Winding Down After When Words Collide 2016

I left the Delta South Hotel approximately 24 hours ago, my exit heralding the end of When Words Collide 2016 for me. Overall, it was a great festival. I was really impressed by the panels I attended and I learned a lot –there’s so much knowledge I can’t wait to start implementing in my writing and on my respective blogs.

In reference to my last post about WWC, concerning all the prep work I had envisioned, certain aspects of my attendance were a failure. To be brutally honest, I set myself up for failure from the get-go.

I’m talking about networking here. Deciding that I could do a complete 360˚ personality turn and dive head first into networking with less than 4 weeks to prepare is up there on the list of Dumbest Ideas Ever. Worst though, is the fact that I didn’t actually end up making time to prepare in that small space of time, so I turned myself into a sleep deprived head case for the festival.

I psyched myself out, got barely any sleep in the weeks (and especially the couple of days) leading up to WWC, and couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. Have you any idea how hard it is to be outgoing, friendly, and cognisant on no sleep? Usually I’m ok with very little sleep, but I was EXHAUSTED when I arrived at the conference on Friday. I was barely functional, and it just got worse from the moment of my arrival on.

I designed new business cards…whoopty doo, when I couldn’t even strike up the energy to place myself in situations where the exchange of said cards would be appropriate.

I went in with the semblance of a game plan…whoopty doo when I went and hovered by Kate’s merchant spot any time I didn’t have a panel.

I went in with the mental mantra that I was going to talk to lots of people…whoopty doo when I was so tired I kept avoiding eye contact because I was petrified of trying to maintain my end of a conversation thread.

Yes, I’m being hard on myself, but I’m so unimpressed right now. At least I can identify where I went wrong.

The weekend was not a total bust. I did manage to meet a couple of new people, and I had lunch with a group on Saturday, and I managed not to make a colossal ass of myself though there were a couple of moments where I really put my foot in my mouth hard. Such is my state of existence though on a regular day.

Sunday was by far my best day of attendance because I had really given up on networking by that point so I was much more relaxed –funny that that’s the day I had more conversations with people. I crack myself up sometimes.

There is a light side to this dark mess I created. I now have business cards I’m not reticent to hand out. I now know that I need to start working on networking right now so that I’m ready come next year (my whole day job point in my last post ignored the fact that at my job people come to me and strike up conversation, not the other way around). I now have a couple of ins I need to figure out how to utilize come next year. And I need to remember to bloody relax.

The front of my new cards.

The front of my new cards.

And the back.

And the back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You win some, you lose some. I’m glad I’ve walked away from this year’s festival with the knowledge of what does not work for me, and a new plan for aspects of my business that will help me with networking next year. It’s all a matter of starting small and letting that snowball build up on itself without me desperately trying to push it up a hill.

If you attended this year how did your plans go and what did you think of WWC? I also have a post on Anxiety Ink with a few more specifics of my own attendance than I mentioned here.

Prepping for When Words Collide 2016

As I’m sure you know, every year I attend the local (to Calgary) readercon When Words Collide. This will be my fourth year attending and I’m hoping to shake up my experience this time around; with August fast approaching I decided discussing my aspirations here will transform into a plan and help me to get my butt in gear.

In 2013 and 2015 I attended the offered pre-festival workshops featuring Patricia Briggs and Faith Hunter. Those were writing-life altering experiences. This year the master classes didn’t call to me, so I’m simply attending the festival, though that itself is rife with more information than any writer brain can process quickly.

All the writerly wisdom gathering aside, my focus this year is networking. I am a terrible networker. Atrocious really. My social anxiety, coupled with my doing-my-darnedest-to-be-punctual-but-rarely-am stress, and my myriad issues with strangers means that when I’m not inside a presentation or with someone I know, my brain is in defensive mode. Defensive mode is not the best head-space for trying to chat people up.

I was largely on my own last year because Kate, who is my WWC compatriot, had multiple presentations to prep for and attend and a merchant table she helped out with, among other things. I was pretty exhausted, but I did damn alright on my own –I even had lunch with someone I met outside the little café I was eyeballing.

