always be people who drop out or don’t follow through.

Q: Can a writer pitch an anthology?

CP: No. Editors, maybe. You could pitch a collection of your own stories, but not an anthology.


 

Tomorrow: The Next Chapter: August 2014 update.

WWC Day 1: On dialogue, building accents, and dialect

Disclaimer: These are my notes. I am human. As such, I fully acknowledge that my notes are imperfect. Feel free to correct me if you see any glaring errors or misrepresentations.

Panelists: Axel Howerton, Sandra Fitzpatrick, Nola Sarina, Minister Faust

axel_photoSandraFitzpatrickNolaSarinaMinisterFaust

 

 

 

 

 

NS: You have to be consistent. Don’t shock your readers by changing things up part way through your novel. Don’t write phonetic dialect or idiom. It’s too much.

MF: There is no right and no wrong. Everything is a matter of taste. Chaucer would have probably hated Shakespeare. Does that make either of them wrong, or one better than the other?

SF: Make sure your dialogue is pronounceable. There are problems with other languages, like Gaelic, in which nothing can be sounded out, or Japanese, in which everything is contextual.

NS: Write out the dialogue from movies whose characters reflect your protagonist. Reflect the evolution of your character.

Q: What if all your characters are from the same small town? How do you make them distinct?

MF: Look at your friends. You can identify each of them by specific catch phrases or tics. Go someplace in your town or city where you don’t normally go. Listen. Learn to love how people talk.

NS: Bond two characters through dialogue similarities. Have a third party interpret for your reader.

Q: Any tips of how to keep consistency in your characters? In one novel, I had to tone down the protagonist’s swearing, but it was a part of his character. In the end, I only had him swear when he was upset, but that could come off as jarring.

NS: Edit for voice by character. Make a pass for each.

Q: What about using other languages?

NS: Intersperse them in the text. Try not to have long passages in other languages. Use another character as interpreter.

Q: How do you avoid caricatures or stereotypes? For example, I have a character much like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid.

MF: Avoid stereotypes if you can. If you can’t, make sure there’s a reason for it. With regard to Miyagi, if someone watches the Karate Kid and comes away thinking that Miyagi is uneducated or backward, they’ve missed the point of the character. He was betrayed by his country, lost his wife in tragic circumstances, and has a disorder as a result. He’s chosen isolation as protection. He’s rejected the society that betrayed him.

Q: Is there a way to ease off dialect over the course of the novel?

NS: We’re back to consistency again. If it’s too much at the beginning, it’s too much, period.

MF: If you want to write a character with thick dialect, then do it. Don’t tease. Write the book you want to write.

Q: What about multiple different languages?

SF: It depends. In a science fiction setting, you could have something like a universal translator, but you have to make it plausible. Otherwise, think about syntax, word order. What are the differences between the languages we speak on this planet?

Q: I’m writing a YA historical. It’s historically accurate for the protagonist to call his parents mother and father, but writing it that way felt awkward.

MF: If it feels awkward to you, chances are it will feel awkward to your audience, too. If you want to address it, do so head on. Show it. Hang a lantern on it. Reveal it’s relevance by contrast. Do people of other classes refer to their parents in the same way?


 

I hope you enjoyed this opening salvo of When Words Collide (WWC). I’ll be continuing the transcription of my notes, one session each weekend, until I run out of notes.

WWC set a military pace. Most sessions were one hour and though intended to end at about 50 minutes, initially, most session ran overtime. There were no breaks for meals with sessions running from 10 am through to 9 or 10 pm. Special events often ran later.

In many cases, I had to arrive late or leave early to catch the next session with enough time to hit the bathroom, or grab a quick snack at the commissary.

Next week: The Anthology Jam. All about how to get published in an anthology.

Caturday Quickie: Calgary, I am in you

I’ve been waiting to say that for a long time. I’m such a nerd.

To be brief:

Thursday afternoon, Phil and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I may have to post a Mel’s Movie Madness about it. For the future. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however.

Yesterday (Friday), I got up at the ungodly hour of 4 am so I could get out to the airport by 5-ish and catch my 5:55 am flight.

All went well, caught my connection, watched the second Hunger Games en route, and arrived at 10:18 am, on the dot, in Calgary.

