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

 

Today should be WCDR gratitude day!

WCDR LOGO

 

Phoenix Short Story Contest

The finalists in the WCDR Phoenix short story contest have been announced and I’m on the list! Congratulations to all finalists.

 

After School Steve Lloyd
Birds of a Feather Derek Mascarenhas
Bittergreen My Life Sarah Van Goethem
Burnout Linda Kingston
Constellations Bill Zaget
Eternity Elizabeth Girard
Full Time Steve Lloyd
How Merrill Got Her Groove Back Maaja Wentz
Mahkenuk Maureen Curry
Out of the Ashes Lynda Allison
Phoenix Elaine Jackson
Salvage Ken McBeath
Seven Ravens Jessica Moore
Summer Apples Sally Moore
The Fortunate Man Ann Rocchi
The High Way Sally Moore
The House from Turk’s Cove Alison Dyer
The Steps You Take Vera Constantineau
U-Bahn Sylvia Chiang
You Lift Me Up Margaret Alexander

Gratitude

I recently wrote a letter to the Writers’ Circle of Durham Region, thanking them for a grant they awarded to me last year to help fund the professional editing of Feeding Frenzy. As a supportive writing community and dynamic volunteer organization, I can’t thank them enough for the encouragement and the opportunities they provide for writers at all stages of their careers. Here is the letter:

I would like to express my gratitude to the WCDR for its generous grant. Recognition in the form of a grant is not just monetary assistance to achieve the goal, but a of reflection of confidence in a writer’s work. Deciding to self-publish my novel, Feeding Frenzy, was not easy. The novel started in the form of chapters posted weekly to Wattpad, a free online reading platform with over 40 million members.

When Wattpad chose to feature Feeding Frenzy, and then later when it won a Watty award, it became clear that the story was of interest to readers. That said, spending the money to properly edit it for publication in e-book and paperback forms was a different matter. When the WCDR decided to provide a grant to help pay for editing, this vote of confidence made it seem both feasible and sensible.

Thank you once again for your confidence in my work, and for your financial support to help bring it to publication. Feeding Frenzy received editorial input from award-winning Canadian writer Richard Srimger, and the manuscript is currently in the hands of award-winning editor Sandra Kasturi. I will be sure to let you know when the publication date is set.

Please feel free to forward this letter to any of your sponsors. I am indebted to the WCDR for the many opportunities it has given me to network with other writers, attend workshops, enjoy guest speakers, read in public, participate in competitions, publish newsletter articles, and attend special events like Bookapaloosa. The local writing scene would be much poorer without the WCDR and its many generous volunteers.

With gratitude,​

Maaja ​Wentz​

What is a Serial Thriller Anthology?

Cliffhanger Castle, an innovative serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz
Cliffhanger Castle. A paranormal serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz

Is this Wattpad’s First Serial Anthology?

This project is a paranormal thriller with a twist – author collaboration in a serial anthology. If you have ever wanted to read a suspense novel that combines mystery with lots of surprises, this innovative novel, the first of its kind on Wattpad.

Exciting writers compete to display their unique style, in conjunction with other talented authors. The idea is to combine a gentle game of writerly one-upmanship, with a chance for like-minded writers (and readers) to find each other. Only the most talented contributors will have their chapters included in the story.

Is a Serial Anthology Right for You?

Written by various authors in styles ranging from sweet to suspenseful, there is a lot of variety for the reader. If you don’t want to miss out, consider following the project on Wattpad. Here is the link to my Wattpad Profile: @MaajaWentz (on Wattpad)

There you will also find my Watty-Award-Winning mystery/thriller, Feeding Frenzy,as well as virtual shelves of reading recommendations in different genres. There is a lot of free fiction available every day on Wattpad. As a platform, Wattpad has a monthly audience of 45 million to whom it is committed to provide all its stories for free.

Note: Wattpad is for members only but all you need is an email address. Join Wattpad for full access, or get Cliffhanger Castle updates outside Wattpad by joining the Loon Lake Reading Club.

 

*** Update ***

 

After putting Cliffhanger Castle on hiatus while I concentrated on editing Feeding Frenzy for publication, Cliffhanger Castle is relaunched and looking for contributors. If you are on Wattpad and you would like to contribute, feel free to pitch me with a chapter idea. If I like your idea, and the samples of your work posted on Wattpad, you may just be our newest featured author.

Richard Scrimger Interview

I was lucky enough to interview the witty, award-winning Canadian author, Richard Scrimger. Versatile, he writes for small children, middle grade, young adult, and adult categories. My current favorite is his YA novel Zomboy, in which a new student turns out to be undead, and unwanted, by unenlightened members of his community. Zomboy provokes thought but still delivers suspense and laughs. It has been nominated for a Red Maple award by the Ontario Library Association.

