The Ninth Chapter of WHEN WORDS COLLIDE is now over, and around Western Canada, the Northwestern United States, and some pockets in the Midwest and East, 800 exhausted readers and writers are processing and composing their notes of gratitude. My first When Words Collide, in 2016, was a tremendous career and creative catalyst. This fourth one was more challenging–having fun is still hard, folks–but so many good things happened.
I got to celebrate TRACY COOPER-POSEY’s 100th BOOK MILESTONE, and got utterly inspired and shaken up by her awesomeness. Also, I won this fab hoodie:
I got to hang out LOTS with JILLY JAXX 😉 who also won a hoodie ;)… which I won from her in a rigged arm wrestling contest. Which means you might win it… if you’re my newsletter subscriber (link at end of post):
I raised $115 for Camp fYreFLY with sales of A QUEER SUMMER NIGHT IN COWTOWN!
I found out that whenever MONICA LOMOND sees cherries, she thinks of me:
JOSHUA PANTALLERSCO of the JUST JOSHING PODCAST made me cry, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
(is “podcasted” a word? Should that be “podcast by”? I have no idea. Words. BTW, that is why we work with professional editors and proofreaders, who care about these details. ;P )
I spent some time in the BLANKET FORT with … um, various people (not shown):
And gossiped lots with TAMMY LYN CARBOL, the fab president of the ALBERTA ROMANCE WRITERS ASSOCIATION. Here’s our obligatory annual “we so cute” selfie:
But my most illustrative story from When Words Collide 2019 starts in… February 2018, actually. But it ends like this:
When you’re browsing the books, books, books at #wwcyyc2019 and see one that you think you might like, and then pick it up and flip through it, and say, “Hey, I’m in this book!” 😂
The book is Writing Better Fiction: Advice from Some of Canada’s Best Writers and Editors, and I want to tell you the story of how my piece, “The What, Who, Why, When and How of Writing Prompts,” came to be.
So I’m on a plane to New Orleans, to the inaugural post-Romantic Times Book Lovers conference, fuming at my total of creativity in the domain of reader swag. Pens, notebooks, postcards, lipstick—everything’s been done and nothing appeals, and also, frankly, I don’t want to give people a make-up kit with my logo on it as a way of enticing them to read my books, WTF is the point of that?
My swag in New Orleans, btw, consists of Thin Skyn condoms and Hershey’s kisses, bundled into little bags with my business cards. What? Totally on brand. I want my readers to have lots and lots of (safer) sex. And experience many kisses and eat chocolate. Preferably while thinking of me + reading my books. Anyway. Point: I’m having swag angst.
I deal with swag angst as I deal with anything: I write. As many of you know, it’s been few hard months in my family, and as I’m on that plane to New Orleans, I realize I have the time and space to write. Six hours, more or less. Write, bitch!
Writing when you’re in crisis is hard: writing BIG when you have a hard time thinking is hard. The advice I give other writers when they’re in this place is to start small, think small. A word, a sentence—get moving, get a sentence down on paper, grab a writing prompt and write it down—don’t try too hard, don’t think—just… write a sentence.
Fuck, you know, even that’s hard, but the thing is, I’ve taught a few courses in 2018, and I came up with a bunch of writing prompts for them, so what I’m going to do—this is me talking to myself on the plane to New Orleans, and not in my head, the man sitting next to me is edging away, just a little—is I’m going to put them all into one document.
I have 67. That’s kinda an odd number. Let’s write a few more.
I have 101, that’s a lovely number.
OMG, I have swag. I have a book of 101 flirty writing prompts to seduce your muse. YES!
I just need a short intro, maybe? And I probably have something on my blog already or in my course materials that fits the bill?
I’m excited and my fingers and tingling and I put aside the writing prompt document and write a filthy, filthy, FILTHY (OMG, it’s so hot) 3,500 word short that riffs of “Accidental Cupid,” the short story I wrote for Passionate Ink RWA’s Passionate Hearts collection. I’m flying, I’m writing, I’m happy.
I land, buy condoms and kisses, work the conference.
