When Words Collide Roundup

Calgary’s literary festival “When Words Collide” is fast becoming one of my favourite conferences. Outside of maybe the World Fantasy Convention, this is most fun I’ve had as a writer. A lot of the credit goes to organizer, Randy McCharles (who also chaired World Fantasy when it was in Calgary–my first real con, FYI) and won an Aurora Award this year for founding and organizing last year’s festival.

Thursday I was supposed to attend the Bundoran Press launch of Hayden Trenholm’s Blood and Water, but by the time I’d finished supper with an old friend, the event was just getting underway, so it was a low key but very late evening of talking comics for me instead. Probably a good thing as loaded as the rest of the weekend was.

One of the things about being a Winnipegger, is that inevitably when you travel across the country (or the world) you end up hanging out with other Winnipeggers. So I did spent a bit of time with fellow ‘Peg specfic writers Sherry Peters and Gerald Brandt. It was also nice to see that Aurora nominated Greg Chomichuk attended the con (and brought his dad, Walter–lovely man). I also had lunch with Jean and Joedi, two publisher reps out in Calgary. It was nice to see them on their home turf. Normally we only get to talk over book catalogues in Winnipeg.

I didn’t take in much programming Friday, instead hanging around the Dealer’s Room catching up with old friends. I met the Tyche Books team–they’re doing some nice looking work, keep an eye on this rising Edmonton Press. They sent me home with some recipes from Krista Ball’s new book What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank (Brains and Butter! Together at last! Yum!). I also managed to reconnect with Seattle author Rhiannon Held. We met in Columbus, Ohio for the 2010 World Fantasy Convention and I interviewed her for the release of her debut novel, Silver. It was very cool that she made the trip to Calgary. I also caught the tail end of the Keynote speeches (Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta).

I took in the SF Canada and On Spec party which honoured the Aurora nominees as well as the joint launch party for Bundoran Press, Breathless Press and The Tenth Circle Project. Eventually I ended up at an impromptu scotch tasting (you’ll sense a theme here) that proved to be very, very dangerous.

Saturday morning I dusted myself off in time for my panel on Telling a Book by Its Cover (with former Saskatoon colleague Kent Pollard, Stephanie Johanson of Neo-Opsis, artist Dan O’Driscoll and publisher Justyn Perry). It went well–I think. Sometimes it can be hard to judge. I was moderating, I think I kept everyone in the conversation, and that we stayed mostly on topic. Page proofs showed up on my door the week before the con, so I didn’t prepare as well as I’d hoped–I also didn’t want to lug an entire suitcase of books with covers that worked and covers that didn’t on the plane with me.

You never know who’ll you bump into at these things, so imagine my surprise when Sarah Kades and I recognized each other in the hotel hallway. We used to work together at the book store before she moved to Calgary, where she now works as an archaeologist and writes adventure romance. I’ve made a mental note to check out her book.

I rarely go to the Kaffee Klatches, but I hadn’t seen mystery author Anthony Bidulka in a few years. Anthony is an amazing raconteur and had some great tales to tell. A fun, genuine guy and one hell of a writer. I’m really looking forward to his new series of books.

Next was the first set of readings I attended. Nicole Luiken read from her YA novel Dreamline, Jennifer Kennedy read from her Norse influenced story “Fingernails” which appeared in Danse Macabre, and Cat McDonald read from a work in progress.

Eventually, I shined myself up for the Aurora Awards Banquet; grey dinner jacket, salmon coloured shirt and matching tie and my Autobots belt buckle. The food would have been adequate if I had paid twenty dollars rather than forty for my banquet ticket, but at least there was cheesecake at the end (and whiskey throughout). My good friend Rob Sawyer won for best novel–which makes three in a row, his WWW trilogy has made a clean sweep of the award. When asked who will win, I always tend to vote with my heart rather than my head but this year I was wrong more than I was right on either count. One result I’m very happy to report I was right on in both regards was Helen Marshall taking the Aurora for Best Poem/Song. “Skeleton Leaves” is simply an amazing work.