This year I am running a Silver Birch book club and a Red Maple book club. I’m looking forward to what my grade seven and eight club members have to say about Zomboy.

Enjoy the interview:

 

 

Linda Poitevin Interview

Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitvin on Wattpad.
Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitevin on Wattpad.

Could Wattpad be for you?

Are you a traditionally published author, looking to open up new markets? Do you have an idea for a book that would make good serial fiction? This interview with Linda Poitevin is partly about writing, partly about marketing, but mostly about how Wattpad can help you find new fans.

Since doing this interview in December 2014, many things have changed for me. I have completed my first Wattpad novel, Feeding Frenzy, which went on to be featured and then win a Watty award. Unlike Poitevin’s novel, mine is going to be independently published after its world debut on Wattpad but I did benefit from her advice. One of her biggest suggestions was to post regularly and following this tip my story went to #11 in Mystery/Thriller. I’m certain it never would have done so well if I hadn’t been disciplined about posting every week.

Wattpad works for Linda Poitevin

Wattpad is a fast-growing platform for reading free serial fiction. I interviewed dark urban fantasy and contemporary romance author, Linda Poitevin about using Wattpad to reach a wider audience. She has a lovely personality and a good grip on the business of writing. It’s clear that she and her fans enjoy falling in love with her romantic lead characters, but there are takeaways here for all kinds of writers.

Art versus Commerce?

I recently checked out Linda’s Twitter page @lindapoitevin with its new tagline: Evocative Romance/Unexpected Evil. It’s a good way to express the different genres she writes in. I think this is a challenge many creative people face. How do you write your truth, or write the stories you would most want to read, without confusing potential readers? When I sit down to write, I never know if I’m going to come up with a poetic serial killer story or a play, or a quirky kid’s book. It probably comes from working as a teacher-librarian. Where once I was almost a literary snob in my twenties (a hazard of doing an M.A. in comparative literature), now I read a lot of kid’s books, Y.A., and genre fiction of all kinds. None of this will make my writing easy to market or clear a straight path to a writing career, but I’ve never needed writing to pay the bills. Working full time allows me to indulge in art for art’s sake, for which I am grateful.

That said, I am still fascinated by the business of writing and the breakout indie authors. Success stories like The Martian or Wool, come easily to mind. While I honestly think few writers get into this business for the money, writing is only rewarding with an audience. Let’s hope that Poitevin’s insights and encouraging experiences will help you find an audience for your work on Wattpad and beyond. 

If you are looking for content that is actionable and focused on converting Wattpad readers to book buyers, Poitevin’s advice is as relevant as ever.

Video Interview with Linda Poitevin

Click on the link to enjoy the full interview: Linda Poitevin Interview

Feeding Frenzy – Serial Novel Experiment

Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014
Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014

Starting October 31, I will be combining my love of experiment with Wattpad and NaNoWrimo to do something new. As a result I will not be blogging much about creativity. I’ll be too busy getting up at 5:00 am every day to write fiction. If we want students to experiment and create, we mustn’t be afraid to do the same.

Feeding Frenzy is my newest project and a creative sandbox to explore Wattpad and serial writing. Mexican telenovelas, Ugly Betty, Being HumanSherlock and The Vampire Diaries are inspiring my approach to serial fiction, since I’m trying to teach this medium to myself.

Feeding Frenzy will be posted online, chapter-by-chapter as I write it. The germ for this idea as a science fiction story came to me a few years ago, but finding the right approach has been difficult. This problem fell away recently when I realized I already invented just the right setting for my last novel.

Loon Lake is a mythical, woodsy Canadian anytown which attracts the supernatural like a hockey net attracts the puck. Now, while I’m gathering reader feedback on the first Loon Lake novel, is the ideal time to explore Loon Lake University on the opposite shore. Here’s the blurb:

Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller which explores our obsession with thinness. Imagine a supernatural mash-up between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stephanie Meyer’s The Host.

Sweet but chubby Tonya never gets the guy, the grades or the glory. When Loon Lake is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, years of dieting allow her to resist a mysterious mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the source of this evil before she too succumbs?

Follow this blog or, better yet, follow me on Wattpad to read it. It takes moments to set up a Wattpad account which gives you access to 75 million free stories, including novels by well-known authors.

It’s uncertain how long it will take to write and post a novel at the rate of one or two chapters per week, but my goal is to draft most of it during the month of November. So far I have character sketches, a few funny-looking diagrams on rolls of  paper, and sets of plot cards written, discarded and done over. Outlines are hard to write from since story often veers from the original plan. My newest idea is to plot out the main points using sticky notes on a tri-fold science fair board. (Think table top cardboard study carrel.) Normally I’d just write the thing and edit later, but knowing I can’t go back and make changes is a unique challenge, and planning is my secret weapon.