At the airport on the way back from NOLA, my flight is delayed (New Orleans is drowning, a little, crying, perhaps, because I’m leaving so soon), and I check Facebook. Jim Jackson’s tagged me in a post. I scan the post kinda absent-mindedly… submissions… Writing Better Fiction… fundraiser for the Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest… bla bla bla… um… well, that writing prompt thing I’ve been kicking around could easily be turned into an article for the piece, right? Right.
Jim Jackson’s a talented and versatile writer and speaker, and we met via the Bloody Offensive readings, which is a story for another time. And I appreciate him reaching out to me, and I’m immediately in this “I don’t want to disappoint him” place and also, I love the fact that the Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest actually gives the winner, you know, money, and I want to help—and so, on the plane from New Orleans to Calgary, I take my writing prompt blog post and I make it… what’s the word I’m looking for… GOOD.
(There’s a huge difference between an off-the-cuff blog post and an article you submit for publication. I’m a journalist. Them habits are deep.)
In fact, it’s so good, I realize it just turned my 101 Flirty Writing Prompts to Seduce Your Muse into a book. Especially if I flesh out the conclusion of it, “Next Steps,” into a stand-alone piece and END the booklet with it, and OMG, I’m going to have the best conference swag ever, because it’s going to be, like, a useful thing for writers, and an amusing thing for readers, and on the back, I’m going to put pictures of my fiction books, so it’s going to be promo for me, and, in this bad, no-good year in which nothing is going as planned—I’m going to have finished a THING.
I send off the article to WRITE BETTER FICTION editor Brent Nichols a few days after I land (I’ve just met him at WWC yesterday. He’s very tall. And by his own admission, dead inside. I think he needs to work with my dirty writing prompts to wake up his inner lover. But I don’t know him well enough to tell him that yet. ;P ) Apparently, he accepts it. 🎉
And I turn it and my writing prompts into a little book.
And then I think… wait, wait… this could be the first book of a little series that supports my courses…
… and I plug away at this project in-between the chaos of my current life–rebrand ROUGH DRAFT CONFESSIONS to be part of it, get serious about putting my ORGANIZED CREATIVE workshop materials into something cohesive, and… yeah.
A week before When Words Collide, ORGANIZED CREATIVE is getting its final galley proofs from the talented SWATI CHAVDA, whom I first met at When Words Collide 2016, and then got to know through the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association before she went back to India, and the amazing FALON MALEC, whom I met through MONICA LOMOND–yes, Monica and i met at When Words Collide 2017. Then, after she met Falon at an artists’ market in Red Deer, she thought–these two should know each other, and yeah, we totally should, and now we do.
On Saturday night at When Words Collide 2019, slumped in the corner of the bar and trying to find my second wind so that I can make it to the blanket fort for a while (you had to be there; I’m not even going to try to explain), I slump into a bit of a mental slump. I feel that I haven’t really moved forward much in either my professional career or my creative development this past year–past eight months in particular. I feel sorry for myself, and I feel frustrated with some of the non-volunteers with the volunteer organizations I’m working to support/give back to, and I’m wondering what’s the point of it all…
… and JILLIE JAXX is serving as my believing mirror and reality check, and then PJ VERNON, SARAH L. JOHNSON, and JIM JACKSON, along with a slew of COFFIN HOP PRESS people including ROBERT BOSE, come join us. PJ Vernon and I kinda met at When Words Collide–well, we passed each other in the parking lot, I think at When Words Collide 2017, but then we recognized each other at a future book launch, and, if you recall, we’ve most recently done this together:
And Sarah L. Johnson and I met through Owl’s Nest Books, not When Words Collide, but it was Sarah who invited me to be part of the BLOODY OFFENSIVE readings back in February 2018, and that’s how I met Jim Jackson, and that’s how I got invited to contribute to WRITE BETTER FICTION.
(Sarah also invited me to contribute to a Coffin Hop Press collection, which was how I wrote my first noir piece…)
I slump against Jilly Jaxx again but this time relaxed and happy, not despondent.
“I wish I could explain how this works to people,” I tell her. “Because it’s not rocket science.”
“No,” she says. “It’s magic.”
See you at the 10th When Words Collide in August 2020, everyone.