Procrastination Follies at Words of the Season

WCDR hosts Words of the Season, a quarterly evening of author readings and music. This Tuesday, it will be my privilege to emcee for the third time. The format of the evening is two sessions of reading and musical entertainment, divided by an intermission. To start the break, I set up a game for the audience who are primarily writers. This makes my job very easy. They write all the best material! One of the funniest parts of the evening is reading their contributions out loud. Let’s hope this quarter’s topic, procrastination, stimulates their imaginations.

Words of the Season for June 20, 2017

Words of the season readers
Words of the Season readers, June 20, 2017

An Introduction:

True story: For weeks, I was cracking my head over trying to think of something to say tonight until… eureka! I got an idea. I could use writing this intro to avoid editing my novel. Suddenly the words started flowing.

Have you ever written a nice piece or got applause for a performance, but afterwards felt like it was a fluke? Then, the next time you had to write or perform, instead of feeling more confident, you felt like expectations were raised and this time you’d fall on your face? It happens to me all the time when I get recognition for a piece – or when Lesley graciously invited me back to emcee tonight. – By the way, thanks Lesley! 😊

And where do writers go when they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed? They don’t even have to hop on a plane. They just blink and suddenly open their eyes smack in the middle of the Procrasti-nation. It’s a Nation like no other, full of people who should be getting things done but who are too blocked or stressed to move forward. I’ve spent entire weekends there, haven’t you?

When I’m stuck on a project or fearful I can’t meet a high standard, suddenly there are a million other things to do. I’m working through the second pass edit on Feeding Frenzy now. Since I’m self-publishing, whatever I hand back to the editor is getting proofread and uploaded to Amazon. You can’t imagine how terrifying it is to realize there’s no one to tell me “No, this novel isn’t good enough.”

I blocked out all last weekend to edit but guess what I did? I researched flowering shade plants and ordered seeds online, I ate ice cream sandwiches, started drafting a kids’ chapter book, watched instructional videos, and read writing craft books that made me feel even more inadequate. By the evening, I was so worn out from procrastinating that I gave up and watched Netflix.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is artistic resistance (that irresistible force that sends me hunting for chocolate) so hard to overcome?

[shrug]

I’m hoping tonight’s performers can enlighten us. Each and every one of them had to overcome artistic blocks and procrastination to get here. Let’s applaud their determination…

 

[Author readings, musical interlude, etc.]

[Start of the Intermission]

Procrastination Follies.

The Procrastination Follies
I should be writing…

Intermission Game: Procrastination Station

As an icebreaker tonight, tables will receive slips of paper. The game is simple. Think of your funniest or most touching procrastination story or technique. It can be about anything: giving a performance, writing an essay, speaking at a wedding, revising a story, studying for an exam… Write down the most outrageous things you’ve done to avoid hard work — or your favourite last-minute deadline hijinks.

(By the way, last time your ‘bad advice for writers’ ideas were so wonderful, I was dying to share them on my blog. If you want to receive credit this time, print your name on your entry.)

After the break, we’ll read out your anecdotes. No pressure now. 😊

 

Update: As expected the audience did not disappoint. Here is their procrastination advice.

How to procrastinate when you should be writing:

