Posts Tagged ‘conference’


What Box?

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

This past weekend, I attended a conference in Seattle. No, it wasn’t a writing conference… it was a gaming conference. Yes, I’m that geeky. But wait! Don’t run away yet! The conference was started back in 2004 by a couple of guys who wrote a little webcomic known as Penny Arcade. For whatever reason, they gained a following, wanted to give back to their fans, and started a convention “by gamers, for gamers”. It was to be a conference where the media didn’t take front & center (ie. E3), but the people who actually would buy and play the games.

Here we are at year six of the convention; I’ve attended for the past four years. Year one, attendance was something like 2000 people. This year, we’re talking 80,000+ people over the 3 days. And you know what? They’re still writing the little webcomic.

Penny Arcade is a team of two guys: Mike & Jerry, also known as Gabe & Tycho. Gabe does all the artwork, while Tycho does all the writing. Talk about a good deal! Unlike many other comics where one person tries to do both, this is a team where each person does what he does best, to the best of his ability.

Each year, there are two Q&A sessions with Gabe & Tycho, as well as one ‘Creating a PA Strip’ panel, where there’s even more Q&A… and each year, there’s a pattern of sorts that shows up in the questions. Many individuals are attempting to start their own webcomics and are looking for advice or inspiration. Others simply want to know what kinds of tools are used for the writing and drawing. And others, already in a creative field, want to know… how do you keep coming up with ideas, day after day, week after week?

The response is something we novelists would do well to keep in mind. Sure, we may not be writing comic strips, but does that make a comic strip writer any less of a writer than a novelist? Of course not. We both tell stories. We both write beginnings, middles, and ends. Comic writers just have fewer words to tell their stories in. Thus, we would do well not to dismiss this advice from Tycho: “I don’t set limits on my writing.”

Say what? Excuse me? You’re writing a comic, with continuous characters… aren’t there limits at all?

No, he says. When you set out to write with limitations, you place barriers on your creativity that hedge you in. When he wants to take a character in a certain direction, he’ll do it. If he has a great idea that doesn’t fit with something the character has done in the past, he does it anyway. Now, the difference here is that he’s writing a comic where the team has consciously made a decision to reject continuity in the belief that it limits creativity. For a novelist, we need continuity throughout our stories – or else they won’t really go anywhere – but does that mean we can’t take our characters in completely unexpected directions?

Of course not. The next time you’re writing and get stuck, and have no idea what should happen next, remember Tycho’s words. Stop placing barriers and just write something. Maybe later on you’ll realize that isn’t something that can work with your character and story – you are a novelist, after all, and not working in the comic format – but don’t set out to box your writing in. Don’t box your characters in. Human beings aren’t always predictable, so why should your characters be predictable (unless that’s an attribute you’ve written into a specific character)?

Cut that box up and send it out with the recycling. Your characters deserve a little unexpected excitement.

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Posting Flop

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

I definitely dropped the ball last week when it came to posting. And I  had this whole series of posts in mind on platforms & new media, and a nice pile of shiny information to go along with it. Of course, Wednesday rolled around, I reached down into my pile of conference papers and found… well, nothing. What the…?

It turns out I’ve misplaced my sheets from the New Media session at Write!Canada, which I was going to use to write some brilliant (haha) & informative posts on platforms. I could try to wing it from memory, but… you guys deserve better than that. I think the best idea right now is to put the platform series on hold until I can track down my notes (oh noes, does this mean I have to clean the *shudder* office?!?!).

Until then (or until I can think of a new topic), please enjoy this quote I found several weeks back:

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at typewriter and open a vein.”
- Red Smith

No kidding! But what about those times that you sit down to write, open the vein, and come up dry? Like your lifeblood has drained out? Yikes… it’s scary, but it happens. How do you find that inspiration again when you’re drained of ideas, motivation, inspiration, or even the will to keep writing?

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Write!Canada: Day 1 Overview

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

When I arrived at the conference grounds, it was immediately apparent to everyone around me that I was a first timer. How do I know that, you ask? When I walked in the front door, I was greeted warmly with: “Hi there, welcome! Is this your first time at the conference?” said in a very knowing way. Apparently it was quite obvious… probably due to my wide, searching eyes that contained a hint of underlying anxiety.

Ah, but there was nothing to worry about. I was directed (escorted, actually) to the registration room, where I waited for only a few minutes before giving my name and picking up my tote bag & materials. Again, as soon as the woman handing the bags out looked at my name and looked at me… “Is this your first time at the conference?”

Hmm. I sensed a running theme.