My friend, Sharon, offered to pick me up and we went out to lunch before I checked in at the Carriage House Inn and started my marathon of sessions.

I attended 5 of those yesterday, plus the keynote speakers in the evening. I also met, in person, several people I’d only known to this point virtually: Angela Ackerman, Diane Walton, Tim Reynolds, and I reconnected with some fellow writers and publishers: Mark Leslie, Ron Hore, Swati Chavda, and Avery Olive.

I had dinner and lovely conversation with Nina Munteanu, and met a few other writers and editors hanging around outside the hotel. I also saw the wonderful Jack Whyte again, and met Brandon Sanderson in the flesh. Brandon was my fangirl moment of When Words Collide so far.

I’ll be in sessions from 10 am to 6 pm today, and then there is the mass autograph session this evening.

It has been a jam-packed conference so far, but I’m having a blast. Prepare for much bloggage coming out of this :)

Also got to see the 2014 In Places Between anthology chapbook. The readings and judging take place tomorrow morning. Will let you know (of course) how “On the Ferry” fares.

I think this may be my only post this weekend, just because WWC is proving to be a very fast-paced event.

In the meantime, I shall wish much you all much Writerly Goodness.

Caturday Quickies

CanWrite! 2014 wrap post

It’s been a month and a bit of me posting on the weekends, but here we are, at last, at the end of the CanWrite! run.

The CAA Literary Awards Gala

This was held the night of Saturday, June 21st.

The night previous, we’d heard several of the nominees read from their works. All were excellent.

Here’s a post about the award winners.

Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClellandThe highlight of the evening was Keynote speaker, Mariatu Kamara, who, along with Susan McClelland, wrote her harrowing story of survival, resilience, and hope.

Of course, I picked up a copy of the book, The Bite of the Mango, and got it signed by the authors.

It was a night of wonderful stories shared and writerly camaraderie.

Other stuff that happened

The CanWrite! conferences are set up with all sorts of interesting activities.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, there were meditation sessions (which I did not attend), yoga sessions (which I did), and writers’ circles in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction (which I attended last year, but not this), pitch sessions (which I did not participate in), photo sessions (which I participated in last year, but not this), and walking tours (which I opted out of).

In the evenings on Thursday and Friday, there were readings with open mic segments. I read at both, but since the reading time was capped at three minutes, I did not read much ;)

There were workshops on Wednesday, one on fiction, one on poetry, and one on non-fiction. I had initially signed up for the fiction one, but the facilitator had to cancel.

On Wednesday night, there was a wine and cheese reception.

There were also two to four other sessions or workshops held each of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons which I could not attend without benefit of a time turner :)

Finally, there was the book fair. You know what I did there, don’t you?

CanWrite! book purchases

It’s an addiction

Thoughts on conferences and conventions

This brings me to preparing to attend a conference.

First, as with everything else that has to do with writing, you have to do your research.

What kind of conference or convention is it? I’ve attended three CanWrite! Conferences, an Algonkian Pitch conference, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, an Ad Astra convention, and will be attending When Words Collide next weekend. All of them have been different.

Some conferences are set up as a kind of writers’ retreat with swaths of time for independent writing, group work (by genre – and here I’m talking poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and plays/screenplays), individual assessment (usually by the group facilitator), and social/networking opportunities (dinners, readings, etc.).

Pitch conferences focus almost exclusively on the pitch sessions, with all other workshops serving to prepare the pitchers and their pitches for their sessions.

Most conferences are set up with one-hour or two-hour sessions throughout the day and evening with short breaks in between to address biological imperatives like bathroom visitations and snack purchases. Each time slot will have multiple options for the attendee and reviewing the program ahead of time is of paramount importance. These conferences will also have pitch sessions (for an extra cost), blue pencil sessions (for an extra cost), photo sessions (extra cost), readings, and other social events. There will often be some kind of buffet, or gala dinner. Keynote speakers will be featured after meals, and there will be book launches/signings, after-hours parties, book fairs, and so forth. These are the writerly smorgasbords/marathons that you will have to navigate carefully to avoid utter exhaustion.