  • Bake! Four dozen cookies, eight lemon loaves and 48 cranberry muffins later, I’m finally ready to write! (But not read… My mouth is full…) (Ann Rocchi)
  • ways to procrastinate:
    • Drink
    • drink some more
    • Snzzz…
  • Ways of procrastinating? I will write my ideas later, when I have more time.
  • Listen to music or write some verse (Faisal Azeem)
  • check mindless email ads on the computer
  • My husband entered a seven-day mountain bike race in C but wanted to go four days early to train with his buddies. Afraid of flying, instead of a five hour flight I chose a five-day drive. Not only did he think I’m crazy, two different border crossing agents found my story very hard to believe (Jenny)
  • My friend Charlotte was supposed to be studying for a Masters degree in social work. One day she suddenly realized she was dusting the beams in the ceiling of her basement. “I don’t even dust my living room,” she said to herself “what am I doing down here?”
  • My house gets the cleanest when I have a class set of badly-written essays to mark
  • Sleep, who need sleep? I can do it later. For now – tonight! — We live… Or at least we keep busy enough that we can tell ourselves we’re living.
  • Ways to procrastinate: Read War and Peace
  • I was supposed to read a chapter on the Spanish Inquisition… I wrote gay M/slash fan fiction instead… No one expects the gay Inquisition! (N Aaltonen)
  • Someone on the Internet is wrong and must be corrected!
  • I prefer to fly thousands of miles away under the pretenses of finding a new place to write and then choose a myriad of ways to avoid looking at my keyboard. (Kevin)
  • I procrastinate when I have to do research. Every answer leads to another question and so on and so on. I flip over to Facebook, feel guilty, go back and forth back and forth. I look in the fridge, feel guilty about eating when I’m not hungry, so look up dogs available for adoption. Walking dogs burns calories… I feel less guilty about looking in the fridge. (Lesley Cadham)
  • I wanted to do some timed writing exercises… But everything had to be just right so I spent a full 30 minutes choosing which alarm tone to use on my phone. (Janet)
  • Watch 112 episodes of once upon a time
  • watch 340 episodes of Dallas
  • Went in the backyard to do poop patrol wearing heels which sank into the soil still damp from an overnight rain, then decided to aerate the entire lawn with my shoes

Win 10 Kindle bestsellers with this free Giveaway

Update: This giveaway is over.

Subscribe to the Loon Lake reading club to be informed of future contests: Loon Lake reading club

YA science fiction and fantasy novels.
YA science fiction and fantasy novels.

You could win 10 Kindle bestsellers just by entering this free giveaway.

I like YA fantasy and science fiction so much I’m running a contest. Enter as many times as you like and earn extra entries by sharing this giveaway with your friends. Here are the details: Whether you call it a sweepstakes, a giveaway, or a contest, scroll to the bottom for your chance to win. One lucky winner will walk away with $150.00 CDN in YA fantasy and Science Fiction Kindle books.

 

10 Kindle bestsellers
For lovers of fantasy and science fiction novels.

Explore new worlds with these top-ranking YA Kindle books. From paranormal thrillers and fantasy to cutting edge science fiction, these stories will grab you by the imagination and take you for a thrill ride. Spend time with compelling characters in unique worlds which will appeal to teen and adult readers of YA fantasy and science fiction.

Win 10 Kindle bestsellers:

Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Book 1 in the celebrated Disk World series. 

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

#1 New York Times bestselling series.

Zeus is Dead by Michel G. Munz

A murder mystery and a cosmic showdown. For fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Percy Jackson.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

An extraordinarily dark and whimsical adventure.

Ancient Magic by Linsey Hall

FireSouls, dragon magic, and shifters caught up in a life-and-death adventure.

Configured by Jenetta Penner

In the future, love will make you a traitor. Join the rebellion.

Grave Mistake by Izzy Shows

Paranormal noir with a kickass heroine.

Darkness Brutal by Rachel A Marks

Demons, ghosts, and passionate energy in an all-out battle of light versus darkness.

Elementals by Michelle Madow

A new series for fans of Percy Jackson and the Secret Circle.

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

For fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent

 

Sharing = more chances to win

Don’t forget to share this contest with your friends and on social media to increase your chances of winning. For more information and for free fiction, don’t forget to visit maajawentz.com.

Free stories

Wild Caving

“In the hills above Cassis, digging this hole reminds me of digging a grave.”

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10 Reasons to Write Wattpad Serial Fiction

Why Should you Write Serial Fiction on Wattpad?

Have you thought about writing serial fiction on Wattpad? I have used Wattpad to conquer writer’s block and overcome my ongoing fear of rejection. Before I started posting stories on this platform, I had multiple drawers full of short stories and novels which I had not submitted anywhere. Wattpad was the perfect place for me to get my work in front of an audience without facing rejection.

