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.
- Jacqueline Guest, author of 18 published novels, spoke about her adventures as a 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.
- Mark Leslie, of Kobo Writing Life, chose the subject of the history 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.
- Dorothy (DJ) MacIntosh, author of the (in progress) Mesopotamian trilogy, spoke
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?
- Brandon Sanderson, author of—oh, I’ll just say it—a shit load of bestselling fantasy novels including the
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.
- Jack Whyte. I’d seen him last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and 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.