Conventions take the conference model and add even more geekery to the mix with LEGO salons, costume balls/masquerades, anime theatres, arts lounges, vendors, astronomy sessions, readings, and karaoke. The convention sessions are primarily panels, however, and not focused workshops, though workshops may be offered for an extra cost. The big reception or gala/keynote dinner will often also be an extra cost.

Conferences are usually expensive, with a fee in the hundreds of dollars. Conventions are nominally priced, but all the extras are on a pay per participate basis. Accommodation and transportation are always additional costs.

Mel’s tips for travel and accommodation: use hotel and travel rewards programs to lessen these expenses, where possible.

So, do your research, decide what you want to do, and go prepared. Most conferences and conventions will have their programs online months in advance, so you can plan what to attend and budget for the experience.

So, CanWrite! is a wrap, just in time for WWC :)

Today’s second post will have to be deferred until next weekend. I’m heading out to my sister-in-law’s shortly for a family BBQ.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Review of Ursa Unearthed by JL Madore

Ursa Unearthed

What Amazon says:

Mika’s life has never been normal, but it’s hers.
After being told by the Great Spirit that her destiny is to stand up for the Earth Mother’s children and “save the great species from extinction,” she buries herself in an investigative journalism career hunting down poachers and exposing illegal trade in wildlife exotics. A survivor by nature, she would rather fight injustice than maneuver the hassles and heartache of relationships.
When danger suddenly finds her unprepared, Mika’s perception of her life is shattered and she’s hurled into a realm of magic and murder she does not understand. Seduced by Bruin, the powerful warrior who saves her life, Mika is catapulted into a world where Were-creatures and Scourge assassins threaten not only her life but her heart as well.
With the boundary between worlds crumbling, Mika realizes that committing to save the great species of Weres will draw her deeper into a reality more terrifying to her than anything she’s faced before.
Trusting in love.


 

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed Blaze Ignites a year or so ago, because Jenny and I had worked together in a critique group and I was itching to find out what the finished product was like. When Jenny offered me a review copy of Ursa Unearthed, the second novel in her Scourge Survivor Series, I again jumped at the chance.

I love to see my writer friends grow and mature in their craft.

I’m happy to say I lurved Ursa Unearthed.

Jenny writes in a bare (dare I say, naked) style. Not a word is wasted. Action and hot sex propel the reader through the book. I actually finished reading it the week before last. At my reading rate, I burned through it.

My critical eye caught a few, very minor, editing gaffes, but by and large, my only critical comment on the story itself is that Mika’s “lie,” the thing that prevents her from committing to Bruin until things become so dire she has no choice, is not well developed at the outset. I occasionally found myself irritated with Jenny’s protagonist for her failure to get over her bad self, spank that inner moppet, put on her big girl panties, and deal.

Developing her trauma would have given this reader something to hang that irritation on. There would be a reason beyond being transported into a world of magic and danger to prevent her from accepting her altered circumstances.

Given that Mika is Native North American, has a spiritual connection with the Earth Mother, which grants her supernatural insights, and her main support, her grandfather, accompanies her to Haven, Mika shouldn’t have been so resistant.

Having said that, I think Ursa Unearthed is a fabulous book. The characters are otherwise well-drawn and Jenny has a knack for making you care about them.

And yes, you read that correctly earlier, there is lots of hot sex in the novel and Jenny writes this well, too. You’ll tingle in all the wrong naughty right places ;)

The story is standalone, but readers of Blaze Ignites will recognize many familiar faces in the cast. They don’t detract from Mika and Bruin’s character arcs, though. The spotlight remains where it should, on Mika and her bear.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.


 

About the author:JL Madore

JL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. http://www.jlmadore.ca/

CanWrite! 2014: How to get published with Halli Villegas, June 21

There was no panel discussion on Saturday and at breakfast, one of the organizers asked me if I’d host Halli’s workshop in the afternoon. I said sure, but I was a bit nervous. I even asked Halli how she wanted her name pronounced, and then promptly messed it up anyway. Sorry about that, Halli.

Halli VillegasFor your information, it’s Vee-yay-ges :)

Please note: This is a transcript of my hand-written notes. Halli, or anyone else who may have been present, if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong, please feel free to correct me. I will fix it post-hasty.

To the workshop (allons-y).

