Notes & Notables from the Panels I Attended
Friday’s offering began at midday. Good thing, too, because of the literary haul I now have sitting on my side table.
Day 1 was as informative as it was entertaining. I think it had a lot to do with the great panelists that came to share their knowledge with aspiring and fellow writers alike. (It was motivating to watch accomplished writers sit along side me willing to learn. The craft of writing is a lifelong process.
The first panel I attended was entitled Getting the Law Stuff Right with Jessica Steiner, a novelist who also practices family law. Far too often we read a book or watch a show or movie that’s set in the United States. There are a few WIPs that I wanted to set in Canada, so it was nice to learn the variations in law enforcement and judicial proceedings locally. Just the courtroom terminology and police jargon are different here versus the States. Accuracy is important. A great resource she directed us to is The Canadian Legal Information Institute website. Court cases, bills, debates, and other resources are in a provincial and federal database. On my days off from writing Aaralyn’s Song, I’ll be sure to switch things up by working on my thrillers with what I learned here.
Next up was The Importance of Diversity in Fiction brought back Jessica Steiner with a panel that included Rissa Johnson, Christel Bodenbender and Brooke Burgess. I learned that diversity is way more than sprinkling a variety pack of characters into story because that in itself is ineffective. It also is a disservice to the intent of diversity to simply change the gender, race, and orientation of a character and call it groundbreaking. One thing that was reinforced was the importance of recognizing language as being universal and for the same reason that racially charged arguments often stem from unintentional exclusivity, something as basic as mechanics when writing dialogue can change the way we read books.
For instance, by changing the spelling of words to emphasize a character’s accent coupled with italicizing the text, it actually emphasizes the differences in speech that it pulls the reader out of the story just to get through the words on the page. An easy step of properly introducing a character, where their from, and some signature characteristics before they engage in dialogue will keep the reader engaged in the story. We can have all the different characters from every corner of the globe and still have a cohesive story without placing labels on everyone. One of the best things we discussed in this panel is that we hoped one day there wouldn’t be a need for such a panel. Diversity isn’t meant to have characters stand out, and it isn’t an extreme of assimilating everyone into cookie-cutter fashion. Rather, Having a diverse cast of characters because these are the people who help tell the story should be the point of having such characters present therein.
Katherine Prairie presented Scene of the Crime. Yes, she’s a mystery author, but don’t let the title fool you, the techniques she shared in this third talk can be applied to any genre. I was so engaged during this talk, I think I can (and will) devote an entire post to what I learned here. Essentially, she had us use the five senses to pull out many textures in a story’s given seen. By using sensory words that describe these scenes, it really pulls the reader deeper into the story and keeps them engaged. More on this in an upcoming post. (One of my favorite learning experiences during the festival!)
The Festival’s Author Guest of Honor, Carrie Vaughn, shared with us some tips on Writing a Series. This is another solo-post worthy share because I want to work my Twisted Tales series into her checklist to ensure that I’m on the right track. Considering she’s written dozens of books, short stories, and other writings over the years, I’d say she knows her stuff.
Day 1 rounded down (for me, at least) with Designing Character Backgrounds, a panel that brought back Katherine Prairie along with Anat Rabkin, Jo-Anne McLean, ER Brown, and moderated by Adam Dreece. It went beyond filling out Character Profile forms. The common thread that each author shared was digging deep into the psychology of the character and their needs v. yearning. There was a lot of focus on internal conflict and what the characters want themselves to be v. what they are.
The evening ended with a Welcome from the person behind the magic, Sandra Wickham, to the Writers and the GoH Keynotes. We heard more from Carrie Vaughn and also the Artist Guest of Honor, Galen Dara. I posted the artwork I bought from her on Instagram. Amazing work that spoke to me and had the exact feel of Aaralyn’s Song. Great meeting everyone. So inspired.
Please give some love to these people by visiting their websites to see their contributions to the literary cosmos.
I know these are iceberg tips of just a single day’s worth of non-stop infotainment. This what I get for wonky files. However, I also have over a dozen pages of handwritten events that I’m siphoning info from. Between that and what my memory serves, I hope to share as much of this treasure trove with you as possible.
Stay tuned next week for Day 2 of the Festival!
Until next time…