I attended the Ontario Writers’ Conference yesterday and like every year I came away inspired, enlightened, and needing a sedative.
The best thing about going to events like these – where the board member of the organizations put together a first-rate event with exceptional speakers, great food, and opportunities to meet with editors, agents, publishers and other authors – is that you come away feeling like your head is crammed full of gold nuggets. Whether it be the Writers Community of Durham Region, The Humber School for Writers, the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County, or the Canadian Authors Association (click any of them to check out their sites, upcoming events and activities) the organizers have put in hours upon hours (upon hours) to pull together an event that will blow you away. And somehow – it always seems to. Amazing really – since all of the organizations are run by volunteers who are working their butts off (and not working on their own writing all the while!) to make it an exceptional experience for other writers. Amazing.
The downside to these events is I always leave with more to do than when I came. ARGH!
Yesterday, the stellar segment was “Storytelling 360: Storytelling in a Digital Age” presented by Cynthia Good (founder of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber) and Mark Lefebvre (director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Inc). They educated the crowd as to what writers can embrace in terms of transmedia potential in order to engage with readers. Interactive websites, applications, enhanced e-books, games, social media platforms that reach a wide audience and connect with people in a new way. So much to do, so little time. Now I’m looking at what activities I can have on a website targeted at young adults (or young at heart adults) to have them spread the word about my Beautiful Mess or Life as a Teenage Mutant (depending on who’s asking). Of course that segued into a perfect spot to insert my shameless self-promotion. Click to the left. 🙂
So in today’s publishing world, writers much reach. R-E-A-C-H! Get to people and places that writers from other generations never had the chance to touch. This digital world we live in is a progressive and scary place – but I’m in it to win it – so forge ahead I must. Needless to say – my to-do list became much bigger. I want to curse Cynthia and Mark, but I have to thank them – what a wealth of information from those two!
The highlight of the day came when my mentor and all-around wonderful person – Wayson Choy gave the final address. He talked about being an active participant in the writing game – which goes beyond writing a novel, editing and revising the manuscript, plugging at query letters and the agent pitch. It’s a jungle out there – a writer’s road isn’t apparently paved with diamonds and padded with marshmallow filling. Wayson’s words for authors who just can’t seem to get a break? “WAKE UP!” and “What are you going to do about it, how are you going to change it?” Then he proceeded to tell us to get our butts down to the bookstore and get a current copy of Writers Market, and get our stuff out there. To anybody, to everybody – get ourselves an audience in magazines, literary journals, newspapers, anthologies. Rally our own troops. Get it done, and stop whining about it.
Okay – that last part might have been paraphrasing, but I heard it that way because I just spent the 10 minutes before he got up to the podium whining to him about that very thing. I have always said Wayson has a way of making everyone in the entire room feel like he’s talking to them. It’s his gift actually – the ability to make his 20 minute conference closing an intimate conversation with every individual there. Afterwards, I went and told him so.
“It’s amazing,” I said. “You make me feel like you’re talking right to me every time.”
“I was talking to you,” he said, and lifted the Writers Market (as big as a Toronto phone book) in his right hand. “And if you don’t get it done by the next time I see you, no more hugs. This is what I’m going to beat you with.”
Again… a gift. How does he do it? I actually felt like he might beat me. Oh, how I love me some Wayson.
Today I am inspired, motivated and encouraged to stomp down the writer’s path. Good thing I have sturdy shoes.
Side note – if what I described sounds good and you’re looking for an upcoming conference to get you going – I’ll be at the Canadian Authors Association national annual conference – this year being held in scenic Orillia – over the May 17-20th weekend. Click the leaf, check it out and get your writer ass whooped and motivated too!