 


 

The title of this workshop might be misleading. I’m not going to publish you. We could have called it The Business of Writing. Now there’s a sexy title.

We’re going to talk about what happens when you get published. I can give you my perspective on that, but I’m looking more toward a sharing of expertise. I don’t have a grounded knowledge in self-publishing, or publishing with a micropress, or with a major publisher, but some of you may, so I’m looking forward to bringing out the knowledge in this room.

<We then went around the room and introduced ourselves and shared a little bit about our experience, or lack thereof, with publishing.>

Tightrope Books is a small, or indie press. We’re also called a boutique publisher, because we cater to a specific writer and reader. We tend to the literary, but we’re not publishing so much poetry as we used to. We now have an annual anthology of the year’s best poetry, with guest editors.

You don’t want to compete with yourself.

I worked for five years with Guernica and when it came time to think about starting my own press, my idea was to make it author-centric. That core idea had to evolve, though. It had to become a business.

Always read and follow the submission guidelines. What does the press publish? Does your work fit?

Be professional. Fill out your writing C.V.

Some publishers will have set reading periods. Some have particular niches. ChiZine Publications, for example, focuses on horror and dark fiction.

There’s also the Writers’ Reserve. It’s a fund that provides money to publishers to publish professional writers offered by the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). That reading period is from September to February. Tightrope will receive maybe three hundred submissions under the Writers’ Reserve. We might look more seriously at twenty manuscripts. How many of those we publish varies from year to year.

<Halli discussed the Writers’ Reserve in more detail in the Tightrope Books context. Here’s the link for the Writers’ Reserve if you’d like more information.>

Do your research. Is there a house style guide? If not, the Chicago Manual of Style is the default reference.

Poets generally aren’t agented.

Networking is a great way to make contacts. Conferences like CanWrite! and events like Word on the Street (WotS). WotS used to have a festival atmosphere. Now it’s more commercial. Small press fairs are much the same. All are great places to make connections.

Determination plus persistence equals success.

What happens once your submission is accepted?

You will go through what’s called a substantive edit with an editor. This takes at least two months and is a process of shaping that manuscript.

Next is the line edit. This phase of editing focuses on details and continuity in the manuscript. That leads to the copy edit, which delves into spelling and grammar.

Once your book is accepted, it’s usually about two years to publication.

The fall season is the big publishing season. Spring is a second big season, but you’ll see more beach reading and other, lighter fare.

Typesetting is an art. It’s not as simple as it looks. It’s really about capturing the spirit of the book in a tangible form.

Similarly, your cover design, and therefore your cover designer, is important.

Even the back cover copy is tailored to the book.

Most publishers dictate typesetting, cover, and back cover copy.

Simultaneous submissions are frowned upon.

Response times run anywhere from three months to a year. It depends on the volume of submissions. Responses often can’t be personalized. There’s no time.

The launch is your champagne moment. Make sure you have review copies and copies set aside for contests, major media, etc.

With respect to marketing, print ads aren’t worth it. Budgets have decreased across the board. Grants are disappearing. Sometimes we have to go begging for reviews. There’s no money to send the writer on a book tour. We can’t pay for flights.

Initial sales can be between six weeks and six months. It depends on the profile and popularity of the book. This is the main sales drive.

In a cooperative arrangement, the publisher pays for preferential placement of your books. Even if the publisher pays, however, you should check.

Engage in guerrilla marketing. Go into the bookstore and rearrange the books on the shelf to better display your books.

A bestseller in Canada is about 5,000 copies. A poetry bestseller is between 200 and 300 copies. In the American market, you have to sell at least 35,000 copies to even crack the lists.

I’ve given you in your package a copy of the Tightrope Books contract. It was based on the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) contract. Let’s have a look . . .


 

Since I’m not going to share Halli’s contract, I’m going to end here.

I will offer you the link to the Writers’ Union of Canada’s contract information page. If you’re not a member, you may have to pay a nominal fee, but their resources are well worth the cost.

Halli gave us a load of handouts that was very informative. 10 pointers to help you get published; a list of resources for writers; a list of Canadian literary magazines; The Tightrope Books house style guide; and a copy of her contract.

Next weekend: The CAA Literary Awards Gala and wrap post.