Maaja Wentz Wattpad rankings

The Wattpad Effect

Since posting my supernatural mystery/thriller Feeding Frenzy, I have had my story “featured,” won a Watty award, and I have been asked to do readings and to speak on panels at conventions. Knowing there is an audience for writing like mine encourages me to write and submit more pieces for paying markets. As a result, I currently have poems accepted for publication and short stories submitted and awaiting acceptance or rejection. Editors can accept or reject them but Wattpad experience has melted the hard frost that immobilized me. Sending off a story doesn’t freeze me in my tracks me anymore. This change in attitude could not have happened if I didn’t dare myself to post one novel chapter per week on Wattpad. Once you can do that, submitting a short story seems easy. Posting a novel as you write it is like a tightrope walk without a net. The secret is knowing which circus to join and where to lay your rope.

Posting a novel as you write it is like a tightrope walk without a net.

Writing on Wattpad is a high-wire act.
Writing on Wattpad is a high-wire act.

Join the Right Circus

There is no more positive platform on the Internet for writers at any stage of their career, but especially for those just getting started. If you know a teen who wants to be a writer, direct them to Wattpad. Learning to write live, in front of an appreciative audience, is a fast and motivating teacher. That said, Wattpad works for adults as well. Here are ten reasons why Wattpad might work for you.

10 Reasons to Write Serial Fiction on Wattpad

  1. For writers in the early stages of their careers, Wattpad is a great sandbox to experiment in and find new readers. The platform divides stories into genres and categories and uses similar search dynamics to Amazon or Google so story creation has readership and discoverability baked into the platform.
  2. Readers far outnumber writers on Wattpad which has over 45 million members worldwide. This community spends a collective 15 billion minutes per month reading and interacting on the Wattpad platform. My story, Feeding Frenzy, has over 110 000 reads as of today’s date (2016-12-18) and this number rises every week. Writers in the most popular genres, like romance, can reach multiple millions of reads.
  3. Wattpad readers are part of a social network. They love to interact with their favorite writers, vote for stories, and add them to their libraries. Readers also make comments about individual chapters. If readers choose to follow a writer, they receive email alerts in their inbox about book updates and any messages the writer posts to his/her Wattpad author page.
  4. Wattpad provides precise analytics about who is reading your story (sex, age, country of origin) in the form of attractive, easy to interpret graphics. For example, I know that my new dystopian science fiction novel, Girl Cyborg, is being read by men as well as women, while my zany supernatural mystery thriller, Feeding Frenzy, attracts a mostly female audience.

    Countries where Wattpad readers are enjoying Feeding Frenzy
    Countries where Wattpad readers are enjoying Feeding Frenzy
  5. Having readers who expect regular updates is the perfect kick in the pants to keep project momentum. Writing on speculation without a deadline can be both lonely and frustrating. Writing for Wattpad readers is the opposite. Not only do your followers and readers on Wattpad look forward to your story, but they also make positive comments which help keep you going.
  6. Everything you post on Wattpad is done for free. Although the platform is interested in finding ways to monetize readership and give some of that money back to authors, there is a certain allure to writing something purely to entertain other people without commercial pressures. You can write under a pen name if you want to remain anonymous, as many people do.
  7. Wattpad is a digital medium popular with millennials who are less materialistic and more idealistic, with a desire to be part of something important. Writing stories on Wattpad is akin to the maker movement on an international scale. On Wattpad, you can express your creativity without needing to please publishing gatekeepers like agents and editors. This free platform allows you to instantly publish story chapters as they are written. Other members of the community may offer to provide related graphics, a cover, or even a book trailer if they love your work.
  8. Published authors can use Wattpad to increase sales. One proven tactic is to take a book which is already available for purchase on the e-book stores, and then begin releasing one chapter per week on Wattpad. Avid readers who want to get to the end of the book faster can click on a buy link posted by the author. For more on this strategy, watch my interview with romance and fantasy author, Linda Poitevin.
  9. Rankings, awards, and the opportunity to get your story “featured,” are exciting incentives to work harder and reach new readers. They are also incentives to hone your craft, polish your stories, and make them more engaging. On Wattpad, the most compelling and compulsive read wins. Whether you write literary fiction or genre fiction, or something more experimental, adding page-turner techniques to your toolkit can make you a better writer.
  10. Writing is an interactive art and Wattpad provides an audience from day one. It’s very romantic to imagine the tortured artist in a garret writing pure art based on Platonic ideals. Sometimes this is how writers are depicted in movies. For me, writing just for myself would be like acting in an empty theatre. Creating art without sharing is rehearsal, an essential part of writing that comes before sharing your work with others. Only an audience can say if your work is having the effect you intended.