I’m betting this year will be largely the same since Kate has her own merchant spot to handle on top of everything else she likes to tackle. I don’t mind the alone time at all, but I want to do more than mentally bolster myself during that time.

So, with a little under four weeks to prepare (as of the day of me writing this post, 10 days from it going live), I am going to do my best to learn how to network in such a setting!

I feel better armoured since I know in advance that I’m going to be largely on my own, and my day job in customer service has made me a pro at small talk, plus never underestimate the bolstering power of a professional persona. E.V. O’Day is much better in such a setting over the long haul than Elisa is any day.

Wish me luck! And I will absolutely be passing along my results and knowledge!

Oh, and I hope to see you at WWC!

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: A Hilarious, Necessary Voyage

While at Sirens last year, I sat in a panel devoted to discussing Resources for Writing Fantasy. Even though I’ve been writing since I learned how, I haven’t been writing fantasy for long. I dabbled in the genre a bit when I was young, but hadn’t thrown myself into it until about two years ago.

In the mean time I had read my fair share of fantasy books, mostly epics, but none of the major canonical works in the genre. I’d also watched quite a lot of fantasy derived movies and television shows. The latter of which can outline so many ‘what not to-do’s’.

After reading my first urban fantasy book, Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, I knew that’s what I wanted to write. The more I read in the genre, the more attached to it I became. But I had a little problem. It would take me decades to read all the really significant urban fantasy works out there. And, the more novels I read in the sub-genre, the more aware I became of the cut-and-paste tropes constantly recycled. Some worked, many annoyed me because the whole series grew predictable.

Then I discovered I had a personal problem with the genre.

The people who work and write in the fantasy world are hard-core. Fantasy is what they live and breathe. While I adore the genre, I read outside it. Widely. And I no longer watch many fantasy shows because books are so much better. It’s no doubt nerves talking, but sometimes I feel like a pretender because I don’t know all the significant works and big names in fantasy. I easily get lost in fandom conversations.

Still, I was and am determined to write my own fantasy stories. A researcher at heart, I really wanted the list of titles the women of Sirens could direct me towards.

Thus, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland entered my realm. I am forever grateful.

The Tough Guide to FantasylandI literally just finished it this weekend and I need to gush about it. First though, as I’ve said under my Reading Recommendations tab, this post and my blurb under the tab are not intended as reviews. I want to talk about this book because it has helped me so much and I’m ridiculously excited about it.

The Tough Guide is based on the premise that every single fantasy story anyone anywhere has read all take place in the same locale: Fantasyland. Fantasyland is run by the Management, who love to subject characters and readers to the same tropes over and over.

It’s a no holds barred barrel of laughs that opens your eyes wide, like all good comedy does. Genres are built on tropes, that’s just the way it is. But sometimes those tropes get so overused they turn into cultural clichés –many of which are exhausted. Jones’s Tough Guide not only outlines 98% of the tropes, she illuminates 100% of the tired clichés writers need to stay clear of.

I didn’t expect a reference book to entertain me like this one did. I laughed throughout the journey and had many of my favourite fantasy epics flash before my eyes, mostly The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also came away utterly inspired. Every time I sat down and read it I thought about the different aspects of my own epic fantasy work and wanted to write down notes like a madman.

My absolute favourite entry involves the infamous BATH; it’s a long entry so I’ll share the best part:

Management Rules state that no one ever steals your clothes/valuables or AMBUSHES you while you are immersed in a Bath. Any lurker will wait until you have finished, take care, however. Baths are the occasion for SEX with one or more of your FELLOW TRAVELLERS. No matter how irritating you have found her/him up to then, after or during the Bath you will find her/him irresistible. It is probably something in the WATER. (17)

Pollen is the only hint I will give about the Horses entry. Source for this image.

Pollen is the only hint I will give about the Horses entry. Source for this image.

The HORSES of Fantasyland also have one of the best entries, as do most of the ANIMALS and types of FOOD. However, I’ll have to make you read the book to find out!

