Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Yesterday, Feeding Frenzy launched at my favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy book store. Bakka is one of the most unique book stores in North America, family-owned and delightfully supportive of SF&F writers. I was invited, along with seven other  authors, to take part in the store’s first Indie Literary Market.

I was a bit nervous, since my throat was very sore that morning and I didn’t want to lose my voice before it was my time to read. In my haste to get boxes of books and my sign packed up, I forgot to gargle with salt water. As my time to present approached, I imagined dire scenarios where disappointed listeners who couldn’t hear would try to be kind about the fiasco. “Well, she held the book professionally…”

Fortunately, after an emergency dose of salty French onion soup from the cafe next door, the reading went well. People laughed in the right places but, because of my throat, I shortened my talk on the fly. Here’s part of the story attendees missed.

Autographing Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Autographing Feeding Frenzy

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. The first story she wrote in school started, “that was the day the barn burned down.” She didn’t know it yet, but that was when her mother suspected she might become a writer. Later, this little girl’s very first book report was rejected by the teacher, because it was based on a science fiction comic book she had written, illustrated, and stapled together herself.

You could say my first attempt at self-publishing wasn’t much appreciated!

Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Award-Winning Serial Fiction

As a kid, I read mystery novels and science fiction and fantasy novels of all kinds. In University, I studied literature in English and in French, while devouring everything written by writers like William Gibson.

In my twenties, I kept my love of books, but lost my nerve. Despite winning a prize in a short story contest at University of Toronto, I was afraid to become a writer without income.

After a Masters degree in comparative literature, I left grad school to get a teaching degree. After that, life streaked by in a blur. Teaching at a private school, marriage, teaching at a tough inner-city school, motherhood, teaching ESL, French, Library, and finally, taking up writing again.

Sandra Kasturi at the reading Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Sandra Kasturi (standing, right) at Bakka

I joined critique groups, and wrote lots of short stories, but didn’t submit them. They were never perfect enough. Or, if I had a story I liked, I would send it to one market or one contest and if it didn’t win, that was it. I retired the story and wrote a new one. My audience was the critique groups which were great for making friends, and improving , but I wasn’t getting much published.

Meanwhile, I was getting older. Time was running out. I was going to die with filing cabinets of stories and novels that would never be read!

I was suffering from fear of submission. (The literary kind!)

An Artistic Dare

Out of desperation, I made an artistic dare with myself. I would write 2000 words a day and draft a new novel in a month. At the same time, I would polish one chapter a week and post it on Wattpad. If anything could get me over fear of submission, this should do it. Once something’s out on the internet, you can’t take it back.

The Prologue went up on Halloween, 2015, with chapters dropping weekly until the story was finished. It never occurred to me Feeding Frenzy would catch on with readers. Wattpad was just supposed to help me over my psychological block, and make it  easier to submit short stories to magazines.

It worked, by the way. I’m delighted to say, “Inside of a Dog,” will be published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. This is a life goal for me, since I’m a longtime fan of Ellery Queen.

Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Maaja Wentz signing Feeding Frenzy at Bakka-Phoenix, Toronto

Dare and Do

Perhaps the moral of the story is to dare. Don’t worry that it’s too late, or that you’re too old. Don’t worry that your thing isn’t yet perfect. You can make it better when you know better. Don’t worry about being rejected and having to try again. Dare and do. The world of creativity–and life–belongs to the doers. It feels great to have finally joined them.

It took a lot of editing to make Feeding Frenzy good enough for me to publish. Winning a Watty award and accumulating 141 000 reads on Wattpad convinced me the story had legs, but that was just the beginning of a long and fruitful editing process. I’m grateful to brilliant editor, Sandra Kasturi, for agreeing to take on the project and help me make it shine.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy life! I wish you courage to overcome perfectionism, make mistakes, and learn from them in all your pursuits.

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!