Writing for Wattpad is not for Everybody

Despite these reasons to write for Wattpad, there will be many skeptics who think it’s a bad idea. They’re not wrong. Wattpad is not for everybody, particularly established writers who do not need to look for new readers or who do not write YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, or romance. If your novels are already literary successes or popular bestsellers, there may be no commercial reason for you to join the ranks of authors who have posted fiction on Wattpad such as Margaret Atwood, Scott Westerfield, and RL Stein. That said, there may be artistic and social reasons.

For me, Wattpad works best when you think of it as one part artistic experiment, one part social media platform. It is a wonderful place to meet writers working in the same genre as you, as well as to interact with readers of your work. For those who prefer working alone without reader feedback, Wattpad won’t improve the writing experience. Wattpad also lacks snob appeal. Many of the readers on Wattpad are teens still developing their literary tastes. Writers who seek traditional acclaim and literary awards might hesitate to associate themselves with a platform known for publishing fanfiction and unedited first drafts. To such writers, I can only say à chacun son goût. I have had nothing but positive experiences so far. Wattpad isn’t for everybody but it might be for you.

Girl Cyborg: YA SF Action Adventure

Girl Cyborg: My latest YA novel is launched on Wattpad

October was such an exciting month for me with my visit to World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio — but that didn’t mean I forgot to plan Girl Cyborg: A Science Fiction Action Adventure. This year for NaNoWriMo I will be running a repeat of the experiment that saw Feeding Frenzy become a featured story on Wattpad. It later went on to win a Watty HQ love award and garner over 107 000 reads on Wattpad. What is unique about this approach is that the first chapter was posted on Halloween , and the rest of the book will be posted a chapter at a time each Friday (just like Feeding Frenzy was). So far not so unusual, except that I will also be writing the first draft at the same time in daily 2000 word bursts during the month of November. It’s kind of like writing as performance art — with no safety net.

While I’m perfectly aware that awards and high rankings might not happen for this project the way they did for Feeding Frenzy, I’m hoping  the experience of writing page-turning suspense for Wattpad has made me a better writer. So far people are starting to find the story and initial comments have been positive, but only time will tell if readers like it as much as Feeding Frenzy. This story is not a supernatural thriller but a survival tale set in the near future.

Girl Cyborg

Girl Cyborg is the story of Bess, a genetically and cybernetically enhanced search and rescue specialist at the Academy, an elite training school. While not strictly considered military, the grads and undergrads of the Academy carry out missions to protect citizens of the allied country they have been supporting — not occupying — during an armed conflict that has been going on for ten years.

Bess’s super strength and augmented senses could just as easily make her a super assassin as a rescue worker but when peace is declared, her greatest wish is to become a firefighter and continue saving lives. The book opens on the day Bess commands her very first mission as an Academy grad, rescuing civilians from a bombed building.

 

Girl Cyborg by Maaja Wentz
A science fiction action adventure of dystopian survival.

Blurb

Cyborgs aren’t made to last…

Eighteen-year-old Bess is a search-and-rescue specialist that the government wants to search-and-destroy. Created to pull survivors from bombed buildings, her superhuman strength, sight, and hearing make her a high-value target. The military wants to contain her. Organized crime bosses want to enslave her. Helping her is almost as big a crime as being her.

