When Words Collide: Beacon sketch artist nominated for award
By Christopher Walsh
They had such a blast last year, they thought they’d do it again. Friday marks the start of the second annual When Words Collide: A festival for writers and readers that promises to be bigger and better this weekend than ever before.
Ninety presenters across a wide-spectrum of literary genres including science fiction, mystery, historical, paranormal, poetry and young adult will be offering workshops, readings, panel discussions and pitch sessions for hundreds of other writers and fans of writing.
It’s getting a lot bigger, says festival spokesman Tony King, and not just in terms of numbers of attendees.
“We’re attracting a lot of attention,” King said. “People are getting the word out from last year and as a result there’s a lot more excitement.”
If website traffic is any indication, it looks like this year’s festival, which will be held at the Best Western Village Park Inn, will be highly attended. King says after last year’s inaugural festival, a number of attendees and presenters took to the internet to praise When Words Collide and that had a lot of people talking.
“People are aware of us and I think it’s something people want to see,” King said. “There is still a lot of love for reading out there and a lot of love of writing. When people see something like this they’re excited. I know we are.”
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The festival started last year as a different kind of experiment. Where other conventions focused solely on science fiction in its different forms, When Words Collide’s mandate was to put the focus back on the books and the literary aspects of not only science fiction, but a lot of crossover genres.
“The focus is on books. We’re not bringing in TV stars, or movie stars or people involved in writing screenplays … this is all about the written word,” King said. “This is not something that people have seen in the Calgary area before. We’re wide open.”
Part of last year’s success was the surprise element, King says. A lot of presenters and fans didn’t really know what they were in for but came away excited about the intimate interactions they experienced all weekend long.
“We let them have fun and interact with one another. They discover they have a lot more in common than they have that separates them,” King said.
“I compare our festival with other literary festivals the same way you would compare beach reading with a book you would study at university. I don’t think one is necessarily less important than the other. But our festival is not just about reading good books, it’s about having a lot of fun. The social component is a big part of what we do.”
This year’s festival will be highlighted by the Prix Aurora Awards, honouring Canada’s science fiction and fantasy writers, artists and publishers. The 32nd national awards will be held Saturday evening at the Best Western. The awards are presented annually at Canvention – the annual meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association for the best Canadian professional and fan achievement since 1980.
The list of nominees include four Calgarians.
When Words Collide founder Randy McCharles and fellow fiction writer Susan Forest are up for the Best Short Fiction Award and McCharles is also up for organizing the WWC festival.
Calgary artists Janice Blaine and Dan O’Driscoll are nominated for Best Artist Award for the contributions to the science fiction and fantasy genre.
It is the first nomination for Blaine, as she goes up against fellow Calgary artist Dan O’Driscoll for the Best Artist Award. Her piece entitled “Cat in Space” appeared on the cover of Neo-Opsis magazine.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s nice to have my stuff recognized,” Blaine said. “This is my favourite genre and having the chance to contribute to it is just awesome.”
Blaine has been a fan of the science fiction and fantasy genre since she was a kid.
“My parents watched the original Star Trek all the time, so I grew up in this,” she says with a laugh.
The professional commercial artist is based in Calgary and works occasionally as the Beacon News sketch artist. Her work has appeared on a number of national and international magazine and book covers and works currently as production manager at EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. She is currently co-editing a science fiction and fantasy anthology entitled Urban Green Man.
Although Blaine has been acknowledged for her creative talent at different science fiction conventions over the years, she says being nominated for an Aurora Award is a tremendous honour.
“This is the big one,” she said. “I’ve seen the other artists’ works and they’re all brilliant. I’d be happy to sit there and be a spectator and I’d be happy to win. I’m just excited to be a part of it.
“It feels really good to know what I’m creating is being appreciated.”
The Prix Aurora Awards will be handed out Saturday, August 11 at 7 p.m. at the Best Western Viallage Park Inn in Calgary.
The awards ceremony is open to the public at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
Although membership ticket pre-sales are up this year for the festival, tickets can still be purchased on Friday at the Best Western. The price is a $65 membership, which will grant access to all the scheduled When Words Collide events. More information, including a complete schedule of events can be found at www.whenwordscollide.org.