Tag Archives: writer’s conference

Snippets from a Writer’s Conference: @WordLake

Word on the Lake was, once again, fantastic. I came home with my head stuffed with info, my feet hovering about two inches off the ground with the sheer buoyancy of inspiration.

Here are a few snippets, visual, inspirational or educational (the latter paraphrased in my own words from what stuck with me):

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It’s not called “Word on the Lake” for nothing

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That’s a beaver paddling around!

Ian Weir (screenwriter and novelist): “Give yourself permission to write. A lawyer goes to school for about nine years – a writer should be allowed the same time to learn their craft.”

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Steve at lunch

Gail Anderson-Dargatz (novelist, teacher, mentor):

“Being a literary writer is like being a concert pianist. It takes the same level of training, and practice – and practice…”

“Write crap.” (i.e. get the first crappy draft on the page, then go back and work it over)

“Most writers share character traits of being odd, anxious, fearful, observant, introverted…” (There was a huge long list on the whiteboard. I almost cried with relief at hearing that I’m not alone.) “Don’t let your fears hold back your character on the page.”

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Another hugely encouraging Blue Pencil session – thank you, Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Guest (teacher, writer of historic novels for young adults): “If it’s character-driven, what’s driving the character?”

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Panel discussion on “The Importance of Writing Back Stories for Your Characters”

There was story after story of the presenters’ own lives, which was probably more inspiring than anything else. This was, after all, a writer’s conference – probably the most interesting group of people to listen or talk to you could imagine. It didn’t matter where you werein a workshop, at lunch, chatting between sessions – at the slightest provocation people drop into telling stories. And they tell them well – boredom is not one of the invited guests at a writers’ gathering.

I came away encouraged, inspired, and energized (as well as exhausted – it’s that introvert thing, which meant that even a day later I needed a really long nap just to recuperate some of my energies). My mind was expanded, and so was my network – I reconnected with friends from previous years, made new friends, found new mentors to follow and learn from…

I can’t wait for next year’s conference. But meanwhile, I have some writing to do!

Life, the Universe, and Snippets from a Conference. See you there in 2019?

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Writers in Conference

I got to go to the Writer’s Conference, Word on the Lake, this past weekend. Now that I have (mostly) recovered from the excitement and adrenaline high, here are a few pictures:

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The dock on Shuswap Lake next to the hotel

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We stayed at the hotel; Steve got a bed all to himself

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Steve and me watching old Star Trek on TV in our room. He thinks Captain Kirk is silly.

I got to have a blue pencil (critique) session with Gail Anderson-Dargatz, an award-winning internationally bestselling author who just happens to live in the area. Gail is amazing. She went way beyond what is expected from a blue-pencil-er (blue pencil provider? critiquer? whatever that’s called). Her input was encouraging, illuminating, challenging, and informative, but aside from that, she’s just a great person to talk to. We got along like a house on fire (at least that’s how I felt), and largely thanks to her I came away from the weekend feeling that much more like a “real” writer. And of course I bought her latest book, The Spawning Grounds, and got her to sign it for me.

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Books and a CD by some of the presenters

And here comes the great big shoot-up-the-fireworks highlight: I won an award. That’s right: I got first place in the non-fiction category of the Word on the Lake Writing Competition! I got a cash prize, but even better, my story of how I immigrated to Canada (“Canada” being this year’s theme) was printed in the contest anthology. I’ve been published!!! It’s just a small little book, nothing all that amazing – but you know what, to me it is amazing. It was all very exciting. There was a banquet with lovely food and entertainment, and I had my hand shook and all, and got a beautiful certificate to take home.

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My award! And my story in print!

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The first-place winner in the poetry category performing his poem (song).

I had a sales table in the foyer during the conference where I tried to flog my books and/or get more editing clients, luring them with candy. The success rate was, shall we say, indifferent (i.e. I only sold one book, to a friend, and gave one away), but hey, having the table made for some good networking. Which is what a conference of this kind is all about. Plus, I gave people sugar. Muahahah!

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Me trying to lure readers and editing clients with candy.

Of course all of that was only part of it. There were so many learning opportunities in the amazing workshops – “How to Get Your Book Noticed” (by Gail), “Effective Book Proposals” (by Anna Comfort-O’Keeffe, a professional editor), “The Importance of Setting in Fiction” (by the very funny and Irish Patrick Taylor)… and another by one of the writers for Murdoch Mysteries, in which we learned how a mystery show episode is written (I’ll never watch TV shows the same way again). I came home with my head full to bursting; I still haven’t quite settled down to everyday life again.

Life, the Universe, and a Writer’s Conference. I’ll be processing the experience for quite some time yet.