To escape detection, she must go dark, cut off from the signal that tells her body to heal. If the bounty hunters don’t get her, cellular degeneration will. Out of options and out of time, she teams up with a young rebel who rekindles her humanity. While searching for the mysterious doctor who can restore her body, she tries to unite a baby with its family against Academy protocol. The child will grow up an orphan like Bess and be transformed into a cyborg if Bess doesn’t intervene.

Will she have time to save the child and herself?

Spark Book Review: The Science of Exercise and the Brain

Exercise and the brain

Changing thinking about exercise and the brain

Written by bestselling author and psychiatrist John J. Ratey with Eric Hagerman, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain is a positive book that looks at how exercise can improve neuroplasticity, learning, and executive function. It suggests exercise as a helpful addition to medication, or sometimes even a replacement for medication in the treatment of depression, addiction, and ADHD.

Exercise and the brain

I found Spark to be full of practical advice for improving education, lifting depression, alleviating addiction, improving student achievement, managing ADHD in adults and children, increasing mental performance, and reducing the likelihood of cognitive decline. If you didn’t think exercise was a panacea before reading this book, Doctor John J. Ratey will make a believer of you by the end. His book is chock full of case studies, statistics, and experimental data that both convince and encourage. Exercise may not cure everything, but it seems to optimize the brain by re-balancing the brain’s chemical and electrical signals and triggering new connections.

Why exercise and the brain?

People evolved as hunter-gatherers who were always on the move. Similarly, our brains need the chemicals released by moderate and intense exercise to function best. People typically exercise to improve their health or extend their lives but Ratey says these motivations are secondary to the more important benefits: improving the brain.This book will change the way you think about your workout. I found myself reading it on the stationary bike.

The only negative aspect of this book is that it gets very technical for the average reader, especially in ebook form. The references to clinical trials and case studies make Ratey’s style is appropriate for a cutting-edge expert in his field. As a non-expert, I could have used some brain diagrams to help me absorb the scientific names for various brain regions, growth factors, neurotransmitters and so forth. There was a lot to learn and while Ratey explains things well, it would have been nice to have a cheat sheet or visual organizers.

Who should read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain?

I read this book with interest because of my work with children. The book leads off with a couple of fascinating studies relating how exercise can improve student achievement, contentment, and behaviour. There are sections devoted to ways in which exercise stimulates new learning and helps students with attention challenges. That said, there are sections on a wide range of maladies that affect adults from depression to Alsheimer’s Disease to addiction. This book will be useful to a broad range of readers, including those interested in practical suggestions to help stave off mental decline with age.

 

Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy 2016

Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept 9-11, 2016
Meet me at Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept. 9-11, 2016

Appearing at Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy Convention

I love meeting and speaking to readers, writers, and editors. That’s why I’m so excited about my upcoming participation at Can-Con Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. I am equally looking forward to participating in the World Fantasy Convention at the end of October. This year’s theme is “Flights of Fantasy.”

One of the best things about reading and writing science fiction and fantasy is the chance to meet like-minded people. The creativity, thoughtfulness, and intellect of writers in these areas never ceases to impress me. When I get a chance to read my work or speak on panels at these events, it makes me feel like the luckiest little fish in a great big pond of wonder.

 

Can-Con Conference, Sept. 9-11, 2016

 

Can-Con, The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature takes place September 9 to 11, 2016 at the Novotel Hotel, Ottawa, Canada. I am very pleased that both my time slots at Can-Con this year are on Saturday afternoon since I will be arriving late Friday night. Here is the link to the tentative schedule. My appearances are below.

