Saturday, 28 March 2015

CanCon 2014: Part 2

I learned about the Canadian Content Convention in 2013, and previously blogged about that experience. I returned for 2014. I then got distracted by life, hence why this little summary of travels and the events of October is being posted in March 2015. Oops.

If you missed part 1, find it here, filled with talk about Joss Whedon, World Building, and more. I pick up here at 4pm on Saturday.


It’s a growing online writing community (panelists: Maaja Wentz, Linda Poitevin, Mark Leslie-Lefebvre) based out of Toronto, still at the “ground floor” of popularity. At present, writers are something of a limited resource (the place is 95% readers) with the majority being Young Adult. However, R.L. Stine and Margaret Atwood have both talked about it. Linda Poitevin chronicled her journey into Wattpad on her blog.

The format is serial fiction (a chapter by chapter style of publishing). Each “chapter” read counts as a “read” (so divide to get number of readers). Updating (to correct typos) doesn’t mean you lose reads. Anyone can publish anything at any time. Recommended that you publish Friday (or Wednesday and Friday) since most people start reading on Saturday.

Be careful with RIGHTS: Putting a whole novel online is a contravention of licensing (e.g. for Kindle), but maybe you put up half. Though some may not commit to reading until you’re finished. There’s also the fact that if it’s successful first on Wattpad, publishers may call you, and you can take the book down if you sell the rights. People were posting tagged NaNoWriMo novels in 2013.

You need to regularly post, to become visible (and some stories get “featured”). Romance is currently a popular area. Anything “mainstream” means for adults. It’s also multimedia, you can post up trailers or art and pick casting choices for characters. There IS a Code of Conduct. Don’t promote your story on other comments, you cannot block but can report behaviour, and while people may request feedback, know that you cannot help everybody.


At 5pm I went to the “Fantastic Weather Slapdown”, entirely because of Mark Robinson’s interesting perspectives back in the “World Building” panel. (He’s a meteorologist with The Weather Network, also a storm chaser.) Here’s how the Slapdown worked: Mark would present a weather phenomenon. It was up to Erik Buchanan (Fantasy), Julie Czerneda (Science Fiction) and David Nickle (Horror) to come up with a short story related to said phenomenon. “Improv at it’s finest.”

The weather effects were: Rains of various types (fish, blood...), Catatumbo lightning, Ball lightning, Derecho wind storms, Firenadoes, and a more theoretical Hypercone (winds at the speed of sound). These pre-planned items were exhausted by 5:25, so Mark pulled out a few more off the cuff. Ice Storms, Acid Fog, Les Suetes Winds (Cape Breton), Green clouds during thunderstorms (see hail), Roll Cloud, Thunderstorms, Waterspouts, and Katabatic Winds.

I didn’t write down much in the way of the short stories. I do recall a couple instances of Reincorporation (callbacks) - Horror had a grandma, SciFi had purple things with one eye, and Fantasy had a baseball game: Greek v Norse Gods. It was all good fun, no one was declared a winner. It finished a bit before 6pm, giving me time to go back down to the Dealers Room before it closed to buy “Smash Fear” from Kevin T. Johns.

I then chatted a bit with friends, and swung by the Hospitality Suite once more. Ended up discussing Babylon 5 and Doctor Who with some people up there (one recalling when 5 minute segments were aired after Classic Who episodes). Learned that “Newhart” was all a dream within the “Bob Newhart” show. Eventually headed home for dinner - I think this might have been a big marking papers weekend.


Sunday started at 10am, I went to “Social Media 201” with Linda Poitevin. (I’d enjoyed “Marketing for Writers 201” last year.) She’s spent 3,000 hours over the last 3 years investigating social media; 72% of all Internet users are now social media active. She’s eliminated platforms like G+, Tumblr and LinkedIn in favour of marketing on three: Twitter, Facebook and Wattpad.

The main thing with social media is you have to be SOCIAL, be in conversations, not just self publicizing. Don’t necessarily seek out other authors - you need readers, reviewers, bibliophiles. On Twitter, to manage your followers, use lists (keep 10-20 followers per list, unlimited number). Don’t use the egg pic, there’s a ’twitter bio generator’, and also ’tweriod’ to find out when followers are online. You have an 86% higher chance of a RT if there’s a link, and images create double the engagement.

Twitter DOs: Personalize your profile. Respond to all @ posts. Vary your posts. Promote others. Consider Writer Wednesday & Follow Friday. Twitter DONTs: Use auto responders. Overpromote. (For every 10 regular posts, allow 1 promotional.) Double promote. (Same message on multiple platforms - vary it.) Other apps: BufferApp (schedule up to 10 tweets for free), picmonkey (make banners fast), manageflitter (unfollows account types). Try to optimize everything for a mobile device.

