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."


Kimberly Gould said...

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all took a moment to have a little more respect for one another. I definitely like to identify what I don't like about something because, as Brandon also mentioned, I only hate a small percentage (less than a third) of what I read, watch, play, etc. The majority I enjoy and have a few beefs with. Then there is the chunk that I don't like, but find merit in. For instance, I don't like 50 Shades of Grey, but I do appreciate what it has done for erotica in general and I think the calibre we expect from such material has gone up as a result.

So before I put something down, I try to remind myself what value there might be in it. Sometimes I have to look hard (and worry that my eyes might freeze that way) but eventually I find it. :)

Still sad I missed all your panels and thrilled to hear you'll be back next year. Looking forward to more posts from your point of view at WWC2014

ShaunaLee Curwin said...

Brandon's talk really was amazing. I never thought that he would be such a fantastic public speaker. What he said made me so happy because I feel like I spend too much time defending my choice of books to people. I wish I had a recording if him to play for the judgy people that come along. I just get excited when people read, I don't care what it is.

Thanks for posting this Mark!

ShaunaLee Curwin said...

Egads! Typos! That's what I get for doing this on my phone with a little screen.

Mark Leslie said...

Great way to approach reading, Kimberly - and I'm sure we'll connect next year. :)

Brandon is truly a great public speaker, isn't he ShaunaLee? (But don't worry about typos - I met a really cool beta reader at WWC who might be able to help you with that. ;)