 

Readings at Can-Con Conference:

On Saturday I will be reading from Feeding Frenzy at the Guildhall Con Suite, 3rd floor with a couple of other fantasy authors. Here are the times:

13:00 – Metamorphosis by Jennifer Carole Lewis

13:20 – Ungloved by Rebecca Simkin, who is also on Wattpad

13:40 – Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

 

Writers’ Groups Panel Discussion:

At 4:00 p.m. I will be speaking on a panel of interest to writers. Here’s the blurb:

Want to Dominate the World, but Don’t Have a Writers’ Group? Want to make one? Come hear how these other successful minionless writers formed their own critiquing groups so you can found your own! Totally not a pyramid scheme. You may have to sign up for a time-share though…  Maaja Wentz, Su Sokol, Mike Rimar, James K Moran, Ryan McFadden.

 

World Fantasy Convention, 2016
Meet me at World Fantasy, Oct. 27-30,  2016

 

World Fantasy Convention, Oct. 27-30, 2016

World Fantasy Convention takes place just before Halloween. I am told I will participate in at least one panel but details are to be confirmed. I am definitely taking part in the open mic poetry reading for fun. I have a couple of poems suited to Fantasy readers. “When Johnny Mars Turns Five,” “Fallow God,” “Twilight Romance,” and of course, my poetry slam-winning spoken word piece “Flimflam.” This piece sees our lives through the history of advertising. It was inspired partly by Under the Influence, Terry O’Reilly’s wonderful advertising podcast, but also by the brash new world of content marketers selling non-fiction ebooks. It’s a world I sometimes find repellent for artistic reasons, and yet self-publishing is strangely appealing to my geeky side. Audiences at World Fantasy are laaaaarge, so getting in front of a really big room will be a good stretch for me, terrifying but exciting.

 

Would you benefit from attending a Conference like Can-Con?

Can’t make it in person? Deciding whether to attend your first convention? The bios of the panelists for both conventions make interesting reading, and contain a trove of suggestions for new books to read. Start at the home page for each event and don’t forget to read up on the panelists and the guests of honour. Click on the links below for more info about programming. As for the parties, to experience those you will have to attend. Hope to see you there!

Can-Con

World Fantasy

 

Writing Contest – Pitch Contest

Writing Contest a Digital Dare for Writers Who Love to Pitch Ideas

Wattpad writer writing
It’s easy to enter the contest. Click on the busy writer picture.

Inspiration Department: This is the easiest writing contest to get you started

Are you a creative fiction writer?

Do you love writing?

Do you want practice pitching ideas?

Are you looking to find new fans online?

Cliffhanger Castle is the first serial anthology of its kind on Wattpad. Imagine a world where every chapter features the style of a different author as he or she gets the protagonist into terrible scrapes and out of dire dangers. It’s a suspense roller coaster for the reader, and a creative challenge for the writer.

Prizes for fiction contest: a free book, fame, and digital cheesecake!

Watty winnerbook cover Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz
Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz, winner of the 2015 Watty Award. This will be your prize if you win the writing contest – pitch contest
Prize cheesecake for the writing contest
This yummy calorie free and completely gluten free cheesecake could be yours. Do it for the glory, do it for the raspberries! Enter the writing contest.

If your story is chosen, you will win a copy of Feeding Frenzy which is being published this fall, plus get your story published in Cliffhanger Castle. Do it for the glory, the experiment, the virtual cheese cake! Yes, I will send you gourmet digital cheesecake if you win. 😉

Pitch your best ideas to get our heroes out of trouble at the start, and into worse trouble by chapter’s end. I will choose the best pitch and the lucky winner of the contest will be invited to contribute the next chapter to Cliffhanger Castle.

Pro Tip: Read the previous chapters on Wattpad before pitching your chapter idea. The rest of the contest details are on Wattpad.

I will run the contest for the months of July and August, or until a winning idea is received.The winner will be announced here and on social media.

What are you waiting for? Click here to check out Cliffhanger Castle and enter the writing contest now.

Happy writing! — Maaja

Do you have writer friends?

Please spread the news of this contest on social media inside and outside Wattpad.

Skunk in action
Skunky inspiration for a quirky love story that tries to cheat death

Still there? Don’t leave without hearing about the latest, greatest summer anthology on Wattpad! My contribution is a tragic comic fantasy story inspired by a skunk. Click here to visit Sun Kissed Fantasy Anthology on Wattpad

Kidnap My Heart by Maaja Wentz
Kidnap My Heart won the pitch writing contest for the Sun Kissed Anthology. It was so much fun entering and winning I created the Cliffhanger Castle writing contest for you.

