Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Little More Respectful: When Words Collide 2014 Notes - Part I

I'm now back from 5 days in Calgary at When Words Collide 2014 where I was one of the featured guests. I participated in a dozen different panels, workshops, talks and presentations, including two half-day seminar/workshops in which I shared both information from myself as an author as well as from my role as director of Kobo Writing Life. I'll post a bit about some of WWC 2014 in the next little while on my blog, captured from highlights and notes on the things that impressed me.

First, the conference itself impressed me. A gathering of readers, writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other bookish folks is almost always a guarantee of a good time for me, but this one was one of the best run conferences that I have ever had the pleasure of attending and participating in.

The hosts, the conference committee, the organizers and the volunteers all deserve the most hearty thanks and congratulations. I'm sure I already offered them the highest compliment possible by signing up to attend next year on my own personal dime; (this year, as a featured guest, they paid all of my expenses and treated me like royalty) The fact that I do NOT want to miss this at all and will happily pay all expenses out of my own pocket should be evidence enough as to just how much I value this.  (My good friend Robert J. Sawyer, who was a guest author at WWC years ago, was also there this year, telling me that this is one of the few conferences that he has never missed and will gladly pay his own way to get to for the value that it brings. And I'm so glad Rob was there, because I had the chance to spend time with him; lately it seems we only spend time together when we're on the road attending the same events.....)

Brandon talking while Randy McCharles and I look on (Photo by Barbara Tomporowski)

But for this post I wanted to highlight something that Brandon Sanderson, one of the other guests of honour, mentioned during his Friday evening keynote talk.  Brandon, Jack Whyte, Jacqueline Guest, D.J. McIntosh and I each took about 10 to 15 minutes to talk about something of our own choosing four our keynotes, and, without having consulted one another, we offered what I thought was a very complimentary and dynamic offering. I was certainly captivated by every speaker there.

Brandon isn't just a fantastic writer, but he is also an amazing speaker. There were a few key highlights in his speech that stuck with me.

Brandon spoke about the importance of recognizing the difference between "I don't like this." and "This is crap!" and the effect that the secondary thinking has had in terms of infiltrating so much of our society. He spot about the very judgmental ways in which people, in attempting to assert their love for something feel it necessary to put down the things that are not to their tastes.

For example, is it more important that there are a lot of people reading a particular popular series of books, or that you feel there is quality in those books, particularly when they are not your cup of tea? Isn't the fact that there are any books that are drawing attention and helping bring more readers into the thrill and joy and wonder of reading the thing that's important?

Brandon spoke about a topic that has long interested me, and something which I remember first hearing in a description of a character from a television program. It was a very special episode of Family Ties - an hour long one called “‘A’ My Name Is Alex” in which Alex P. Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) is dealing with the death of his best friend. In part of the episode, Alex describes his dad (played by Michael Gross) as a man who never had to put anybody else down in order to feel good about himself. For some reason I always remembered that sentiment and felt it was an important one to uphold.

Brandon's talk made me think a great deal, and I love how he concluded his talk with the sentiment that we could all stand to be a "little less internet" and a "little more respectful."

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

When Hats Collide

I have long stated that I love my career as a bookseller; particularly since it often intersects so brilliantly with my career as a writer.

Take my position at Kobo as the director of self-publishing and author relations, for example.

Having been a writer for three decades, I have a pretty solid understanding of a writer's perspective, and that has helped me to champion particular aspects of the creation of Kobo Writing Life that would appeal to a writer. And having been a bookseller for more than two decades provides me the retailer's perspective -- which can be quite handy for a writer to understand. When I took on my role at Kobo in October 2011 it was two of my greatest passions coming together.

Colliding, you might say.

This morning I'm bound for Calgary, Alberta, to attend When Words Collide, a conference that brings readers and writers together and is one of best annual conferences for writers according to more than a dozen writer friends who have attended it over the years. I have long wanted to attend this conference and this year I'm one of the featured guests, alongside Jacqueline Guest, DJ McIntosh, Brandon Sanderson and Jack Whyte (among dozens of other distinguished writers, publishers and publishing professionals)

Tomorrow I'll be leading two half-day workshops that combine my experiences as a bookseller, writer and my role at the helm of Kobo Writing Life.  In the morning I'll be presenting Marketing Best Practices and in the afternoon an examination of the merits of Hybrid Publishing with dozens of examples from my own experience as well as from authors and publishing folks I have interacted with over the years, outlining strategies for success, potential rabbit-holes to failure and studies of past performances.

Friday through Sunday I'll be leading discussions and Q&As as well as sitting on panels, doing readings and a keynote and also meeting with authors and publishers to discuss Kobo and how they can use Kobo Writing Life to reach new global audiences.

Oh yeah, and, with my publisher, Atomic Fez, I'll be doing the pre-launch celebration for my first full length horror novel I, DEATH, with a limited special When Words Collide edition of the novel on Saturday.

Special WWC limited edition cover for I, Death

Looking forward to a fantastic string of days where the hats I wear as Kobo's author relations guy and writer collide so brilliantly.

It's really hard to figure out when I'm working and when I'm just following a lifelong passion. What a fantastic problem to have.