Finally, with the breakdowns of each type of character found in Fantasyland, it’s apparent the kinds of roles women have been forced into across the history of the genre. The sexist tropes are changing, thankfully, but they still run rampant. For instance, the long entry on VIRGINS shows outright that male virgins are seemingly non-existent while young women shouldn’t be anything but.

The only thing I’m walking away dissatisfied with is the lack of focus on aspects of fantasy subgenres, like urban fantasy. The Tough Guide is all about high fantasy that focuses on vast kingdoms, long lost royalty, and great quests.

Still, The Tough Guide is beyond useful and I’m glad I read it. Have you read it? If so, what did you think? If not, has my excitement sent you into its arms? What types of reference books have you found instrumental?

A Look at Writing Workshops

On May 16th I quit my hemming and hawing and purchased a spot in a writing workshop Kate talked me into attending. It’s called Bait and Hook and is one of the pre-festival workshops in conjunction with When Words Collide, a local readercon. The workshop, run by Faith Hunter, will last one day. The first five pages of participant’s manuscripts are due July 15.

As of today, I have spent 51 days obsessing over my five pages. I have only one (unfinished) manuscript I would even consider sharing with the outside world. Luckily for me, the first chapter of my manuscript works out to five pages. It’s also the same genre that Faith Hunter writes. Her feedback may be truly significant -I’m still not sure right now if that’s a good thing.

Hunter is going to give me feedback on whether those five pages contain enough to bait and hook her into reading the rest of the book. I am terrified.

Although I’ve been working on it for nearly two years, my novel is incomplete because I’ve had to walk away from it for a variety of reasons. I hadn’t read that first chapter in months and was understandably anxious about doing so. After some editing, I’m proud of what I have written. I plan to have another comb-through session with the pages before I submit them but I’m not embarrassed to do so. Nervous, yes. Because sharing any piece of work for the first time is nerve-wracking.

Excitement and trepidation are warring within me the closer July 15 comes. Once the pages are emailed away I’ll be resigned until August 13, where I will be a mess on the inside.

At this point you might be wondering why I’d submit the pages of an unfinished story at all. Why I’d share my work with someone intent on telling me what works and what doesn’t. Are the rewards really worth the stress?

Heck yes!

It’s extremely painful to share creative work with others. I have always compared it to stripping naked in public –something I have never done and will never do. You reveal so much about yourself when you open your shell, especially when you open it up to be analyzed. However, the opportunity for growth is undeniable.

Reading and taking to heart the basic tenants of writing is well and good –don’t use clichés, limit your use of adverbs and adjectives, show don’t tell, etc. But when you get into the zone of writing your brain doesn’t follow the rules. It can’t if it wants to stay creative, especially when it hasn’t had a long time to practice doing so.

Reading another person’s rough draft allows you to actively engage with a piece that hasn’t had the broken elements removed. A lot of writers make the same mistakes in their work so more often than not you can see first-hand why lots of things you do don’t actually work. I.e.: clichés are boring, adjectives remove power from sentences, obscure metaphors are irritating, and so on. Seeing why they don’t work versus simply hearing it over and over lets a writer grow much faster in my opinion.

I survived Patty Briggs reading chapter one of my werewolf novel.

I survived Patty Briggs reading chapter one of my werewolf novel.

Outside of workshops, it’s not very often that writers can get exposure to –and for– their unperfected prose and enter a safe environment to discuss them. There are heavily enforced rules in a workshop because they are designed to be a safe, creative space. Thankfully, nearly all writers are fragile and encouraging creatures. We like to nurture each other.

I’ve had a lot of experience with workshops. I have three and a half years of critique classes from university under my belt and I’ve attended a workshop with WWC before. My skin is thick. Not unpierceable, but thick.

So, I might be biting my nails about submitting my work and reading the feedback afterwards, yet I relish the chance to see what someone else thinks of the trajectory of my story. Besides, having a deadline has never been a bad thing for any writer.