10 Reasons Writers Benefit From Conventions

10 Reasons Speculative Fiction Writers Benefit From Conventions

Do you read or write speculative fiction such as fantasy, horror, science fiction, magic realism or slipstream? Consider the benefits of attending a fan convention. I know what you might be thinking. The stereotype of conventions is that they are full of movie fans in Klingon costumes like something out of the Big Bang theory. While conventions like Comic Con are huge tradeshow style events with big budgets and an emphasis on visual media, I prefer the more literary conventions built around books.

 

My local Canadian favorites are Ad-Astra (Toronto) and Can-Con (Ottawa) but Conventions are even bigger in the United States. Two Cons I can personally recommend for writers are Worldcon and World Fantasy Convention. Here is a handy list of conventions to help you find one in your area.

 

Ad Astra SF one of Toronto's top Conventions for writers and readers
I will be at Ad Astra, Toronto, April 29 – May 1.

 

Can-Con, one of Canada's top conventions for readers and writers.
I will be at Can-Con, Ottawa Sept. 9-11, 2016.

What can I expect at my first convention?

Most conventions will include workshops, panel discussions about genre fiction, movies, TV shows, and related issues such as science, diversity in publishing, modes of combat or history. There may be a costume parade, fight demos or a dance, and there are usually parties, a vendor’s room, special screenings of films, book launches, author readings, autograph sessions, and other special events. With a packed schedule, the hardest part can be deciding between conflicting options. Those interested in meeting publishers and authors are well advised to skip evening panel discussions and try parties or the bar.

Top 10 Reasons Writers Should Attend a Convention

Don’t let fear of storm troopers make you miss out on a great thing. There are so many benefits to attending conventions, of which the friendliness of the volunteer community is one of the most important. Here are some others.

  1. Indulge your inner fanboy/ fangirl

Many people attend literary events to hear writers read and then line up for autographs and a chance to spend a moment with a favorite author. At a convention, in addition to these activities, the same authors will typically attend parties and book launches where you can chat with them casually.

Fandom provides unique pleasures on its own, with some fans expressing their creativity by writing and performing songs, creating art, and writing fan fiction inspired by the works of their favorite authors. Some writers even got their start this way, creating fan fiction as they learned their craft, before branching out with original characters.

  1. Speak in Public to a supportive audience

As a lightly published author, it isn’t easy to get speaking gigs, but reading to an audience and learning how to keep their attention will improve your work. The first thing to remember about conventions is that unlike large literary festivals, they are run by volunteers. When you sign up you become a member of the organization. While registering online, you will be asked if you wish to volunteer. Say yes.

Conference organizers typically follow up with an email asking how you would like to help. I suggest signing up to speak on panel discussions, readings (if you are published) or even pitching your own events. In this way I was able to organize a writing game at Toronto’s SFContario, got a chance to do a videotaped reading at Can-Con, and was invited to speak on panels as a teacher-librarian, a NaNoWriMo participant, and as a fan of all things Sherlock Holmes. I also pitched and moderated a panel about serial fiction on Wattpad. Find authors who are attending the convention to be your co-panelists to increase your chances of success.

  1. Cross-pollinate your imagination

You may think you are a literary writer or a horror writer or a fantasy writer, but chances are you read widely outside your genre. And if you don’t, start now to expand your writer’s skillset. Listening to readings by authors outside your usual area can inspire cross-genre concepts and introduce you to new favorite writers. Guests of honour and panelists at conventions come for the love of it and to meet their fans. Why not get to know some of the most approachable and enthusiastic authors in a new genre? At the very least you can learn what each genre does best and incorporate it into your own work. I recommend SF for inspiring intellectual curiosity and a sense of wonder. Suspense and horror create visceral chills in readers. Fantasy is wonderful for world building, monsters, and creative whimsy.

