When Words Collide

I’ve now registered for the When Words Collide writing conference, the best bargain in town for Calgary writers. For $50 (advance registration until April 1) you get 2 1/2 days of hourly panels, readings, presentations, workshops, kaffe klatches with guest authors and editors, pitch sessions and blue pencil cafes – about eight choices per hour – plus evening parties hosted by local writing groups.  The Saturday banquet is a reasonable additional $50 and you can sign up for master classes given by the guest authors during the days before the conference.

This will be the third annual When Words Collide conference in Calgary. I attended the first one and was so impressed with the energy and quality of the conference that I returned the next year – and will be there again August 9-11, 2013.

The conference is multi-genre, although Calgary’s science fiction and fantasy writers are the driving force behind it and their influence permeates everything. I find this a positive, perhaps because it’s a change from my usual writing events with their literary or mystery focus. Even though I don’t write science fiction or fantasy, every conference hour offered something relevant to my writing interests. I usually had a hard time choosing what to attend and was reluctant to take breaks for lunch or walks.

One thing I like about the conference is its mix of top heavy and democracy. They bring in some impressive guests, like Robert J. Sawyer, Canada’s top science fiction writer, who was there the first two years. Yet, everyone is welcome to sit on a panel. You just tell them you want to do it, the organizers e-mail their list of suggested panel topics, you pick the ones you can talk about and they’ll assign you one, two, three. You can also give a reading or share your expertise through a presentation or workshop. You don’t have to register for the conference to participate this way, although you can’t attend other conference events without paying your $50. This seems fair, when you consider all the work the organizers do for no compensation.

A change this year is a move to a new venue: The Carriage House Inn on MacLeod Trail South. This is great for me, since it’s much closer to my home than the previous venue in the northwest. With a shorter distance to drive, and maybe a supper break at home, I hope to have some energy left this year for the evening parties.