And what an experience.
I’m starting to hate the travel that’s involved.
I’m starting to dread packing and going to the airport…especially during summertime when I’m supposed to have some time to myself.
But I’ve learned not to grumble because everytime I think this will be a lot of work, I end up having a great time and this was no different.
Festivals are particularly enjoyable because they involve other authors and it’s so nice to get together with people who are as crazy about writing as you–and who are often as odd as you as well.
These posts will involve some shameless name-dropping. I can’t help it. I was so genuinely impressed with the calibre of the authors that were at the festival.
It was the fifteenth year of the festival and they had the organization of it pretty well down to a tee.
It was held in the historic city of Moose Jaw, and I’ll talk about that later.
The most annoying thing about the arrangements was that I had to fly four hours to Calgary Alberta, and then take a plane back an hour and a bit to Regina, Saskatchewan. Coming back, there was a direct flight from Regina to Toronto, but for some reason I wasn’t on it, and to change my ticket at that late stage apparently would have cost an exorbitant amount.
But that’s a minor complaint.
A volunteer picked myself and two other authors: Charlotte Gray, a delightful lady who writes non-fiction and immigrated from England, and Robert Sawyer a very accomplished S.F. writer who has won a Nebula award and has a show based on one of his books on ABC called Flash Forward.
Charlotte had written a new book on the Klondike gold rush called Golddiggers, and it looked like a fascinating piece of work. We talked about the Yukon, about Robert Service and Jack London. I told her how I had passed Lake Laberge where Service’s famous poem The Cremation of Sam McGee is set. She informed me that there really was a Sam McGee but he wasn’t from Tennessee. I think she said he was from Peterborough, but it didn’t rhyme so well, so Service said he was from Tennessee. I told her how much I loved Call of the Wild and had dreamed–for a while–to go to the Yukon and become a bush pilot.
Throughout the festival, whenever she was on a panel, she was a strong voice of reason, and during one of the panels, when a fellow author named Kenneth J. Harvey who was slouched back in his chair with his legs stretched out, announced casually that he was quitting the book-writing business altogether she challenged him, quite successfully, I thought, about some of the things he was saying. And yet, I agreed with much of what Mr. Harvey was saying as well. The book publishing industry is going through tremendous upheaval and I could completely understand why he may have felt jaded by his publishers and the whole industry enough to turn to screenwriting.
For goodness sakes, I’ve been dabbling in screenwriting myself.
It was a very lively session aptly called Running the Writer’s Gauntlet. And the auditorium was packed, apparently the sessions that involve any trade secrets are generally packed.
Personally I think writers need to adapt to the new reality of book publishing, and I said as much when I went to dinner with: Robert Sawyer, his companion a sweet lady named Sherry who was a fantasy writer, Robert Charles Wilson and his wife and D.J. Mcintosh (who has written another book that sounds intriguing called The Witch of Babylon).
During the evening’s conversation I blurted out that frankly publishing is a ‘survival of the fittest’ type of industry and any authors who’ve been chucked by the wayside by their publishers need to adapt and find a way to make their business model work. The old ways wouldn’t cut it any more.
I feel that way despite the fact that I’ve had people in the industry chuck me by the wayside.
Robert Sawyer gave me a look like I was the most callous person in the world and told me about dear friends of his who’d been devastated by the new reality.
It was a humbling moment and yet, I do feel that callous or not, what I said is correct. You have to be constantly adapting yourself to the shifting literary landscape. And unfortunately publishers are looking for the megabestseller, they’re not content with developing authors any more and increasingly authors are required to do their own marketing.
Maybe it’s not such a shock to me because it’s been that way within the children’s publishing industry for some time now. Very few are the children’s authors who can make a living from actual book sales. And yet it wasn’t always like that. And I count myself fortunate that more and more, my book sales have become a larger proportion of my yearly income to the point where they’re a significant chunk! But still, the presentations I’ve developed bring in the lion’s share and will for some time, I suspect.
Being a primarily ’adult’ literary conference, I was surprised when the organizers first contacted me and asked me to ‘read’ from my books.
Apparently they do this at adult events. The authors just get up on stage and read to the audience. Imagine that!
It certainly would have been easier if I had done that, but as a children’s author and especially as a storyteller, I just couldn’t do it and I told them so.
So they had on hand some LCD projectors and I did my best to squeeze my hour long presentation on Wanting Mor into twenty minutes!
At times I spoke as fast as an auctioneer!
And yet what I’ve found is that although such condensed presentations are very hard on me, the audience (especially when they’re teens) have absolutely no trouble at all following along. In fact, they often attend better when I talk so fast! I was a bit concerned with speaking that quickly with this group because many of the audience members were elderly–but nope, they had no problems following along either! One of them said it was because I enunciated so well.
What surprised me though, was that at this festival, my audiences were packed for all my sessions!
I think it had something to do with the “Readception” event on Thursday night that helped launch the festival.
I was one of the authors chosen to ‘read’ for five minutes.
Of course I didn’t read. Instead I spoke briefly about the theme of Wanting Mor.
I made a dua to myself as I got up on to the stage to do my bit. I said “outhu billahi minshaitan nirajeem” which is a common prayer that asks for God’s protection (and help).
I could see that every eye in the whole hall was on me, and it felt amazing! Not one person was whispering to their neighbours.
And when I was done I felt I’d done a good job, alhamdu lillah.
As I was walking out of the hall, this lady with red hair was one of many who came up to me and said how much she’d enjoyed my talk. But she went a step further. She said that I’d ‘had’ her as soon as I opened my mouth!
I was reminded of that scene in Jerry McGuire when Renee Zellweger says, “You had me at hello”. That’s precisely what she meant (when she clarified herself later).
The next morning a gentleman accosted me at the book tables on the lower level. He said that I’d gone over my time limit during the Readception! I’d gone on for 9 minutes instead of 5! He’d timed me!
I felt SO embarrassed! I try to be an absolute stickler for time because I know how much I hate it when I’m in the audience and a speaker goes past their allotted timeslot.
Then he nudged me and said, “Yeah, but I enjoyed your talk and I finished reading your book and I LOVED it. Couldn’t put it down!” (I’m paraphrasing)
I had a session at 9 am and the lady with the red hair, whom I’d had at ‘hello’ was there in the audience. Afterwards she walked with me down the path of Crescent Park (the Art Museum theatre and library were in the park) and told me how she couldn’t wait to see me the next day at this session!
And she went on to say how much she’d loved my presentation!
It’s late and I should get to bed, I’m SO jet-lagged, but I had to share this first installment of what the festival was like. Tomorrow I’ll try to write more.