A fun and inspiring writers’ weekend

I spent the August long weekend at Calgary’s When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers. After three years of attending the festival online, it was great to see familiar faces in-person, make new connections, and participate in panels in front of live audiences. I also enjoyed spreading the word about BWL and Bouchercon Calgary 2026 at their Merchants’ Room tables, which were conveniently located next to each other.  

As usual I especially enjoyed WWC’s opening evening keynote addresses. The four Festival Guest Authors were each given twenty minutes to talk about anything they wanted. This year’s speeches were intensely personal and brave. Writing coach and international speaker Angela Ackerman shared her struggle with imposter syndrome despite selling almost a million books in ten languages. I’m sure every writer in the room could relate. Stacey Kondla spoke about her stroke, which prompted her successful new career as a literary agent. Nicole Baart, author of “race-to-the finish family dramas,” discussed how her need for multiple surgeries during childhood led her to becoming a writer. 

On my seven panels I discussed such topics such as creating characters, writing mental health, fiction in a world with COVID-19, putting your characters in danger, and how to write a series without losing your way (or your mind). About the latter, I confessed my method of combing through my notes and earlier series novels to recall a character’s eye colour, age, or divorce date wasn’t the most efficient way of keeping track of continuing series characters and suggested authors use a spreadsheet. Fellow panelist Cathy Ace prefers a series bible, which she described as a word document that she searches for a character’s pertinent details. Whatever works for each writer. 

At the keynote event, WWC chair Randy McCharles passed the torch (a dragon statue) to the festival’s new management, the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. The AWCS was busy taking registrations for next year’s festival in the Merchants’ Room. WWC 2024 is already 70 % sold out. AWCS has put together an interesting lineup of Guests of Honour and Special Guest authors. Check their website for updates and to register for When Words Collide Volume Two: Every Chapter Has Another Great Story.

Thanks to Diane Bator (above) for organizing the BWL table. Author Layton Park stopped by to chat with Diane and do a table shift. Diane went home with ideas for sprucing up the BWL table next year. Even the Merchants’ Room can be inspiring.