  1. Attend parties!

This is the most fun reason of all. What would you say to meeting a room full of passionate readers and writers? Conventions host book launch parties, publisher parties, and all flavour parties. Doctor Who themed tea parties are a hit in the afternoon but nighttime fêtes are where the action is. If you’re the shy writer type, as many of us are, don’t worry; you already share common interests with most people in the room. You might have to attend a hundred ordinary social events to meet this many avid readers and established and aspiring writers. Come bask in playful and creative conversations.

  1. See Art and Fashion in new ways

I’ll fess up. I’m bored of old school fantasy book covers. You know the ones. Unicorns, dragons, medieval castles. It’s not my thing anymore. Now I prefer the sexy SF covers with weird aliens and half-naked women – Kidding! At cons you will still find these art tropes plus new twists on fantastic themes in the form of graphic novels, acrylic paintings, digital art, crafts, jewelry, and post cards. If you are thinking of self-publishing, you might even meet your future cover artist.

Conventions often hold fashion shows in the evening where fans display the costumes they have made based on anime, film, TV, and novel characters. The shows usually include some humour and drama as well as prizes for the best. Watching the fashion show is amusing in itself but it can also get the creative juices flowing. Watch as models in self-made costumes strut across the stage to tell you their stories.

  1. Spend money for good causes

Many conventions run a fundraiser for local charities by means of various activities. Have fun and feel good whether it be at a tea party fundraiser, auction, or a beef cake/ cheese cake photo shoot.

Conventions also feature a dealer room where you can “support the cause” of keeping your bookshelf current and your treasure trunk loaded. Expect to find any combination of jewelry, puppets, costumes, toys, t-shirts, corsets, steam punk accessories, games, and especially books. Support your reading habit. Tell your family it’s educational.

  1. Meet the experts “dropping science”

Not all conventions have a hard science track but I have attended conventions where tenured professors and aerospace scientists discussed the feasibility of Mars exploration and affordable delivery options for satellites. After the discussion panelists take questions from the audience. What more could a budding science fiction writer want?

Other cons might feature discussions on environmental themes, life on other planets, or hands-on opportunities like star-gazing with telescopes on the hotel roof. If you are interested in science, why not meet real researchers and experts? If you don’t get all your questions answered during the discussion, you can always meet up and chat later at parties and book launches.

  1. Improve your writing skills

Conventional writers’ conferences offer broader, less genre-focussed workshops that may not help you write that high fantasy novel or awesome science fiction story collection you are working on. For future professionals, conventions offer genre specialized discussions with working writers. Name writers sometimes offer instruction unavailable elsewhere for any price. Your favorite author likely doesn’t run workshops for wannabe writers, but at a convention they may “do it for the fans.” Don’t miss out.

  1. Invent your own panel discussion

You never know which of your ideas will dazzle the organizers. Don’t be afraid to use your unique expertise in your pitch. They are often looking for new angles. For World Con Montreal, Julie Czerneda kindly invited me to use my teaching experience to create and present science fiction related curriculum resources for educators. It was the first time I presented anything at a convention.

One way to convince organizers they need you is to think of a unique panel theme and offer to moderate. The moderator of a panel prepares a short introduction to the topic, introduces the speakers (generally published authors), and ensures the discussion runs smoothly. For many writers, meeting other panelists is a convention highlight.

  1. Join the “Con Runners”

But let’s say you’ve signed up for a convention and the organizers turned down your offer to help as a panelist or reader. Volunteering to help at the information desk, with food preparation, registration, security or similar tasks is a good way to meet people. When you offer to help out the following year, you can bet the organizers will remember your name with gratitude. If you are a talented organizer, you may find volunteering with the con running team is the most fulfilling activity of all.

 

An experience worth repeating

Maaja Wentz has spoken on panels, run a writing contest, and read her fiction and poetry at conventions such as: Can-Con (Ottawa), SFContario and Ad Astra (both in Toronto), and World Con (Montreal in 2009).