 

NaNoWriMo

The month of November means a lot of things for different people. For Americans it means Thanksgiving. For Canadians it means colder weather. For writing enthusiasts all over the globe it means NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic kick in the pants for those of us who have always thought we had a novel in us, but never found the time. Why wait until the kids are grown, until you retire, or until your jobs stops being so crazy? Do it now, in one month. Write that novel and bask in the glow of accomplishment.

I have done NaNoWrimo a couple of times now. Writing 50 000 words in a month is something I would normally only do during the summer, but in November there is the extra incentive of knowing ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Feeding Frenzy is going to be my NaNo novel for 2014. What about yours?

If you are interested in NaNo for yourself or as inspiration for young people, here are some useful links:

http://nanowrimo.org/

Inspiration

Young Writers Program

For Educators

Me on the NaNoWriMo site (Feel free to friend me and message me there. You may need to create an account.)

The Snowflake Method (Novel planning.)

Coffitivity (This one might help you write your report cards.)

Feeding Frenzy on Wattpad (Read the story or leave a comment. If you’re new let me show you around.)

 

Happy writing!

An Evening with Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is known for his fantasy novels, starting with the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, set at my alma mater, University of Toronto. He has written twelve novels, a book of poetry and numerous reviews and articles for Canadian and English newspapers. His internationally bestselling works have been translated into over twenty-five language. Among others, he has won the International Goliardos Prize for contributions to literature of the fantastic. Along with astronaut Chris Hadfield, in 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.

In September, I attended a ceremony recognizing 30 years of the Fionavar Tapestry at Bakka Phoenix bookstore in Toronto. Kay is a witty speaker, who underlined how lucky he was to have collaborated with such ‘tolerant’ and wonderful people over the years, many of whom he met during the writing and production of his first novel, The Summer Tree.

The store was packed with fans who lined up to have their books autographed by Kay, and also Martin Springett who created the iconic Summer Tree cover back in 1984. In his speech, Kay also recognized writer Sue Reynolds, creator of the first published map of Fionavar. It was fascinating to hear how the bay she drew on the map, based on Kay’s writing, inspired him to ask for a tower to be drawn there, and how that tower became essential in book three, The Darkest Road.

The ceremony began with original music performed by Martin Springett. It ended with three fabulous Dufflet cakes, each sporting a cover from the Fionavar trilogy. It didn’t surprise me at all when hungry fans ate their way around the outside, but refused to cut into the photographic decorations. As part of the Sunburst award group, who awarded him a Copper Cylinder Award for River of Stars, I was invited to the after party.

While I’ve met Kay before, this was an intimate gathering. He even bought us a round. Guy Kay is personable and generous with his observations. Speaking to a small group of bibliophiles and writers, he commented candidly on his current work-in-progress. In his remarks, there were lessons for creative types of all stripes:

At 100 000 words, the point where most novelists are finished, he is halfway through his epic novels and said he ‘hates himself’ because what he is writing never measures up to his artistic intention. Quoting T.S. Eliot, Kay compared this artistic disconnect to the ‘desire versus the spasm’

Kay is an international bestseller with a reputation for literary prowess. How inspiring to hear such an accomplished writer admit to ongoing artistic struggle. It encourages me to keep going and finish projects, since you never know when the project you are working on right now will be the one to change your life.

The other lesson was how important people and friends are to creative work. Gathering a group of creative people who understand your vision and can help you express that to an audience is crucial, especially for word artists. It takes a team of people to put out a book and for me, since I am researching indie publishing, it was a good reminder that any publishing project depends not just on the appeal of the author’s work, but also on the talents of the team who edits, formats, prepares and distributes it.

At Bakka, Kay said author tours used to be common and joked that in October, you couldn’t go through a Canadian airport without bumping into an author. How things have changed! Publishers no longer have money to publicize new authors but an established publisher like Kay’s (Penguin) represents more than prestige and publicity. It’s also about working with a publishing team of the highest quality.

Kay’s most recent work, River of Stars, continues the story begun in Under Heaven, which is inspired by Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century. Kay is known for creating epic novels set in well-researched fantasy realms that resemble real places and times. From fictionalized Ancient China to Byzantium and beyond, if epic drama, exotic realms and history pique your interest, visit his author page to discover Kay’s unique worlds.

Reading at Can-Con

Authors getting dramatic at Ad Astra.
Authors and actors getting dramatic at Ad Astra.

I will be doing a reading of short fiction and poetry at Can-Con in Ottawa, Saturday October 4, 2014. My co-reader will be novelist S.M. Carriere. One of the best things about conventions is meeting and discovering new authors and making new friends. Conventions are magnets for creative people in the arts and multimedia.