I was also very excited for On Spec to take home an Aurora. It’s always great to see Barb Galler-Smith, Diane Walton and the On Spec team at conventions. They also published the first story I sold, and even cooler, the artist of the cover for that issue, Dan O’Driscoll, won an Aurora too.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Best Novel
Wonder, Robert J. Sawyer (Penguin Canada)

Best Short Fiction
“The Needle’s Eye,” Suzanne Church, from Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live (EDGE)

Best Poem/Song
“Skeleton Leaves,” Helen Marshall (Kelp Queen Press)

Best Graphic Novel
Goblins, Tarol Hunt (Webcomic)

Best Related Work
On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic, Copper Pig Writers’ Society

Best Artist
Dan O’Driscoll

Best Fan Publication
Bourbon and Eggnog, Eileen Bell, Ryan McFadden, Billie Milholland, and Randy McCharles (10th Circle Project)

Best Fan Filk Musician (for music based on sci-fi)
Phil Mills

Best Fan Organization
When Words Collide, presented to founder and chair Randy McCharles

Best Fan (Other)
Peter Watts, “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology,” Toronto SpecFic Colloquium lecture

Saturday night was party night (More parties! Woo!). There were several going on around the hotel. IFWA (Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) honoured the Aurora Award winners. EDGE publications had a party to celebrate the launch of their fall line. Eventually I ended up at the ChiZine Publications room party. Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi were there of course, as was Napier’s Bones author Derryl Murphy. I also met author and publisher at Faery Ink Press Clare Marshall and hung out a bit with Colleen Anderson. I may have also accidentally pitched a book I haven’t written yet while complaining about how hard I find it to do elevator pitches for my own work (I do a pretty good job of selling other people’s stuff–eleven years of bookselling helps there, but I find it almost impossible to think of a good tagline for any of my own stories). I left the party with an advance reading copy of Robert Shearman’s forthcoming collection of short stories Remember Why You Fear Me.

Sunday came all to soon after three straight late nights and early mornings.

At the EDGE Fall launch, I read from “Back in Black” and was told by the Sheriff of When Words Collide, one Cat McDonald, that I rocked the mic like a bulldog. Everyone at the launch delivered great readings (Dave Duncan, Tim Reynolds, Jennifer Kennedy, Randy McCharles and Adria Laycraft). Immediately afterwards, I read with fellow Turnstone Press author and writing group chum, Karen Dudley. I read from Thunder Road, Karen read from Food for the Gods. It wasn’t my best reading, I’m afraid. My EDGE reading was near the end of the slot, so there was only ten minutes or so between it and my Thunder Road piece. Didn’t quite have the batteries recharged, or didn’t switch gears fast enough. Not the end of the world, but disappointing. I will say big thanks to Eileen Bell, Erika Holt, and Ryan McFadden for being among the audience, especially since Eileen and Erika were at the readings Karen and I did at Keycon.

I stayed in the room for the next group of readers: Bob Stallworthy, Susan Forest, and Colleen Anderson. A little bit of poetry, a little bit of prose. Very good stuff. After a late lunch, I took in the Tenth Circle Project readings with Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles, Ryan McFadden and Billie Milholland. This is a great neo-noir shared world series with some fun science fictional elements.

The Dead Dog party is a convention staple, where the con survivors take in one more night of socializing and fun. So glad I stayed in town for it this year. There was a crazy lightning storm (which despite arriving several beers in, had me scribbling notes in my notebook) that a bunch of us writer types watched from the hotel’s exterior balcony. I didn’t quite close the joint down, at 3:30 am I decided that turning into a pumpkin was in my best interest.

Best part of the con is how many friends I have out in Alberta now. I’ve already bought my membership for next year.

Guests at When Words Collide 2013 include: Patricia Briggs, David B. Coe, and my publisher, Jamis Paulson of Turnstone. When Words Collide is changing venues for next year, and while I loved the open central area of the hotel that allowed you to see who was currently in the bar or having a meal (and those exterior balconies), the place was also hot as Surtur’s ball sack. I definitely won’t miss that. Hopefully new venue, the Carriage House Inn will be a good fit.

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