With regard to Facebook, use a PAGE vs a PROFILE. The latter you cannot promote. The former you can Boost a post (choosing amount of $), create an Advertisement (turn off the right column ads), or do Unpublished/Dark (something that won’t appear on your page, but can target it elsewhere to learn more). Facebook will analyze hits per image choices. Make sure to change their “per day budget”, and don’t continue unproductive ads. Aim for 3-5 posts per day - again, can be scheduled. With regard to Wattpad, see above.

At 11am, I stuck around for “Different Ways of Reading” (panelists: Nicole Lavigne, Mike Rimar, Derek Kunsken, Peter Halasz). The idea is you read text differently if it’s for pleasure, for acquisition, for editing, for critique, that sort of thing. We have different “Reading Hats”, some of which are worn simultaneously (beta readers may incorporate many). There may even be a ‘SciFi’ hat vs a ‘Fantasy’ hat for genres. Or you may put a hat on after, to analyze what you just read.

Personal taste can’t enter into it when selecting for a magazine. Could be someone’s readership won’t read (a) or (b) but if one is only critiquing/proofreading, that's not an issue. Nicole’s job required including a personalized comment, to make writers who submit feel more valued, which does make the job harder. There was also mention of “tripping”, which is when you realize that you are reading, making something feel like work - related to involuntary hat wearing, if you notice certain weaknesses in the material.


For whatever reason, superheroes have never really grabbed me - but I wanted to see “Do Superhero Tropes Devalue Collective Action?”. Perhaps because something resonated in the title, also because Jay Odjick was on the panel (with Mark Shainblum and Su Sokol). Jay was the Media Guest of Honour, his graphic novel KAGAGI has become an animated TV series (debut was during the con), and his art is on the Program Book. As he said at one point: “You can’t tell a superhero story in the real world, because their existence changes the real world drastically.”

It's Tempus, from my post #100!
Does a belief in ideals remove our impetus to change societies? We want to have a hero to take care of our problems for us. So we must make a distinction between ‘someone will save us!’ and ‘we should aspire to be like him’. Moreover, superheroes don’t have to follow society’s rules. You want to dress up in “real life”? Cops can shut that down, if it’s illegal to walk down the street in a mask (misdemeanour, concealing identity). Is Bruce Wayne better off spending his money building schools?

It was noted that Canadian history doesn’t have the same “lone avenger” mentality as the Americans seem to. Also superheroes have had to reflect culture: Jewish people weren’t writing Jewish superheroes. And what happens after the villain's captured? They go on the FBI list? When the story ends, reality begins. Who fights to correct social injustices? All ordinary people need to relate to the new heroes.

How about superhero collectives? (Fantastic Four, Green Lantern Corps) Generally they’re trying to preserve the status quo, not overthrow it (though see X-Men). I’ve scribbled ‘government overreach’ here. Then there’s the danger of trivialization: Is Marvel turning World War II into a fight against Hydra, rather than the Nazis? Superhero battles reflecting cultural battles can even become cliche. Though one can also add gravitaas by using real events, and metaphors can survive rather than “date” a storyline.

How could superhero stories inspire collective action? There's the idea of collaborating with ‘ordinary’ people, or other people with different skill sets. Even in a collective, it’s still important to have leadership - a final decision. Sometimes a superhero is a guy in a suit (if we elect this person, will he save us). Justice League Unlimited was very political. Of course, everyone has a different opinion of “What happens next” if Superman lands in Ferguson. (...That’s still relevant from October? It’s a crazy world.)

Finally, we’re growing up. Superheroes didn’t, corporations are trying to keep traditions. You can’t do breakthrough characters now, you’re dealing with shareholders, not the public. (“Screw you, I need money to put my kids through college.”) Yet we need more diversity. And things are now more morally ambiguous (whether that’s from us being older, or in the world as a whole... I don’t specify).

After the panel, I had to head out... I forget if I stayed for a bit of Jay Odjick’s “The making of Kagagi”, I do remember him talking about some of the challenges involved in adapting the graphic novel to TV, but that might have been at another time. For instance, he said it’s not simple to animate a lot of trees, so (if memory serves) rather than jumping between them, Kagagi’s wings became more of a feature, to have battles in the air. Also there were some stylistic issues.

Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed reading this, and got something out of it! I will probably return in 2015 - not sure if I’ll continue the blogging, considering my track record? Is it worthwhile?

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