Can-Con is an Ottawa convention which brings together Canadian authors and content creators in science fiction, fantasy and horror. I attended last year for the first time and was impressed by the warmth and welcoming atmosphere. I spoke on the NaNoWriMo panel which brought together a variety of writers. The highlight for me was going out to lunch together and trading stories.

According to their website:

CAN-CON is Ottawa’s premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy gathering celebrating the written word. This yearly event brings together readers, writers, artists, scientists, and publishing professionals for panel discussions, workshops, presentations, readings, book launches, networking opportunities and to have fun. CAN-CON is a function of The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.

2011 11 20_Thomas Camera_0049
Aurora Award Winners, 2013.

The 2014 Can-Con guest of honour is author Jo Walton, winner of the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Fantasy Award. The editor guest of honour is Gabrielle Harbowy of Dragon Moon Press. Also check out the panelists.

Why Attend a Convention?

Conventions are fun if you like science fiction and fantasy novels, and/or speculative movies and shows. There are even conventions dedicated to comic books.

Much more casual than conferences, ‘cons’ run on volunteer power. Organized by and for fans, at a convention it’s easy to meet a favorite author. He or she will probably attend the same parties as you.

If half the convention action is at the parties, the rest is split between concerts, award ceremonies, panel discussions and special events. At some cons there are workshops and fashion shows for fans who build and wear costumes inspired by anime, books and movies. There might be an improv show, fire works or even a star gazing workshop. It depends on what the organizers and participants decide.

The panelists at conventions discuss topics as far-ranging as politics, art, science, technology, genre conventions, cultural diversity in literature, and music. My favorite panels are about writing, including workshops, publishing panels, flash fiction contests, author readings and small reader-author meetups called “coffee klatches.”

Fans in costume.
Fans in costume.

Conventions for Creativity

My very first convention was AD Astra, in Toronto. The experience was so creatively stimulating, I went home afterward and wrote my first (unpublished) novel in a six-week streak. If you are into speculative fiction and appreciate geek culture, attending a local convention might be your ideal creativity boost.

A few recommended conventions:

World Con (location changes annually)

World Fantasy Convention (location changes annually)

Can-Con 2014 (Ottawa)

Ad Astra (Toronto)

SFContario (Toronto)

My list is limited to conventions I have attended in Ontario and Quebec. Wikipedia offers a much longer list of conventions where you can find something local to you.

 

Have a great con!

 

 

 

 

Takatsu Cell Phone Novelist

Takatsu wrote the first North American cell phone novel. I met with him to speak about creativity, multimedia art, writing, and education reform. His current project, Espresso Love, is a Wattpad novel. You can look at the video trailer, which he produced himself using Animoto to add mysterious signs to the urban landscape. His multimedia productions include songwriting, stories, video and graphic arts.

Takatsu praised the rigour of the Japanese school system and the close relationships and teamwork inherent in Japanese culture. Paradoxically, the strictness and high expectations bring out students’ talents and develop their abilities. Takatsu says that by working inside such a strong box, students learn to think outside it.

The same students who work together on a rigorous curriculum during school, and then clean their classrooms together, must participate in one club after school. These clubs involve many hours of daily practice in one area chosen by the student according to interest and talent. Choices include music, sports, visual arts and drama. The creative or athletic skills developed last a lifetime. Takatsu laments that in North America, although many people have a passion for the arts, many forget their talents once they enter the workforce.

There is a place for teachers on platforms like Wattpad, according to Takatsu. Educators are needed for collaboration, to teach net etiquette and also to mentor and teach writing skills.

I hope you enjoy this interview in which Takatsu speaks passionately about art and education. You can find his multimedia projects at Takatsu.tk.

 

Cursed Dishes by Jennifer Lott

I recently enjoyed interviewing Jennifer Lott about her first chapter book. As an early childhood educator, she had insights into writing for children and teaching as well. Cursed Dishes is based on a ‘revenge’ story Lott wrote when she was sixteen about her uncooperative younger sisters. Ten years later this completely reworked version is volume one in the Family Magic series, published by Reality Skimming Press. Told with humour and with illustrations by Doriano Strologo, the story dramatizes conflict between three sisters entangled in a messy little curse.

I hope you find Jennifer’s story inspiring. This was my first Skype author interview and hers as well. Using Skype to connect your classes with authors is free and simple and requires only that you and the author both have a Skype account, and that you ‘add’ each other to your Skype address books. I used a H2N Zoom microphone but most newer computers and laptops come with built-in microphones and cameras that make the process easy. Read Kate Messner’s article in School Library Journal for more information about setting up Skype for author visits. You can also read up about it on the Skype website.