I can’t believe it’s only been one year.
Wait. That’s not quite how I was going to start this.
I was going to choose one of my highlight moments from When Words Collide 2017—Calgary’s amazing reader and writer con that takes place the second weekend of August every year since 2011. There were so many:
❤ vanilla-vodka abetted Twister on the hotel balcony during the Calgary Association of Romance Writers’ of America party (thank you, Jill Flanagan, for organizing!);
❤ meeting Guy Gavriel Kay (I didn’t get his autograph, sorry, my love);
❤ chauffeuring Sam Hiyate, literary agent with The Rights Factory (he’s so nice, check out his #MSWL!), around and getting all sorts of dirt on the author-agent and agent-publisher relationships (and, I didn’t even have to get him drunk to get that), and also, introducing him at the Fish Creek Library Author Readings;
❤ asking C. C. Humphreys if he could read the phone book to me (OMG, people, WHAT A VOICE!);
❤ asking a question that got Mark Leslie to talk about how good it feels to pee your pants in public (I might give you the full story later on; I haven’t decided yet);
❤ trying not to swear in front of Adam Dreece’s daughter (and failing, I’m so sorry, Adam);
❤ selling a rather unexpected number of books including some slated to be door prizes;
❤ meeting people I’ve only known as Twitter handles or Facebook Friends (Hi, Heather!);
❤ seeing the amazing and talented Kymber Morgan for the first time since RT! Whoo-hoo!;
❤ asking Jennifer Estep if she’s been published (ok, not a highlight, more like, “I can’t fucking believe I said that!” but no one introduced her to me as the Jennifer Estep—they said, “Jane, this is Jennifer, Jennifer, this is Jane,” it totally wasn’t my fault!;
❤ getting surprised and ending up in bed with L. Sarah Bysterveld, which has long been on my bucket list; ;P
❤ having a total stranger (and I’m pretty sure she’s not one of my mom’s friends, either) tell me she just tore through Cherry Pie Cure and it was sooooo good, she couldn’t wait to read Tell Me next (I debriefed her and warned her, I promise—as I now am warning you—Tell Me is like… how can I do this without spoilers? what a book featuring Marcella would read like);
❤ introducing & attending award-winning poet (also my dear friend and neighbour) Richard Harrison’s “The Page Is Only Half the Art” workshop;
❤ moderating the “Navigating Good Reads” panel and listening to the fabulous interaction between its participants (and introducing the talented Brandy Ackerley properly);
❤ moderating the explosive “Gender, Sexuality, Feminism, and the Romance Novel” panel (with immense love and gratitude to passionate Sarah Kades and the vocal and responsive audience, especially my new partner-in-crime JD Poots—JD, you have no idea the plans I’ve got for us—the courageous woman in the back row who made THE point about consent and kink—and everyone who asked questions and who challenged the presenters and each other—you humans were AMAZING!;
❤ presenting “More Than a Guilty Pleasure 2.0” with my now long-time partner-in-crime Alyssa Lin Palmer and getting people (including the men in the audience—we had men!) excited about reading and writing romance and erotica (and also, defending porn—kudos to Angelica Dawson for bringing up Kink.com—btw, erotica writers—we’ve just got courage like nobody’s business, right?); (um, Kink.com if you don’t know, is a porn site. Click at your own risk. Open an incognito window on your browser first)
and, OMFG, so many other amazing moments…
So I was going to do that.
But what I keep on coming back to is… I can’t believe it’s only been one year.
My first When Words Collide was only last year. And I came to it timid and terrified. Also, paralyzed—in this state of “I don’t know what to do with myself or my career, I don’t even know if I am a writer, actually, I hate writers, I’m going to go hide in a dank hotel room by myself and write” movement-avoidance.
I had a (bad) contract with one of the big five publishers that they weren’t executing on properly—a published e-book that had dick all in sales and promotional support and no print run or POD availability because I didn’t know how to ask for the little that my (bad) contract allowed me—one finished manuscript with an offer on it from said publisher (but they weren’t going to get it, at least this much I did know), and a second manuscript that I had no idea what to do with… and what was the point of writing more if I was just going to keep them on my laptop?
I had books written… a book published… but no career, you know? And not a clue what to do.
(And, I had no place… I had no place in this writing universe. At all. No sense of who I was, who I could be, where I fit in…)
Fast-forward one year. That’s all it is. One year.
I have three novels published and available in Old World and New World formats (e-book and paper, I mean), as well as a collection of non-fiction essays. I have my first audiobook coming out in the fall (squee), a series of four novellas written and ready to release over 2018 with an indie imprint, another novel that will be coming to market traditionally in 2019, and three WiPs I’m so excited about.
And, a five-year business plan.
I put the credit for the momentum and movement I achieved between August 2016 and August 2017 squarely in the lap of When Words Collide.
I still remember coming home on the final day of the 2016 festival, buzzing. Ready to make lists. Connections. Ready to learn—knowing, finally, where to go to learn, who to go to for help.
In the two weeks that followed WWC, I joined the Romance Writers of America, its Calgary chapter, its erotic romance chapter, and the unaffiliated Alberta Romance Writers’ Association. Also a writers’ productivity group—which I attend but sporadically, but at the writing marathons of which I did manage to finish four novellas, so, yeah, there’s that—and the planning committee/board of When Words Collide because, fuck, I recognize magic when I see it, and I wanted to see it from the inside.
I asked for print and audio rights reversion from my publisher—and didn’t get it, but I got execution on the lagging parts of my contract and finally, 18 months after e-publication, got to see my first novel in print. (It matters. E-books are awesome… print is better.) I shopped my second novel to one other publisher—and now knew a bad contract when I saw one—and I made the momentous decision to bring it to market independently… to help me really, really apply and execute all the things I started to learn at WWC, all the things I was now learning at RWA-U, at CaRWA and ARWA meetings, from my new colleagues.
