A Tale of Two Writing Conferences

Here’s the post I wrote for my May blog on my publisher BWL’s website.


Every August I attend When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers here in my home city of Calgary. I don’t need to travel far. The weekend festival takes place at a hotel a fifteen walk from my home. In February, I travelled farther, to Lethbridge, a two-hour drive south of Calgary, to take part in Wordbridge, Lethbridge’s first writers’ conference.

Since the Lethbridge panels were only scheduled for Saturday, I initially planned to make it a day trip. But the conference also included keynote speakers at a snack and chat in the evening. To take full advantage of the event, I decided to stay overnight. My husband Will agreed to go with me and spend the day and evening walking outside if the weather was nice, reading, playing computer games and watching TV. We booked a motel room not far from the downtown venue using our credit card points.

Me in Lethbridge, Sept 2015 – The coulee park in downtown Lethbridge is a cool place to walk

The weekend turned out to be brutally cold. Will spent most of Saturday inside with his computer. At the conference, I sat on an editing panel and shared my experiences of working with editors. One of my tidbits of advice was to suggest that writers early in the process of a writing a book get a manuscript evaluation, which can provide insight into a story’s larger issues that will need to be solved before an expensive edit. The Writers’ Guild of Alberta offers this service to members for a reasonable price. I might take advantage of it for my next novel.

Panel on Working With an Editor

Seventy-eight people attended the Lethbridge conference. We met together in a basement room in the local library for panels that took place on the hour. I enjoyed the intimate atmosphere. The organizers were so pleased with Wordbridge’s success that they have already scheduled a second conference for Feb 7-8, 2020, adding a day of pre-conference activities and another room for two tracks of panels.

Wordbridge attendees at a panel

Wordbridge still has a long away to go to match the activity of Calgary’s When Words Collide, which anticipates 800 attendees this summer and 10 tracks of panels, presentations, blue pencil cafes, pitch sessions and more over a three day period. I expect to participate in a few panels and spend a lot of time in the Merchants’ Room helping with the BWL book sale table.

Nancy Bell and Jude Pittman at 2017 When Words Collide

But it’s not a competition between Lethbridge and Calgary. Wordbridge and When Words Collide complement each other. I’m sure this is why the Lethbridge organizers scheduled their conference for the dead of February, the opposite time of year of August’s When Words Collide. A writer friend suggested that we go to Wordbridge next year with a few other writers and make it a girls’ getaway weekend. That sounds like fun, especially if next February is a tad warmer than it was this year.

Downtown Lethbridge in winter