Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Exuberant Bodhisattva attends BookCamp Halifax 2013

This Saturday, I attended BookCamp Halifax 2013 at the Khyber Centre for the Arts. BookCamp Halifax is a so-called “un-conference” where all the strange and lovely book people in Halifax gather together to discuss book issues such as publishing, marketing, and of course, writing. The event was free and open to all kinds of book people of all calibres.

I started the morning with “Putting the 'Media' in Social Media." I had a vague inclination to live tweet the entire un-conference. Then former Chatelaine editor-in-chief Kim Pittaway reminded us that on Twitter, she doesn’t so much notice your absence as your irritable presence. Over the course of the day, my Twitter fans were privy to a few ingenious comments about a free macaroon, the colourful and delightful Khyber bathrooms, blue underwear and dinosaur porn, but that was about it. From the workshop, I gathered that social media is certainly helpful, however, it can quickly become a huge distraction and time suck. The most important thing about being a writer is how much you write, not how many Twitter followers you have. At the social media session, an audience member suggested brand new tweeters to follow the 2-2-2 rule: two tweets, two retweets, and two replies per day. This is supposed to help you accumulate followers over time.

(To retweet or to reply to my innovative and brilliant tweets, find me on @mypelvicfloor)

My next chosen session was “How to Make Headlines: Writing for Magazines and Newspapers.” The panelists were Halifax Magazine editor Trevor J. Adams, freelance writer Chris Benjamin, The Coast arts editor Stephanie Johns and fashion magazine publisher Amanda Kincaid.  I’ve always been a fan of Chris Benjamin’s writing in The Coast. When talking about freelancing, he said that when he first started, he was attached to a bunch of big ideas that he wanted to write about and change the world. Over time, he found he had to learn to hold these ideas a little less tightly and focus on the story that needed to be told, and the people. I thought that this was good advice. We also got advice from Trevor and Stephanie about writing pitches. Trevor gave the simple model of 3 paragraphs. One about why he should care, one about sources, and one about visual possibilities, something I’ve never really thought about. Overall, I found the session quite useful. Maybe someday I’ll write a pitch.

After lunch I went to Steven Laffoley’s session about Creative Non-fiction. I thought the presenter looked extremely familiar before realizing that he was the English teacher who stands in the Halifax Grammar School parking lot every day greeting students and parents. I walk by him every day on the way to the bus. My boyfriend Robbie, the Boatman, used to be his student. He said he was a wonderful teacher. And he runs like a madman. Apparently Stephen Laffoley also babysat Robbie when Robbie was seven. Wish I’d been around for that.

Mr. Laffoley, as the Boatman calls him, has written six books. His most recent one about boxer George Dixon. He sees creative non-fiction as a cinematic exercise of framing facts in the way that tells the best story, and turns the facts into timeless literature. He also said that writing is like coughing up a lung, which I appreciated. I guess creative non-fiction is selling pretty well these days, especially historical fiction in Nova Scotia where people are interested in their history and there are so many interesting stories from the past. Sounds like a good cure for pelvic obsessions and self-absorption. I may consider this.

The next session was How to Write a Novel in 30 Days, by Stephanie Domet, who hosts the CBC radio show Mainstreet and Atlantic Airways. The horrendous idea of composing a novel in 30 days comes from National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, a worldwide network of writers who take a pact to write a 50 000 word novel during the 30 days of November. Stephanie hilariously and charmingly described how she haphazardly signed herself up for the trauma so she could report about it on the CBC radio show Definitely Not the Opera.  The month was a disaster of total procrastination. By Day 15, she had some vague ideas about a character who couldn’t leave the house, and a ghost at the Spring Garden Road Library. Over dinner, her friend joked that she might as well add pigeons to the mix. So she did. But by November 27, she had less than 20 000 words down. That meant more than 10 000 words per day. Still, she did not use her time wisely, and on the last day, ended up writing 20 000 words. Writing a novel in 30 days is about quantity, and not quality. People who have succeeded in the past say that it helps to have an outline of your characters wants, fears, the worst things that could happen to them, and how you could orchestrate that happening to them. You can follow this advice, or as Stephanie seems to have done, just write like hell. In either case, in the end you get a draft that you can surgically repair into something beautiful. Stephanie got a published book out of her 30-day novel Homing. And now she knows that if the shit ever again hits the fan, she is capable of writing 20 000 words in a day. But this is to be avoided.

I considered doing the 30-day novel month this year, but I thought that it would turn into an overly ambitious New Year’s Resolution. I suppose that there are still 20 days left…  That’s 2500 words a day. We’ll see.  When I started I Let Go, I vowed that it would be published on Amazon within three days. Most of it was done in three weeks. Not terrible, however, most people can read the entire thing in about 45 minutes. Oh well.

The final session of the day was where I learned about Dinosaur Porn.  In a fragmented skyped presentation, Sean Cranbury spoke about how the internet and digital media has opened up all sorts of possibilities in publication.  Putting publication in the hands of the creator has allowed for the unlikely rise of Dinosaur Erotica on Amazon.  After learning about self-publishing on Amazon, college students Alara Branwen and Christie Sims have taken it upon themselves to grace the literary world with tales of dinosaur boning and prehistoric lust.

I was immediately compelled to do further research on this. In a Huffington Post Interview between author Alaran Branwen and reporter Hilary Hansen, Branwen postulates that dinosaur erotica appeals to our more base, carnal natures. Some people also probably like the idea of a big, powerful, massive male roughly having sex with a smaller female. It’s like the ultimate sexual experience with an alpha male, which is something that we are all inherently wired to enjoy.”

At Halifax BookCamp, I unfortunately didn’t get to discuss this alpha dinosaur sex experience with any of the participants, but this is my only complaint about the event.  Otherwise, I had thoroughly satisfying day, filled with tips and inspiration that stemmed far beyond sex with pterodactyls.

Many, many thanks to the speakers, volunteers, and organizers.

The End.
After you're done with the T-Rex:


1 comment:

  1. i am so glad you enjoyed the un-conference and if i were there, i would have TOTALLY discussed dinosaur erotica with you. Andrew said when i read your blurb about it out loud: "I want to know, who WOULDN'T read that?"