The workshop was on the long side and a bit tricky to sit through. However, I am very glad that I went because I learned so much about the business side of writing – I knew so little about it going in that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Now I know everything from how advances work to what things one should look for when entering into a book publishing contract. So I definitely recommend this kind of workshop, if it or something like it should come to your city (oddly enough, this one’s not stopping in Halifax).
Right now, I’m not really writing, and I said as much – I even foolishly told one of the presenters, when she asked, “So, what kind of writing do you do?” – “Well, I’m a notwriter.” But I told her that I found the workshop valuable in the sense that it was information to file away for later. I felt like a tool, though – I should have made something up. Said I was working on a novel or something. Nobody would have checked.
Anyway, despite appearances, it’s never too soon to have this information. Knowing how the pros broke into the business and the nuts and bolts of what they had / have to do to get published will be helpful before you even type that first character into your word processor. The information will also make you a better reader. A lot of what’s said on this SoYouWanna page applies, though there are some other issues to consider, too, and workshops like this one tell you important things about the Canadian industry. Also, you don’t have to have an agent. If your submissions aren’t half-assed, and you’re persistent, eventually you’ll get read. But an agent helps, to be sure. Oh, and one other thing (of the many) I’ll remember – when you negotiate a contract, make sure you get the option to buy back your books at the discount rate… before they end up in a discount bin someplace. You definitely don’t want to end up there.
The workshop would also be a fine opportunity to network… well, if you were a writer. =) I got a couple of business cards, but the conversations were so awkward and forced that I don’t really want to follow up on them. I did OK… I tried initiating conversations about the weather (cold) and the driving (hellacious – more on that in a sec), and for the most part I held my own. But there was some kind of awkward air over everything – I’m not sure how much I contributed to it, but when the spin sessions began some people couldn’t get out of there fast enough – they didn’t even speak to one of the presenters, and it was said that we ought to speak to all three. I felt bad for only speaking to one, and only really having one question, about anthology rights. Years ago, I’d gotten “The Santamarian Matador” and “Memoir” into Changelings, and the SMU English Society therefore retains First North American Anthology Rights for those stories. I was wondering if that would limit my ability to publish those stories (well, probably just a reworked “Memoir”) in a personal collection, should I ever come around to writing enough good stories to constitute a collection (visualize a glacier). The advice I sought told me that a hypothetical collection of my own work is distinct from an anthology which is typically a collection of works from various people. The language of the agreement said I was free to publish elsewhere without contacting the editors. Well, we’ll see if and when the time comes.
Oh yeah, the driving. UPEI is a lovely place, and I’m often tempted to transfer there, but then days like this make me realize how much of a pain it would be to commute from Albion Cross or Souris, particularly in the winter. The winds weren’t particularly high that day, but almost any wind is enough to cause sudden whiteouts and surprise snowdrifts. Meanwhile, the road is alternating between bare and snow-covered, and those snowy patches have ice underneath them. Fishtailing all the way from Souris to Charlottetown every morning with a death grip on the wheel is not my ideal way to spend a winter. I think I’ll be staying in Bedford / Halifax. There’s finally a bus near my house, thank heavens. (I hope it stays. I’m worried about the scant ridership.)
The drive back was slightly better in terms of the road surface, but overall it was similarly harrowing due to the fact that it was nighttime. I rolled into St. Peter’s to discover these gigantic drifts that hadn’t been plowed back, and I nearly lost control of the vehicle. Well, “control” is more of a relative term in winter driving anyway. Gosh, I hate winter driving. One accident is enough to send shivers up your spine for the rest of your life. You can be sure that if I ever have a vehicle of my own, it’ll have winter tires. They’re not a panacea, but I’ll take every bit of help I can get out there.