My first writers’ conference

Yesterday I went with two other members of my writers’ group to Elliot Lake, a town about an hour and a half east and north of Thessalon, for their first writers’ conference.

There were two workshops, one on memoir writing and one on marketing your work. Neither interested me; I’ve been to two workshops already on memoir writing, and while there’s always something new to be learned about markets, I didn’t know whether I’d learn enough to make it worth the dollar. Besides, I was slated to read at 1:00, part of the all-day reading schedule at the conference, and there were other writers to meet, and a flash fiction contest I wanted to enter.

What I found the most interesting was talking to the writers who had tables set up to sell their books. I learned a fair bit there about what happens with big box book stores such as Chapters and chain stores like Coles in terms of consignment, book signings, sales and so on. Overall what I learned makes me wary of big stores – high consignment rates, long waits for pay, unsold books returned to the publisher sometimes as long as three years after they were ordered. Yikes!

I handed out a few Writer’s Dominatrix cards and talked about Stories in the North and Shepherd in Residence. I haven’t been on the CBC for ten years, and yet there were people there who still remembered my radio work; it was flattering and touching.

Of course I did a couple of interviews. Jeffrey likes local news, and this was good local news. I spoke to a writer who does mysteries about how she writes them, where she starts, and whether she knows the ending before she begins. (She doesn’t – that’s why she writes the mystery. She wants to find out whodunnit.) I talked to the current coordinator of the writers’ group in Elliot Lake about how she came to be here and the format of the group.

I sat in on some of the readings. Each reader had a fifteen-minute slot, which I think is a good amount of time. It’s long enough for two short pieces or a longer story, and short enough that if the reader, or the writing, is not particularly good the audience won’t wither away from boredom. The audience was sparser than I’d hoped; perhaps fifteen during some of the readings I attended, and often fewer. While it was clear that a lot of the readers had little experience, and some were quite nervous, there were a couple of standout performances. We’ll be inviting those people particularly to come to the Open Mike nights.

I thought the flash fiction contest was simply and elegantly run. The entry form was a single sheet of paper with room for your name and phone number. The theme was “costumes”, and the story had to fit on the entry form. Judging was done after we left; I hope we hear the results and see the winning story.

I’m glad I went to this conference, and if they hold another, I’ll go to that one, too.

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