I had colleagues. I had peers!
I went to the Surrey International Writers Conference a couple of months after WWC—also a good experience, although one the price tag of which was 10 times as high (really, WWC is the best financial deal you will get on a writer/reader con ever… because it’s run by fans and volunteers, not institutions and employees)—and learned… not quite as much, but I made some important and meaningful connections… hey, I found two of them at WWC17:
Laura Lovett, author of the thriller Losing Cadence, and Tammy Rebere, whose first book, a chilling memoir, will be coming to market soon (I’m the slut in the middle. Look, it was a pajama party. And I’m an erotica writer. I’ve got to represent, you know?)
I put together a non-fiction collection of essays/blog posts in the fall of 2016 to
- a) have a book available for the Tell Me launch party I was finally planning (did I mention? 18 months after publication?) because I was paranoid Tell Me wouldn’t arrive on time (I was right, but that’s another story, and
- b) have a product to experiment with on the Ingram Sparks, Create Space, KDP, and other platforms. (I didn’t know what Ingram Sparks was, and had just the vaguest sense that Create Space and KDP existed before WWC. I hadn’t heard of Smashwords or Draft2Digital. I didn’t actually know iTunes sold books. BTW, Apple, I’m a voracious reader and lifelong Mac-lover and I didn’t know you sold e-books. Just saying.)
I had the most amazing launch party ever—my coming out party as an erotic romance novelist. (Thank you, my loves, for helping make that happen. xoxo)
(I would spend the six months after the party learning that maybe I wasn’t really a romance novelist. But of all the labels out there—that one fit the best, and I preferred to be on the fringe of the genre writers, not quite fitting within their definitions, than at the literary fiction table. And there’s another blog post in that—I’ll share it with you sometime.)
I took four months to carefully bring Consequences to market as an indie title—and kind of fucked up along every step of the way, including how and when I launched it—but oh-god, did I ever learn a lot.
I made the momentous (and expensive) decision to go to the Romantic Times Conference in Atlanta Georgia… and OMFG, an experience that rocked my world as much as WWC… if in a different way. WWC showed me potential, and my five-year plan. RT shaved a year, maybe even two off my five-year plan. But I wouldn’t have dared to go to RT… and I wouldn’t have known how to work RT… if I hadn’t had the WWC experience first.
In preparation for RT, to take advantage of a promo opportunity RT and Smashwords offered to attending authors, I wrote a new novel in a week—took it from idea to uploaded “final” in the space of less than a month. This is not a skill I learned at WWC—but WWC introduced me to prolific writers so I knew it was possible. It introduced me to ARWA, where I was introduced to the Scrivener software (thank you, Mahrie G. Reid), which has changed not so much the way I write but definitely the way I revise and edit—and which made writing Cherry Pie Cure as quickly as I did possible.
WWC also introduced me to RWA and CaRWA, the courses and support offered by which accelerated my understanding of craft. And marketing (although the latter is still the part of the “shit sandwich” I don’t really want to eat) and the need to jump on opportunities.
I attended When Words Collide last year sort of as a lost sheep. Stumbling from panel to panel in a crowd of strangers, pretty much in a constant state of anxiety.
I attended When Words Collide this year as a member of its planning committee with a role as the volunteer manager of the festival’s Merchants Corner and guest liaison for a top-notch literary agent, a representative of ARWA and CaRWA (with places to go to chill and regroup and reconnect with MY people when I got my fill of strangers), a moderator and a presenter.
And, a working author.
Forgive me for repeating the chorus once again, but I really can’t believe it.
You always ask me (you know I always write for you) what my biggest take-away was. And you don’t accept “everything” as an answer.
So I’ve been thinking about it a lot this past week, and here it is.
Ultimately, WWC taught me to… dare.
The people I met there, you see—they dare.
They don’t just dream and say “I want to write.” “It’s always been my dream to be a writer.”
They fucking execute. They do it.
They inspired me to dare. To dare to do, to risk–to fail, and then to dare and do again.
And I am so grateful.
So—thank you. Thank you, When Words Collide.
When Words Collide (whenwordscollide.org) isn’t an institution. It’s people. So when I thank When Words Collide, I am saying thank you to the two dozen members of the planning committee, and the dozens upon dozens of volunteers who work the festival while it’s happening, the 150 (!!) presenters, and the 750 attendees.
And, above all, to Randy McCharles, he who dreamed up the festival (he’s listed in the festival’s program book as “The One to Blame”) and whose passion and vision keeps it going.
Oh, BTW: When Words Collide has been nominated for the 2017 Aurora Award for Best Fan Organization.
Voting is open to all CSFFA members
So… see you next year. Keep in mind, When Words Collide sells out EVERY YEAR. Passes for 2018 are already on sale—and the early bird price is $45. Yeah, you read that right. I didn’t miss a zero. Get yours today.
PS I’m part of this Hot Tree Promotions promo this week, and if you haven’t read Consequences yet, you can get it for $0.99 through Sunday.
Now available for download.22 incredible romances are on sale for #free or #99cents for a limited time only. Check them out today.Be sure to also enter the $40 Amazon gift card giveaway too!#HT_romances #contemporaryromance #specialPurchase links & Giveaway: www.hottreepromotions.com/specials
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What a great post … telling it as it is! Love your drive! Great learning about your journey And love the unique way you tell stories, but you know that!
Also … CONGRATS on taking everything into your own hands and on achieving so much in “one year”!
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