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What I Came Home With

IMG_20160522_163421So Steve and I are back from the Writer’s Festival. We had a great time – well, I did; I think he did too (his favourite was a workshop on Bears In Poetry; he got to read one of his latest pieces). I came back with a bunch of new books, a small jar of iron gall ink (more on that below), and a ton of inspiration and encouragement.

I think the one main impression, the key idea, I took away from this conference is this: There is no one way to doing things as a writer. It came out over and over in presentations, in workshops, in discussions, in Q&A sessions. There are pantsers, there are plotters. There are people who crank out novels every few months, there are ones who take years. Some write in third person past tense, some use first person present. There’s traditionally published authors, there’s self-published ones. There’s outliners, there’s free-writers. And you’ll find any stripe of them in any category – not all plotters are trad-published, not all self-publishers are pantsers (or vice versa). In other words, do whatever works for you and for what you’re working on. As one of the presenters (the most excellent Jodi McIsaac) put it: It’s not a rule, it’s a tool.

And speaking of tool, the last workshop I took, and probably the most fun one (even though it wasn’t directly related to the kind of writing I do, with keyboard and screen and stuff), was on ink. That’s right, the black stuff (or blue) that flows from the end of your pen and makes words on paper. The presenter, Ted Bishop, has written a whole book on it: The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word. I haven’t read it yet, but yes, of course I got a copy. And he signed it for me – in my own ink. You see, being one of those suck-up-to-the-teacher types, I brought him a jar of my walnut ink (and a walnut with the husk still on it, to show what they look like).

But what we actually did in the class was make real, honest-to-goodness, classic iron gall ink. The kind of ink that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in, and the earliest existing copy of the Quran, and Magna Carta, and of course all of Shakespeare’s stuff and Jane Austen’s and pretty much anyone who is anyone’s and every nobody’s as well, up until the early 20th century.

IMG_20160523_115438_1While Ted was talking about the history of the ballpoint pen (fascinating!), we passed around a mortar and pestle with an oak gall in it, taking turns grinding it down to a fine powder. Then we ground in a chunk of gum arabic (the stuff that’s the binder in watercolour paints), mixed it in water (it was still a boring buff colour at this point), then added a teaspoon of ferrous sulfate, which is a pale green powder (I got to stir). And – voilà! – the mix  instantly turned a deep black! And then we got to try it out – and the funky thing about this particular kind of ink is that it doesn’t go on as black as it becomes later, but looks quite watery to start with. I thought the pen hadn’t been loaded correctly on my first stroke, and re-dipped it and re-drew the lines – but what happens is that it’s actually the chemical reaction with the air, aka plain old oxidation, that makes it go really black on the page. Kind of like Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map, where the letters appear pale at first and get stronger and stronger (Ted’s description, not mine). It’s a beautiful ink, a deep blue-black (once it’s done oxidising), and completely waterproof – I soaked the sheet of paper in the picture here after I’d written it, and it didn’t smudge or run at all. And it could last for millennia…

So, that’s what I did on my weekend. And now I’m itching to get back to writing (I’ve even played with the idea of handwriting a story sometime – not with iron gall ink, of course; dip pens are far too tedious – but then I always end up back at the keyboard).

So I’ll sign off, with Life, the Universe, a Writer’s Conference and Iron Gall Ink. Talk to you later!

PS: Check out Jodie Renner (the Blue Pencil presenter who was so great), Susan Fox, and Robert J. Sawyer, as well – all their workshops were excellent, and I learned a lot.

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Jaw Drop

IMG_20160520_104941I’m going to a Writer’s Conference this weekend, and as part of the conference registration you get to have a Blue Pencil (critique) session with a professional writer/editor. I sent in a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, an off-the-cuff piece about a girl who gets a marriage proposal she can’t refuse. I was feeling quite insecure about it – the blue-pencil presenter I’m having my session with judges short story competitions and is a professional editor, and, well, you know my rambling, drivelly style…

I fully expected her to tear the piece to shreds. I’d gone over it plenty of times, but couldn’t think of what else to do with it to improve it; it really was the best I could do with this story. So I just hit “send” on it, casting it on the waves – what will be, will be…

Then this morning, I get back an email from her. With fear and trembling, I open the message, and here is what it said:

“Hi Angelika, I really enjoyed your short story! In fact, it’s so good that I really don’t have a lot of advice to offer. Would you like to email me and bring the first 5-6 pages from another writing project to our consultation this weekend?”

And there I sat, with tears running down my face. Literally, that classic hand-clapped-to-open-mouth, laughing-and-sobbing-in-disbelief pose.

I carried my laptop downstairs to show the message to my Man, dried my cheeks, re-read the mail about another half a dozen times, then booted up my book files and found another piece to send to the editor. The first chapter of Star Bright – we’ll see what she has to say. At this point I’m willing to take almost anything from her.

Life, the Universe, and a Jaw Drop. Maybe I am a real writer, after all?

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