(For Can*Con Day 1, click here!)
There was a lot going on Saturday at Can*Con – which I figure is the norm for a weekend conference. I realized afterward that I didn’t attend a single workshop this year, apparently more drawn to panels and readings, so I’ll run through the interesting bits chronologically. If you like the sound of the advice I received or the events I scoped out, please check out the writers involved; if there’s one thing Can*Con has in spades, it’s really talented people.
First thing in the morning I joined a packed room to listen to Matt Moore, co-host of ChiSeries Ottawa, and Sean Moreland, formerly of Postscripts to Darkness, discussing various things related to monster and children. That was a really fascinating discussion, which touched on how writers consider their monsters to be their pseudo-children, how children can at times be monstrous, and the visceral ways in which we respond to both in horror fiction. If you ever get the chance to talk to either of these writers, do it; they’re both wickedly smart and well-informed.
I followed that up with a discussion of how the e-book market is changing, featuring Tor editor David G. Hartwell and phenomenal writer Marie Bilodeau, and moderated by none other than Robert J. Sawyer. I was actually surprised to learn that e-book sales have been declining over the last few years, while hard-copy sales have gone up. Out of the 40 titles Tor publishes each year, apparently only about 2 will succeed in the e-book market, and it’s usually a fluke as to why. E-book sales are apparently much bigger for small presses like Dragon Moon, which has published Marie’s book, and there are definite economic benefits to going the self-published e-book route, though it sounds to me like doing so without an established audience is risky. I’m contemplating self-publishing my novella that earned an Honorable Mention from WotF last year, but this panel gave me a lot to think about.
One of the things I was most excited about was the panel on medieval combat, especially since the participants were bringing their own weapons to show off. I learned quite a bit, but the panel quickly turned into one of those sessions where a lot of the audience feels like they know as much as the panelists do, and that they can jump in whenever they feel like. This is just a personal pet peeve, but when I go to a panel, I’m there to listen to the experts, not the audience. Even so, the panel was still a good time, especially when the panelists treated us to a demonstration:
One of this year’s Guests of Honor was Trevor Quachri, current editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and I couldn’t wait for the panel “The Role of Editorial Voice in Acquiring Stories.” In addition to Trevor, the panel featured my friend Gabrielle Harbowy (managing editor for Dragon Moon and reader for Apex), Hayden Trenholm (owner and managing editor of Bundoran Press), Nicole Lavigne (Can*Con organizer and slush reader for Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Christina Vasilevski of Lightspeed Magazine, and as moderator none other than Derek Kunsken, author and chair of Can*Con. So, yeah, it was a stacked panel. It was really neat to hear various perspectives on how the specific tastes of an editor can decide what stories are pushed through by the slush readers and finally selected for publication. In many cases, as you can expect, it’s difficult to determine exactly what an editor will like, but one of the main takeaways for me came from Hayden, who said that if a submission “doesn’t speak to me, and I have nothing to say to it,” he’s unlikely to accept it. The key, I think, is to write the best work you can, and hope that you can find an editor it resonates with.
I actually managed to eat somewhere between all of this – and had the great opportunity to sit down for a fifteen-minute Blue Pencil Cafe with the very cool and talented Jay Odjick – comic book writer/artist, TV writer/producer, and co-host of the hugely entertaining Planet X Podcast. Fifteen minutes isn’t a whole lot of time, but I got some great advice from Jay about promoting my work and balancing multiple projects. One piece of advice I want to share with you, fellow writers, is that it’s important to be thinking: what’s worth my time? There are a lot of things we can do as writers, in terms of what projects we start, what platforms and events we use to try to find new readers, etc, and it’s very easy to put a lot of time into something that isn’t going to offer a great return.
What the hell else did I do on Saturday? I’m having trouble believing how much I packed into that day (I’m not even discussing it all). There was an awesome panel on author-editor dialogue, and a great session providing advice to aspiring writers, which featured Gabrielle, Linda Poitevin, Robin Riopelle, and Amal El-Mohtar. Oh, and then there was this little event called, I shit you not, “The Paper Airplane Thing That Won’t Die, No Matter How Often We Try.” This was a paper airplane competition organized by Marie, which means it was hilarious and batshit crazy. Leah Petersen, Fanny Darling and I tried our hands at it and lost miserably, but we still won prizes – although Leah scooped the better one:
Can*Con hosted a Halloween party to round out Saturday, which I attended only a little of. Truth be told, a few of us escaped to one of the hotel rooms, and sitting around shooting the shit there was easily the best part of the entire conference. Remember when I said many paragraphs earlier that Can*Con is full of talented people? Well, they’re also awesome, and it made the end of the conference and going back to the real world that much harder.
But more on that tomorrow.