When Words Collide panels

Glenn Dixon, Rachel Small and I discuss Travel Writing. Not shown - our moderator and fellow panelist, Dan St. Ives

Due to a couple of last minute cancellations, I wound up participating in three panels at the When Words Collide Readers and Writers Festival, held in Calgary a couple of weekends ago. I learned something from all the panels and hope the audiences did too.

It’s here – almost

When Words Collide starts this Thursday with the pre-festival master classes and a public reading by the festival guest authors at Calgary’s Fish Creek Library.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be packed with panels, presentations and more, with about 10 choices of activities per hour. I’ll be participating in two panels:

Saturday 1 PM –Structure in Story: How important is it? with L.S. Johnson, Susan Calder, Barbara Scott, Madeleine Wong (M). Genre fiction is often accused of being “formulaic.” But are there not conventions expected by the genre reader? A murder mystery had better have a murder! But is literary fiction, by its nature freer, or more experimental? Or are there structures inherent to literary fiction of which the author needs to be aware?

Sunday 2 PM – Travel Writing with Glenn Dixon, Dan St. Yves, Susan Calder, Rachel Small. As our world becomes more mobile there is a growing market for travel writing. Our panel discusses the diverse ways to enter this rewarding field.

My third can’t-miss activity is the Friday Night Live open mic show in the Fireside Lounge, where my sister Lynn will be making her stand-up comedy debut. The public is welcome at this event to cheer on Lynn and other brave souls.

Lynn Calder

I’m sure to overdose this weekend on learning, networking and fun.

Evening of Words

Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Writers and Readers begins with a free public reading featuring the festival’s special guest authors. I’ll be there, after a dinner at the nearby Boomtown pub with the festival guests and organizers.


Calgary’s When Words Collide Readers and Writers Festival is only 20 days away. In my role as Writers Guild of Alberta liaison, I’m busy lining up and confirming moderators for the panels I’ve helped organize.

WGA Conference Weekend

Two days back from a month long trip, I attended the Writers Guild of Alberta annual conference last weekend. Aside from feeling a tad jet-lagged, I had a great time.

Calgary’s weather couldn’t have been better. At the Friday pub night, I enjoyed sitting outside on the patio drinking the free beer, eating good food, catching up with old friends and getting acquainted with new ones.

Then, the organizers called us inside to participate in a literary trivia contest that turned out to be more fun than I had expected. Our four-woman team called ourselves the jet-set – jet-lagged didn’t sound so positive. The challenging and intriguing questions ranged from pop culture to Nobel prize winning literature. Our team got half the answers right, coming in fourth. When the conference administrators’s team withdrew from claiming third prize, we grabbed their goodie bag and divided the books and wine between us.

Saturday featured breakfast, two keynote speeches, the AGM, two coffee breaks (at least) and breakout sessions related to various genres. Many stayed on for the gala awards night. Tired, I returned home to rest.

Many thanks to the organizers — the WGA administrators and board members — for their hard work of hosting this successful event. I hope to make it there again next year.

WITWorks Photo Shoot

As always, Writing in the Works on Thursday night was a huge success.  This was the 10th edition of WITWorks and I’ve been there from the start to help organize the event.

This time, I was one of the five readers. I enjoyed sharing my unpublished novel excerpt with the audience that packed Owl’s Nest Bookstore in Calgary. It was also great to hear in-the-works readings by of my fellow presenters Rob Bose, Joan Crate, Sarah Johnson and Taylor Lambert. They’re an impressive group of writers.

Music by the Central Memorial Stringlets added a touch of class and ushered in the evening. Wine, cheese, fruit, brownies and amazing cookies helped set the mood.

An intriguing Q & A followed the readings. Emcee Elaine Morin began with teaser questions.

She asked each of us: Which do you prefer Star Wars or Star Trek? Naheed Nenshi or Mahatma Ghandi? Margaret Atwood or Lucy Maud Montgomery?

My answers? Star Trek original series, Ghandi and (with some struggle) Lucy Maud, in memory of my childhood.

Q & A: Elaine Morin, Susan and Joan Crate

Then came the serious questions:

Since WITWorks is all about sharing works in progress, at which point do you share or discuss your project with someone?
How inappropriate, scary, or uncomfortable are you willing to get in your writing? Is there some places you won’t go? Do people have to die before you’ll write about certain things?
Me emoting during my reading
Is there a genre you would never write? If so, what is it?

Which question do you wish people would ask you about your work?

Joan came up with the best answer for the last question: Can I buy your book?

As for the other questions, there’s so much scope I might grab them for topics for future blog posts.

At the end, we applaud emcee Elaine Morin


Two days until Writing in the Works! I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my novel-in-progress and engaging in a spirited discussion on the creative process with fellow readers Rob Bose, Joan Crate, Sarah Johnson and Taylor Lambert, moderated by Elaine Morin.

This is always a fun, well attended event. I hope to see some of you there.

A classy treat this year will be music by the Central Memorial Stringlets. Wine and food too.

The Arthurs

Me as Emcee

On Thursday, April 21, I had the pleasure of hosting the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime writing.

Four fellow CWC members participated: Jayne Barnard, Eileen Bell (from Edmonton), Dwayne Clayden and Axel Howerton.

Axel began by warming up the audience with magic tricks that involved thumb cuffs and a toy gun that I shot.

Dwayne explained what the Arthurs are about. They got their name from the pseudonym of Canada’s Official Hangman and over the years have been won by such illustrious writers as Eric Wright, Gail Bowen and Margaret Atwood.

Axel reads the shortlist for Best Crime First Novel

Through the evening, we took turns reading the shortlists for the eight Arthur categories. Eileen, Jayne, Axel and Dwayne shared short readings from their writing. We all engaged in a spirited and honest discussion of Writing Contests and Awards: the Good, Bad & Ugly.

Only Axel and I knew the shortlisted authors names in advance. We saved the category with a winner present for last, unaware that a second winner in the same category was in the audience. What a treat and a splendid ending to a fun night.

We applaud the winners in our midst

Alice Bienia and Jayne Barnard, shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur award for best unpublished novel.

Arthur Announcements Tonight!

Tonight’s the night we announce the shortlists for this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. I’ll emcee the event, which takes place at Calgary’s Owl’s Nest Bookstore and features my partners in crime: Jayne Barnard, E.C. Bell, Dwayne Clayden and Axel Howerton. Join us for readings, magic tricks and a lively discussion of Writing Contests and Awards: the Good, Bad & Ugly.

Writing in the Works

I’m fortunate to be participating in two readings at the end of April. The Arthur Ellis Shortlist event arrives first – on April 21st – where I get to host the mayhem and try to keep those wild crime writers in line.

A week later, on April 28th,  I’ll be reading at Writing in the Works, which features writing-in-progress, works seeking publication and works about to be published. After the readings, we’ll participate in a roundtable discussion on the creative process. Emcee Elaine Morin also promises a few questions just for fun.

This will be the 10th installment of Writing in the Works. Over the years, we’ve showcased many up-an-coming Calgary writers. I’m proud to say I’m a founding member. The most fun is meeting the other fine women at Original Joes restaurant to brainstorm the next Writing in the Works event.

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