Saturday, August 12, 2017

When Words Collide

For more information about Susan Calder's books, or to purchase please visit her Books We Love Author Page.

This is a big weekend for book lovers in Calgary -- When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. I am currently dashing from panel to presentation, trying to pack in as much as I can. 

Is that me on a WWC panel -- third person from the left?

I've attended WWC every August since it began six years ago; the brainchild of our local imaginative fiction authors who felt their annual convention wasn't offering enough for writers interested in craft and promotion. I didn't expect much from this new event and mainly attended as a fan of science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, one of that year's five special guest authors.

WWC poster 2011
Since I had a new book to promote, I volunteered to conduct a workshop on Writing Dialogue. I was astonished to see the people pour in; they had to turn away some at the door. In the Merchants' Room, I did a shift at the shared author table and sold all the copies of my novel I'd brought. Other highlights for me were the keynote addresses, where each guest author spoke for 20 minutes on whatever subject he wanted, and a coffee klatch with Robert Sawyer and a dozen other fans seated around a table. This opportunity for a personal contact between writers and readers is one appeal of the festival.    

Overall, I was surprised by how much I learned at the panels and presentations, even though imaginative fiction isn't my genre. Fortunately, I'm a fan of the original Star Trek series and was able to catch the numerous references to Spock and the gang.

Most of all, I was impressed by the festival's energy. Science Fiction and Fantasy types know how to host a fun event. Showing up in costume is acceptable, if not encouraged.        

Since that first year, WWC has grown to 750 attendees and typically sells out two months ahead.  Most who come are local Calgarians, although many travel from other Canadian and US locations. They find the festival price of $45-60 (depending on when you register) a steal for three full days of programming, with 12 choices of panels, presentations, blue pencil cafes, pitch sessions and more per hour.

WWC brings in some literary stars in their genre. A couple of years ago, Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, lit up every room she entered.  


At the same time, anyone can be a presenter. All you have to do is suggest a topic or put your name in for a panel. No one is paid -- the stars are reimbursed their expenses -- but always more people than they need offer to present for the promotion and experience.

Me on a WWC panel

With another new book out, I'm focused on panelling this year. Somehow, I've wound up on six panels, four in the mystery genre and two others titled Fragility & Mental Illness Within Story and Beyond Traditional and Self-Publishing. I'm also doing a shift at the Books We Love table in the Merchants' Room and attending the Saturday evening banquet and Mass Autograph session. This year's banquet theme is the roaring twenties.      

Me in flapper costume

Last year, I only presented at two WWC panels to keep my time free for attending other sessions and activities. In the Merchants' Room, at the Steampunk party and at a panel on Mature Sleuths, I heard good things about Books We Love, a local publisher of genre fiction. After the festival, I sent BWL a query. Less than two weeks later I signed a contract.

Are writers' festivals, and especially When Words Collide, worth attending? You bet!

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