My first instinct was to take a look at the schedule, figure out where I was supposed to be first and when… which was followed quickly by a second instinct to head to the ‘freebies’ table and obtain as many sample magazines & submission guidelines as possible. Mind you, I actually took a look at what I was picking up, unlike some other individuals at the table who just grabbed as many papers as they could, as fast as they could, and scurried off to who knows where. It was a bit bizarre, but to each their own, I suppose.

The room in which the registration was set up would be used as the bookstore/appointment location for the remainder of the weekend, which made it a very central place to both kill extra time and meet up with others (or casually run into an editor or agent, for that matter). Before coming to the conference, registrants were able to sign up for up to three 15-minute appointments with faculty… but due to my late registration, I simply didn’t feel I was ready to talk to anyone, and I believe I missed the deadline for pre-conference signups anyway. However, when I looked around the registration area, there were sheets posted on the wall for each faculty member that listed which appointment times were booked and which ones were still open. Those who hadn’t yet made appointments were welcome to sign up for their three before 5pm, after which it became a free-for-all to sign up for any additional appointment space.

I still didn’t bother. Who would I talk to? I wasn’t prepared to show my work to anyone, and besides, I didn’t figure it would be relevant for the kinds of publishers/editors/agents at this conference. So, I was off to my first session…

  • 1:30pm - Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees

This was pretty much a common sense introduction to being at the conference. Things like “don’t panic if someone doesn’t like your work”, “change continuing classes if it isn’t for you”, “don’t smoke on the conference grounds”, “talk to people, they don’t bite”… things like that. The woman running it (can’t remember her name) really just read off a sheet and covered all the required bases before taking questions from some confused individuals. I assume it was a useful intro for most people… I kind of wished I’d just come later and slept in. Oh well, you’re only a first-timer once.

  • 2:15-4:00pm - Continuing Class #1& 2

My choice for the weekend’s continuing class was Writing for Children & Young Adults, run by author Valerie Sherrard. I’ll cover what we discussed and my thoughts about the class in another day’s post, but on the whole, I found this to be a very useful and enjoyable class. I wasn’t entirely certain whether it would be too basic for me when I signed up for it, but I found that I received a lot of helpful advice and information when all was said and done. Valerie was also an excellent session leader – full of warmth and humor, which certainly added to the atmosphere of the class.

  • 5:30pmDinner!

Here’s something I didn’t expect about the weekend: We were fed very, very well. No one went hungry, and even the coffee breaks were packed with fruit & sweets, which was a nice (& tasty) surprise. At dinner, I sat at Sheila Wray Gregoire‘s table, though a few seats away so I didn’t have a chance to talk with her… but that was alright with me. I talked to the other ladies around me, which was nice as well. More on the social aspect of the conference in another post, but on the whole, everyone was very friendly and open… which is a bit unusual for a bunch of writers, I think, so that was a good surprise. Safety in numbers, perhaps…?

The meals worked as follows: We were all given a sheet that indicated what faculty members would be sitting at which tables for each meal (lunch & dinner… not breakfast though, in case they were too tired to wake up early and eat), and you could choose which table you wanted to sit at according to which faculty member you wanted to chat with/ask questions of/etc. It’s a good way to have a casual ‘appointment’ with a faculty member that you weren’t able to get a 15-minute appointment with otherwise, though you have to keep in mind that a) there are other people at the table, and b) that person probably would like to eat their dinner before you launch into a 20-minute pitch on your latest work. I’m just saying.

  • 7:00pmPlenary Session with Audrey Dorsch: ” ‘Nursing’ a Great Ambition”

The plenary session was a good opportunity to sit down & try to digest the day’s events… or so I thought. Audrey Dorsch was a very entertaining speaker, focusing her talk on her journey from dream conception (she decided to be a nurse instead of a writer) to where she is today (freelance editor). She’s done so much over the course of her career, and I was amazed at how each job seemed to prepare her, in some way, for the next… and to come to that point where she can now pick & choose which jobs to take as a freelance editor, that’s quite the measure of success! I have nothing but respect & admiration for this hard-working woman, and if I can muster up even half the drive and energy to succeed as her, I’ll be happy.

  • 8:45pmSymposium on the Future of the Publishing Industry

The discussion here will provide me with information for several future blog posts, but in general, the symposium was informative, encouraging, surprising, depressing, and hopeful all at the same time. Twelve faculty members were give four minutes each to discuss their views on the future of publishing, and it was amazing how much information (and similarities of opinion) came out of such a fast-moving session.

  • 10:15pmNight Owl “open mike” reading… or not

I went home instead. The second day began with breakfast at 8:30am, and I had an hour drive to get there, so I decided I’d just be on my way. It was probably a good decision.

…and that’s an overview of day one. I’ll do the same for the other two days of the conference, and then we’ll dive into some of the material that was covered in the sessions & that I learned about the writing/publishing industry in general.

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